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Our City of Literature: Ten Stories of Melbourne
Melbourne has always been a city of literature. Our population is bursting with rabid readers and writers. We have the best libraries, the coolest bookshops, the finest festivals and some truly pioneering publishers. Also, Monkey Grip is set here and we are the best at wearing turtlenecks.
So it made perfect sense when, in 2008, Melbourne joined the UNESCO Creative Cities Network and made it official – becoming a designated City of Literature in recognition of our literary spirit.
For the tenth anniversary of this designation, we kicked off the celebrations with a gala night of readings and storytelling at Deakin Edge. We heard from ten brilliant writers – both established and emerging – who have made Melbourne home for either a short time or a lifetime. Where, for them, does Melbourne come alive on the page? Which classic stories and scenes of Melbourne are part of our literary DNA, and how are a new generation of writers remaking the city with words?
In order of appearance … hear from Alice Pung, Tony Birch, Jane Rawson, Eloise Grills, Moreno Giovannoni, Jennifer Down, Alexis Wright, Patricia Cornelius, Andy Griffiths and Sumudu Samarawickrama.
This event was presented in partnership with the Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office.
Eloise Grills is an award-winning visual essayist, a poet, educator and memoir editor for Scum Magazine. She was recently awarded the 2018 Woollahra Digital Literary Prize for Nonfiction for her Scum Magazine column, Diary of a Post-Teenage Girl, and The Lifted Brow & RMIT non/fictionLab Prize for Experimental Non-fiction (2018). She was a finalist for the mid-year Walkleys, and was recently named as a finalist for the 2018 Subbed In Chapbook Prize.
Eloise's graphic novel, Sexy Female Murderesses, was published by Glom Press in December 2018. Her poetry collection, If you're sexy and you know it slap your hams, is forthcoming with Subbed In (April 2019). She tweets and grams as @grillzoid.
Tony Birch is a founding member of the Melbourne School of Discontent. He has published three novels; The White Girl, Ghost River and Blood. He is also the author of Shadowboxing and three short story collections, Father’s Day, The Promise and Common People. In 2017 he was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award for his contribution to Australian literature. In 2021 he released two new books, a poetry book, Whisper Songs and a new short story collection, Dark As Last Night.
Jennifer Down is a writer, editor and translator. She was named a Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year consecutively in 2017 and 2018 for her debut novel, Our Magic Hour, and her short story collection, Pulse Points. Pulse Points received the 2018 Readings Prize for New Australian Fiction, and the Queensland Literary Award – Steel Rudd Prize for Short Fiction. She lives in Melbourne.
‘You pay a price to be able to talk about your own country in the works in a really truthful and brutal way. A lot of people don’t want to hear that.’
Patricia Cornelius is a playwright of rare courage and power. As a founding member of Melbourne Workers Theatre, Patricia Cornelius has spent her career drawing attention to marginalised lives and issues surrounding class. Cornelius has written more than 35 plays, including Slut, The Call, Shit and Savages. She also co-wrote the Australian classic, Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? Cornelius is the recipient of the 2019 Windham Campbell Prize for Drama.
Moreno Giovannoni was born in San Ginese but grew up in a house on a hill, on a tobacco farm at Buffalo River in north-east Victoria. He is a freelance translator of long standing. The Fireflies of Autumn: And Other Tales of San Ginese is his first book.
Jane Rawson writes novels, essays and stories, mostly about climate change and animals. Her latest novel is From the Wreck. She lives in Tasmania's Huon Valley and works for a conservation organisation.
Andy Griffiths is one of Australia’s most popular children’s authors. He and illustrator Terry Denton have collaborated on more than 33 bestselling books since their first title, Just Tricking, was published in 1997.In Australia, Andy and Terry’s books have sold over 10 million copies, won 80 children’s choice awards and 10 Australian Book Industry Awards—including Book of the Year for The 52-Storey Treehouse in 2015.
Their much-loved Treehouse Series has been embraced by children around the world and is now published in more than 35 countries. Five of the books in the series have been adapted for the stage and have all had sell-out seasons at the Sydney Opera House, as well as highly successful seasons in the Netherlands, New Zealand and America.
Andy is a passionate advocate for literacy and in 2015 was awarded the Dromkeen Medal to honour his outstanding contribution to Australian children’s literature. He is also an ambassador for both The Indigenous Literacy Foundation and the Pyjama Foundation.
Alice Pung is an award-winning Australian writer whose books include the bestselling memoirs Unpolished Gem (2006) and Her Father's Daughter (2011), and the novel Laurinda (2014). She is the editor of the anthology Growing Up Asian in Australia (2008), and created the Marly books for Penguin's Our Australian Girl series (2015). Her latest book is the novel One Hundred Days (2021).
Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the Gulf of Carpentaria and the renowned author of the prize-winning novels Carpentaria and The Swan Book. Her most recent book, Tracker, was awarded the 2018 Stella Prize. She holds the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne.
Sumudu Samarawickrama is from Werribee. Her work has appeared in Boston Review, Overland, Meanjin and the Lifted Brow. She co-produced Sidekicked 2017 Melbourne Fringe Category Award Winner 'Best Words and Ideas'. She was a Witness Performance New Critic in 2018. She wants to use art to powerfully challenge the status quo of the structures that underpin our society. As part of FCAC’s West Writer's Group, she is interested in how anger can be a tool towards community. She is on a journey to decolonise her soul.