Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowships 2016: Introducing the Fellows, round two

This year’s Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowships are supported by the Readings Foundation and private donors. Through the year, twenty one lucky writers – and two lucky illustrators – were chosen by a selection panel that included representatives from the Wheeler Centre and our resident organisations: Melbourne Writers Festival, Emerging Writers' Festival, Small Press Network, Australian Poetry, Express Media, Writers Victoria and Melbourne PEN. The winners will receive a desk of their own at the Wheeler Centre for two months, plus a $1000 stipend. 

Today, we'd like to introduce you to the writers and projects of our second intake for 2016 – who begin their Fellowships today. (Read about the first here.)

Hot Desk Fellowships 2016

The writers and illustrators who’ll be participating in this round are: Paul Dalla RosaJessica KnightMiki PerkinsNadia NiazLaura StortenbekerStephanie Van Schilt, Yvette Walker and Inga Hanover (Illustration Hot Desk). They'll be undertaking their projects at the Wheeler Centre from Monday 11 July to Friday 16 September, and they describe their intended works below.

Paul Dalla Rosa, We Are Never Who We Were Meant To Be (short fiction)

A massage therapist pressures clients into leaving her positive Yelp reviews. A Pancake Parlour employee discovers he is desired. A writer abroad avoids writing and survives off possibly illicit Craigslist listings. Within these stories – wanting their lives to be different, but struggling to bridge the gulf between actuality and aspiration – characters leave lovers without telling them, trial experimental medical treatments, drink whilst watching self-help DVDs and slowly come to reckonings brought on through the steady accumulation of small betrayals.

Jessica Knight, Red and White Cells (non-fiction)

Two weeks before a young woman and her boyfriend are to go for a much-needed holiday, she goes into hospital for a routine post-kidney-transplant biopsy. They do not end up going on holiday. This project is important to me for a few major reasons. It will help those who have experienced similar things not to feel so alone. It will help me feel like it did not all happen for nothing – these experiences, and my control over them, could be regained and remolded in the retelling. That is the power of stories.

Miki Perkins, Women and Mental Health in Australia (non-fiction)

I'd like to write a book of creative non-fiction about women and mental illness, in the Australian context, with a focus on perinatal anxiety and depression. This book might explore how mental health provision for women and mothers works/fails in a contemporary setting, and how gender affects women’s experience of mental health and treatment – all told in a creative, accessible way through interviews with women with personal experience, and experts Australia-wide.

Nadia Niaz, Something Real (fiction)

My project is a novel about a 28-year-old Pakistani Australian bisexual woman raised in Melbourne by her adoptive (Pakistani) parents. Sam is conflicted about ‘settling down’ with her Anglo-Australian girlfriend. While dealing with the fallout of her resistance to this idea, she has to travel to Pakistan where she finds out the truth about her birth mother. This throws her into a crisis of identity that she has to resolve before she can move forward with her life. I chose an apparently overly hyphenated identity for Sam because I wanted to show how this complexity is both not as unusual as it sounds and provides an opportunity to find multiple points of connection between people beyond what is dictated by race, family, sexuality or culture. 

Laura Stortenbeker, Low Light (short fiction)

Low Light is a collection of short stories that explores the familiar unease of the outer suburbs. The stories are linked through the shared experiences of the characters; their rituals and both the terror and longing they feel for their home. Three boys commit a robbery and discover a child alone in the house; a woman tells her ex-partner a man he assaulted has died; a man keeps a map of roadside memorial crosses; a girl and her baby make a plan to leave. Low Light gives reverence to the suburbs, and is mapped to patterns of aggression and friends seeing each other doing ugly things.

Stephanie Van Schilt, Fatale: Her Story Podcast Project (podcast)

Over 12 hour-long episodes, FATALE will investigate the 1985 murder of a Victorian woman. A documentary-style podcast written and hosted by Stephanie Van Schilt, FATALE is a compelling true case told with respect through intensive research and interviews. Via rich sound experimentation and a self-aware creative non-fiction script, FATALE will delve into our fascination with true crime, exploring the ways we construct and consume these stories and what it says about us.

Yvette Walker, Stranger, If You Passing Meet Me (fiction)

Stranger, If You Passing Meet Me will be a novel that explores the lives of six characters of queer sexuality. These characters will be based on the following historical figures: Oscar Wilde, E.M. Forster, Michael Dillon, Elizabeth Bishop, Alla Nazimova and Annemarie Schwarzenbach. The novel means to explore the happiness these characters found in their lives amid their personal and political struggles. It won't follow a chronological narrative, nor will it offer a full description of each character’s lives – rather, the narrative will shift cinematically through action and object. For example, the lighting of a cigarette by one character results in a time/space shift to another character that is stubbing out a cigarette. Each characterisation will act like a photograph or a home movie; every narrative thread will show us a slice of the character’s life. These vignettes will be thematically connected: the novel will explore a halcyon moment for each character. These sublime moments could last minutes, months or years. They are the heat beat of the novel.

Inga Hanover (Illustration Hot Desk), Proust and I

The proposed body of work for this fellowship has been developed from my ongoing daily drawing project, responding to a page a day of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past, known also as In Search of Lost Time. It has become a challenge to illustrate what is considered to be one of the world’s longest books, often quoted and rarely read in its entirety. Just as the book is not a straight narrative, my drawings to date are not read as a continuing narrative. Read at the pace of a page a day, the continuity of the narrative becomes lost and one searches for a phrase, a sentence that speaks visually. Sometimes, the image is cruel and heartless; at others the image is full of love and mercy and helps one to reflect more meaningfully on life.

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