Tag Archives: grant

Commons

commons 1

The day started with an interview about my grant. In hindsight it seems prescient, now that the government is pulling funding from the arts. Might I have done something that we might all need to do? I kept my answers personal, not political, wishing to protect the whimsy with which I invented the grant, and the naivety with which I awarded it. Like always Julien offered me language, saying that I was giving for the common good. And so we spent the day considering the commons.

Public spaces are sites of transition between private ones. We move through them as if we were alone. Unless we have poor boundaries, or are excessively extroverted, or both, in which case the experience of shared environments is riveting. I feel hardest in a crowded carriage, sucked and blown by the energy of those at hand. At the station Julien noticed this dramatic engagement with seemingly impersonal sites. I had said, about taxis: “They’re everywhere except where you are.” But how else do you explain a cab reversing as you approach it? Later, in a taxi, I felt we’d been kidnapped. We were on the wrong side of the freeway, climbing up and away. Julien took a more rational approach, and a more trusting one, outsourcing local driving to local people who drive. I’d actually considered walking the five kilometres between forest and station. Something would have happened – like a kidnapping. That’s my definition of adventure: foolishly trying to do things by yourself.

commons 2

“We not provide,” said the woman at FRIM’s “one stop centre.” Maps were not available; nor was food. The site’s main attraction – an elevated walk through the treetops – was closed for Ramadan, along with all the cafes. “So nothing to eat,” I confirmed. She pointed at the fridge, which contained cans of drink and some heart-shaped chocolate cakes. As she said “cake” her eyes glistened.

Had I seen her before? This look of satisfaction at my displeasure called to mind the woman from years before but just down the road who had blocked me from a concert because I was wearing shorts. I’d fled KL, after that, and met my first lover in a rotunda at Kuala Kangsar. We’d both been sheltering from the rain.

Anyway this guardian wanted us out of the forest. “You cannot go here,” she cautioned, covering most of her non-detachable map. “Unless you have a guide, for one hundred-seventy ringgit?” We went anyway, carrying water and our chocolate cake, climbing a steep path towards a closed attraction. Overhead, monkeys reached between branches, liberated from the turf wars of the more evolved.

We were not the only defiant walkers. Chinese locals joined us on the mountain, carrying folded umbrellas. We ate our cake at a waterfall decorated by people gently exercising. I recalled a sign from yesterday about which I’d been delighted: “No exercise.” Now, from what I could see, this sounded like segregation. Enter as a Muslim, or not at all. (The cake was delicious. “Made from the heart,” it said.)

commons 3

I’m writing this behind the Petronas Towers, at an artificial lake with half-hourly fountain displays. Jets pulse and sway imitating human dancers, only perfectly, forming a ring around a vertical line of water which holds itself until the music stops. The sound and light show forms a temporary audience, looking away from itself, turning its back on the towers that draw so many glances from across the city.

It’s a hot night. I imagine floating out to the heart of the spectacle, looking back through a cage of water at the shore. Would the jet carry me? How far would I fall?

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Thiel Grant winner

Patrick Lenton is the winner of the inaugural Thiel Grant for Online Writing. His project documenting the experience of visiting the homes and lives of people he played an online role-playing game with 15 years ago will be backed by the $5000 award.

I and my fellow judges loved Patrick’s proposal and the brilliant way he already writes for audiences online. His concept engages memory and personal history, and will allow him and his readers to interrogate the role of the digital space in the recent past. Patrick’s concern with connections formed online being tested “IRL” was fascinating to all three judges, and seems well suited to the kind of micro-fiction that Patrick already (fabulously) writes. sally fielding Warm congratulations Patrick! And thanks to all who submitted a proposal to this new grant. We hope that many of you pursue the projects that you pitched. In particular, we wish our shortlisted writers well. Keep reading (and clicking) for comments about why we loved each of their proposals so much…


Mez Breeze embraces the medium of digital writing, producing highly original work with striking visual force. We were impressed by the diversity of her creative practice and her willingness to present daring writing in an accessible way. We think that writers like Mez are redefining contemporary poetry.

P.S. Cottier‘s topical and timely proposal to explore the legacy of Frankenstein was among the funnest ideas pitched to the grant. It proposed to engage with literature and history in a rich and creative way, dissolving distinctions between prose and poetry, self and other, dead and alive. From a purely literary perspective, this was one of the strongest submissions we saw.

Nick Gadd‘s epic plan to circumnavigate suburban Melbourne on foot is impressive in itself; when told in exceptional prose and well-chosen photographs it’s mesmerising. Nick’s writing is breaking new ground in psychogeography and we encourage everyone to join him on his thoughtful wanderings down forgotten streets. Highly commended.

Anita Heiss has developed a unique position from which to research and disseminate writing by Indigenous Australians, and we were thrilled to receive a proposal from her to do just that. She identifies a gap in the literary/critical sector that we’d love to see explored, namely Indigenous language groups and their literary traditions. Anita’s thinking and writing will continue to inspire us.

Kate Iselin is at the top of her game, producing remarkable online writing that makes the political as personal as it’s ever been. Her focus on dating apps is of-the-moment, but takes this type of writing (and dating!) further than we’ve seen. I now read her blog compulsively, and anticipate a major following for Kate’s current and future work.

Meg Kovalik‘s resolution to open a box each week has already produced some powerful insights about psychology and the past. Her clear writing and suspenseful posts place her blog among the best expressions of this personal type of online writing that we’ve seen. We can’t wait to see what’s unboxed next, and wish Meg all the best with her project. Highly commended.

Tracy Sorensen also blogs within a recognisable genre of digital writing but does so in a way that goes brilliantly beyond the norm. She proposed a unique exploration of disease and its effects which blended genres and took history seriously. Her writing is equal parts disciplined and inventive and we all love her blog.


Okay, that’s it for now. Over to you Mr Lenton. 🙂

Thiel Grant shortlist

nominees

The inaugural Thiel Grant for Online Writing received over 170 applications covering the breadth of Australian writing for the internet. There was a remarkable diversity of topics and forms pitched by writers from a range of genders and cultural backgrounds. The judges were pleased that so many applications had a broadly political focus, and that most of the proposed concepts were highly suited to being sustained over fifty posts without sacrificing ambition.

After a difficult but delightful afternoon, I and my fellow judges are thrilled to be able to announce the shortlist for the Thiel Grant. The winner will be chosen from these eight proposals and announced here next week, on Wednesday 18th March.

Thanks to all who took the time to prepare an application, and congratulations to these eight outstanding online writers.

THE SHORTLIST

Mez Breeze
Digital/code poetry created in my unique online writing style termed “Mezangelle”.

P.S. Cottier
IT’S ALIVE!: A year with monsters and geniuses. Celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Nick Gadd
Melbourne Circle: an account of a walk clockwise around the Melbourne suburbs over 18 months.

Anita Heiss
Showcasing Aboriginal Australian Literature: highlighting the diversity of talent, voice, creative production and publishing ventures by Aboriginal people.

Kate Iselin
Thirty (or Fifty) Dates Of Tinder: a series of dates I go on with total strangers met via Tinder.

Meg Kovalik
52 Boxes: getting rid of every cardboard box in the house by emptying at least one each week.

Patrick Lenton
Documenting the experience of visiting the homes and lives of people I played an online role-playing game with 15 years ago.

Tracy Sorensen
Body Parts: a commemorative tour of the parts of my body that were removed or fundamentally altered during surgery for ovarian cancer.

Granting my salary

I’ve had an unstable salary for the last few years, ever since deciding to become a high school teacher. In 2013 I left my full-time job to become a student ineligible for government support. Then, in 2014, I was a graduate teacher in a full-time but temporary teaching role. This year I will be a full-time teacher and year level coordinator in an ongoing position with my highest salary ever.

This is a significant financial change, and should have an impact. Yet several people have told a different story, describing how even a big pay increase can be hard to register, serving only to shift buying preferences to the supermarket’s middle shelves. Spending can expand to fill available spending, making a hard-earned pay rise go unnoticed.

So I’ve been asking people what I should do with my money. Travel, entertainment, dry cleaning, good food? “You should commission art,” said one person, forgetting the size of my walls. “Or writing,” I replied, liking it.

I’ve blogged about my own writing projects, and how studying teaching made them disappear. For seven years I wrote a daily post about year-long artistic projects in which the same action was repeated every day. The personal impact of these projects has been immeasurable (including professionally) but like most online writing I did them for free. Their form was shaped by the blogosphere; were I writing for money I would have written differently.

That’s why the Thiel Grant for Online Writing doesn’t specify word length, genre or approach; only that fifty posts be written in a year, and that I be the virtual equivalent of a kneeling donor in a Renaissance painting.

Piero della Francesca, St. Jerome and a Donor, 1451

Piero della Francesca, St. Jerome and a Donor, 1451

If you’re an Australian writer who’d like $5000 of my salary to support your own project, please consider pitching your idea.