Meet the Hot Desk Fellows: Round Three

The Wheeler Centre has become home to 20 writers this year, thanks to our Hot Desk Fellowships, supported by the Readings Foundation.

Each writer has received a $1000 stipend and a desk at the Wheeler Centre for a period of two months, to work on their writing projects – which have ranged from crime novels set in meth labs to memoir essays about pregnancy and cancer, from portrait poems of Melbourne to translations of Turkish poets. And the distractions we’ve provided refuge from have included needful babies, hungry kids, office dogs, housemates with smelly washing and the anxiety of being a trespasser in a university library.

In short, it’s been a blast. Thanks to all the fellows from the first two rounds.

Now, it’s time to welcome our final round of Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellows, as they have move into their desks this week.

Oliver Mol

Oliver Mol is working on his debut novel, Transparent, a darkly comedic, satirical novel about the gap between the personalities we project and who we really are.

Told from the perspective of three different characters, Transparent explores ‘whether the twentysomethings of today are as vacuous as they make themselves out to be’ and delves to discover the real feelings that lie beneath their projections of coolness.

Oliver hopes the book will resonate with a maturing Gen Y.

Oliver says he uses method acting to understand his characters’ thoughts and feelings, so the opportunity to write in Melbourne’s CBD, where the book is set, will contribute to making those characters rounded.

Georgia Powick

‘A novel is an unwieldy beast at the best of times,’ says Georgia Powick. ‘A first attempt is an exciting prospect.’

She hopes to have completed the first draft of her young adult fantasy novel, Amelia Grimes, by the end of the year.

The major themes of the novel are the dangers to society of eradicating differences in people, the need to belong and responsibility. The novel will ask: to what degree are we responsible for others?

Amelia Grimes is set in another world, in an institution for lost children called St Balthus. Amelia will join with a group of other displaced children to fight the powers behind St Balthus – until she’s faced with a terrible choice. Will she abandon the group and return home, or sacrifice herself for the greater good?

Georgia is looking forward to being part of a community of writers in her time as a Hot Desk Fellow – and to having ‘easy access to dumplings’.

Samuel Cooney

Samuel Cooney is working on a novella, Trickle and Trace, that he began as part of a master’s degree at Sydney Consortium.

Though this would be his first full-length published work, Samuel has a varied publication history, including fiction published in Sleepers and forthcoming in McSweeneys, and non-fiction published in Meanjin and Griffith Review. He is currently editor of The Lifted Brow.

Trickle and Trace looks at what happens to a person once they become so ensconced in the virtual or digital worlds they’ve constructed using the internet that they begin to lose their sense of identity, or self.

The structure ‘tips its hat’ to short works like Albert Camus’s The Stranger, Peter Handke’s The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick and M.J. Hyland’s This is How. Like these works, it will focus on a central character as they cross a boundary of socially acceptable behaviour, then double its focus to hold up a lens to society as it judges the central character not on the act itself, but for not showing the appropriate amount of remorse.

Rachel Hennessy

Rachel Hennessy, a published novelist and short story writer, is working on a non-fiction essay about pregnancy, miscarriage, and narratives of motherhood.

Rachel had a miscarriage in January of this year and has close friends who’ve had the same experience. She plans to use this personal experience as a starting point to explore a range of issues.

She’ll explore the literary feminist idea that while sex is a biological given, gender is a socially constructed category – which ‘effectively leaves the body out of the investigation as to how women and men experience gender’. During her own experience of pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and miscarriage, Rachel has seen how the body ‘resurfaces as a force to be reckoned with’ in motherhood.

Rachel will explore the absence of this type of body in societal images and public narratives. ‘There is no space for the grieving female, the exhausted mother, the depressed mother.’

She hopes to enter this essay in Australian Book Review’s Calibre Prize, so will be writing up to 10,000 words.

Tim Richards

Tim Richards is writing a book about Poland’s Communist past and changed present, and his own relationship with the nation over the past two decades – as a resident, teacher and travel writer.

Stalin’s Cow: Travels Through Post-Communist Poland takes its title from a quote by Josef Stalin: ‘Applying communism to Poland is like trying to saddle a cow.’

Tim writes:

It’s undeniable that there’s been an air of confidence and prosperity in Poland in recent years, even in the face of the current global recession. Despite the EU’s economic troubles, Poland itself has weathered the storm relatively well (none of its banks crashed, for example), and as a result the communist years of scarcity and make-do are being left far behind both in reality and memory.

However, the Cold War era is not that easily disposed of; everywhere across Poland are remnants of the days of enforced socialism, from the tiny ‘milk bar’ cafeterias which were once the state-run supplier of the working man’s cheap meal, to the mighty alienating structure of the Stalinist-era Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw.

To an Australian, having lived a sheltered life in the West during Poland’s imprisonment behind the Iron Curtain, these relics of communism are awe-inspiring, as are the stories of everyday Poles who lived through those times.

Anita Sethi

Anita Sethi was an international writer in residence and ambassador at the Emerging Writers Festival this year. During her residency, she gave a Lunchbox/Soapbox talk at the Wheeler Centre, which inspired her to apply for a Hot Desk Fellowship.

‘I found it an extremely stimulating experience, both the space of the Centre and the chance to meet with audience members and the resident organisations,’ she says.

Anita is working on a novel with the working title, ‘Shanti’, the Hindu word for peace.

‘During my time in Melbourne, I was greatly inspired by the community of writers I met … and by the city itself – its history, diversity and architecture,’ she says. ‘Melbourne has a fascinating history of migration, which is a strong theme in my own novel.’

Anita says that she has produced some of her best creative writing while working as an international writer in residence, inspired by being out of context. ‘The geographical distance from the country in which I was born paradoxically allowed me greater perspective.’

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