Erin Middleton on receiving the 2019 Scholarship for Writing a Novel - SydneyErin Middleton

We asked Scholarship winner Erin Middleton to tell us about her experience of winning the 2019 Scholarship for Writing a Novel - Sydney. Here is her story.

In 2015 whilst enrolled at university, I took on a class in Women and Gender Studies. It was an invigorating and illuminating semester where I got to examine women in history; their relationship to religion, culture, society; modes of feminism; and modern female experiences. The part of the course which has stuck with me most, in some ways, however, was a throwaway comment by my lecturer that set off a chain reaction ultimately leading me to Faber Writing Academy and their Writing A Novel course. The lecturer mused:

“How different the world might have looked, or would look, if women were in charge."

That was the start of an idea for a novel; the first prerequisite in applying for Faber’s scholarship some three-and-a-half years later. It’s interesting to look back now, after months of learning and listening and writing, to where it all began.

In late 2018 I attended Faber Writing Academy’s information night. As a young woman from south-west Sydney I was a bit in awe of the Allen & Unwin name, the top-floor terrace, the literary types. But even on that first night I felt very welcomed, and I left with a conviction to apply for the scholarship Faber offers for their Writing A Novel course. Because of the financial position I was in, I would have been unable to take the course without the scholarship.

The scholarship application involved an introduction to your novel idea, a 1500-word example of your writing, and a statement on why you desired the scholarship.

My statement was simple and honest: I did not have the means to attend the course without financial assistance, but I desperately wanted to write my novel – and the opportunities the course provided seemed utterly invaluable to making that dream a reality.

I was not left disappointed.

Kathryn Heyman and James Bradley are wise, generous, realistic, and empathetic tutors. They take different approaches to teaching, writing, and the literary industry, but these approaches are complementary rather than clashing. This allows students in the course to see a broader variety of paths towards their end goal, whether that be improving their skills as a writer, finishing a draft, finishing a manuscript, seeking representation, or seeking publication.

Highlights from the course include weekly tasks to stimulate and motivate you to actually write (which is often the hardest thing about writing a novel); learning methods to reach the heart, or centre, of your novel, and to truly understand it; guest lecturers, including a literary agent who shared the realities of being signed with representation, and how a book is sold in the wider market; a one-on-one session with James, specifically addressing your novel and your writing; and the care, passion, and enthusiasm of the other students, who all supported one another, were open with their struggles, and helped me to grow as a writer and as a person.

The most difficult thing for me in trying to write my novel was, and still is, just ‘doing the thing’, as we often said in class. But without Faber Writing Academy, I wouldn’t have written even half as much as I did this year, and I would not have learnt any of the tricks and tips which now allow me to open a notebook, look at a blank page, and see potential – not just paper.

Receiving the scholarship did more than allow me to take the course; it helped me to believe in myself and my writing. It told me that someone believed in me, believed in my story and my voice, and that I should believe in it too.

Erin Middleton

Visit our 2020 Scholarship page for more information and to make your application.