Monday musings on Australian literature: The Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund

Australia’s Copyright Agency has been referenced here several times in this blog, mostly regarding the work it does via its Cultural Fund, but I wonder how many of us (besides artists) know just how much it does to support Australian writing and writers?

The Copyright Agency is a non-profit organisation (company) which describes its mission as being:

to provide simple ways for people to reproduce, store and share words, images and other creative content, in return for fair payment to creators. We are committed to encouraging the development of lively and diverse markets for published works…

Its main services to authors are to:

  • collect and distribute copyright fees for educational and government use of works. It manages, on behalf of the government, the education and government copying sections of the Copyright Act which allows educational institutions and governments to use content without permission, provided they make fair payment.
  • license writer’s content to corporations and others (though writers can also license their works themselves.)

It does other things too, one of which is to fund “writers’ projects and skills development” through its Cultural Fund, which is my focus for this post.

Cultural Fund

The Cultural Fund is the Agency’s philanthropic arm, and aims to support “cultural projects and creators’ professional development.” Its priority includes “to ensure that artists are better supported and are paid appropriately for their creative endeavours.” It is funded by members agreeing to 1.5% of the licence fees collected on their behalf being retained for the Fund. In the financial year, 2016-2017, they disbursed well over $2m through the Cultural Fund to “114 projects, 23 professional development grants and 5 fellowships.”

Fellowships

The fund offers various annual fellowships, with this year’s including:

  • Author: one offered each year, worth $80K. Open to novelists, playwrights, poets, non-fiction writers, children’s and young adult writers, and journalists to develop and create a new work. (Non-Fiction writers, this year could also apply for the non-fiction writing fellowship.) I noted in a previous post that the inaugural author fellowship went to Canberra-based author Mark Henshaw (who wrote The snow kimono.)
  • Non-fiction writing: worth $80K, and with more specific requirements than the author fellowship above. It’s “to develop and create a new work of creative non-fiction writing which will engage with key issues and topics for a broad readership” which means it’s not for academic or scholarly writing. They list the acceptable genres, which include biography, memoir, autobiography, environment, and history.
  • Publisher: two were offered in 2018, each worth $15K.
  • Reading Australia Fellowship for Teachers of English and Literacy: worth $15K, and self-explanatory from the title I’d say.

CREATE Grants

This year’s CREATE grants were recently announced, five going to writers and one to a visual artist, from over 135 applications. The writers were Peggy Frew ($20K), Jennifer Mills ($20K), Josephine Rowe ($10K), Jane Rawson ($15K), Lenny Bartulin ($20K).

Josephine Rowe, A loving faithful animalThe works of fiction these authors will be creating cover a variety of topics, “from xenophobia, self-interest and individualism to post-war migrant life in Tasmania during the 1950s, to cross-cultural friendships and ghost stories.”

Two of these authors have appeared here before, Jane Rawson with A wrong turn at the Office of Unmade Lists (my review), and Josephine Rowe with A loving, faithful animal (my review).

IGNITE Grants

These are smaller grants, of up to $5K each. They are “to support individuals working in the writing, publishing and visual arts sectors to develop skills and progress their careers.” They include things like “mentorships, internships, residencies, leadership opportunities, and strategic promotional opportunities” but not academic or tertiary study.

Grants for Organisations

These seem to be more ad hoc grants – at least in the dollar-amounts offered, because they are not always specified. The grants themselves are not ad hoc, however, in the sorts of things that qualify, as the Agency defines on the webpage the sorts of things it will fund. These grants can be for single projects or for up to 3 years. They spread far and wide, from the Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation (in the Katherine region of NT) to the Melbourne Writers Festival, from theatrical companies to libraries, from community groups to education departments, from supporting fiction to history. No wonder they have popped up regularly in my Monday Musings posts!

Some of the grants awarded under this banner, as far as I can tell from their 2017 Annual Report include:

  • Festivals and the like: These range from small symposiums and workshops to the big festivals, and include Australian Authors Week 2017 (by the Australia’s Embassy in Beijing), a craft and design writing symposium (by Craft ACT, in my town), the AALITRA Symposium (Australian Association for Literary Translation), the StoryArts Festival (by the Ipswich District Teacher Librarian network), the Canberra Writers Festival, and the Melbourne Writers Festival. Sometimes the grant is for a specified aspect of the festival, such as the “Getting it Write” workshop in Geelong Regional Library’s Word for Word Festival.
  • Griffith Review 58 Novella Project (2017)

    Griffith Review 58 Novella Project (2017)

    Journals: Several journals are listed as receiving grants – including The Big Issue, Griffith ReviewInside Story, Island magazine (to increase payments to writers), Meanjin, Westerly. Some of these are for specific editions, such as the Big Issue’s fiction edition and Griffith Review’s novella project.

  • Prizes: Some of these grants seem to support the administration of the prize rather than the prize purse itself, such as a three-year grant to the Stella Prize for “promotion of the winners.” Also listed are the David Unaipon Award, the Miles Franklin Award (also three years), and the National Indigenous Story Award. In the past, they’ve supported the CAL Scribe Fiction Prize (which seemed to only run from 2009 to 2012), and the Finch Memoir Prize (which is not being offered in 2019 because of lack of funding)
  • Writing projects: Like many other of their grants, these cover a variety of forms, such as Belvoir Theatre’s “Investing in Australian Stories” commissions.
  • Other: Such as supporting a stipend for the Children’s Literature Laureate, or the Early Career Researcher Scheme (organised by the Australian History Association). Smaller fellowships, in addition to the large ones listed above are also supported through organisations such as Queensland University Library’s Creative Writing Fellowship, the Sydney Review of Books Emerging Critics Fellowships, and the Eleanor Dark Foundation’s Fellowships for Indigenous Writers.

Reading Australia

Reading Australia is a service established by the Agency and partly (mostly?) funded through the Cultural Fund. Its focus is the education sector, aiming “to create in depth teaching resources on Australian literature, to encourage homegrown stories to be taught in schools.” Among other activities, they produce book lists, and resources for the primary, secondary and tertiary education sectors.

I first wrote about Reading Australia five years ago, and again last year when I posted on the Reading Australia-Magabala Books partnership. Education is so fundamental to the health of our literature (and our culture) that this seems a good point on which to conclude this post.

If you’re Australian, are you aware of the Copyright Agency and/or its Cultural Fund? I’d love to know how well-known it is.

Monday musings on Australian literature: ACT Writers Centre

Do you have a writers centre in your neck of the woods? We do in Australia, but I’ve barely written about them before. They generally provide support and/or training for writers, via online and face-to-face mechanisms, some free-of-charge but most fee-paying, and tend to be membership organisations. Over coming months, I’ll share what’s happening in different centres around Australia, but I’m starting here with the one in my city, the ACT Writers Centre.

First though, a little anomaly – to do with apostrophes! I note that the ACT Writers Centre has no apostrophe in its name, while the Australian Writers’ Centre does. Whyfor this thusness? A quick survey around the various Australian state centres revealed that most do not use the apostrophe (with the Northern Territory appearing to have a foot in both camps, depending on which page you are on!) It’s like Mothers/Mother’s/Mothers’ Day. I prefer the no-apostrophe approach. As in, what sort of (adjectival) day is it? It’s a mothers day, that is, a day for mothers. Rather than, whose (possessive) day? It’s mother’s day, a day owned by mothers. It seems that most writers centres in Australia see it the adjectival way. Either that or they don’t know their apostrophes, and that would be a worry!

Enough pedantry, let’s get on with the ACT Writers Centre. It describes itself as:

the leading organisation of writing-based culture in the ACT. Our mission is to develop writers and their work.

How do they do this? Well, by running programs, offering prizes or awards, and providing services such as manuscript assessment, editing, and mentorship. Most of these are fee-based. They also have a blog, Capital Letters.

In this post, I’m going to focus on four special programs offered, but they also offer various courses. Currently, the ACT Writers Centre runs four main programs:

HARD COPY

HARDCOPY 2015 flyerI’ve written about Hard Copy before, in a previous Monday Musings post. The first program was held in 2014, so this year’s will be its fourth. They describe it as “a national professional development program that helps build the capacities, aptitudes and resources emerging Australian writers need to reach their potential.”  Its aim is not specifically to achieve publication for its participants, but to help them with manuscript/project development, to arm them with an understanding of how the Australian publishing industry works, and to help them “build connections and relationships within the industry/writing community”.

This program, which is run by our local centre, receives funding from the Australia Council for the Arts, and is offered nationally, that is, not just to ACT-based writers. Also, it alternates between fiction and non-fiction writing. This year’s program, as the one run in 2015, is for non-fiction writing.

All this is pretty dry. For an insider’s perspective, do read Michelle’s posts on her blog, Adventures in Biography, on her experience of the 2015 program. She had a great experience – and I was pleased because I got to meet her while she was here! She found the program very helpful, to say the least.

Between the Lines

Hetherington and Webb, Watching the worldYou know that mantra, the one that says to be a writer you need to be a reader? Well, the ACT Writers Centre clearly believes it to be so, because this year they are offering “a facilitated book discussion group for writers with an active practice”. This sounds a bit like a reading group, but with two big differences. First, it has  a professional leader, in this case Professor Jen Webb from the University of Canberra (whose book with poet Paul Hetherington, Watching the world, I reviewed a couple of years ago). And secondly, the focus will be on “authorial technique and achievement, rather than subjective personal judgements on whether or not the book is ‘good’ or ‘bad’”.

The focus this first year will be Australasian literary novels. You can see the list on the link I’ve provided on the heading. There are 6 books, as it’s a bimonthly program: three are by men and three by women, three are by New Zealand writers including one by Maori writer Witi Ihimaera, and one is by a woman of indigenous Australian background (Melissa Lucashenko). I’d love to see their discussions written up on the Capital Letters blog!

ACT Writer-in-Residence

This is the program which, when I read about it last week, inspired today’s post. It’s a new three-year program offered by the Writers Centre in collaboration with the University of New South Wales (Canberra) and with support from the Copyright Agency Ltd. Again, you can read the details of what the program offers and expects on the link I’ve provided. Like HARD COPY it is not limited to ACT Writers. It is mainly geared to established writers, but “suitably qualified developing writers” were also encouraged to apply.

Last week the three writers were announced:

  • 2017: Isobelle Carmody, fantasy writer, particularly of the immensely popular, much translated, Obernewtyn Chronicles. (Daughter Gums was, and still is, a big fan.)
  • 2018: Jane Gleeson-White, prize-winning non-fiction writer who plans to research a novel set during World War II.
  • 2019: Angela Gardner, poet who apparently has a project on “Air” which will “include some novel public programs for Canberra – including balloon flying”.

I was initially surprised to see that all three writers have been announced now, but I guess it does enable the later writers to plan their lives, something I suspect writers often don’t get an opportunity to do!

ACT Literary Bloggers

And now comes the one close to my heart! It’s another new program, and another collaborative one, this time with the National Library of Australia. It “provides an opportunity for two emerging ACT-region writers to attend events at the National Library of Australia and document the experience for the ACT Writers Centre’s Capital Letters blog. The program, which will run from May to December, includes a mentorship with ….” yep, me, Whispering Gums! What an honour, and how interesting it’s going to be. The program is particularly aimed at writers who’d like to write about “the literary arts for the online environment”.

The two bloggers have been chosen: playwright and performance maker Emma Gibson, and blogger/podcaster and writer Angharad (Tinted Edges).

I am looking forward to working with Emma and Angharad, particularly to jointly exploring ways in which blogging can be used to further promote literary culture in the (our, any) community. You may hear more about this later in the year.

Monday musings on Australian literature: Little books

Christmas is coming and those stockings are wanting inspiration. I know I’m jumping the gun a little in terms of the traditional round of Christmas book talk, but it’s never too early to think of book gifts, and I’ve been wanting to write about little book initiatives for a while now. I can’t wait any longer!

Do you remember those Penguin 60s, the little books that Penguin published twenty years ago, in 1995, to celebrate its 60th anniversary? The books were around 80 pages and, before the days of smart phones, they were handy little items to carry around for those reading moments that suddenly open up out of the blue. I loved them, and still own several. I particularly remember reading Edith Wharton’s Madame de Treymes and Jean Rhys’ Let them call it Jazz. They were so popular that they spawned – at least I think it was the Penguin initiative that came first – similar small books by other publishers like Bloomsbury. I have some of those too. Anyhow, for its 80th birthday this year, Penguin has published a Little Black Classics series – and again they have proved successful, according, at least to The Guardian, which concluded that, even in this era of the e-book, it “proves people like their reading matter cheap… and portable”.

I hope they’re right about this because a few Australian publishers are producing their own “little” books, and I thought I’d share them here, as I don’t think they have the same visibility as Penguin – funnily enough!

FL Smalls 7: Carmel Bird's Fair Game

FL Smalls 7: Carmel Bird’s Fair Game

FL Smalls  are published by a small independent publisher in Braidwood about an hour’s drive away from me, Finlay Lloyd. Finlay Lloyd describes the project as

an ongoing project where we give its authors sixty pages to create a book. Published together in groups, the first five Smalls came out in 2013, and now we have commissioned another five to be released in early September this year, shoulder to shoulder, as an offering of vital writing by Australian authors.

You might have picked up a difference here between these and Penguin’s little books. FL Smalls are not classics, and are not reissues of works published elsewhere. They are commissioned, meaning of course that they provide a publishing opportunity for living writers. I love that. They include fiction, non-fiction, poetry, graphic works. I have the recent set, kindly sent to me by Finlay Lloyd. They are priced at $10 each. Reviews will start appearing here, soon. Meanwhile, you can check out Lisa at ANZLitLovers’ discussion of them.

Short Blacks – isn’t that a great name – are published by another Australian independent publisher, Black Inc. They describe the project as being

gems of recent Australian writing – brisk reads that quicken the pulse and stimulate the mind.

Noel Pearson in Short Blacks

Noel Pearson in Short Blacks

These then have been published before – but they are not classics. They are recent works, and seem to be non-fiction. They include Robyn Davidson’s No fixed address which was originally published by Black Inc as a Quarterly Essay, David Malouf’s One day about ANZAC Day, and Noel Pearson’s cleverly titled The war of the worlds about the “colonial project” and genocide in Australia. I bought a couple of these from the wonderful, independent Hobart Bookshop on my recent visit to Tasmania. Twelve have been published and it’s not clear from the website whether it’s an ongoing project. Like FL Smalls they are appealingly, if more simply, designed, and cost only $6.99 each. What a bargain.

Viva La Novella is a slightly different project. An initiative of the online publisher Seizure Inc, it is a prize that was established in 2012

Jane Jervis-Read, Midnight blue and endlesslly tall

First Viva La Novella Winner

to celebrate and promote short novels – because we like them and believe some of the greatest works in the English language are actually novellas.

I wouldn’t argue with that! Since 2012, Seizure has, with the support of the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund, expanded the award to produce more than one “winner” each year. Like FL Smalls, these are new works, but unlike the Smalls, they are all fiction. Also, unlike the previous two initiatives they are not a standard size, due to the wide the definition of a novella. For Seizure, the range is 20–50,000 words, which means that some books some books are 100 or so pages while others might be 190.  I’ve included them here, however, because they are priced at the cheaper end of the Australian paperback market, $14.95 each, and it is a project dedicated to the shorter book. I have bought one of the 2015 winners, so you will see a review of that too in the coming weeks or months.

Do you like little books? I’d love to hear if you have any favourites – and of any initiatives, in Australia or elsewhere, that you’ve come across.

Monday musings on Australian literature: Writer-in-residence programs

I’ve written before about Writers’ Retreats, which are sometimes framed as writer-in-residence programs. However, for this post, I want to focus not on those programs that are designed for writers to withdraw (retreat) to focus on a personal project, but on those for which engagement with the community in which they reside is a significant part of their role. I don’t know about you, but I come across these quite often out of the blue and love that they exist. Some of them are ongoing programs, while others are one-offs. Some are specifically targeted to writers while others, usually described as artist-in-residence, are open to any arts practitioner. The most common ones I’ve seen are those offered at schools and universities, but they can be offered by anyone. They can vary greatly in purpose, targeting all sorts of people from school students to other writers, from potential clients to the general public. And they range from non-profit programs to rather commercial ones. All of this will become obvious from the small selection below:

Accor Hotels MGallery Literary Collection is a program in collaboration with Melbourne’s The Wheeler Centre. It involved providing eight award-winning Australian writers with a short residence in one of Accor’s boutique MGallery hotels and commissioning those authors to write a short story which will be published in a book which will be “presented exclusively to guests at MGallery Hotels”. Associated with these are author events at the hotels, such as that with Favel Parrett at Mount Lofty House in Adelaide in April 2015.

Bayside City Council Artist-in-Residence is open to visual artists, multimedia practitioners, writers and composers. They describe it as a public program in which the resident artist is “required to be involved in community engagement activities. This may take the form of artist’s talks, community workshops, master classes for local artists, participation in Bayside festivals or exhibitions or other activities agreed upon”.

Birrong High School Writer-in-residence was part of the ASA’s (Australian Society of Authors) Authors in Priority Schools program which aims to build “the narrative and literacy skills of school students, from K-12.” It involves authors running creative writing courses at a school, but the exact style of program varies a little in each school in accordance with the school’s needs. The Birrong program involved author Laurene Croasdale who has worked both in publishing and as a writer.

Cocoon Floatation floating writer-in-residence program is a program that runs in partnership with the Wollongong Writers’ Festival. The program involves the Festival choosing an author from the festival line-up  “to receive two free floats in exchange for producing a piece of work to be donated back to WWF and Cocoon Floatation”. The 2015 writer is Candy Royalle, who is “a performance artist, poet, storyteller and educator”.

Editing in Paradise writer-in-residence is part of the organisation’s business of running workshops and retreats for writers. The writer-in-residence is their program for including a writer on their retreats to give “an added dimension to the teaching and sharing of industry knowledge”. So, for example, at their Bali retreat, this October, they will have Ashley Hay whose most recent novel was The Railwayman’s Wife. Previous writers have included Charlotte Wood and Susan Wyndham. I’m assuming the writer is paid to attend and provide expertise at the retreat.

Lotus Asian-Australian Playwriting Project is a project aimed at bringing more Asian-Australian stories to the Australian stage, by “installing” an Asian-Australian resident playwright in three theatre companies by 2017. Supported, at least initially, by the Australia Council and Arts Victoria, this program also includes other initiatives including salon-style play-readings

RMIT Writers-in-residence program is a fairly typical university program. The program aims to make “a significant contribution to RMIT, its writing program and to Melbourne’s broader literary culture”. RMIT writers-in-residence have included Robert Dessaix, Chloe Hooper and Nam Le. It was supported from 2009 to 2012 by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL)’s Cultural Fund. The web-page implies that it is an ongoing-program, but it is not clear whether this really is the case or not.

I found references to programs in several universities, such as the University of Adelaide and UTS (the University if Technology Sydney), but no clear evidence that they were ongoing programs. Indeed it seems that these programs often have short lives, which is a shame. I wonder why they seem often to be flashes-in-the-pan?

Despite this uncertain history, whenever I come across these programs I feel a little excited – even if I’m not going to have any involvement – because I imagine the stimulation, excitement and creativity that the participants will experience. A little starry-eyed, I suppose, but I hope this is the common outcome!

Have you experienced a writer-in-residence program, either as a writer or a “consumer”? If so, what value did you get out of it?