Hello again. No news on the memoir – I’m still waiting for Judith, my Australian Society of Authors mentor, to get back to me with her final report, but that should be coming through soon. In the meantime, life has felt like one long application form – for jobs or for funding grants – and I’m either doing that or sending off submissions to journals or competitions, or trying to get my head around the huge and sometimes insurmountable task of writing my PhD exegesis. But it’s a lovely feeling indeed when all the long hours spent hanging over a computer answering application questions and working out a budget are rewarded with a successful result. A few days ago, I heard my funding application for the Country Arts Support Program (CASP) – organised through Regional Arts NSW – has been approved, and in early 2013, I will do a stint as writer-in-residence at BackTrack Youth Works in Armidale. What a wonderful Christmas present!
With the ‘Stories from the Shed and On the Road’ project, I’ll deliver a series of writing workshops to young people involved in a range of activities at the ‘Shed’. Participants will create prose or poetry which will be published on the organisation’s website, and I’ll also creatively document some of BackTrack’s rural and shed-based activities. The funding news gave my recently-flagging spirits a huge boost, although when I read the media release about the project, and when the ‘idea’ suddenly became a ‘reality’, I began to feel somewhat daunted by what lay ahead. How the heck am I going to do this? I thought to myself. Did I really say that I’d go on the road with a truck full of boys and dogs, and sleep in a swag at truck stops on the way to rural shows?
Did I mention that I’m scared of dogs?
While I was in this state, though, I remembered a Woody Allen line from Manhattan that I saw in the paper a few weeks ago – ‘talent is luck; the most important thing is courage’ – and I reminded myself that I’ve been in this place before, and that writers need a certain amount of courage when starting out on a new project and following an idea through. Five years ago, I came up with an idea to write a story about a youth worker and a group of boys in a welding shed. Finding the strength to begin that project was an enormous undertaking, and I had much the same sort of fears when I put on my King Gees and boots for the first time – me in a welding shed? With a group of wild boys who didn’t fit into mainstream anything? I knew nothing about welding or power tools, or even youth work for that matter … but I gathered up my courage and walked into that shed and set to work. I might have been shaking in my boots, but I forced myself to have faith in the process, and that initial idea has led to so many positive opportunities down the track – including this latest round of CASP funding.
Another funding application I put in to further develop the same ‘Stories from the Shed’ project was the Hazel Rowley Literary Fellowship. Hazel Rowley, who died in 2011, was an Australian biographer. From reading some of her articles, essays and books, I learnt a lot about the sort of person she was, and I remain full of admiration for the way she lived her life. Hazel Rowley wrote about people who were courageous, who were ‘outsiders’ in society, and each time she embarked on a new book, it invariably involved an act of courage for her, too. The literary fellowship was formed to commemorate Hazel Rowley’s ideas and interests, and the selection committee mentioned they were particularly interested in projects that were about ‘risk-taking and expanding horizons’. My 2013 writer-in-residence project certainly fits that description, and whatever happens, and however I work it out, ‘Stories from the Shed and On the Road’ is going to be a grand adventure, and I just need to take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. Until next time … courage to all writers!