Iconic Duos: The Next Chapter Writers and Mentors
As applications opened for The Next Chapter’s second year, Wheeler Centre Director Michael Williams spoke with writers and mentors from the inaugural intake at the Sydney Writers Festival.
At the event, Evelyn Araluen, Tony Birch, Nayuka Gorrie, Alison Whittaker, Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen and Michele Lee discussed collaboration, constructive criticism and meaningful mentoring.
The Next Chapter is a scheme dedicated to uncovering and nurturing a new generation of writers by giving them time and space to craft a voice and a career. Ten outstanding emerging writers were chosen from across Australia, given $15,000 and matched with a mentor.
Michael Williams is the Director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas in Melbourne. He has worked at the Wheeler Centre since inception in 2009, when he was hired as the Head of Programming before being appointed as Director in September 2011.
He has hosted Blueprint for Living (2015–2016), then Talkfest (2017–2019), on ABC RN. He remains a regular guest on ABC Radio and TV. Michael has also worked as a Breakfast presenter for Melbourne’s 3RRR, as a member of the Australia Council’s Literature Board, in publishing and has written extensively for the Guardian, the Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian and elsewhere.
Tony Birch is the author of three novels: the bestselling The White Girl, winner of the 2020 NSW Premier's Award for Indigenous Writing, and shortlisted for the 2020 Miles Franklin Literary Prize; Ghost River, winner of the 2016 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Indigenous Writing, and Blood, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Award in 2012. He is also the author of Shadowboxing, and three short story collections – Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People.
In 2017 Tony was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award. In 2021 he will release two new books, a poetry collection, Whisper Songs, and a new short story collection, Dark as Last Night. Tony Birch is also an activist, historian and essayist.
Evelyn Araluen is a poet, researcher and co-editor of Overland literary journal. Her widely published criticism, fiction and poetry have been awarded the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers, the Judith Wright Poetry Prize, a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter Fellowship, and a Neilma Sidney Literary Travel Fund grant. Born and raised on Dharug Country, she is a descendant of the Bundjalung Nation.
Michele Lee is an Asian-Australian playwright and theatre-maker working across stage, audio and live art.
Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen is a Vietnamese-Australian writer and bookseller, and the Marketing & Communications Manager for the Feminist Writers Festival. She is a former Daily Life columnist, and has been featured in publications including Rookie, frankie, the Lifted Brow and Kill Your Darlings.
Alison Whittaker is a Gomeroi multitasker. Between 2017–2018, she was a Fulbright scholar at Harvard Law School, where she was named the Dean’s Scholar in Race, Gender and Criminal Law. Alison is a Senior Researcher at the Jumbunna Institute at UTS.
Her debut poetry collection, Lemons in the Chicken Wire, was awarded the State Library of Queensland’s black&write! Indigenous Writing Fellowship in 2015. Her latest poetry collection, Blakwork, was published in 2018 and was shortlisted for a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award and won the QLA Judithe Calanthe Award for a Poetry Collection. She is the editor of the anthology Fire Front: First Nations poetry and power today.
Alison was also the co-winner of the 2017 Overland Judith Wright Poetry Prize for ‘Many Girls White Linen’. She was the Indigenous Poet-in-Residence for the 2018 Queensland Poetry Festival.
Nayuka Gorrie is a Kurnai/Gunai, Gunditjmara, Wiradjuri, and Yorta Yorta writer. Gorrie’s work explores black, queer and feminist politics. They wrote and performed in season three of Black Comedy. In 2018 they were named as a Wheeler Centre Next Chapter recipient, and are currently working on a book of essays.