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Meet Our Second Round of Hot Desk Fellows

Read Sunday, 9 Sep 2012

We’ve recently welcomed our second round of Hot Desk Fellowships, supported by the Readings Foundation, to the Wheeler Centre.

We bid a sad farewell to our first round of fellows: Luke Ryan, Mel Campbell, Julien Leyre, Lorna Hendry, Caitlin Henderson, Christie Nieman and Lorin Clarke. We’ll be looking out for their published work.

But on the happy side, please meet our current Hot Desk residents: Peter Bakowski, Tom Trumble, Adrian Murphy, Ronnie Scott, Melinda Harvey and our Melbourne PEN fellow, Matt Hetherington.

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Amy Tan: Not one of our Hot Desk Fellows.
Amy Tan: Not one of our Hot Desk Fellows.

Peter Bakowski

Peter Bakowski is working on a series of city portrait poems, Personal Weather, to be published by Hunter Publishers in 2013.

Peter has written poems set in St Kilda, Richmond and the Australian outback; during the fellowship, he will be observing (and eavesdropping on) Melbournians in the National Gallery of Victoria, the Queen Victoria Market, the State Library and other public spaces in the CBD.

These observations will serve as ‘seeds’ for a series of portrait poems.

Peter says, ‘These Melbourne portrait poems would complement Melbourne’s vitality as an UNESCO City of Literature and would add to the canon of city poetry as exemplified by Jacques Prevert, who wrote about Paris and Parisians, and Charles Reznikoff, who wrote about New York and New Yorkers.’

Peter has published three collections with Hale and Iremonger. His most recent collection, Beneath Our Armour, is published by Hunter Publishers. He won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry in 1996.

Tom Trumble

Tom Trumble is working on his second book, Trapped on Timor, about his grandfather’s involvement in a secret rescue operation that took place in 1942. It’s contracted to Penguin, who published his first book, Unholy Pilgrims.

Tom writes:

By the end of March 1942, the Japanese laid claim to one of the largest empires in human history. The speed of Japan’s southern thrust left hundreds of Allied soldiers trapped behind lines. One such group, a party of 29 Australian airmen, left behind to keep operational an airbase in Dutch Timor, had their evacuation plans thwarted by the raid on Darwin.

After Timor fell to the Japanese, the group hid along Timor’s rugged northwest coast with little more than emergency rations and a portable radio in the hope of arranging a flying boat rescue. Every man contracted malaria, dysentery and jungle rot, four eventually dying of illness. After several abortive rescue attempts, contact was made with an American submarine at the very moment Timorese villagers betrayed the group to the Japanese. A party of 300 elite Japanese paratroopers was dispatched to hunt down the fugitives. What ensued was a frantic race against time and the most extraordinary escape of displaced Allied servicemen in the war in the Pacific. My grandfather was the 23-year old officer in charge of the airmen.

Adrian Murphy

Adrian Murphy is working on the first draft of a crime novel, Stained Promises.

It’s the beginning of a series, with the hero living in Melbourne. Adrian says it is ‘a hero’s journey of protagonist against antagonist, all set in Victoria’. The plot involves town corruption, drug and meth labs, and girls imported for prostitution.

‘I’m a driven writer and a very fast one,’ he says. ‘That is, when I am in the groove of concentration and becoming at one with my fictional characters. The plot drives my characters forward and who knows what they will do or say next.’

Adrian says that working in the Wheeler Centre, in a books and writing environment, he’ll be able to concentrate on driving that narrative forward.

Ronnie Scott

Ronnie Scott is working on a memoir about pop culture and adultness, beginning in the year 2000 and extending to the present day.

You’ll Never Wake Up looks at twentysomething experiences particular to this century – mainly the web 1.0 to 2.0 shift and the mixing of high and low culture. It traces a decade in the life of a group of young people who are being changed by this new world in unexpected ways.

Ronnie’s book was originally ‘a mix of researchy, cultural essays threaded together using bits of memoir’. He showed it to several publishers, looking for feedback, and they unanimously recommended he turn it into ‘a Gen Y Monkey Grip’.

In his time at the Wheeler Centre, he’ll be turning his document into ‘something that feels like … well, a book’.

Ronnie Scott’s long-form non-fiction has been published in The Believer, Meanjin, the Big Issue and elsewhere. He is the founder (and former editor) of The Lifted Brow.

Melinda Harvey

Melinda Harvey is working on a creative non-fiction essay called ‘Lip Service’, part memoir and part literary criticism.

It will explore the experience of being pregnant and a cancer patient at the same time, using this strange happenstance to ponder the truism that literature offers consolation.

Here’s a taste of the essay’s contents:

Last September Adam and I finally got married. Iris made us do it. She was the size of a lime at the time, so the pregnancy books said, but no less persuasive for being diminutive. We caught the tram to the registry. I held a $7 post of violets in my hands. Adam wore a $15 suit he bought at Savers. Our photos of the day – affectionate, beaming, silly – were taken on our phones. In all of them I have my face turned slightly to the right, for the lump under my lip, more like a blueberry than a lime, was there then too. In fact, we joked about it. ‘C’mon, George Michael, show me your good side,’ Adam said. ‘Lucky I’m no Bridezilla,’ I said.

But the honeymoon was a six-month shuttling from maternity hospital to cancer hospital. At one place ultrasounds showed that everything was going swimmingly considering I was an elderly primigravida, At the other place I was told I was too young and too healthy to have this kind of old man’s cancer. When I should have been counting fetal kicks and moderating my caffeine intake I was googling ‘lip reconstruction’ and doped up on opiates.

I teach literature at university. In a world in which we struggle to account for the value of literature I tell my students novels are like rest areas along a highway, places where you can ‘Stop. Revive. Survive.’ Literature, I told them, offers consolation, never having needed it to give me any. Now, though, was the moment of truth. Was literature going to help me through the bewilderments of growing a child and losing my face that could smile in those wedding photos? What role could literature really play while life had its way with me?

Melinda has been published in the Australian, the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Book Review and many other outlets.

Matt Hetherington

Matt Hetherington is one of our Melbourne PEN fellows. He will be working on translations from the Turkish poetry of Hidayet Ceylan, as well as poetry for his next collection.

‘Over the last five or six years of friendship, Hidayet and I have together translated nine or ten of his poems,’ he says. ‘He has also recently translated one of mine into Turkish.’

Matt has recently written for Cordite about his working relationship with Hidayet:

Despite the fact that we are both ‘amateurs’ at the art of translation, we still manage to satisfy the other in the end. After all, the word amateur itself comes from the root of the French word ‘to love’. We work together in such a way that it’s not truly work at all: I’m learning his language a little – as I don’t speak Turkish at all – but am at least bringing an affinity of his sensibilities to the process, and the ability to write poetry in English. Plus, there’s a mutual discovery in the intricacies and delights of each other’s world-view and the way it’s expressed.

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The Wheeler Centre acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation as the traditional owners of the land on which we work. We pay our respects to the people of the Kulin Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders, past and present.