While my entire stay was wonderful, it’s these inspired moments that stand out. Katharine’s benevolent spirit, it seems, still lingers at the centre, inspiring residents to write what is important to them.
I had applied for my fellowship with the intention of rewriting Part II of my novel-in-progress, ‘The Rebels’, an epic fantasy-fiction story, which also forms part of my PhD in creative writing. During my stay, I revised a considerable chunk of these nine chapters. Part of me wishes I had completed the lot, but I didn’t. And this is a very good outcome. Let me explain why.
In Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare, the arrogant Hare rushes off without much thought and quickly becomes distracted by so many things that he forgets about the race until it’s too late. Meanwhile, the Tortoise takes a slow and measured approach and wins. Despite living thousands of years before us, Aesop understood modern life: we are always hurrying to get somewhere without stopping to enjoy the journey.
Caught in self- and university-imposed deadlines for the past three years, I have been the Hare, flitting from one end of my novel to the other without spending enough time in any chapter to fully inhabit each scene. I have been so preoccupied with finishing the project and writing to specific word counts, that I didn’t even acknowledge that several scenes were no longer what I had intended to write.
The infamous moral of Aesop’s tale is that “slow and steady wins the race.”
What writing ‘The Rebels’ needed was the Tortoise’s approach: to slow down, take in every sensory detail, then evoke them so that the reader could inhabit each scene as if they existed within it. And that, is the purpose of good storytelling. To paraphrase author and teacher Barbara Turner-Vesselago, if we hurry to get to the point of the novel, “that point won’t seem worth getting to if we haven’t really participated in the journey along the way” (Writing Without a Parachute: The Art of Freefall, 2014, pp. 42-43).
The time and space of my fellowship allowed me to take this approach, returning to what I had intended to write and, with flashes of inspiration, produce much more vivid material.
Any writer who is genuine about their craft knows how beneficial long periods of uninterrupted time are for producing evocative work. Whether it’s the idea for a new project or a fresh perspective on an existing one, you need that dedicated time and space to allow the story to evolve organically.
So, if, like me, you have become trapped in the Hare routine that is modern life, I recommend applying for a KSP fellowship. You might just find yourself curled up in the armchair with a steaming bowl of porridge and a good book on a cold morning. And, as the external world slips away, you might have that magic moment of inspiration that changes your story for the better.
A. R. Levett
23 July 2017