So you want to go on a writing residency?

In just a few weeks I’ll be heading to my third writing residency in Nerac, France. I can’t tell you how much I look forward to residencies for the dedicated and selfish time of writing. At home it feels like there are a million things that distract me and pull me away from it, and none of those exist on a residency or at least they just get less important.

I’ve been so lucky to be accepted to residencies and sponsored to attend some so I wanted to share some tips for anyone else who might want to go on one, but isn’t sure how to, or where to start looking.

Where to start looking

My absolute best place to start looking for residencies is Aerogramme Studio – they provide a list each year of residencies to apply for. Their 2019 list is available here.

Submittable is also a great place to look for calls for residencies, competitions, and opportunities for writers.

ResArtis also has a regularly updated list of upcoming deadlines. Not all of these are for writers – some are for other artists – so make sure you read the full description.

Africa Centre has an annual Artists in Residency call. Keep your eyes out here.

Erika Krouse made an incredible list of free residencies for writers, here.

Are there any South African residencies for writers?

I’ve spent some time looking and whilst there seem to be a few residencies for artists, there aren’t any that I can find for writers. That being said, there are a number of workshops and retreats you might like to try. For example:

This year my husband took himself on a writing retreat to Bramleigh Manor in Fort Nottingham, KZN, where he thoroughly enjoyed the forest, the peace and quiet, and the wonderful fresh produce.

Costs and Funding

The cost of residencies vary significantly. Most of the time you have to pay your transport costs at the very least, as well as some fees for the time you’re staying there. Some places offer partial grants or funding too. Some organisations, like Africa Centre who I mentioned above, award residencies.

I found success in crowdfunding in 2017, and also in approaching the local consulate of the country I was visiting.

The National Arts Council also has a funding applications portal for projects, as does the Academic and Non-Fiction Authors of SA.

On the plus side, if you’re thinking of travelling to a country anyway, writers residency accommodation is normally WAY cheaper than your average hotel / AirBNB / hostel. So you might want to tick things off your bucket list and write about them too.

What can you expect?

This is also super variable (in my humbly limited experience)

For example, at the Vermont Studio Centre you get your own office to write from complete with desk, lovely view of the river, and printing facilities. You also get three meals a day cooked for you (I cannot quite express how good the food was here – phenomenal!) and talks a few nights a week to draw inspiration or technical skills from. I also got a room in a shared house with shared shower facilities. It was below freezing for most of my time there, and these were all so comfortable, warm and cozy.

At the CAMAC centre for the Arts in Marnay-Sur-Seine, which is sadly no longer operating, we got a fridge stocked with food, a workspace either attached to our room or separate from it, and incredible meals cooked for us by visiting chefs. We didn’t have to go to any talks, but we did have to give one reading of something that we’d be working on whilst we were there.

This year I’m visiting Studio Faire for the first time and I will be provided with a working space, and comfortable room, but I have to cater for myself.

Most of the websites where you apply tell you what you can expect, so make sure you read them. The last thing you want is hungry writing or an awkward presentation you don’t feel happy about doing.

Pros and Cons?

Pro: Unfamiliarity. I can’t really explain the difference you feel when writing in an unfamiliar space. You’re suddenly aware of all your senses, you don’t give two shits if the dishes are dirty, the people are interesting, the food is new, even the grocery store has different things in it. I find this wakes me up.

Con: Writing residencies are not often free. At the very least you have to pay for transport to get there. Sometimes you have to pay for some or all of your food. You’ll probably have to take leave from work too.

Pro: You will be surrounded by people who believe you are a writer, who believe in the value of the arts and of writing, and that is just truly magical.

Pro/Con: You are far away from everything and everyone you know (no judgment here – you do you!)

Pro/Con: You have to take yourself seriously as a writer. I normally find that I take a few days to settle in to being on my own, getting used to letting go of the dictates of a 9-5 work schedule, and then I’m A-for-Away. Taking yourself seriously as a writer means different things for different people. I find that residencies are like a letter I write to myself, giving myself permission to write. You might be able to write that letter at home, or feel free enough or dedicated enough in your day to day to just do it. I applaud you. I need space and time.

So now?

I hope that some or all of this information is helpful to those of you out there who have been thinking of this.

There are literally hundreds of residencies you can go to all around the world. Good luck!


2019 Creations

We’re in the early days of a new year, and so there are still many messages around about being a new you and how to set goals so you can adjust the parts of your life that aren’t working as well as you think they should.

This type of message – FIX YOURSELF IN ONE YEAR OR LESS – can be a real mood dampener because it forces you to focus on what you don’t like. Way to make you want to reach for a croissant or lie in bed watching a whole series of Sex Education in a weekend. What? Who did that? (No seriously, go watch it).

Instead, this year I’m trying to take the advice I got from a very rad podcast I listen to called Kombucha and Colour. They suggest setting an intention as a guide to your year – i.e. how you want to feel / what you want to live like. This seems way easier than setting a resolution or a goal because it provides a bit more spaciousness for mistakes.

This year I’ve set the intention to CREATE.

Create writing. Create time and space for rest and for exercise and being outside. Create art. Create yummy food. Create energy in my relationships. Create new work. Create creations (whatever those are! the mystery! the intrigue!)

It’s big enough to fit all my hopes and dreams into, and small enough that I can’t judge myself. Loving it.

I’ve started out the year on creating time for writing, especially for new writing. I’m not sure how other writers feel but for me the writing is way more fun than the editing and refining process. The act of putting ink on a page and watching words come out of your own mind is thrilling. So I’ve:

  • Finished an edit on my novel and sent it off to the publishers for feedback (hold thumbs and cross your fingers and toes please).
  • Signed up to a monthly writing workshop with Maire Fisher and Chantal Stewart.
  • Signed up to a memoir writing course next week with the Life Righting Collective.
  • Signed up for a writing residency at Studio Faire in France in June/July and booked my tickets!

I’m hoping that this will be a year of happy creation, and I’m wishing anyone who reads this the same!

Feminism Is at the Open Book Festival 2018


This year’s Open Book Festival in Cape Town has, as usual, an amazing line up of writers and public intellectuals coming together to talk about literature, politics, and many other things. The festival takes place from 5 – 9 September in Cape Town.

This year the Open Book Festival team has given amazing support to Feminism Is, and has five events scheduled around the book, as well as many others with a feminist focus.

5 September
20.00 – 21.00 Feminism Is: Pumla Gqola, Dela Gwala and Thembekile Mahlaba explore their journeys to feminism and answer FAQs in the company of Sara-Jayne King Fugard Studio


6 September
16.00 – 17.30 Feminism Is: Listening Room: We invite all persons of trans experience and/or those who identify as women/womxn to share personal experiences that shape their feminist identities in a safe and respectful space. Please keep contributions to a maximum of 5 minutes to allow as many voices to be heard as possible. Hosted by Joy Watson with contributions from Janine Adams, Kit Beukes, Michelle Hattingh and Ming-Cheau Lin and Tshepiso Mashinini. Fugard Studio


7 September
14.00 – 15.00 Feminism Is: Body Politics: Anna Dahlqvist, Melanie Judge and Tlaleng Mofokeng speak to Joy Watson about taking control in the context of patriarchy Fugard Theatre


7 September
18.00 – 19.00 Feminism Is: Talking Feminism: B Camminga, Helen Moffett and Tlaleng Mofokeng explore divisions and how they can stand in the way of feminist conversations in the company of Yaliwe Clarke Fugard Theatre


9 September
12.00 – 13.00 Feminism Is: Reflections: Jen Thorpe wraps up the series of ‘Feminism Is’ events and asks Pumla Gqola, Haji Mohamed Dawjee and Nwabisa Mda to share their thoughts on SA feminism today Fugard Theatre


Check out the full programme here for more details on other amazing feminist events.

Short Story 3: Lauren Beukes, Confirm/Ignore

This week the internet is excited about a short story on the New Yorker called Cat Person. I read it, loved it, and will probably write about it soon.

In a strange coincidence, this morning I picked up Lauren Beukes’ latest collection Slipping and flicked through looking for a short story to read. I landed on ‘Confirm/Ignore’ a story about the worlds we build for ourselves and about ourselves online.


Find out more at


First line: Yellow is my favourite color. That’s what I’d like you to believe. (Okay, I added two lines, but it was necessary for you to get what the point of the story was).

The story is narrated by one character, who from the start of the story reveals to us that they are not what they seem. They describe their interests, religious beliefs, favourite authors and films, and they share friends with the person they’re talking to. Of course, as we all know from being online, what people share there isn’t a reflection of who they really are, or sometimes who they are at all.

Like Cat Person Beukes’ short story asks us to examine what we’re consuming and producing online without being didactic. It explores the lies we tell to build the relationships and persona that we want online, sometimes without being deliberately deceitful, and other times on purpose. It doesn’t say ‘HEY LOOK HERE THIS CHARACTER IS LYING’, but from those first two sentences we know they are.

Slipping is a mixed collection of stories and essays and ‘other writing’ from Beukes. She’s a celebrated South African writer, with four novels, a bunch of graphic fiction, and two other non-fiction books under her belt. In three short pages, she managed to capture something we can all relate to and to remind me to check my friends list on Facebook to make sure those are my real ‘friends’.

I also really enjoyed Slipping the story, about a sort of cyborg Olympics gone one AI step too far. Like I did, you can get the collection at the amazing Book Lounge.