On The Table is an interview series with emerging writers from the 2019 Centre for Stories Inclusion Matters Hot Desk Fellowship. Here, writers reflect on their Hot Desk experience, the changes to their practice, and the connections they made.

Emily Sun is a long-time emerging poet and writer. Emily has had various works published in anthologies and journals over the years, including Mascara Literary Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Australian Poetry Journal and Growing up Asian in Australia.

A photo of Emily against a bright orange wall. She is looking off into the distance and is wearing a green dress and green earrings.

Can you tell us about your writing practice?

Until this year, I didn’t really have a regular writing routine because it was always a sideline hobby for me. In fact, until my time at the Centre for Stories, I didn’t really have the confidence to call myself a poet or a writer, even though writing has been a lifelong practice. It has taken me a while to reach this point where I’m in a position to dedicate more time to writing, or perhaps it’s a realisation that it’s something I need to do. At the end of 2018 I saw the call for submissions for the Deborah Cass awards and her life story really resonated with me. I’m not getting any younger and I’ve always gone back to creative writing when I’ve attempted to immerse myself in other, and most would argue more practical, fields.

Where did you start at the beginning of the Hot Desk Fellowship? What changed in your work and what did the Fellowship allow you to do?

At the beginning of the fellowship I had three unfinished projects at various stages of development. A short story collection, a poetry collection and a novel I started a year ago. I had a lot of self-doubt and guilt about dedicating my time to writing, especially when I have other commitments and responsibilities. The fellowship gave me the confidence to tell friends that I’m a writer.

The nature of the Hot Desk—‘Inclusion Matters’—also gave me the opportunity to reflect upon exclusion, and the ways in which I have tempered my voice in certain spaces, and how tiresome constant reflexivity is. The fellowship allowed me to finally complete my poetry collection and unapologetically call it Vociferate|咏..

A black and white photo of Emily against a bright orange wall. She is looking off into the distance and is wearing a green dress and green earrings.

Throughout the duration of the Hot Desk Fellowship, what changed for you in terms of practice?

I know I’m a record on loop here, but I came out of it more confident about being a writer and poet. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve taken writing this seriously and in prioritising  and completing daily writing goals means that I’ve generated more material.

How did you find the culture of the Centre for Stories?

The Centre for Stories is in Northbridge, an area I’m more familiar with than where I currently live in outer suburbia. I loved that it was a supportive and not a competitive environment. I already miss being there.

What relationships have you developed from your Hot Desk Fellowship?

It went by so quickly and I could only go in once a week. Some days it was just me there but I’m hoping to keep in touch with them via social media. Also, Rafeif and I want to start a Centre for Stories music ensemble. Raf if you are reading this, I’m waiting for your call! I’m also happy to stick to violin duets!

Now that you’ve completed your Hot Desk Fellowship. Where will you take your writing?

I usually have a couple of things on the go, and this was the case during my 10 weeks at the Centre.

As I mentioned before, I completed Vociferate|咏.. I submitted the full manuscript to a publisher but unfortunately just as they were reading it, it was announced that they had been shut down. I have submitted individual pieces to various journals, so we’ll see what happens there.

A photo of Emily against a bright orange wall. She is looking off into the distance and is wearing a green dress and green earrings.

In weeks 8 to 10 of my fellowship, I returned to short story drafts and reworked them. So I have the first draft of a completed manuscript but I’m happy to leave it as is, and return to it when I have fresh eyes. It might be that it doesn’t work as a collection because it’s too eclectic. I’m okay with that.

My priority is now to focus on the novel I started a year ago. It’s taken me a while to figure out how I want to tell the story I have in mind. I’ll have some time to work on that over the summer holidays.

Can you briefly describe the piece of writing you submitted to the Centre for Stories at the conclusion of your Hot Desk Fellowship?

I’m submitting ‘Eudaimonia,’ a short story that has taken on many forms over the past few years. It’s quite different to my published works—which until recently have tended to be ones that explore ethnic/racial/Asian-Australian identity. The story has been read by different people in various ways, but I suppose that’s the whole point of the story. I wrote it as an exploration of how social class manifests itself in contemporary Perth, where there are nuanced and not so nuanced differences. I have had feedback on this story from various readers/writers, and it’s interesting how each person has had a different take on it. It has been read in the way I intended by some, and then completely differently by another. I suppose that’s the whole point of the story. In a pluralist space like Perth, there are so many opportunities for misunderstandings. This is probably the tenth or eleventh draft of the story. I’ve changed details and names, anonymising Perth in some, changing the names to reflect different ethnicities, clothing, and characters’ cultural tastes and preferences. I even changed it once more before sending it to the Centre for Stories. I invite people who read this as a thought experiment and consider their interactions with those they meet in different social spaces.

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