PROFILE: Rosanna Stevens

The KSP (Katherine Susannah Prichard) Writers’ Centre in Western Australia proudly supports the development of literary work by hosting a number of annual residencies for writers. Located in the beautiful Perth Hills, the centre is passionate about helping writers develop their craft, promoting writers, and preserving the home and legacy of Australian writer, Katharine Susannah Prichard. 

Each year, placements are offered in the categories of NextGen; Emerging; and Established. Spanning almost 30 years, the residency has produced hundreds of awards and publications. 

Successful writers are provided a salary, CV credit, promotional exposure, and inspirational space to progress work away from the pressures of everyday life. Residents also receive a welcome basket of goodies and the support of a full-time administrative officer plus access to Katharine’s studio, library services, heritage walking trails, writing groups, WIFI and complimentary printing facilities. 

Rosanna Stevens was a young writer in residence back in 2010. She’s been kind enough to share some of her experiences with us, as well as discussing her writing habits and processes. Read her interview below. 

Applications for the 2020 residency are now open! You can apply here.Best of luck!  

Tell us a bit about yourself! Have you always been a writer?
I’ve always written mainly thanks to encouragement from my grandmother and my parents. As a little kid, my grandmother would send me letters asking me to finish a story she’d written for me on a typewriter, and my mother would make sure I replied. I have no idea what I wrote in response, but at that age my dad was transcribing diary entries for me, which mainly involved me making up poems about toes, and repeatedly declaring that I was going to marry a boy called Paul at my preschool. What I’m saying is evidence suggests I definitely wrote quality stories in response to my grandmother’s efforts. In hindsight, I have no idea who Paul was. Neither does my dad. Toes are true poetic material though. I have no regrets focusing my creative energy on describing them.

Getting a residency is such an exciting thing: how did it come about for you?
I don’t remember how I found the residency, but it was in my early 20s and at the time the financial award was a lot higher for the Young Writer in Residence – enough to cover my flights from NSW, so I figured I’d apply and see what happened! As it stands, I think the residency is much better positioned for a young writer based in WA – and WA young writers are kick-ass and totally deserve this amazing opportunity and should ABSOLUTELY apply. I put together an explanation of the project I wanted to work on, and sent in samples of my work from that project, and from what I remember I was interviewed for the position by phone. I think there was a shortlisting process. I was shocked when they told me I’d been given the residency because the project I wanted to work on was something I’d started in a class at university. It was YA fantasy, and it didn’t receive a high mark as an assessment, but it was what I wanted to write – more than anything else. I was on the VoiceworksEditorial Committee at that time, and I think my experience on EdComm really taught me how much editors and panels need submissions to exactly follow the application guidelines. I honestly think assiduously following the guidelines got me about 80% of the way towards receiving the residency.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the residency was like? What did a normal day look for you?
When you’re the Writer in Residence, you live on your own cottage on the KSP Writers Centre site, where Katharine Susannah Prichard’s house is. The house hosts writers groups a few nights a week, and as Writer in Residence, you’re expected to attend a few of the Centre’s group meetups and give feedback on their work. It’s one of the loveliest things about your time there: you’re treated like a guest, and a writer, and you are given the opportunity to nurture the KSP community, and be taken care of, too. 

I’ve always written best really late at night. I think it could have to do with staying up eye-breakingly late in high school on MSN chat. So I worked at night, hiked and read during the day, and also attended a lot of lovely events at the Centre and in Perth – I was invited to do some readings while I was in WA. Voiceworkswere hosting an interstate launch while I was there featuring Simon Cox and Zoe Barron, and there was a monthly event on with a zine, called Cottonmouth, run by Jeremy Balius.

What was a highlight of the residency for you?
The biggest highlight was the people. I went over there to write, but my fondest memories were being grateful that there were such wonderful humans around. The Residency gave me a buddy – a young writer at the Centre called Danika Potter. She was the kindest person and we’re still friends on socials. I look back and realise I had an incredible time, almost entirely due to the fact that I was unafraid to put myself out there, say hello to people before I arrived and when I got there, and participate in the KSP, Perth and Fremantle writing communities in any way I could. Also, the land is stunning. I am so grateful to the Nyoongar people, on whose land the KSP Centre is built. Their relationship with and care for country is present and strong, and we are only visitors on their land, which was never ceded.

What project did you work on while you were there?
I went to work on a manuscript for a YA magical realism novel, but I ended up writing a short story that was published in Sleeper’s Almanac the following year. It received a really nice write up in the Sydney Morning Herald, and it came out of me from nowhere, almost fully formed.

Since leaving the residency, what have you been up to?
I’m doing a PhD now that’s a cross between anthropology, cultural studies and creative nonfiction. Outside of my PhD I research and write nonfiction about menstruation, and I write satire and humour. I’m spending the second half of this year finishing my studies in humour writing and sketch comedy at The Second City in Chicago, and I have the pleasure of being a Fellow at Belladonna Comedy – a humour and satire site. I’d really love to get back to the YA novel that I ended up not touching during my residency, and I have a feeling once I’ve finished my PhD, I just might.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the residency or your writing process? Any advice on how to make the most of it?
If you can afford the time off work or study, and think you could live on $500 for two weeks with your accommodation covered, apply. If you can’t afford it, apply anyway for practice, and if you get it, make a Kickstarter or a GoFundMe and I’ll give you money to help cover your rent so you can go, and I’ll share your campaign. The fact you’re a young writer doesn’t make you any less professional or creatively capable than other writers, and the Centre will take your application seriously. Also, they love young writers – they are excited by what you’re producing. Just remember to explain your project clearly, and most of all, explain why the project is important to you, and where you see it fitting in relation to the next moves you’d like to make as a writer, and the future you’re like to have as a writer. Believe that you have the right to be a writer, and you have the right to be taken seriously, even if you write fanfic or comedy or in two languages, or you write because it’s fun: fanfic and comedy are serious stuff, multilingual work is the future, and you’re allowed to have a job that brings you joy and happiness. There isn’t a perfect answer to the application questions, or the answer they’d like to hear most – there is just your answer, that is quintessentially you. Even if you don’t get the residency, remain inspired by the reasons you applied. They are valid, and you are enough.

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