We all know writing is a solitary pursuit. We tippy-tap at our computers or scribble in notebooks, usually alone. For those of us who fall into the Early & Emerging category, it can be strangely disorienting. There are no landmarks, no beacons in our fog of uncertainty. Are we doing it right? The right way, the right amount, to the right effect?
But every now and then budding writers are offered a chance to band together, to study our craft in a small group, to discuss and share and learn from somebody who has been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale.
I was lucky enough to attend just such a gathering deep in the Victorian goldfields, in Clunes — or Booktown as the locals like to call it. Celebrated and multi-award-winning author Kirsty Murray led a four day Masterclass titled Only Connect: Writing for Children and Young Adults. Four days of theory, discussion, working on our pitches, and writing, writing, writing.
For me it was a transformative experience. Kirsty was fabulous, full of seasoned advice and insight. She was the winking light that promised a safe harbour somewhere in the distance if I could stay the course. And my classmates were inspirational. Some were already published, others were in discussion with publishers, and more than once I was moved by dazzling lyricism in the snatches of prose read aloud in front of the group.
“Four days of theory, discussion, working on our pitches, and writing, writing, writing.”
I’ve attended other workshops in the past. They have all helped me collect and hone various tools for my writers toolkit. But there was something remarkable about getting away from the city, away from regimen and routine and responsibilities. Away from the expectations of others, and the expectations I have of myself. There was something wonderful about shedding all those layers like shrouds until only one remained.
Wandering down the main street of Clunes, with its gold rush architecture and so many bookshops in the space of a single block, I had an epiphany. The masterclass was more than instruction, more than practice, more than a supportive environment. It was a chance to focus on words to the exclusion of everything else. A chance to sink more deeply into my craft than daily life would ever permit. A chance to stroll around in my skin as a writer.