The KSP Writers’ Centre in the Perth hills has launched an exciting new tier to expand its residency program. In addition to the highly competitive Writer-in-Residence Program which offers up to six annual four-week salaried residencies, the Centre will now also offer up to twelve annual subsidised two-week residencies. Based on the volume of high quality applications received each year for the Emerging Writer-in-Residence category, the Board of Management realised there was a need for an additional scheme to further support the development of serious emerging authors. Because it is clear there are many out there, working on fantastic projects, all just needing time away from the grind of work and family to dedicate a consolidated period of time to their writing.
The deadline to apply for KSP’s 2017 Fellowship Program is 18 November 2016.
We are pleased to welcome Tanya Vavilova as KSP’s inaugural Fellow for 2016. Tanya recently arrived in Perth from New South Wales. I spoke with Tanya recently about her passion project for the Fellowship, her literary interests, and how life experience inspired her creative writing.
Tanya Vavilova (left) and Juanita Pirozzi (interviewer), in Katharine's original writing studio
How did you hear about the KSP Fellowship?
‘I first came across the KSP Fellowship in the NSW Writer’s Centre newsletter.’
What is the passion project that you will work on for the KSP Fellowship?
‘I’m hoping make a big dent into my novella, tentatively titled Sick Bay. It’s a story about Evan, an office dogsbody, who once had dreams of making it big but in the end had to settle for something smaller. He’s an office clerk at Globus High and the job itself is pretty easy and pays well, if not handsomely. It just wasn’t exactly what Evan had envisaged his life would look like. There had been dreams of working in radio or TV. Perhaps he’d even be famous one day. Sick Bay is about making do with the little we’re given in life.’
Where did the idea for your project come from? Is it based on life experience?
‘Sick Bay emerged from my creative writing course at the University of Technology Sydney, the odd jobs I’ve held, my travels and musings. The setting is drawn from my current job (I work in a university health and counselling service) so the office corridor is teeming with unwell students, doctors, and counsellors. Occasionally there’s paramedics and police officers whisking unlucky students away to hospitals in their paddy wagons. I’ve spent more time working in offices than anywhere else and these sad, lonely cubicles, and corridors are the inspiration for Sick Bay.’
What plans do you have for your project after completing the Fellowship?
‘I’m hoping, like most people I guess, to have this novella published. But first I’ll send it out to a few friends for their feedback before sitting down to do the rewrites.’
Who is your favourite author? How has their work inspired your creative writing?
‘Helen Garner is probably my favourite author and I adore both her non-fiction e.g. The First Stone and This House of Grief as well as her novels, my favourites being Monkey Grip and The Spare Room. I love the way she captures everyday moments with grit and compassion. For example the way that you get sucked into suburban life in Melbourne in the 1970s in Monkey Grip, Norma’s share house, those trips to the local pool, her lover’s piercing blue eyes and the destructives of their love. I love the texture of Garner’s writing, the feel of it. It has given me permission to write about the everyday, what I’ve actually experienced, no matter how small that slice of life seems to me.’
Do you prefer to read genre or literary fiction? Do you intend to write other creative works in either of these categories?
‘I read mostly literary fiction, which is (unsurprisingly!) what I like to write too.’
What book are you reading at the moment?
‘I’m reading Katherine Brabon’s Vogel’s Winning novel The Memory Artist, set in Russia about a child of the Freeze whose country changes dramatically with glasnost and the intrusions of the West.’
Tanya reading on the KSP lawn in the spring sunshine
How long have you been living in Australia? Have you only lived in Sydney? Will this be your first visit to Perth?
‘I was born in Moscow, but have lived in Sydney for over 20 years. I’ve visited Perth once before and am excited to be coming back!’
What impact has the Australian culture and lifestyle had on your creative writing process?
‘My stories are mostly set in cities where I’ve lived, in cafes, in offices, in call centres, in pubs, in share-houses so at least in terms of the characters and settings that I’m drawn to; these reflect Australian urban life. The high cost and demands of living in Sydney has probably also changed the way I write. I love short stories as a form because I can write them in the margins of life – in the hour after I wake up, in my lunch break, while I’m waiting for a friend to arrive.’
What do you do for a living?
‘I work with university students from all walks of life as a Case Manager and Program Co-ordinator at the University of Technology Sydney. I meet with students one-on-one – mostly students from financially disadvantaged and refugee backgrounds, to ensure these students are supported in their first year of study and that their transition from high school to university is as smooth as it can be.’
How did you become interested in creative writing?
‘In the last ten years I’ve become a big reader and I guess it’s only natural that at some point you want to try your hand at writing. I wrote on a blog for a couple of years before enrolling in a Diploma of Creative Writing last year. I’m surrounded by artists, musicians, and other creative sorts. I live with two musicians, a performance artist, an editor/festival director, and a sound engineer – so it was probably only a matter of time before I tried out creative writing.’