This is a belated post about a community-inclusive Sunday afternoon concert that Chris Purcell and I held at Kez Watson’s studio/concert space in Armidale on 9 July 2023. The concert featured the involvement of the Firebirds Community Choir (directed by Chris for the past 20 years) and the choir performed five songs in the opening set. After a short break, Chris and I began our ‘Stories in Song’ performance, where we shared the stories behind our songwriting process for a selection of our collaborative songs. We performed six of the songs in the second set, and three guest vocalists performed Pastor & Purcell songs of their choice as well. Kez Watson, who owns the studio space, played her beautiful mandolin on one of the songs. In the time preceding the concert, Chris wrote arrangements to include the choir in two of our songs – with verses for soloists in each of the songs – and the choir joined us back on stage to perform those.
Chris and I reallyenjoyed sharing our songs and our songwriting process in an intimate acoustic concert space. I was really pleased that seven people – which included choir and non-choir members – volunteered to perform solo in front of an audience, three of them choosing to perform a whole song on their own. That’s a huge step forward for these singers and one they’re now keen to do again. Since the concert, the choir have performed at the Black Gully Music Festival in Armidale. Chris has also just received Arts North West funding to compose further work for the choir.
Many thanks to Orana Arts who provided funding for this project through a Country Arts Support Program (CASP) Grant.
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!
Tomorrow I’m starting my first Artist Residency in Motherhood (ARIM) – a self-directed artist residency to empower and inspire artists who are also mothers. A few weeks ago, I heard about ARIM through Aleshia Lonsdale’s informative talk on residencies that she did for Orana Arts. If you’re a regional artist in NSW, Orana Arts is an inclusive Arts organisation that has lots of wonderful opportunities and talks for artists working in disciplines. The ARIM site has a D.I.Y planning tool to help you work out what you want to do on your residency, and writing a personal manifesto is part of the process. Here’s my manifesto:
In common with many parents, the birth of my first child in 1990 changed many things in my life. One of these changes was that I became an artist – a writer. Although developing and maintaining a professional commitment to my creative writing career has been challenged by having four children, I’ve held fast to my writing dreams. It still seems to be a commonly held belief that being an engaged mother and a serious artist are mutually inclusive endeavours. I don’t believe or want to perpetrate this.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling frustrated that even after 31 years of parenting, I still find it difficult to get uninterrupted time alone. My youngest child is now 17 and will finish his high school education at the end of 2022. In this last stage of active/at-home parenting, I want to change my work habits. I am currently working on two separate writing projects – a memoir and a novella. During my self-imposed 21-day artist residency, I want to write a page a day from either of these projects with ease and enjoyment. I want to take the stress/pressure out of my writing practice, but still make progress on each of the works. I also want to set up a better life/work balance. When the 21 days are over, I hope to be able to continue writing a page a day with ease and enjoyment.
To achieve my goal, I need to change my routine. A page a day isn’t much and won’t take long. I intend to wake up between five and six in the morning and write a page first thing – so that my intention isn’t lost in the busyness of the day that follows. If I do more than one page over the day, that will be a bonus. The main thing is not to put pressure on myself and to be happy with a page a day. Many books are completed in this way. I will be accountable to myself and write a weekly blog about this process. My residency starts tomorrow – and finishes on Sunday 14 November.