Writer in Residence…it conjures up a Roald Dahlesque picture does it not? In an overstuffed threadbare armchair, crocheted rug over the knees (granny squares 101) with a leather bound desk (spotted with ink, and bearing the scratch marks of an author’s unpublished despair). Stabbing furiously at a typewriter (Olivetti Leterra 25). The residence is an orangerie circa 1922 with wooden framing, glassed panes: some slightly cracked from the insistent tapping of the peach trees outside, on a warm Francophilean day.
I am, for my sins- it pays to have some apparently, The Otago Children’s Writer in Residence for 2019.
Not France, but charming and endearing all the same. My Olivetti is a keyboard from Jaycar Electronics, hooked up to multiple screens and powered with a Microsoft Surface Pro- bought with my winnings from a World of WearableArt entry. My chair is College of Education standard issue, the desk too, with a set of draws which boasts a small selection of stationery (rumour has it there is a stationery cupboard from which one might help oneself, should a freelancer who has paid for this stuff all her career be so bold. Be still my beating and astounded heart!).
I have photocopier privileges. The residence is on the 4th floor, a room with a view of the Forsyth Barr Stadium and the Leith. There is a sign on the door ‘Children’s Writer in Residence’ and one might expect to slide it open a crack and see a woman with a multi coloured wig throwing words in the air and catching them in teacups, for further wetting of the literary whistle.
If you peeked in at me, you would find instead, a small woman with ashy hair, a room taken over with drawing board, paints, brushes, paper and skeletal models of characters made from wire and clay. There’s an Otago Uni branded keep cup and a thick wad of manuscript that has yet to find a home. YA rejections, trending to the max. It’s looking at me askance whilst I work on a new project. Sorry Wild Cards, you were so the last 10 years of my life. Let’s take a break whilst I dally with a newer, more exciting diversion, one that takes me out to dinner and pays the bill.
Having this much sought after and prestigious position comes with the weight of expectation. Mostly, actually, entirely from myself. Am I worthy? Is my project up to it? Can I deliver anything? If I do, will it ever be published. Publish or Perish, is the academic’s motto is it not? Myself and many writing colleagues perish on a yearly basis on that premise alone, such is the fickle industry we have chosen to align ourselves with. We resurrect ourselves again and again.
The reality is, though, published or not, this 6 months is whatever I make of it. The point of writing is writing.
So, to keep myself honest to my proposal (which gives me more than a frisson of excitement when I look at it), I’ve decided to blog weekly, about my experience here, What it is to be a Writer in Residence, and how it will impact my work. I've survived O Week, settled into my new surroundings and I’ll start by thanking Creative New Zealand, Otago University and the College of Education for the opportunity and the late Robert Lord for the cottage I'm living in.
To be continued… (and no, I didn’t wake up to find it was all a dream)