Watch: An introduction to The Next Chapter, and a guide to applying
In this short video, Sophie Black and Jon Tjhia explain what The Next Chapter is, what it's for – and how to put together your application.
Sophie: Hi and welcome to The Next Chapter. We're here to tell you exactly what that is and how to apply, and also whether you're the right person for this exciting new writers’ scheme. Today in this video, we're going to cover off on basic eligibility, we will try to cover off on your most burning questions, and we'll run through exactly what you need to do to apply.
Jon: And if there's anything we happen to miss, you'll find it all on The Next Chapter website, which is at thenextchapter.wheelercentre.com. And you'll probably want to scoot to the Frequently Asked Questions to begin with.
Sophie: They're very comprehensive. So we'll start with the basics first of all, I'm Sophie Black, I'm Head of Publishing here at the Wheeler Centre.
Jon: And I'm Jon Tjhia, the Wheeler Centre's Senior Digital Editor. The Next Chapter is a new scheme for writers run by the Wheeler Centre with support from the Aesop Foundation. The Wheeler Centre, if you haven't heard of us before, is based in Melbourne. It's a centre for books, writing and ideas. We present over 250 talks a year, most of them free. We also publish original writing, podcasts, videos, and support writers in a host of different ways.
Sophie: So The Next Chapter is just another way that the Wheeler Centre is supporting writers, and particularly new writers. It's designed to give writers the time and the support and the space that they need to really develop their skills from the ground up and ultimately carve out a long-lasting writing career. So a little bit about how it will work: each year, The Next Chapter will select ten outstanding writers and we'll start by giving them $15,000 each. We will then match each writer to a mentor, with their assistance, and that mentor will work with them across a year to develop their work. We'll also connect them with peers, publishers, booksellers and readers beyond that year-long mentorship.
Jon: So a major part of what the scheme offers is the opportunity for writers to really take the time and the space to develop what we hope will be a sustainable writing practice, rather than rushing to publication and selling a story really quickly only to find themselves without the skills or the craft to really carry forward through further publication and other work. It's also about investing time and support in writers who reflect the diversity of Australian identities and experiences, and providing opportunities for writers from marginalised communities.
Sophie: So I guess the next step is to take you through the basic eligibility. We've tried to keep this entire application process as simple and streamlined as possible so you can just get on with concentrating on your writing. So the eligibility is really pretty simple, there's only four key requirements. Everyone is free to apply. You need to permanently reside in Australia, but you don't need to be an Australian citizen. We also encourage people who came to Australia as refugees to apply. You need to be at least 18 years of age. You can't be a current staff member or board member at the Wheeler Centre. Similarly, you can't be employed by a resident organisation within the Wheeler Centre. Only one more thing: you can only enter one work for consideration per year. So that's the extent of the eligibility requirements.
The work itself also has a few requirements around it, so this is in relation to the writing sample that we're asking you to submit. It needs to be entirely your work. You can't have published more than 25% of the piece of work you're going to submit. The work itself can't already be under contract with a publisher, so if you have sent it out for consideration you need to take it off the table for those publishers that you've sent it to. It needs to be presented in English, although bilingual works where one of the languages is English are still eligible. This is the key bit: it needs to be a work of prose, poetry, fiction or non-fiction, or a graphic novel, and it needs to be aged at readers aged 13 and above. We'll go into a little bit of detail about word count requirements as they relate to each piece of writing.
Jon: On to how to apply. First thing is it's free to apply. All applications have to be submitted through the website, and if you're having any trouble with your online application, please get in touch with us and we'll be able to help out.
Sophie: There's a phone number and an email address that we'll go through at the end of the video.
Jon: So there are two ways you can apply for The Next Chapter. The first way is that you can apply by yourself, and the second is that somebody else can nominate you. The reason we've included that option is that we realise it can be pretty hard to talk yourself up and talk about your work, and you may benefit from somebody else doing that with you or for you.
Sophie: You'll still need to help that person out, because you'll need to supply them with a writing sample and maybe a few key details, but we figure it was good to put the option there.
Jon: Yep, and either way the requirements are the same, so you'll find both the application form and the nomination form online.
Sophie: Okay, we've tried to keep the application process as simple as possible so you can just get on with your writing and not get bogged down by too many details. There's only four key requirements in order to apply for The Next Chapter. The first requirement is to tell us in 300 words or less what you seek to get out of this scheme. So this is the space for you to tell us what you think you would personally gain from this opportunity - you could outline any specific ways in which the publishing industry was previously inaccessible to you, and it's also worth referring back to the selection criteria which is listed on the website and which we'll go through very briefly in a minute, but it's worth referring back to that selection criteria and having that top of mind when you're writing these 300 words. If somebody's nominating you, they will write this section.
Jon: You'll also need a one-page letter of support, and it basically is just somebody making a case that you take your writing seriously and that you'll have the capacity to deliver the work and commit to the scheme. And this can come from a colleague, a teacher, a friend, a relative, could be your mum, anybody. If you're being nominated by somebody, this could be written by them too.
Sophie: The next thing you need to do is relatively simple, we need a brief summary of the writing sample that you are submitting. So no more than 200 words, and this is the place to tell us a little about your writing sample and why you've chosen it. It might be the opportunity to talk about the context for the work, the inspiration for the work, why you think it's important or relevant.
Jon: And the kicker, your writing sample itself. So there are a few details about this and you'll probably want to look at the website again just to make sure you've got this right, particularly the FAQs. But for a fiction or non-fiction work of prose you need to provide 10,000 words of a book-length project. For poetry, you'll need to provide ten completed pages with a view to producing a book-length work, so that's not a chapbook – and by chapbook we understand under 50 pages. And for a graphic novel, you'll need to provide us with 15 to 30 pages of a new work.
Sophie: Keep in mind, too, that this work sample needs to directly relate to the work that you want to work on as part of The Next Chapter. So this, should you be selected, this is the work that you want to develop in conjunction with the Wheeler Centre and your mentor.
Jon: Shall we talk about the selection criteria?
Sophie: Let's do that Jon, let's run through that really quickly. There are five key criteria that you should refer back to when you're putting all of this together. So just keep this top of mind. The first one is pretty obvious, it's merit. So that means the quality of the writing - the craft, the innovation in form, the character development, the phrasing, the lyricism. And we know that is very broadly applied across all of these different genres, but essentially it comes down to the quality of the work.
Jon: The second criteria is impact, so basically how big of an impact will the scheme have on the applicant's writing practice. And that takes into account the question from the application about obstacles you might have faced in accessing the publishing industry.
Sophie: The next one is potential, so that comes down to the applicant's potential success and/or their impact as a professional writer in future.
Jon: The fourth criteria is suitability, so that basically kind of assesses how well-suited your project is to being completed and developed within the year-long time frame of the scheme.
Sophie: And the last one is significance, so that means the potential impact that the writing produced through the scheme might have in the wider community. So that’s … they're the kind of things that the judges will be considering as part of The Next Chapter, and it's worth remembering them when you are pulling all of this information together.
Sophie: Another important thing to keep in mind is that all of the information that you will be submitting as part of this application will remain private.
Jon: That's right. So it'll only be accessed by our Next Chapter assessors, by internal staff managing the scheme, and as part of our fulfilment of any reporting obligations – but your details in those cases will remain anonymous.
Sophie: That’s right. Now, if that all sounds like a lot, just remember we are here to help. There's a phone number and an email address. Before you do any of those things, make sure you check the Frequently Asked Questions page on our website. The website again is thenextchapter.wheelercentre.com, and if your burning question isn't featured there, you can call us, or email us at email@example.com.