WrICE: the Writers Immersion and Cultural Exchange Program

[RMIT–Copyright Agency Asia–Pacific Partnership: A partnership led by RMIT University with support from Copyright Agency]

The WrICE program brings together a new group of five Australian and five Asia-Pacific writers each year for a face-to-face collaborative residency in Asia followed by a reciprocal event in Melbourne, Australia. Founded in 2013, WrICE contributes to an Asia-Pacific community of writers, sparking networks and connections and raising the professional profile of writers across the region. It provides a solid framework for intercultural and intergenerational dialogue—the exchange and furthering of knowledge, creativity, skills and cultural perspectives—that is underpinned by principles of mutual respect and a desire for genuine reciprocity.

At the heart of the program is the simple notion that there is great value in creating opportunities for writers (and writing students) to step outside their often isolated writing studios and familiar cultural environs to connect and share ideas with other writers from different cultures and across generations. By supporting the development of individual practice in a collaborative way, WrICE not only contributes to individual creativity but evolves practice across the sector. Through the work of individuals, WrICE has an influence on broader societal perspectives, changing the stories we tell and listen to.

The Copyright Agency Cultural Fund has committed to its generous funding of WrICE until August 2017.

WrICE Philippines 2017

WrICE Philippines activity included a collaborative residency in Vigan followed by public events in Manila at the Ayala Museum, and the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

Participating WrICE Philippines writers are Daryll Delgado (the Philippines), Norman Erikson (Indonesia), Nhã Thuyên (Vietnam), Martin Villanueva (the Philippines), Steven Winduo (Papua New Guinea), Christos Tsiolkas (Australia), Ellen van Neerven (Australia), Else Fitzgerald (Australia), John Hughes (Australia), Jennifer Porter (Australia), Susie Thatcher (Australia), David Carlin (Australia) and Francesca Rendle-Short (Australia).

These writers were joined by Penny Johnson (Program Manager for Professional Writing and Editing, and Professional Screenwriting), in Vigan and Manila, and Ali Barker (WrICE Project Manager), in Vigan. The group will reconvene in Australia in August and September to take part in events at Melbourne Writers Festival and activities with many other partners.

                        

WrICE China 2016

In 2016 the WrICE China collaborative residency took place in Yangshuo, China, with corresponding public events, including a panel discussion, readings and workshops at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. The collaborative residency brought together the following writers and fellows from Australia and Asia: Peter Clynes (current student of creative writing and Mandarin at RMIT), Fan Dai (Chinese writer and professor of English in the Department of English, School of Foreign Languages, Sun Yat-sen University), Eliza Vitri Handayani (has published a novel as well as works in respected Indonesian literary outlets), Michele Lee (Asian-Australian playwright and author who works across stage and audio), Alice Pung (award-winning writer, journalist and essayist -one of Sydney Morning Herald’s Young Novelists of the Year 2015), Mary Rokonadravu (winner of the 2015 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for the Pacific region), Ara Sarafian (Melbourne-based writer and editor), Maggie Tiojakin (Indonesian writer, journalist and translator), Mia Wotherspoon (Melbourne-based writer and editor, currently completing her final year of RMIT’s Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing),  Lawrence Lacambra Ypil (poet and essayist from Cebu, Philippines).

                 

WrICE Vietnam 2015

Australian and Asian writers participating in the 2015 WrICE Vietnam collaborative residency, workshops and public events are: high profile novelist Suchen Christine Lim (Singapore); celebrated poet BaoChan Nguyen (Vietnam); Palanca Award winning writer Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz (the Philippines); contemporary poet Nyein Way (Myanmar); acclaimed Australian author Cate Kennedy; performance poet, Malaysian-Australian hip hop artist and novelist Omar Musa, novelist Xu Xi (Hong Kong) and Australian writers Francesca Rendle-Short, David Carlin, Melody Paloma, Joe Rubbo and Laura Stortenbeker (RMIT University).

 

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WrICE Malaysia and Singapore

In 2013/4 WrICE brought together five emerging and established Australian writers with six outstanding writers from the across the region for a collaborative residency and public events in Malaysia and Singapore. The Malaysian and Singapore WrICE initiative involved five Australian Fellowship winners who travelled to Penang, and Singapore for an intensive program of immersion and cultural exchange in 2014. They joined six outstanding writers from across the Asia Pacific region, including four from Singapore and Malaysia. Leading Singaporean poet Alvin Pang, renowned Singapore-based writer Robin Hemley, and well-known Malaysian writers Bernice Chauly and Eddin Khoo joined Laurel Fantauzzo from the Philippines. The group of writers worked alongside each other and shared work in progress and cultural experiences during a specially designed collaborative residency in Penang followed by public events at Singapore’s Arts House in February and workshops for students at Yale NUS. The group also travelled to Melbourne to participate in the 2014 Melbourne Writers Festival.

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Australian-Caribbean writer and poet, Maxine Beneba Clarke, was the Early Career Writer Fellow in the inaugural program.

“The fostering of a strong Asia-Pacific writing community, and the exchange of ideas and experiences within that community, is vital to the growth and survival of Australian literature. The WrICE program offered me the most fundamental of resources for any early career writer: time and mind-space to write. Meeting other writers from diverse backgrounds who are also bringing their experiences to the page has reaffirmed my belief that in order to flourish, Australian literature must be locally grounded, but globally minded.”

ThisAsia Pacific Partnership provides unique opportunities for writers at different stages of their careers to connect and share ideas with other writers from different cultures and across generations. Through key events and the digital space Elsewhere the program allows the public to share in their discoveries.

Testimonials

Suchen Christine Lim, Singapore
“Nguyen Bao Chan, Cate Kennedy and I together with Francesca Rendle-Short had a great time shooting the breeze on stage at the National Library of Vietnam. We showed that poetry and story can bond us at a far deeper level than diplomacy. We wrote the clear sky just like the 3 iconic Chinese words carved on the side of the Pen Tower of Hanoi – “Hsieh Ching Tian” (“Write the Clear Sky”)

Francesca Rendle-Short
“Writers need to talk to other writers about their work, their culture, their writing life. The poetry of a place like Hoi An, the humanity of a town you can cycle around, infects your imagination and makes you write about it.”

Omar Musa, Australia
“I have long been interested in the overlapping cultures and societies of South East Asia and how they relate to Australia. I think it’s imperative that we as Australian artists engage with these cultures, as Australia is part of the region but often uneasy about its neighbours. As a person whose heritage straddles both South-East Asia and Australia, much of my work has dealt with this push-and-pull. I see this is a unique opportunity to explore a rich culture that is rapidly modernising, but has ancient roots, through poetry, music and art. I grew up in Queanbeyan and do my best work on a river, anywhere, so Hoi An was ideal for me. The residence was a unique combination of ages and experience; it was great to get a mix of different perspectives on my writing.”

Alvin Pang, Singapore
“As an alternative and promising prototype for quickly building connections between writers across borders, the WrICE model – regularly and judiciously proliferated across the region – could transform the region’s literary and cultural perspectives, serving as an accessible, authentic and regular milestone program for building up cultural understanding and collaboration over time.”

Maxine Beneba Clarke, Australia
“The fostering of a strong Asia-Pacific writing community, and the exchange of ideas and experiences within that community, is vital to the growth and survival of Australian literature, and of particular importance to me as a first generation Australian writer of colour …”

David Ryding, Director, Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature The WrICE model is an innovative residency model which has provided Asia-Pacific and Australian writers the chance to engage, collaborate and develop projects through immersion, living, writing, workshopping together. This model is unlike any other being run in Australia, with its starting point of discovery and exchange providing a true environment of collaboration unseen in many other residencies. It is programs like WrICE that go a long way to Melbourne fulfilling its obligations as a UNESCO Creative City as well aiding us in our role as the only City of Literature in South East Asia.

Hugh Borrowman, Former Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Cultural and people-to-people ties form an important foundation for our bilateral relationships. I hope the WrICE program will continue to help build cultural understanding and collaboration between Australian and writers from the Asia Pacific.

Alvin Pang, WrICE fellow, Singapore As an alternative and promising prototype for quickly building connections between writers across borders, the WrICE model – regularly and judiciously proliferated across the region – could transform the region’s literary and cultural perspectives, serving as an accessible, authentic and regular milestone program for building up cultural understanding and collaboration over time.

Christos Tsiolkas, WrICE fellow, Australia The WrICE Residency was undoubtedly one of the most constructive and enjoyable literary experiences of my life. I appreciated the opportunity to be with writers from across South-East Asia, to engage in critical dialogue about our individual writing, while at the same time coming to an understanding of the cultural, national and geographic questions that affect and challenge our writing practice.

Maxine Beneba Clarke, WrICE fellow, Australia The fostering of a strong Asia-Pacific writing community, and the exchange of ideas and experiences within that community, is vital to the growth and survival of Australian literature, and of particular importance to me as a first generation Australian writer of colour.

Melissa Lucashenko, WrICE fellow, Australia As an Aboriginal writer I have long been interested in Australia’s role as a creative powerhouse within the Asia Pacific, yet engagement with Asian and Pacific writers has usually eluded me, except fleetingly at festivals. I’m interested to dig down with writers from other nearby cultures (what we in Aboriginal English call “Proper Neighbour Country”) into what they are attempting in their works.

Alice Pung, WrICE fellow, Australia The WrICE Fellowship gave me the opportunity to re-establish why I write, and feel part of an international community of artists. The residency allowed me to have the time and focus to work on new projects, and look beyond reading and creating local literature, to a more global conversation.

Omar Musa, WrICE fellow, Australia I have long been interested in the overlapping cultures and societies of South East Asia and how they relate to Australia. I think it’s imperative that we as Australian artists engage with these cultures, as Australia is part of the region but often uneasy about its neighbours. As a person whose heritage straddles both South-East Asia and Australia, much of my work has dealt with this push-and-pull. The WrICE residency was a unique combination of ages and experience; it was great to get a mix of different perspectives on my writing.

Ellen van Neerven, WrICE fellow, Australia The first leg of WrICE 2017 in the Philippines was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my career. My growth and understanding of myself and my writing skyrocketed. I am passing on this learning to my Black writer friends and the spirit of sharing and exchange continues to support me.

The Australian (on WrICE Anthology The Near and The Far) The ‘remarkable collection’ aims to ‘showcase diversity and difference’. In this, it delivers — and handsomely. As a bridge between literary spheres, we can only hope it is the first and not the last.

Anne-Marie Te Whiu, Queensland Poetry Festival Co-Director As a festival we have become increasingly aware of the need to engage with and program CALD voices from within Australia as well as broadening the scope to meaningfully include poets and storytellers from the SE-Asian region. In 2015 QFP worked as event partner with WrICE to co-present Nyein Way (Myanmar), who brought a new poetic language and practice to our audiences and local poets. In 2017 QFP will present three key WrICE artists in collaboration with WrICE fellow and QPF Program Advisor Ellen van Neerven as part of QPF2017. QPF looks forward to working with WrICE again from 2018-2020

Find Out More

For any general enquiries about WrICE please contact Project Manager Ali Barker alison.barker@rmit.edu.au

The program aims to contribute to an Asia-Pacific community of writers, sparking networks and connections and raising the professional profile of writers across the region. It provides a solid framework for intercultural dialogue — the exchange and furthering of knowledge, creativity, skills and cultural perspectives — that is underpinned by principles of mutual respect and a desire for genuine reciprocity.

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At the heart of this program is the simple notion that there is great value in creating opportunities for writers (and writing students) to step outside their often isolated writing studios and familiar cultural environs to connect and share ideas with other writers from different cultures and across generations.

Furthermore, above and beyond the significant benefits of professional development for the individual writers, the project helps to develop an Asia-Pacific community of writing practice and to raise the professional profile of writers across the region.

Images courtesy of the George Town Literary Festival.