Melanie Joosten is the author of the novels Gravity Well and Berlin Syndrome, and the non-fiction collection A Long Time Coming: Essays on Old Age.
Over four months, Melanie will undertake research into the suffragette movement and develop a form and structure for a new novel that explores this history in a way that connects with contemporary politics. In order to create a story unlike her previous works, Melanie will research literary forms and experiment with developing competing or interlinked narratives. This project will lay the groundwork for the writing stage of this new novel.
What does being awarded a Creators Fund grant mean to you?
It means I don't have to put my artistic career on hold while I have kids. I published three books in six years but my creative practice has come to a near standstill since having a child a couple of years ago (and another this year). The Creators Fund grant means I can pay for childcare so I can work on my next novel. It buys me time away from my children and paid work to extend my artistic practice.
How important is 'time' to you, as an artist/creative professional?
For a writer it's the most important thing. I don't need much in the way of equipment or space to create my work - I just use a laptop and can write anywhere. But carving out time is always difficult and even more so with young children because it costs money. While I can scrimp an hour here and there as my children nap, that's not enough to write a book-length work. Novels are whole worlds in themselves and require vast amounts of time to think through all the details and bring them together into a cohesive whole. It's not just the writing and the research that takes time but the many hours of plotting, character development, exploring styles and building (and breaking down) structures to find the most interesting and compelling way to tell the story. Not to mention all the time it takes to figure out what that story actually is.
What's the first thing you did when you found out you were awarded a Creator's Fund grant?
Call my partner - he's a writer too so understands how much I needed this. Writing is such an important part of who I am and as I haven't had much time to write in the last couple of years I've found it difficult. This grant makes it possible to still be a writer, which is something I thought I'd have to put off for a long time.
What are you most looking forward to over the months ahead?
Having the time to focus intensely on my project and trying to push my writing in directions I haven't explored before. Being able to immerse myself in one project without the distraction of paid work is such a privilege, and I'm really excited about it. I am going to be working on a novel about the suffragettes and how they utilised anger, violence and their bodies to force the government to give them the vote. I'm looking forward to understanding their motivations and passions and figuring out how to show readers that these women were renegades and rebels, not polite, middle-class ladies with nothing to lose.
Where would like to see yourself at the end of this process? How do you anticipate your career will develop as a result?
By the end of the process I hope to have done all the groundwork for creating a new novel and have the bones of a first draft. I would like to have a deep understanding of the period and people I am planning on writing about, as well as having settled on a structure and style that is different to my prior work. I'm anticipating that this novel will extend on themes I have explored in earlier books, while continuing on a more experimental path which will hopefully bring my work to an international audience.