And the Cities they will Drown

Else Fitzgerald

No more streetlights. The water oily-slick and black down Canning Street. Wade from the raft to the staircase and climb up to the second floor, tide lines spidery on the wall like veins. Still night air thick with smell of damp and the funk of the kero lamps. The condensation beading on the walls, bright trails in the lamplight. Her thin back framed against the dusky sky, fishing line disappearing off the balcony, down into that murky flood. Terraces across the water, dark scrapes against the dim sky, so few windows lit now.

You wonder if she might be watching for you. A bright fizz rocketing across the dark sky, like a forgotten satellite. If she’d still think of you after all this time. In the city it could be raining, the sea surge lapping at the sides of the old skyscrapers. So much sunk in those grey ceaseless waters, churning over the tarmac, the tram tracks, the cemetery with the graves in crooked rows like old teeth. When the coordinates are right, the station clearing the edge of the shield for those few hours, letting you glimpse Earth through the scopes, you imagine your eye following a beam of light down into the mess of concrete and water, right there to the windowsill where you used to hang your washing.

The water is there all the time now, lapping at the base of your staircase, no longer tidal. The cloud seeding failed. At the institute they still had access to the net and you’d read that the solar radiation levels weren’t affected by the cloud blanket. All that poison in the sky for nothing. Sun piercing through. The Greenland ice sheet collapsing into the sea.

After the bees, the bears, the birds, that loss. All those bonfires burning in backyards we stood around, bottle necks wrapped in our hands, back before the electricity went out and the beers were still cool against our fingers. Love used to make you feel like you were drowning and it was glorious, back before you knew what drowning really felt like. A small sound in the back of your throat, a noise like waking.  A memory of her saying quietly ‘everybody wants to fall in love’.

You can see the storms from up here sometimes, when the light is right and the arc of the flight path allows. Sometimes you want to go back. Punch through the sleet of leftover metal whirling and fizzing in the atmosphere. Down to that city which combs the water like whale teeth, the sea straining between the skyscrapers, threads of life lingering like hair in a drain. Melbourne heaving in your memory like a wet lung, refusing to go under.


‘Going Down’ by Michele Lee

An excerpt from Michele Lee’s play ‘Going Down’. The play was developed during Michele’s participation in the China residency in 2016.

NATALIE: Friday arvo. Abbottsford Centrelink. Me outside its sliding doors. One finger scrolling through my phone. Not for cock. My publisher. Marta Pacek.

Marta’s great. A real feminist. After she first read my manuscript for Banana Girl, she took me to lunch at Mr Tulk. She said I was changing the narrative for Australian women.

Should I call her? Pitch my second book? Gods of Melbourne, gimme a sign.

And then…. Next to the Centrelink, a guy with a spray can and a hoodie is tagging a wall and everyone is loving it, everyone is watching him make Melbourne more like Melbourne in one fell arc of hot-pink spray paint. The he fucks it up. Or we’ve fucked it up. His tag reads: Urban Outfitters. Landing in 2017. His hoodie reads: Gus’s Guerrilla Marketing.

[On the phone.] Marta! Hi! Hey! It’s Natalie here. Can you call me back when you get a chance? Just wondering how everything is going with Transit Lounge? How are the Banana Girl sales going? Broken the 1000 barrier yet?

Also, I actually have a new book idea. It’s called… well, the title is TBC. I guess it’s like a… documentary experiment thingy. With me in it. But not simply another Banana Girl! It’ll be more… just more… urgent. Look, I’m going to flesh it out more over the weekend.

I think it’ll totally be suitable for Transit Lounge.



Call me?

‘When race and class collide…” by Alice Pung

An excerpt from “When race and class collide, the biggest challenge is using your voice” by Alice Pung first published on The Guardian.

When you are seven months pregnant, your husband and you go to a local hardware store. When you return 20 minutes later to the carpark, someone has put a folded piece of paper on your windscreen, held down by the wiper. You think it’s just an advertisement, but when Nick unfolds it to take a look, he grows very agitated. “I’m going to see if anyone else got this on their cars,” he tells you, and returns a few moments later. No one else has anything on their windscreen except you.

You take the paper from him. At first it seems like a badly photocopied advertisement: a picture of a black boy and a white girl, both around ten years old, well-dressed, perhaps a promotional shot for an American 80s sitcom. The children are inside a circle, which you think is the frame of the picture, until you realise that the image inside is cut into quarters by a large thin cross. In large capital letters on top of the picture are the words: STOP RACE MIXING. Then you realise – the kids are targets inside the barrel of a gun.

“Don’t worry,” you say to your husband, “I bet that STOP RACE MIXING person has a whole collection of posters he carries around, so when he sees men holding hands he probably pulls out his STOP GAY MARRIAGE and when he sees redheads eating bagels he takes out the STOP GINGER-JEWS one.”

You find the incident harmless enough. Some cowardly moron is probably sitting in their car waiting to see your reaction thinking, ha! that’ll teach those miscegenating fornicators a lesson.

When you tell your friends at the university college where you live and work, they are incredulously horrified and outraged. “Clearly mentally ill,” they say. Or, a little self-righteously, “Who are these people? They don’t represent me or my country.”

But you know who these people are. Oh yes. STOP RACE MIXING and you go back a long way. When you are a 16-year old sales assistant at your dad’s electrical appliance store, old ladies come in and say, “can I have an Australian salesman, thanks.” And you dutifully go and find Joe the Italian or Jim the Macedonian.

When you are 10, mum walks you home from school and sees a man mowing the lawn across the road. “Go ask him how much he charges to cut grass,” she tells you. Mum speaks no English and the only literature she reads is the Kmart and BiLo ads that come in your letterbox every Tuesday. You do as she asks. The man, an older man with a face like beef jerky left out of the packet for too long, hollers at you: “I DON’T DO YOUSE!” You report to mum, “He doesn’t cut grass.” “Of course he does, I’ve seen him doing the other lawns around here. Go back. He can’t hear you through the lawnmower noise.” You go back. He yells at you again. “GIT LOST I DON’T DO YOUSE.” You are mortified and ashamed, and at that moment you hate Beefjerk but also your mum for not getting it, for making you ask.

Alice (bottom right) was a participant in the WrICE program, travelling to China in 2016.

WrICE: Stories from Near and Far

Monday 29 August
Stories from Near and Far
Celebrate (WrICE) as part of the RMIT Present Tense Program

WrICE, a program of residencies, workshops and events, is building an
international network of writers and writing to foster intercultural conversations, celebrate diversity, and change the stories we tell and listen to.
A stunning line-up of acclaimed and emerging writers from Australia, China, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the Philippines will perform an intercultural collage of readings, introduced by Lisa Dempster, Artistic Director, Melbourne Writers Festival.

Join us for ideas, inspiration, refreshments. Featuring WrICE writers: Alice Pung,
Eliza Vitri Handayani, Michele Lee, Maggie Tiojakin, Lawrence Ypil, Dai Fan, Xu Xi and more
WrICE is made possible through the generous funding of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.

ChineseWritersImage smallFrom near and far flyer

Mon 29 August
RMIT Design Hub
Level 10, Long Room
Cnr Swanston and
Victoria streets
This event is free but registration is essential

WrICE Profiles on Peril


With the Melbourne Writers Festival drawing closer, Peril journalists recently interviewed WrICE participants Jhoanna Cruz, Bao Chan Nguyen and Nyein Way. Peril is an online magazine that has focused on issues of Asian Australian arts and culture since 2006.

The interviews provide a deeper insight into not only the WrICE program, and discuss their upcoming visit to Australia as a part of the exchange, but the writers themselves.

Follow the links below to read the interviews with the writers:
Jhoanna Cruz interviewed by Peril Editor in Chief, Eleanor Jackson
Nyein Way interviewed by Peril Politics Editor and poet, RD Wood
Nguyen Bao Chan interviewed by Peril Founding Editor and Board Member, Hoa Pham

WrICE in August

WrICE Melbourne, August 2015 Events

Following a successful collaborative residency in Hoi An and Hanoi in February this year, WrICE Vietnam writers will come together once more in Victoria and Melbourne throughout August. Following a residency in Strathvea, the writers will participate in a series of events as part of Melbourne Writers Festival, and with partner Footscray Community Arts Centre.


WrICE August Events

The River’s Song Reading with Suchen Christine Lim, Readings Carlton, 6.30pm

WrICE Readings, Theatre Royal Castlemaine, 7-9pm
This event will feature readings from Castlemaine local Cate Kennedy, an acclaimed Australian writer. Joining Cate will be Omar Musa, Suchen Christine Lim, Jhoanna Lynn B. Cruz, Nguyen Bao Chan and Nyein Way highlighting the panellists’ shared experience at the WrICE Vietnam collaborative residency.

MWF, Writing under Censorship, ACMI The Cube, 10-11am
Do writers consider the danger when they write fiction or poetry that critiques a political regime?Sheng Keyi, Nyein Way, and Miguel Syjuco talk about what drives them and whether they believe they can bring about change.

MWF, The Morning Read – Life Writing, 10-11am
Thuy On hosts a select group of authors reading from their work. With Nguyen Bao Chan.

FCAC (Footscray Community Arts Centre), Panel 6.30pm-8pm
An informal conversation between visiting artists and local community members with focus on diversity and representation. The WrICE writer’s panel consists of Jhoanna Cruz, Nguyen Bao Chan and Cate Kennedy alongside local artists.

MWF, The Morning Read – Around the World, 10-11am
Thuy On hosts a select group of authors reading from their work. With Jhoanna Cruz and David Carlin.

FCAC, Masterclass, 11am-1pm
WRICE artists Nguyen Bao Chan and Cate Kennedy will deliver this Masterclass in association with the local Vietnamese community.

FCAC, One Night Stanza, 7-9pm
The 2015 One Night Stanza poetry event will again focus on diversity and representation by featuring a female only line up. Artists are Mayda Del Valle/Melody Paloma, Nguyen Bao Chan, Jhoanna Cruz and Cate Kennedy


MWF, Caravan Conversations with Jhoanna Cruz, Dumbo Feather Airstream, 11am
Intimate conversations in Dumbo Feather’s Airstream caravan for an audience of just five people.

MWF, Politics in the Novel, ACMI The Cube, 10-11am
Fiction holds up a mirror not just to the world, but also to very specific worlds. International novelists Ernesto Mallo, Simonetta Hornby and Suchen Christine Lim talk about how their work exposes the political underbellies of Argentina, Sicily and Singapore.

The Wheeler Centre Performance Space, Writers Across Borders, 2.30–4.30pm
How does cultural exchange in writing and ideas work? Omar Musa, Cate Kennedy, Jhoanna Lynn B Cruz, Nyein Way, Nguyen Bao Chan and Suchen Christine Lim share their experience of WrICE in this lively and performative session.

Call for Expressions of Interest: WRICE Early Career Fellowship Applications


Applications are open for a 2016 WrICE Early Career Writer Fellowship, an initiative of the nonfictionLab at RMIT University and thanks to generous support from the Copyright Agency. Applicants should be in the early stages of their career, with one published book or equivalent writing success. The Fellowship is valued at $9000, inclusive of all residency costs and a fee for participation. The Fellow will join a face-to-face community of writers through participation in a collaborative immersion residency with other emerging and established writers. The collaborative residency will take place in Guangzhou and Yangshou, China in April 2016 and will be followed by activity later in the year in Melbourne, in association with the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Email expressions of interest to by Friday 31 July 2015. Your application should include a CV, 100 word bio and a 250 word statement outlining why you would like to participate in WrICE.

Full Application Details

WrICE Emerging Writers Recognised in Literary Competitions

WriCE Emerging Writers Melody Paloma and Laura Stortenbeker have both recently been awarded prizes for their writing. Melody’s poem ‘Hyper-reactive’ won the 2014 Overland Judith Write Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets; while Laura’s piece ‘Floodlit’ received Second Prize in the 2015 Griffith University Josephine Ulrick Literature Prize.

The judges of both competitions were glowing in their reports of Melody’s and Laura’s work. Overland judge Peter Minter wrote that “every line in ‘Hyper-reactive’ is a complete thought. I was quietly blown away with Paloma’s poem – its simplicity, accuracy and optimism – and congratulate her on winning the prize this year.”

Griffith University judges Frank Moorhouse and Matthew Lamb commented on Laura’s story, claiming that “the dialogue, which drives the story forward, with both what is said, and what is only hinted at, suggests a writer of great promise.”

WrICE wants to congratulate both Melody and Laura on their awards, and look forward to what they deliver in the future.

Travel Slide Night – Emerging Writers' Festival


Emerging Writers’ Festival

Travel Slide Night

On Monday 1 June WrICE participants Melody Paloma, Joe Rubbo, Amarlie Foster and Laura Stortenbeker joined other young writers from Australia and Indonesia to host an entertaining and informative evening exploring how cultural immersion and exchange enhance their creative spirit. A warm and receptive crowd joined them at Bella Union, Trades Hall.


WrICE Panel at Association of Writers and Writing Programs

WrICE AWP Panel Photo

WrICE Co-directors Francesca Rendle-Short and David Carlin were joined by WrICE alumni Xu Xi and Alvin Pang to present an inventive and energetic panel at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in April 2015.

The AWP is the premier annual conference for writers, publishers, editors, students and teachers in the USA. It is the largest of its kind in the world, this year attracting some 14,000 delegates. It featured over 2000 presenters, and was joined by a book fair of over 700 exhibitors.

The WrICE panel made up of writers from the WrICE Malaysia and Vietnam collaborative residencies discussed the WrICE model and its potential: how it has developed and how it works, its value as an immersive experience for writers, and how it speaks towards more such work for writers and writing communities and as a teaching method.

It was chaired brilliantly by Professor Bonnie Sunstein, ethnographer, writer and teacher from the University of Iowa. The lively and attentive audience was made up of graduate students, fellow presenters, as well as faculty members from interested MFA programs.