Stories from Near and Far: WrICE Launch 2016

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Last night, in the midst of Melbourne Writers Festival, WrICE fellows and alumni gathered in the uber-stylish RMIT Design Hub to kick off the Melbourne-based installment of WrICE 2016 and to bring together friends and fellows of the program in a night of story-telling, song, wine and classic Chinese finger foods. We were fortunate to be joined by our key partners, Copyright Agency, Melbourne Writers Festival, the Emerging Writers Festival, Scribe and PERIL Magazine.

The night was introduced by Lisa Dempster, Artistic Director of Melbourne Writers Festival—who acknowledged the valuable partnership between the festival and the WrICE program—and launched by Professor Andrew MacIntyre, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Global Development at RMIT, who symbolically cut the ribbon to a room of raised wine glasses and applause.

Having the Deputy Vice Chancellor in the room, who himself seemed jubilant to have been invited, made this a night that wasn’t just about celebrating the huge achievements of the program but also about paying homage to the extraordinary status of RMIT as a game-changing international university.

MacIntyre, who mused on the ‘quintessentially global’ nature of RMITs vision and ethos, appeared proud of the exponentially growing goals the WrICE initiative keeps on kickin. Not only is WrICE changing the stories we tell and listen to, it is also creating an environment where collaboration and cross-cultural dialogue is both expected and celebrated, and in the words of MacIntyre, ‘you can just feel the potential.’

We also heard from WrICE alumnus and author of highly-acclaimed novel Our Magic Our, Jennifer Down, who shared how the WrICE experience was hugely influential in supporting her to finish her manuscript and submit it to the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, which she was shortlisted for in 2014.

As one of the emerging WrICE fellows, it filled me with oodles of pride to be able to stand on stage, alongside the likes of Alice Pung, Michele Lee, DAI Fan, Eliza Vitri Handayani, Maggie Tojakin and Larry Ypil­­ – a stunning line-up of acclaimed local and international talent – and read my own writing.

I greedily got my hands on one of the first copies, hot from the Scribe printer, of the brand new WrICE anthologyThe Near and the Far, a collection of 21 previously unpublished pieces from WrICE alumni from across the Asia Pacific including Maxine Beneba Clarke, Cate Kennedy, Xu Xi, Alice Pung and Omar Musa, among others.

This book was reviewed last week in The Australian, a huge achievement for the WrICE team, and officially launches on Sunday at 3pm at Beer Deluxe as part of Melbourne Writers Festival.

Lastly, WrICE directors David Carlin and Francesca Rendle-Short made the long-awaited announcement for next year’s WrICE participants, who include the much-loved and well established Melbourne author Christos Tsiolkas and award-winning Indigenous Australian writer Ellen van Neerven.

With the involvement of writers like this, the WrICE initiative is shaping up to be both a leading and prestigious opportunity for emerging and established writers at home and abroad.

Mia Wotherspoon