Author Kate O'Donnell reflects on her 2021 Creative Time Fellowship... 

My month spent in The Burrow was absolutely ‘Creative Time’. It was time for thinking deeply, time for the absolutely necessary boredom that sparks the most unexpected ideas, and it was time for reading! For inhaling books in a way that I hadn’t for a long time – middle grade, YA “grown up” fiction and non-fiction…

I had grand plans for hours of dedicated, focused writing with large word counts and entire first drafts. But I had to quickly abandon that, and was very grateful to family and friends at the end of the phone line, or the other end of a tweet or Instagram story, who listened and reassured and reminded me that the writing doesn’t always look like words on a page or screen. In the end I abandoned form and plot and structure for the automatic writing suggested by the Surrealists and gave myself permission to create nonsense, explore what’s important to me, and to get things wrong.

This is the third year I was meant to complete the fellowship and after one year postponed due to a surprise cancer diagnosis (all solved now!) and a second year scuppered thanks to COVID – and while I don’t believe in fate, I do believe this was the best time I could have come (even if one week here was spent in lockdown, I hardly noticed it!). The thinking time, the conversations with the MGCLT committee and board members I met during my fellowship, the SA kids’ lit community and especially Allayne Webster and Vikki Wakefield, have been invaluable in bringing me back a bit closer to myself and my goals.

Since leaving the bookselling and publishing world, and taking up a role in the public service, I’ve felt an identity shift, a vagueness and distance from all I’ve been working towards over the past 15 years of my professional life. This month, this fellowship maybe not have yielded more than around 3000 words, but full ideas have formed, connections made, Norwood footpaths walked. I’m not the same writer who would have come here in 2019. I wonder what she would have written? I look forward to finding out what this 2021 me comes up with from here.

Kate O'Donnell is a writer, editor and bookseller specialising in children’s and young adult literature. Her first novel Untidy Towns was published in 2017, and her second novel This One is Ours was published in October 2020.

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