MWF event: Queer Literary Salon

Queer Literary Salon

Sunday Sept 4 at 5:30pm, Bella Union

Come out with us and celebrate queer culture in a literary salon that combines revelation with revelry. Join special guests Adolfo Aranjuez, Ivan Coyote, Amy Middleton and Rebecca Shaw for interviews, readings, true tales and live illustrations. Hosted by Geraldine Hickey.

Note: Doors and bar open at 5pm for pre-event drinks; limited seating with plenty of standing room available. 18+ event so ID may be requested.

Bella Union
Corner of Victoria St & Lygon St, Melbourne


RMIT and WrICE present at MWF: The Near and Far book launch

Book Launch: The Near and Far

Sunday 4 September at 3:00pm, Beer Deluxe

From near and far flyerThe Near and Far collects new and previously unpublished works from established and emerging writers across Australia and the Asia-Pacific, including Maxine Beneba Clarke and 2014/2015 WrICE writer Omar Musa. Join editors David Carlin and Francesca Rendle-Short at the launch of this exciting anthology.

Beer Deluxe
Federation Square, Flinders Street

WrICE event: Writing Accross Borders, Sept 2

Writing Across Borders panel at the MWF

Friday September 2 at 5:30pm, ACMI the Cube

As part of the 2016 WrICE program, writers from across Asia and Australia will be contributing to the Melbourne Writers Festival in August. The Writing Across Borders event brings together seven WrICE writers on their visit to Melbourne.

ChineseWritersImage smallHow does cultural exchange in writing and ideas work? Fan Dai, Eliza Vitri Handayani, Michele Lee, Alice Pung, Maggie Tiojakin, Xu Xi and Lawrence Lacambra Ypil share their experiences of WrICE, an immersive intercultural program. See WrICE in action in this lively, performative session.

ACMI, The Cube
Federation Square, Melbourne
The main entrance is from the Fed Square plaza. There is also an entrance, via ramp, from Flinders St. 

WrICE’s Eliza Vitri Handayani at the MWF, Sept 2

Melbourne Writers Festival and WrICE:
Protest & Rebellion panel

September 2 at 1:00pm, ACMI the Cube

ElizaArtist Molly Crabapple came to prominence when she was arrested during the Occupy movement. Eliza Vitri Handayani’s From Now On Everything Will Be Different caused controversy in Indonesia for its critical stance on the government. They discuss the power of art as a protest tool.

ACMI the Cube, Federation Square, Melbourne
The main entrance is from the Fed Square plaza. There is also an entrance, via ramp, from Flinders St.

August 28: WrICE and the Chinese Writers Festival

From the Mountains to the Sea
10:00am-4:00pm, Richmond Library

On Sunday August 28 two of our WrICE writers will appear at and contribute to the Chinese Writers Festival in Melbourne, Richmond.
XuXi-Tree Cr PAUL HILTONalice
The festival is a bilingual celebration of Chinese and Chinese-Australian writing from the mountains to the sea. Featuring Lei Tao (Xi’an), Xu Xi (New York and Hong Kong), Alice Pung, Ouyang Yu, Belinda Jiang, Wang Ruobing and more.

Richmond Library
415 Church St



WrICE writers and the MWF: Change storytelling event, August 27

WrICE writer’s contribution to the Melbourne Writers Festival

Westside Storytelling Live Event: Change
5:30pm, FCAC

无标题AliceSome of life’s most interesting things happen when we’re on the brink of change. In this night of live storytelling, writers and performers from around the world – including Alan Brough and WrICE writers Lawrence Lacambra Ypil and Alice Pung – will share their stories of transformation.

Footscray Community Arts Centre
45 Moreland Street

WrICE and MWF : Muslim Feminism panel, August 27

Saturday 27 August, 1:00pm, FCAC 

Muslim Feminism

ElizaHow are Muslim women fighting sexism and working for change?

WrICE participant Eliza Vitri Handayani and Shakira Hussein explore the subject in their writing, while psychologist Monique Toohey helps patients access culturally appropriate services. In this session, they dissect the intersection of feminism and Muslim identity.

Footscray Community Arts Centre
45 Moreland Street


Group Writing Anxieties

Group writing can be painfully difficult. So much of writing is about exposing yourself to other people. Good writing often makes the writer and the reader feel extremely vulnerable, as if secrets are being told. Writing with imminent group-feedback on the horizon feels like preparing one’s dirty laundry to be publicly aired and critiqued. With that in mind, it takes an incredibly comfortable and supportive group of people to make workshopping a practical possibility, let alone a meaningful exercise. The support and friendship I felt coming from all my fellow Wricers is what made the workshopping, even the program itself, so meaningful to me.

20160410_173157The piece I began working on in Yangshuo is a very personal work. It’s a semi-fictionalised account of the few days I spent in Hong Kong on my way to Guangzhou, and the old friends I caught up with there. Through the work, I tried to go out on a limb and tackle discomforts I have about the ways I understand race and culture as an Australian. Many of us brought similarly personal stories to the workshop table, dealing with past traumas or deeply private beliefs which can be grating to have challenged. The feedback I received on my writing went further than helping with the formatting and story structure; the openness and honesty which the WrICE environment fosters made it possible for the other writers to actually challenge the morality of the work, even to the point of directly asking me to see the world differently, and I think the outcome of that is beginning to be visible not just in the writing but in my life generally.

There are a few things which I think contributed to this idyllic writing environment. First and foremost is that everyone who came along was a uniquely likeable and interesting person. Letting a group of people like this into an emptied out hotel for one week is a great way to build fast friendships. Secondly, the structuring of the group meant that our friendships were never tested against anxieties around seniority or who had the right to voice an opinion. David and Francesca never felt like our authoritarian “mum and dad”, they were (and still are) our friends. This lack of hierarchy and the fact that no one tried to default to either of them for opinions on what they were writing helped build the sense of mutual respect which was needed to create the fantastic workshopping environment. Lastly, the relative isolation of our writerly Eden in Yangshuo made me feel like I was living in a special creative universe, with different laws and possibilities. I was somewhat sceptical before I came about what the WrICE program could do for me, worrying that I might waste the time or just lose sight of my work when comparing it to established writers like Alice Pung, but this was not the case. The WrICE program helped me to be braver with my writing, and made me feel confident working with other writers.


Another really major thing that the intercultural experience of WrICE gave me was a chance to hear about the histories of Indonesia and the Philippines through a very personalised, cultural lens. Thank you to Larry Ypil, Maggie Tiojakin and Eliza Vitri Handayani for that. Hearing intelligent and emotionally sensitive people talk at length about the things which help define their country to them is one of the most moving intercultural experiences a person can have. I want to end this blog post with a link to a song I wrote while I was in Yangshuo. I wrote it after talking to Maggie and Eliza about the reign of President Suharto in Indonesia, particularly thinking about the persecution suffered by the Chinese Indonesian population during and in the aftermath of this period. I never would have written something like this if I hadn’t been given the chance to talk to these other writers. Not only would I have not known about what happened, I never would have had the courage to comment on the feelings people must have had through such a tumultuous time if it weren’t  for the support and encouragement I received in doing so. For me, this song is a personal achievement, marking what can be possible when working in the light of other writers.

Writers and Workshopping in China

My introduction to writers and workshopping came in 2007. I was adrift on an extended travel, aimless—the kind of travel that’s marred by the constant anxiety of needing more funds to continue the trip. I took up residence in Beijing with an Icelandic expat who’d decided to write a novel. The man spent countless nights painfully toiling over his computer, empty Ching Dow stubbies stacked over the kitchen table, ashtray overflowing. On mornings when I’d wake, I’d find him sleepless and crazed, walking around our level-sixteen salmon-coloured apartment reciting lines, asking me about cadence and rhythm, grilling me about his protagonist’s motivations. Back then I wasn’t a writer at all; I’d tell him to go to bed, let it rest. I grew tired of his constant need for feedback, his relentless desire to expose himself like that.

It was with a certain irony that eight years later I returned to China a writer for residency. The night I arrived, I gazed out at the pimple-faced lights of Guangzhou and tried to reconnect with who I’d been before. This was the same China I remembered, of dirty pastel-coloured high-rises and push bikes, of red signage and smog, but I was irrevocably different.




We sat around a 15 seater table taking turns, the philosophy being that we would ‘get to know one another through our writing’. As an emerging writer, I’ve only ever workshopped in a university context, in classes of fellow emerging writers all coming to terms with their craft. Perhaps it’s the fact of studying the craft so closely that leads to a workshopping experience that focuses on the minutiae of your writing: the syntax, the rhythm, the words. The WrICE experience afforded me a different type of workshop. An hour was spent on each story, slowly dissecting both the characters’ and the writer’s motivations, and the story’s specific and universal themes. Here, the deeper layers were the thing. What’s it about? Writers asked. What’s it really about? Forcing me to traverse below the surface layers of my story and ask bigger questions about the human condition and why we desire to tell the stories we do. Maybe it was the insightful opportunity of sharing my stories with people who live in very different contexts, people who have unique identities and perspectives on the world that forced me to look at my story fresh and uncover layers I didn’t know existed.





My stories touch on things that are shameful and sad. I find sharing my work terribly exposing. As people, we dance around our gaps. And yet, on the page this is harder to do. I used to harbour an ambivalence about the act of writing. A sort-of suspicion born from the memory of my Icelandic friend; I’d be laboured by questions around what writing was essentially for and if it was just an indulgent luxury. Now I understand writing as an offering.




One of my favourite poets Anis Mojgani once wrote: all of this has never been for me … for I am cutting out parts of myself to give them to you. As writers, we give of ourselves when we share our work—and it can be awfully frightening. Indeed, we engage in the act of exchanging stories to build conduits of understanding. And in doing so, we open ourselves up and give others permission to do the same.


I feel blessed to have been able to share my stories with some of the Asia-Pacific’s most cutting-edge and talented writers. I’ve come away with insights into why we choose to share our work; and why this has the potential to deepen our understanding of both others and ourselves.


Story: Mia Wotherspoon

The dynamics of group workshopping

The hotel in Yangshuo where WrICE residents stayed and workshopped

The hotel in Yangshuo where WrICE residents stayed and workshopped.

This first part of this year’s WrICE residency took part in Yangshuo, a tropical, mountainous town in south-east China. Over five days, each writer presented his or her work to the group for feedback and advice.

Sharing your work can be a nerve-racking experience, because you expose your writing and yourself to your peers and their judgement. You’re especially vulnerable when you don’t know your peers very well, so we were all keen to get to know each other.

We had a group dinner and learnt a bit about one other and what we’re each working on; and we took turns at presenting some polished work to the rest of the group. The readings were powerful and thought-provoking, and gave everyone an idea of the amazing talent in the group. It was a brilliant way to introduce ourselves and to connect with each other. By the end of the night, we were all a lot closer and we all realised that we were in a safe space to share our work.


Workshopping always involved a lot of deep discussion.

The residency provided something that’s priceless for a writer: time and space to write.

We had free time until 3pm each day and everyone usually used this time to write. Seeing everyone else working hard all around me, I felt motivated to produce something worthy of my new colleagues. I was amazed at my newfound mysterious ability to avoid procrastination, as I forced myself to enter the writing zone. Wanting the respect of your peers is a great motivator.

From 3pm to 6pm we all convened to workshop each other’s work. We could present anything we wanted, but I always find workshopping is a great opportunity to get feedback on something I’m struggling with – I’m often too close to my own work to see it’s problems. Other times, I experiment and try new things – with voice, character, dialogue and form – to find out whether it works or not. There were sharp minds around me and I trusted their creative instincts.


Bonding over Beer Fish.

The group was comprised of established writers, early career writers and a few student writers, but everyone’s opinion had equal weight. Writers often have different creative processes, but they often face the same challenges, for example, with plot, pace, consistency, character motivations and so on. There was now a mutual respect and friendship between us, and all feedback was given openly and with deference.

After Yangshuo, we travelled to Guangzhou where we collaborated with Sun Yat-sen University in a number of events. I was privileged to run a workshop with Filipino writer and fellow WrICE participant, Larry Ypil. The students did a few writing exercises and enthusiastically shared their work, and I was amazed by the quality and weight of their work, which for them was written in a foreign language, English.


A group photo with the students in the nonfiction workshop.

In the workshop, we discussed with students the importance of finding connections in their work – whether this is a connection to place, such as home, or connections between the themes and ideas in their work. “You might not find these connections until you’ve finished writing a draft of the whole story or manuscript,” I said, “but you will usually be able to find some connections and symbology.”

Now that the residency has ended, I find myself thinking about the new connections I’ve made with the other WrICE writers.

Writing is often a difficult and lonely venture, but experienced, talented writers often encounter the same challenges with the craft. It’s natural to feel vulnerable when you read your work to others, because you’re presenting something raw that has come from deep within you.

If you find people you trust and who understand the writing process, you can feel safe that they’ll respect your writing and therefore you. I’m grateful to have found such people through WrICE.

Story: Ara Sarafian