Anna Spargo-Ryan is the Melbourne-based author of The Gulf and The Paper House, and winner of the 2016 Horne Prize.
Anna will work over five months to research and write a new historical fiction novel, Foundlings. Foundlings was the name given the babies abandoned by their mothers and the work will be based on the true story of Rose Lattin who was an inmate at the Adelaide Destitute Asylum in 1887 and 1890 and was also Anna’s great grandmother. Focusing on the themes of women, fertility and poverty in the 1800s, the novel will explore a time of poor treatment of women but also a time of great change as the suffragette movement gained momentum.
What does being awarded a Creators Fund grant mean to you?
'Time' is the very best gift, and I'm so grateful to now have real days and weeks to be immersed in my research and writing. It's also incredibly validating; this grant has given me a renewed enthusiasm for my craft, and helped me to believe my contribution is valuable - no small thing for a sad writer.
How important is 'time' to you, as an artist/creative professional?
I'm a parent and a full-time freelancer, and writing has to fit around everything else. It's one thing to find half an hour in the bright early morning, but another thing altogether to have full days for thinking, researching, planning, dreaming. With the support of the Creators Fund, I have time to be thorough, to understand the relevance of my research, and to really think about what I'm trying to say. But I also have time to be deeply creative - to sit at the beach and examine the way a pelican slices through the salt air. Being able to linger in language is a prize.
What's the first thing you did when you found out you were awarded a Creator's Fund grant?
I called my dad and shouted, "Don't worry, I'm crying for a good reason!"
What are you most looking forward to over the months ahead?
Being immersed in the world I'm writing about. My project is set in the Adelaide Destitute Asylum in the 1890s. It was a place of squalor, decay, disease, and the women who spent time there had terrible but vital experiences. Spending a lot of time in that head space probably sounds awful, but I'm so looking forward to understanding their stories and finding ways to share them. Also, wearing pyjamas for extended periods.
Where would like to see yourself at the end of this process? How do you anticipate your career will develop as a result?
I'd like to have a full draft of a new novel - that's the goal. I would also like to publish some non-fiction essays about my interest area, because the place and events were so interesting and still have relevance today. Obviously I hope it will be my wildly successful third novel, but I also hope to develop new skills, experiment with new techniques, and become a more aggressively passionate researcher.