Well, I’ve come to the end of another period of Create NSW Small Project Grant funding, and it’s been a hugely productive time. Over the past 12 months, I’ve made significant progress on ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’ – a work of creative nonfiction (definitely not a ‘small’ project!) that explores my Dutch mother’s wartime and immigration experiences and our mother/daughter relationship. Back in April 2021, I was one of five regional NSW writers invited to take part in Orana Arts’ inaugural inScribe Program – a six-month online mentoring program with lead writer and mentor, Roanna Gonsalves, to develop a short piece on the theme of ‘Centres and Peripheries’ (forthcoming ‘bespoke’ publication in March 2022). This program also included a residency at The CORRIDOR Project in Cowra. I learned so much from Roanna and my peers through this generous program; after the program finished, the inScribe writers decided to continue to meet for a weekly online writing group – and we’re planning to meet in the real world for a second residency at The CORRIDOR Project in Cowra later this year. Because I enjoyed Roanna’s writing workshops so much – and missed them when they were over – I enrolled in an 8-week online Advanced Memoir Writing Masterclass with Patti Miller (through Writing NSW), and then formed a weekly online feedback group with two of the writers that I connected with from the course. Such a gift! Towards the end of the year, I completed a 6-week ‘Artist Residency in Motherhood’ – where I committed to the challenge of writing (at least) one page a day, and to stay calm and creative amidst the daily disruptions and busyness that are still part of my life as a mother, even though my four children are nearly all grown up. Finally, way back in 2020, I was awarded a New England Writers’ Centre/Varuna Fellowship and also a BREW Residency (Bush Retreats for Eco-Writers’) – both residencies were cancelled various times due to Covid lockdowns but are now scheduled for May and July this year. I’m also booked in for a Gunyah Residency in August, so 2022 is looking like my year of residencies. Right now, I feel like I’m on fire as a writer … thanks to Create NSW for helping make that happen! 

I’ve been living in paradise for the past week and a half at Gunyah – an Artist-in-Residence program at North Arm Cove, near Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest on the mid-north coast of NSW. Such evocative place names. I know very little of this area, but I’ve loved every moment of being here with my fellow artist-in-residence, Isabelle Devos. From Isabelle, I’ve learned about the wonders of Luci Lights (especially the candle lantern), zero-alcohol wine (sounds boring but it’s a good option at times), ‘Neatloaf’ (vegetarian meatloaf), fried bananas with melted chocolate sauce (so good!) and the AeroPress Go Coffee Maker. Thanks Isabelle! 

My Gunyah routine has consisted of a morning coffee on the window seat overlooking the ever-changing waters of North Arm Cove, then a long walk past a variety of interesting letterboxes and house styles, meeting local residents and dogs, and then home – yes, it feels like home – to work on ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’ – a new memoir project that reflects on the background and experiences of my parents, who came to Australia from the Netherlands in 1959. With the help of a 2019/20 Create NSW Small Project Grant (a wonderful validation of this new step forward) and the nurturing creative environment of Gunyah, I’ve now completed the first big baggy draft of ‘One Fork, One Knife, One Life’. The draft is currently an unwieldly ‘prose blob’ that needs wrangling into shape and whittling down, but it exists and I’m feeling excited about beginning work on the next stage. To help with the task ahead, I’ve been dipping into some of my favourite memoirs – Wild by Cheryl Strayed and Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick – and other books on writing memoir and creative nonfiction such as Writing the Memoir by Judith Barrington and The Situation and the Story, also by Vivian Gornick. 

I’ve particularly enjoyed the jetty at Gunyah, where I’ve tuned in to the tides, listened to the water gently lap against the shoreline, and occasionally spotted dolphins. Thank you, Gunyah – and thanks also to Create NSW – for bringing me to this stage. Applications for 2021 Gunyah Residencies are now open until 30 November and Create NSW Small Project Grants are open until the end of June 2021 (or until the money runs out). Go for it! 

This project is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.