At the crossroads of motherhood and writing

2020 scholarship winner Sanaz Fotouhi reflects on her experience of Writing a Novel.

I remember the call very clearly. I was in bed in my pyjamas, hanging out with my small baby. A few months into it, and day and night still seemed indistinguishable between the euphoria of this wonderful new life, and all the angst that comes with the responsibility of parenthood and the new direction of life. I had put on hold an aspiring career as the director of the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators and all the opportunities that had come with it, and my continuous dream of being a writer, to step into a new role as a mother. And, a few months into it, I was wondering about my choices and if my life would ever go back to normal. If it remained like this – continuous demand for attention and time which had a specific shape in three months and was surely to go on in a different form at three years and thirteen and even thirty –  I had kissed my own life and career goodbye. On that specific day, I remember, I was actually feeling pretty melancholy about it all when my phone rang and I got the news that I was given the 2020 scholarship for the Faber Academy. I remember, the feeling – opportunities suddenly opened up again. My life didn’t seem bound indefinitely to domestic Melbourne suburbia, dirty nappies, toddler fits, and future teenage hormones. I still had a career ahead of me, one which the prospect of this course, did help to boost.

Although I went into the course with a complete manuscript of a novel, I decided to take this opportunity to start a new project. The tutors, the content of the course, and the wonderful group of people that I met and bonded with, held me responsible to turn up every Tuesday night – despite the dramas in the background – and to keep writing. While for the most part I really missed the face to face interaction with the group as after the second class we only met online, nothing else was a loss. I guess in my case it actually helped that I didn’t have to plan and go further than my study and was still available when needed on mummy duties. 

Had I not been given the scholarship, at that point of my life, I would not have aspired or volunteered to do a writing course then. I didn’t have the financial means and it would have been easy to just lay low in domestics and keep thinking and dreaming about projects and ideas between feeding baby and changing nappies, instead of actually finding the time to write. But in hindsight, now that I think about it, if I were in that situation looking back at myself, I would have urged myself to volunteer and sign up to do a course like this. I admire the bravery and insight of the other mother in the group, with an even younger baby than mine, who turned up every Tuesday night in the second half of the term.

As someone who had studied the craft of creative writing intensely at university many years ago, and went in with an idea of the concepts to be discussed and applied, I still got a lot of value from the program. As a writer, as I am sure many others relate to, I have always had a fixation on the end goal, and writing is a solitary activity as we all know. And yet, during the program, on a weekly basis I was reminded of the necessity and importance of a supporting and diverse community that can hold one’s hand in the stages of the journey. I realized this during the course: that it is not only during the early stages of a writing life that we need the hand holding and support of a community but in fact all throughout. Given the bond that was created with the tutors and the group during these two terms, I believe I can count on that community for a while to come in this writing journey of ours.  

Sanaz Fotouhi

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