Announcing The Next Chapter: an unprecedented new way of supporting writers

The Wheeler Centre announces The Next Chapter, an unprecedented new way of supporting writers. Entries open Friday 4 May – Friday 13 July 2018.

Across the country – in our regions, in our suburbs, in our cities – there are aspiring writers with stories to tell. But getting those stories heard is not easy. And the commercial market is not always the best place for a writer to develop their skills and hone their craft.

So what are the challenges for emerging talent in Australia? How do we make it possible for aspiring writers to connect with peers and mentors across the nation? And how do we make sure the industry has the tools to build inclusive networks and support writers from marginalised communities?

The Wheeler Centre’s Next Chapter writers' scheme, supported by the Aesop Foundation, is here to elevate the Australian stories that aren’t being published – and to nurture a new generation of writers, from all sorts of backgrounds, to tell them.

Each year, The Next Chapter judges will pick ten outstanding writers and give them $15,000 each to develop their work. The scheme will match them with a mentor who will work closely with them on bringing their writing to life, connecting them with peers, publishers and readers.

Minister for the Arts, The Hon. Martin Foley says of the scheme:

'The Next Chapter is a unique initiative from Melbourne’s home for storytelling – The Wheeler Centre. This will have a profound impact on Australia’s literary landscape and culture for years to come, and inspire our next generation of writers. This is about making sure the stories we tell, the stories we read, and the stories we celebrate, reflect the diversity of our Creative State, and our nation.'

For eight years the Wheeler Centre has devoted itself to bringing the best of Australian writing, books and ideas to Melbourne and the state of Victoria. It is now broadening its reach to the rest of the country with this national scheme. The Wheeler Centre’s Director, Michael Williams, said:

'Making it as a writer in this country is still perilously hard. The average writer earns only $13k a year. Never mind being a bestseller, making a living wage from writing books is far too rare. And when the markers of success and failure are that unforgiving, it’s little wonder that it can feel like an imposing, exclusive world in which to try to find your voice and launch a new career.

How do we best support those voices who aren’t getting heard through conventional publishing channels? How do we help passionate, skilled writers hone and develop their work without having to constantly worry about sales and royalty rates before they’ve even begun? That’s where this scheme comes in. That’s how we’ll find the next chapter of Australia’s literary story.'

The inaugural Next Chapter judges include Benjamin Law, Ellen van Neerven and Maxine Beneba Clarke. On the necessity of such a scheme, Benjamin Law says, 'Two things were crucial in ensuring I could build a sustainable writing career: mentorship and money. The Next Chapter is going to help ten writers so much, and I’m thrilled that we – as readers – also get to be its beneficiaries in the long run.'

On their support for this important scheme, Preet Bains, Chair of the Aesop Foundation, says, 'In a world that is often fractured, noisy, and seemingly in crisis, we passionately believe storytelling can bring awareness to issues and people who often go unheard. The Aesop Foundation is delighted to support the Wheeler Centre’s Next Chapter program, and with it, a generation of new Australian writers.'

Applications and nominations open 9am Friday 4 May and close 5pm Friday 13 July 2018.

Writers will be assessed on a writing sample, a 300 word or less pitch and a one page letter of support from someone who can vouch for the entrant’s commitment to writing. They don’t need a university English degree, industry connections or even to have been published before.

More information on how to apply or nominate a writer can be found on this website – that's thenextchapter.wheelercentre.com.