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The Wheeler Centre launches $150,000 mentorship and funding scheme for diverse writers

The Wheeler Centre has announced it will launch a new $150,000 initiative for developing writers called The Next Chapter.

Established by the Wheeler Centre in conjunction with the Aesop Foundation, the nationwide scheme aims to support ‘a new generation of writers, from all sorts of backgrounds’ by offering 10 Australian writers a grant of $15,000 each to help them develop their work.

The recipients will also be matched with a mentor who will work with them over 12 months to help connect them with publishers and readers.

The Next Chapter will focus on offering opportunities to writers from marginalised communities and will ‘celebrate writers who reflect the diversity of Australian identities and experiences’. It will also aim to give writers ‘time and space to craft a voice and a career—offering them support from mentors and peers, and the opportunity to experiment and develop their writing’.

The judges for the 2018 program are Benjamin Law, Maxine Beneba Clarke and Ellen van Neerven. Mentors will be matched with the successful candidates ‘on the basis of individual fit’.

The Wheeler Centre director Michael Williams said the scheme is for ‘people who feel like they’re having trouble getting their voice heard in conventional publishing circles’. ‘One of the things we have to be careful about is that we don’t become this closed shop that feels intimidating or hard to break into. We need to constantly find ways to make sure the literary world is as porous as it can be,’ he said.

The Next Chapter features an alternative nomination process for people who wish to highlight the work of a writer they are familiar with. ‘Alongside the application process, we have a nominations process for people who aren’t terribly strong self-advocates, or are not necessarily connected with the industry,’ said Williams. ‘What’s important is that this is not a scheme that just rewards people who are good at putting in grant applications.’

Williams also highlighted how the scheme will tackle the ‘brutal’ commercial realities of publishing, with matched financial contributions for publishers who take on works by The Next Chapter recipients. This financial support will help publishers undertake promotional activities for those authors that might otherwise not be possible, and will be judged on a case-by-case basis.

‘There’s no lack of goodwill or the desire to [undertake riskier promotional activities] on the part of publishers, but the commercial reality of it makes it really hard,’ said Williams. ‘In the event that the writers find publishers, we will put it to those publishers that if they can come up with a proposal for a way to get the book in the hands of readers who might not otherwise find it—pushing the audience and readership beyond their traditional approaches—we will match them dollar for dollar in their promotion campaign.’

The scheme was launched on 3 May at an event at Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Applications for the inaugural round are currently open until Friday, 13 July. The successful recipients will be announced in late September, with the mentorships to commence in early November.

For more information, see the website.



Category: Local news