Making space for creativity and finding voice by Arty J. Owens

2020 Writing for Children scholarship winner Arty J. Owens started their course in a time of change and turmoil.

I started my time at Faber during a time of change and a touch of personal turmoil. When I got the call that I had won this incredible scholarship I was a closeted chronically ill queer at work and living in a hell house where the mice in the walls kept me awake at night. I was at a point in my middle grade novel where I needed guidance, space to process my ideas and the push to do the hard work.

You could call it ‘being stuck,’ but you could also say it was like having a game of Pong in your head with endless balls bouncing on decaying brain walls and the paddles move like stoned snails. The ball I hit with the left paddle usually wasn’t the ball being hit by the right paddle. Just walking into that classroom, meeting my lovely classmates and teacher, got my brain balls firing. My passion, creativity and drive were reinvigorated and, as I dragged my life out of the mice-filled toilet, Faber gave me the space to fall in love with writing again.  

Being able to bring my whole genuine self to class allowed me to once again believe in my voice and take risks in my writing. The organisers made me feel safe and, as a class, a precedent of kindness and mutual respect was set. In many ways I was still playing it safe, stifling the momentum that comes with trusting in your voice. Martine Murray, our teacher, gave us a solid understanding of structure, voice, dialogue and the publishing industry. She nurtured our unique voices and inspired new stories.

Unfortunately, as COVID reached Victoria, it was no longer safe to continue classes in person. Like many, I lost my employment as Melbourne entered the first lockdown and felt the weight uncertainty and fear press on daily life. Like many other writers, all I wanted to do was crawl into a hole. Being creative felt fruitless, tedious and increasingly difficult as news became more troubling each day. It’s like Pac Man invaded my Pong brain and starting gobbling up my thought balls. If you’re feeling this just remember: taking care of yourself and your loved ones is a full-time job. It’s okay if you don’t have the energy to write, it doesn’t make you less of a writer it just means that you need to spend time taking care of yourself. Be kind to yourself.

When we resumed classes on zoom, I wasn’t writing and when I tried I would fall asleep at my desk. However, in staying connected to people who loved writing, who were going through the same creative struggles and with a teacher dedicated to bringing out the best in our work, I stayed engaged with my work. It gave me structure, something else to look forward to and writing exercises that challenged and expanded my writing. After class I would feel focused and motivated. Every week I would feel a little stronger, and slowly I was able to get back to my writing. Those days I was the cookie monster, with the appearance of Oscar the grouch, devouring anything that gives me joy. My time at Faber was incredibly tasty. 

I’m incredibly grateful for my time at Faber Academy. As corny as this sounds, it really was a life changer. I’ve learned to trust my voice, have conviction in my writing and how to create space for my creativity.  

Arty J. Owens

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