Throughout my entire childhood my Mum was a voracious reader and Stephen King tragic. My Dad, however, was spellbound by two books, and two books only: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and A Clockwork Orange. Mum had a huge wooden bookcase, likely built by my Dad filled with hardcover books still in their dust jackets, while Dad’s copy of Hitchhiker’s sat lovingly bent out of shape and yellowed on the coffee table.
For me in that house in Greenacre, it meant I only ever wanted to be one thing, a writer (maybe also a therapist, but that’s a weird dream for a kid so I’ll leave that there). Coming from an Aboriginal and white working-class family though, I wasn’t surrounded by people who knew how to navigate the fancy publishing industry. I was surrounded by those who knew how to push through the struggle to make ends meet. And they did, and so I did. Make ends meet that is. I wrote bad teenage poetry in high school that never saw the light of day, and the chaos of my undiagnosed ADHD meant that, I got great marks in assignments handed in 5 days late and barely passed exams.
Writing sat below the surface for a long time, it felt like a dream that only rich kids get to pursue. Starving artist in Southwest Sydney, normally means just that, starving. Now I could continue to wax lyrical about life, the universe and everything – but I’ll try to contain myself from this point onward. Skip a few growing up things, a baby, a Diploma in Creative and Indigenous Writing, a whole lot of Community work, a few published pieces and that my friends is where Faber Academy came into my life.
The 2021 First Nations Scholarship to join Writing a Novel I & II has changed the way I write, and my confidence as a writer for good. And I mean that, not in a ‘they gave me an opportunity, so I have to say this’ kind of way. I came to them with an idea and a skill I have been honing for over 20 years, and they somehow managed to baby me and challenge the hell out of me all at once.
The opportunity that Faber has built with their scholarships for writers like me, people pushed to the margins by a system meant to keep our stories down, is amazing. But it’s hard work, so don’t be fooled by my niceties and fluffy words. Kathryn and Margo were the tutors for our Sydney course this year and they flogged us. They pushed our writing beyond the lines, they forced us to think outside ourselves, comfort be damned. And I was uncomfortable. But that is the point. You will come out of the end of a year of working your guts out on your novel, as a brand-new shiny writer. A published one at that, thanks to their Faber Anthology.
Outside of the theory and practice of writing that you’ll complete every week for what feels like an eternity (yes, in both the good and bad sense), Faber builds a community. I’m not sure about the years before 2021, but I know the Sydney cohort and I are a stone-cold pack of weirdos and it’s been wonderful. For almost a year I feel like I’ve been tutored by a whole group of amazing and upcoming writers. Shout out Sydney 2021, you guys are amazing!
All of this is to say, if you or someone you know is a storyteller. Someone who has the words, the ‘thing’, then it is time. Time for you to kick their (or your own) butt into gear, or their A into G as my mum says, and apply! Especially for us Blakfullas, our voices, our bodies, our history and our stories belong in all places. So, you know what to do. Now I’m off to work on this manuscript!
Applications for 2022 Faber Writing Scholarships close at midnight on Friday 29 October.
Full details here.