"I'd never thought of going on a residency before, I thought they were more for academic type writers, not an in-the-trenches, working writer like me. A friend of mine posted the El Gouna Residence on Facebook. I took a look and thought I’d try my luck, I mean who doesn’t want to go to Egypt, right? It was a huge surprise when I was chosen."Lauri made certain she was well-prepared beforehand in order to get the most she could out of her residency:
"I had a project I wanted to work on while I was there, a new novel. Before I went I made sure all of my pre-work was done: character bibles, a plot map, chapter outlines. I also got about halfway through the rough draft before leaving. My plan was to complete the rough draft of the novel while in Egypt and I did manage to do that.There are numerous elements to weigh up for writers thinking of applying for a writers’ residency. The place where you write can have a dramatic affect on your writing.
"I do think it is vital for someone going on a residency to be very clear about what they want to accomplish there. I think since I had a set amount of work I intended to complete I used my time fairly efficiently. It’s easy to get distracted especially in a beautiful place like El Gouna Egypt - I had a beach outside my window, imagine."
"I realise I am lucky as a writer in many ways. I live in a quiet village in Botswana with few distractions. I have my own office away from the house where I write. In Egypt I was suddenly with other writers from all over the world. We were five writers in all but the women in the group were the interesting ones and the ones I connected with - from Italy, UK, and America. I’m isolated being in Botswana and contact with flesh and blood writers is rare. That connection I hadn’t anticipated. I only later realised how important that had been to me, once I was home. In Egypt sometimes I felt guilty spending time with these women and not writing - it was a writing residency, wasn’t it? But now I’ve come to the conclusion that we all get what we must from such experiences. At home I have lots of quiet writing time and I don’t get interaction with writers. Others on the residency have hectic jobs and lives that give them very little quiet time for writing; the residency gave them that. We all got what we needed, not necessarily what we thought we needed, at least in my case.And for writers thinking of applying for a writer's residency, Lauri has this advice:
"I’ll be honest, for me I found it difficult to write deeply in El Gouna. By deeply I mean I couldn’t lose myself in the book as I can at home. My mind was far too busy with all that was going on. It was good for me to have scheduled the writing of the rough draft for a book which is very plot driven. I think any writer who intends to go on a residency should know themselves. Before I went I didn’t know that about myself, that where I write is very significant to what I write and how I write. Now I know and if I go on another residency I will keep that in mind and make sure the projects I choose to work on are suitable.
"Egypt is a complex fascinating place with a multitude of stories. I wrote a short story set in Egypt, though it’s not yet finished. I’ve also been thinking a bit about a romance set there, it is quite a romantic place."
"Make sure you understand the logistics - what is paid and what you must pay. Understand who will be attending, what is required of you. As mentioned above, make sure you have a specific project you want to work on. Also, once there – enjoy it! I think that’s what I regret slightly though I did have a lovely time, I wished I would have been less uptight about how many words I was putting on the page. Another big part of a writer’s life is experiencing; those experiences will add richness to your words and that’s just as important."
Have you ever considered a writer's residency? Where in the world would you most like to spend a month writing? Share with us in the comments!
Lauri Kubuitsile’s latest book is Can He Be the One?, published by Sapphire Press (South Africa). You can follow Lauri’s writing adventures on her blog, Thoughts From Botswana.
Lauri was interviewed by Elsa Neal.