Introducing the Hot Desk Fellows: Round Four, 2013

We’re pleased to welcome a new round of Hot Desk Fellows to their Wheeler Centre desks this month - and to introduce you to them and their projects.

The current five fellows are working on fiction and poetry. They’re all at various stages of their writing careers, from writing their fourth book to developing their first.

Our Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellows all receive a $1000 stipend, plus a desk at the Wheeler Centre for two months. The fellowships are supported by the Readings Foundation.

Zane Lovitt

King of Drones (fiction)

Zane Lovitt is working on his second novel, King of Drones, set in contemporary Melbourne. A story about fathers and the inevitable impact they have on fashioning a man’s identity, the novel tells the story of Jason, an anxiety-prone researcher who uses his skills to track down his biological father, Glen, a retired police officer. As Jason gets to know his father, he uncovers a plot to kill Glen by a man set on getting revenge for his own father, who was sent to prison on Glen’s evidence.

Zane was awarded Sydney Morning Herald Young Novelist of the Year 2013 for his first book, The Midnight Promise, published by Text. He has a contract with Text for the new novel too, and hopes to have it on bookshop shelves in 2014.

During his Hot Desk Fellowship, he will engage in a period of intense research, ‘submerging myself within the various locations and developing the voice of the narrator’. Having a workspace in the Melbourne CBD, where his story is set, will be a huge advantage.

Sian Campbell

How To Fry Shittake (fiction)

Sian Campbell is working on her debut novel, about a Japanese woman, Mahoko, who is grieving the loss of her brother and returns to Australia to help her sister-in-law raise her niece. The novel’s primary tension is the relationship that develops between Mahoko, her widowed sister-in-law, and the daughter left behind. Mushrooms pervade the narrative.

Sian will travel to Japan after completing her first draft, to fact-check and immerse herself in the world of her primary protagonist.

‘I’m interested in using my writing to give voice to the people and subjects that are usually voiceless – questioning the mantra “write what you know” and reworking it for myself,’ says Sian. She tries to find the universal spaces that overlap between ‘what everyone knows’, ‘what I know’ and ‘what the other knows’.

Sian has written the first few chapters of the novel, and has begun research – including the unorthodox (but ‘fun’) method of a mushroom cooking class.

Luke Beesley

American Typewriter (poetry)

Luke Beesley is working on his fourth poetry collection, American Typewriter. His third collection, New Works on Paper, was published by Giramondo in August this year.

The title of his collection is a starting place. He calls the typewriter ‘an iconic, surrealist image’, and one that links to the key image of his last collection: the pencil.

It’s also a link to typography, a pun for ‘American type’ poets of 1968 and a ‘gentle reference’ to abstract expressionist ‘American type’ painting, a long-time obsession of Luke’s.

Luke says his poetry explores themes of loss, love and language.

He writes fast and edits carefully; in his time at the Wheeler Centre, he plans to write new poems, transfer hand-drafted poems to the computer and edit.

‘I like the idea of spending ten weeks making my way into the city, dragging urban Melbourne into the writing and editing, in the metaphorical dream-space above the Australian Poetry Library – near writers, and a million or more books sitting in the State Library of Victoria.’

Manisha Anjali Kumar

Peanuts (fiction)

Manisha Anjali Kumar is ‘an emerging writer of stories and songs’. Her works are based on the underclasses of the world: immigrants, runaways, orphans and the working class.

‘Having lived in New Zealand, Australia and Fiji, I am interested in developing narratives that carry strong pan-Pacific motifs.’

Her novel-in-progress, Peanuts, is about bicultural village life in the Fiji islands. Eight-year-old Nonny sells peanuts on the side of the road. He refuses to read, write or wear shoes. The novel explores the troublesome romance between Nonny’s mother and an Australian butterfly scientist, illiteracy in the modern age and the demons that haunt the island.

‘The bulk of the inspiration for Peanuts comes from my own childhood and from stories belonging to family members alive or dead,’ says Manisha. ‘This novel will help fill a gap in Pacific literature, as fiction by historically displaced Fijian Indians is sparse.’

Andrew Bifeld

Tacos at Midnight (fiction)

Andrew Bifeld is writing a short comic novel ‘of sibling rivalry, poetry and takeaway food’.

He has been published in Island, Quadrant and Muse, and was the winner of the written category in the Qantas Spirit of Youth Awards 2012.

Andrew says he has needed a slab of time to finish this book since 2007, when it ‘started as a completely different thing’. A mentorship with an established novelist last year gave him the insight he needed to resolve the work’s structural issues. ‘It needs a long, stern edit,’ he says.

The novel follows the predicament of James Chance, who is trapped in the seaside town of Port Grey, where he grew up with his rock-star brother. An unpublished poet, he works in a chain bookshop, sleeps in an ice-cream van to save on rent, and helps the local publican with his kids and the cryptic crossword. But when his father is felled by a heart attack at someone else’s funeral, James’s world starts to come unstuck.