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2024 is the 12th year of The Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowships, which provide emerging writers with a space to inspire their process and build a creative community.  

The Wheeler Centre will offer twenty-two writers a fellowship, including a $1250 stipend and dedicated workspace in the building over a ten-week period. We look forward to sharing their work with you, both online and in our Next Big Thing reading series, throughout the year. 

The 2024 Hot Desk Fellowships are made possible by the generous support of the Faculty of Arts, University of Melbourne, the Readings Foundation and the Just Pretending theatre group.

Meet the writers below, and read a short description of each project. 



‘I am honoured to be invited back to The Wheeler Centre as a guest judge for the 2024 Hot Desk Fellowships.

The brilliant shortlist – from literary fiction, magical realism, play to verse novel, essay and more – made for a challenging task of choosing fellows. As a previous Hot Desker who is now privy to the selection process, I was astounded by the boundless talent and skill of writers in this country.

As a fellow, this fellowship made me feel that I was taken seriously in the industry and that the writing I was doing was ‘work’. Being a writer can be a lonely practice, and this fellowship has connected me to a broader community which is atypical to the very act of writing. Congratulations and the very best to you all! ’

–  Anneliz Marie Erese, 2023 Hot Desk Fellow and a judge for this year’s fellowships



2024 Project Summaries


Chris Ames

I Made This Just for You (Fiction)

I Made This Just for You is a short story collection that explores climate panic, toxic masculinity, genderless love, and the false promise of technology. Experimental without being alienating, these stories sometimes take the shape of math equations, audio logs, and performance reviews. Regardless of form, they all investigate the same questions: how do we measure the distance between two people? How can we thrive within our own ceaseless routines? And how are we still drawn together, despite our messy, broken ways of knowing?



Megan Cheong

Exchange (Autofiction)

Exchange is a work of autofiction that follows its 21-year-old narrator on an exchange to Berlin. Through the many small exchanges that comprise the trip, the novella explores the complexities of language and human interaction. As she repeatedly attempts to make connections and to write, the questions of the work become what, if any, are the necessary preconditions for a life of writing, and what does it mean to write?


Jacinta Dietrich

The Ringmaster (Middle-grade fiction)

The Ringmaster is an Own Voices middle-grade fantasy adventure novel that champions empowering neurodivergent representation. The story follows autistic protagonist Amelia as she discovers a mysterious circus, unravels an unsolved missing person’s case and attempts to become the ringmaster of her own life. The Ringmaster is the first book in a five-book series that champions disability and neurodivergent representation and engages readers to consider a variety of perspectives and experiences outside their own.



Shashini Gamage

The Fright of Real Feathers (Autofiction)

The Fright of Real Feathers is an autofiction work, exploring a care-story of a migrant daughter who returns from Australia to her ageing mother in Sri Lanka. This narrative delves into the everyday life of one Sinhalese-Buddhist family to explore the developments of generational thinking that contributed to the oppression, genocide, and vilification of minorities in Sri Lanka that was cemented through pogroms and civil war. The book interrogates the complex political histories of the island, flowing as a story about mothers and daughters, love and care, ageing and separation, and complex relationships.



Kate Harris

Wake (Literary fiction)

Wake tells the story of Alice, whose older sister disappeared from the Royal Melbourne Show when she was 14-years-old. It follows Alice in the present, twenty-five years after the event, as she finds herself suddenly spiralling out of control. Wake is a novel about trauma that started as a personal question about the things that stand up in the face of the worst that can happen. Do the things we cling to, worship and give our time to in ordinary day to day life, remain robust when suddenly covered by an unimaginably dark veil?



Ronia Ibrahim

This is The River (Poetry)

This is The River (working title) is a debut collection of poetry, a radical reimagining of the diasporic identity. Blending memoir and poetry, this project channels the textures of food, faith, coming-of-age, belonging, race and intergenerational trauma, based on the author’s experience growing up as a Muslim, mixed-race child of immigrants in Aotearoa. Primarily in English, it also experiments with language as a functional and poetic device, incorporating Mandarin, Urdu, Hindi, Bangla and Māori, weaving new modes of intercultural communication. This is The River challenges conventional notions of migration, unravelling the inherent storytelling power in all those who move oceans.



Hugh Leitwell

Pending (Literary fiction)

Pending is a novella-length work of fiction, which follows a queer cis-male couple navigating the decision of whether or not to have a child. The work will broadly engage with how monogamy and child-rearing may distance queer men from a dominant queer culture, chosen family, queer parenting, night clubs as healing spaces, and the loss and rediscovery of ritual. The work speaks back to a lack of representation of queer fathering in literature and is unapologetically sensual to reflect a truth of a sexual minority where, for some, eroticism may be essential to identity.



Suri Matondkar

Tongue (Creative Non-Fiction)

Tongue is a collection of creative non-fiction essays exploring the relationship an Indian English speaker can have with the English language. It looks at the gatekeeping of linguistic competence – particularly in the context of Indian international students in Australia – and ultimately questions what is considered a ‘valid’ or ‘standard’ version of English, and who is allowed to be a ‘native’ speaker of this language.



Lia Morgan

a dog howling to the call to prayer (Poetry)

a dog howling to the call to prayer is a working title for a collection of poems about striving to find an authentic queer cultural and spiritual identity. As a trans person from mixed European and South Asian heritage, living on stolen land and born of emigrants, I look for poetic rituals that address displacement and disembodiment. I see myself, and my community, as the dog, crudely trying to connect with traditions however we can. These poems are set between so-called Australia and India, at an Onam celebration in Naarm, and on the day of Ayodhya’s consecration in Calicut.



Isobel Morphy-Walsh
Just Pretending Playwright Fellow
Supported by the Just Pretending theatre group

Thudagun’s Lost Stolen Children (Play)

Thudagun’s Lost Children (working title) will examine how creation mythology and lived experience intersect. This play uses DhunagWurrunng (Taungurung) creation story about Thudagun – an old witch/woman who steals children as a frame to discuss the effect of the Stolen Generation though the lens of intergenerational trauma. The writer’s father Uncle Larry Walsh and the writer recently gave testimony to the Yoorrook Justice Commission about Uncle Larry’s lived experience being Stolen and the effect of intergenerational trauma that is carried down the family lives as a result.



Jessie Perrin

The Two Girls (Literary Fiction)

The Two Girls is a novel that centers around a family breakdown and the child’s bodily experience of this breakdown. The work explores how language begins from, interacts with and even changes bodies, using a language that constantly shifts between disembodiment and embodiment. Lydia Davis’s Hand was the initial inspiration for a work where everyday ‘things’ move from commonplace to startling, then commonplace again, within sentences. This is mirrored in and explored more deeply through a rhythm and voice that is simple, sometimes even mundane, in its description of surreal imagery.



Shannon May Powell

Temporary Bodies (Autotheory/Memoir)

Temporary Bodies is a work of autotheory, exploring the collapsible boundaries between queer theory, philosophy, poetry and autobiography, between thinking and feeling. It is a genre-crossing memoir textured with stories of love, longing and desire, where the relationships in the book are backgrounded by a series of natural disasters. A swinging chandelier during an earthquake in Mexico City, sentimental belongings floating in a bedroom flooded by water, the burning sulphur smell of lightning during a dry storm; locating landscape and environmental collapse as a protagonist in the story.



Belinda Rule

Things I would rather do than apply for another job (Poetry)

Things I would rather do than apply for another job is Belinda Rule’s second book of poetry. While her first book was a ‘best of’ her first twenty years as a publishing poet, the second book is new work, in a newer style, which shucks off mannerly, aesthetically conscious lyricism in favour of intentionally unpoetic, as-if-spoken idiom. Rule is writing increasingly unabashedly about midlife, about the long slog of staying alive through family sorrow, mental illness and disability, and the business-casual depravities of having to work for a living.



Al Speers
Gabrielle Williams Young Adult Writer Fellow
Supported by the Readings Foundation

Sourpuss (Young Adult fiction)

Sourpuss is a queer coming-of-age novel set on the Gold Coast in the mid-2000s. Think Wetlands (Charlotte Roche) meets Puberty Blues (Gabrielle Carey & Kathy Lette), this novel explores the protagonist’s graphic relationship with their own sexuality through a lens–sometimes comically, sometimes tragically–rooted in place and time.



Andrew Sutherland

the migration of birds down the wet pathways of your blood (Verse novel)

the migration of birds down the wet pathways of your blood is a novel in verse which places the romance between an unnamed narrator and a lover who is a man at night and an ibis during the daytime against the backdrop of living with HIV in the public health system.



Ayesha Mona

Mona (Magical realism)

Mona is a magical realism novel. Mona is Ayesha Mona’s mother’s nickname. Whenever she saw her mother being called Mona, she was allowed to express herself freely. This novel will depict the crevices that exist in the liminal space that is between love and grief. She questions the expansion and contraction of freedom drawing upon her south-Asian and Islamic Arab identity. Mona’s thoughts become alive through her senses and magic becomes normal.



Stella Theocharides

Field Notes (Comic/Non-Fiction)

Notes from Joe’s is a piece of long-form graphic nonfiction; a series of dispatches from the market gardens, community farms, guerilla gardens & backyards in which people are farming in new and old ways. With a focus on the history of the land and the stories of the home gardeners, volunteers, professionals and activists who grow food locally, the comic will explore the relationship between the organics industry and the food justice/access movement in Naarm.



Yogashree Thirunavukarasu

Eat (Play)

Adrian is dead at 25. As his family members reel from his untimely passing and the illness that started it all, his sister – desperate to assuage her guilt – investigates the events in his last year of life, stumbling upon a world previously unknown to her. Eat explores familial love, cultural expectations and grief through the lens of a family left fragmented from the effects of an eating disorder. This non-linear play also calls attention to the many ways in which disordered eating affects millions of lives.



Frankie van Kan

A Body at Work (Creative Non-Fiction)

A Body at Work is a deeply intimate tale of a queer woman’s sixteen years—and counting, in the sex industry. The work explores the intersection between queerness and sex work in the recent and current political climate—post Sex Work Decriminalisation Act— the body as a commodity and societal notions of the good mother. Asking the question Will they love me at my Madonna when they’ve relished me at my whore? this novel invites the reader to explore what it means to be A Body at Work.



Hannah Wu

Temporary Architectures (Non-Fiction/Poetry)

Temporary Architectures is a full-length non-fiction book manuscript, constructed through an intricate series of fragmented meditations. By merging poetry, philosophy, art history and non-fiction, the book accumulates small scenes to unfold a larger narrative of loss. Taking the notion of transformation as its starting point, Temporary Architectures seeks to complicate historical narratives of race, home and the structures of language that give form to our desires. It asks: What stories do we inherit intergenerationally? Are our dreams always in a shifting state of incompletion? How do our pasts inform the present and how do we orient ourselves towards a collective future?



Cat Yen

Heart Constellations (Memoir)

Heart Constellations is a memoir written from Cat Yen’s perspective as a once working-class, 20-something woman of colour who grew out of a household troubled by violence, financial instability and addiction. Chapters revolve around variously difficult, tender, joyful and everyday memories of people in Cat’s life who have been important to her. The work engages with themes of community and chosen family as alternatives to narratives of hard work, resilience and exceptionalism that dominate migrant stories. Its purpose is to recount a life history containing stability and contentment that would feel convincing and persuasive for someone who has experienced precarity.



Xiaole Zhan

Think An Empty Room, Moonly With Phoneglow (Memoir/Creative Non-Fiction)

Think An Empty Room, Moonly With Phoneglow is a book-length manuscript of essays on growing up in a mixed Pākehā-Chinese family. It tackles, interrogates, and unpacks themes of intercultural family bonds, racism, chronic illness, depression, gender, and joy as resistance. The project is named after Xiaole Zhan’s autobiographical essay that won the 2023 Kill Your Darlings Non-Fiction Prize.





Beginning in 2024, The Wheeler Centre’s Hot Desk Fellowships are generously supported by the Faculty of the Arts, University of Melbourne as part of a new three-year cultural partnership celebrating Australia’s leading literary talents.

The 2024 Hot Desk Fellowships are also made possible through the Readings Foundation and the Just Pretending theatre group.


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