Heartlines

Melanie Hobbs

"I just realised, wow, I can do this. I can keep on writing stories. In the past I’d finish a story and wonder if I would ever complete a story again...was it just a stroke of luck that I came up with an ending? But I’ve realised it isn’t luck, it’s time and it’s hard work."

Heartlines explores what it means to write – from the heart and soul – and where that writing takes us. Every writers’ journey is different, so we invite you to take a moment to read, pause and reflect on what it means to shape stories for the page.

Melanie Hobbs is a mother of two, a writer and an English teacher. Melanie was recently announced as one of the six winners of the 2022 Centre for Stories Writing Fellowships. During her Writing Fellowships, Melanie will be working on completing a manuscript for a short story collection.


Centre for Stories: What do you do outside of writing?

Melanie Hobbs: I am a mother of two and I teach high school English. I love art. I was obsessed with watercolours for a few years but my latest love is collage. It’s a bit more kid-friendly and I often make collage scenes with my daughter. And reading of course.

CFS: Why do you write?

MH: I guess to see if I can. I’ll have an idea for a scene or a memory or an image and think, can I make a story out of this? It’s really satisfying to see a story come together. It’s hard work and it can take ages. Often an image will haunt me for months, even years before I finally complete a story about it.

CFS: When did you decide to pursue writing and what triggered that decision?

MH: About three years ago, one of my writer friends who I’d gone to school with posted on Instagram about needing to set aside more time for writing. I’d had my first child a few months prior to that so I had a more flexible schedule than when I was working full time and I thought I would like to try and set aside more time for writing too. I contacted her and another friend we went to school with, suggesting we start a little writing group. We met up about once a month, it was really casual but it gave me the accountability I needed to actually complete a couple of stories, something that rarely happened when I was working full time and just writing the odd scene here and there on my own. I even had some work published. Then I had my second child and my writing slowed right down again. It became difficult to find time to write anything, let alone meet up with my writing group. So I just kept submitting my work to places and applied for this hot desk fellowship and I was so happy when I got it because I wanted to see if I could do this. Now, having completed the hot desk, it looks like I actually can, so it feels like quite a recent decision actually.

CFS: What are you currently reading and why?

A portrait of Melanie Hobbs. She is standing in front of a building with lime green walls. She is smiling at the camera and wearing blue jeans and a yellow cardigan.

MH: I’m reading The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh. It’s a YA fantasy novel inspired by Korean folklore. I’m reading it purely for enjoyment.

CFS: Is that also an inspiration for your current work?

MH: It’s not related to anything I’m working on at the moment but I do love folklore and I have written stories inspired by folklore in the past. I wrote a story called ‘Car Trouble’ which was published in Portside Review last year. It was inspired by stories of the pontianak, a kind of vampire in Malaysian folklore. So who knows, maybe it will inspire something.

CFS: Walk us through an ‘aha’ moment while you were the hot desking.

MH: I was completing the hot desk fellowship tracker which is a document we fill in to track our progress and I realised how much work I’d done. I’d finished two stories plus two works of microfiction and I’d started another three stories, plus there was a whole lot of editing on existing work. I just realised, wow, I can do this. I can keep on writing stories. In the past I’d finish a story and wonder if I would ever complete a story again, like, was it just a stroke of luck that I came up with an ending. I find endings the hardest. But I’ve realised it isn’t luck, it’s time and it’s hard work. Having a beautiful writing space to work in helps too.

CFS: Based on your experiences in the writing industry, including your hot desk at Centre for Stories, what advice would you give to writers who are starting out or are unsure where to start?

MH: Set aside time for writing every day and don’t be too fussy about the quality of that writing, especially if you’re in a phase of generating ideas. Keep a journal of ideas, dreams, memories, observations, whatever pops into your head really. And every now and then, go through it and see what you can use, see if you can find a story. Take a workshop if you can, they can be so fun and inspiring. You’ll also get to meet other writers which can be so helpful. Also, keep an eye on the Writing WA website noticeboard for competitions and other opportunities. Submit your work regularly and keep doing it. I find it helpful to think of the submission as a due date for yourself. Just forget about whether or not it’s going to win, or whether it’s going to be published. Instead, think of it as a school assignment and just get it in by that due date. Chances are you won’t win that competition but you will at least have completed a story and then you can keep tweaking it and submitting to other places.

A photograph of Melanie Hobbs. She is wearing a lovely mustard yellow cardigan. Melanie is looking off into the distance. Behind her is a row of olive trees.

CFS: Centre for Stories is about taking things at your own pace, working with others, and providing a safe place for all. How has this space enabled you to think and explore your work?

MH: I think as a parent of young children, when you have some child-free time to get things done, it feels a bit like you’ve been granted superpowers and you tend to approach things with a now-or-never kind of energy. I got so much done. If I felt like something wasn’t quite progressing I would just swap to another task and come back to it later. It worked well for me but this approach may not be for everyone. I definitely think there is value in sitting and wrestling with stuff sometimes. I just didn’t want to waste any time. If writing wasn’t happening, I went to editing. If I felt like I needed fresh eyes to edit, I’d swap to researching or I’d try to develop new ideas. I also swapped work regularly with another hot desker who writes short stories and we became good friends. It was really helpful knowing I’d have to show some new work to someone each week. The staff at the Centre for Stories are really cool people to talk with as well and I always looked forward to our lunch chats.

CFS: What will you be working on next?

MH: I’m working towards producing a collection of short stories. I’ve written nine stories so far. I’m aiming for twenty in the collection, that seems like a good number. One of my works in progress, ‘Crocodile Farm’, is a story about animal cruelty and generational differences between a young Australian boy and his Singaporean grandfather. This was actually inspired by a lunch time conversation at the centre during my hot desk. One of the staff grew up in Broome and she was talking about saltwater crocodiles which reminded me of a childhood visit to a crocodile farm in Singapore, a very strange place now that I look back on it. All those crocodiles piled up on each other in these backyard pits. How could I not write about it?

A photograph of Melanie Hobbs. She is smiling at the camera and you can see a beautiful green earring peaking through her hair.


Melanie Hobbs is a mother of two, a writer and an English teacher. Melanie was recently announced as one of the six winners of the 2022 Centre for Stories Writing Fellowships. During her Writing Fellowships, Melanie will be working on completing a manuscript for a short story collection.

Writing Change, Writing Inclusion is Centre for Stories’ signature writing program for 2021 to 2023. Generously funded by The Ian Potter Foundation, Australia Council for the Arts and Centre for Stories Founders Circle, this writing program features mentoring, hot desk, and publication opportunities for emerging writers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and/or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander backgrounds.