A Federal Government grant will give students the opportunity to share skills and cultural perspectives during an intensive international study tour.
A new intercultural collaborative creative writing studio will enable 18 students in the Bachelor of Arts (Creative Writing) to collaborate with student writers in the School of Foreign Languages at Sun Yat-sen University in China.
The two-week study tour to Guangzhou and Yangshou in 2017 will give RMIT students the chance to workshop, write, edit and publish anthologies of creative work in collaboration with their Chinese peers.
To facilitate the project, Dr Francesca Rendle-Short, Associate Professor in the School of Media and Communication, applied for mobility grants through the New Colombo Plan, a Federal Government initiative that encourages Australian undergraduate students to study and undertake internships in the Indo-Pacific region.
This project was one of 13 successful RMIT projects selected by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for funding, and one of two creative writing projects selected from hundreds of projects in fields as diverse as education, engineering, business and geology.
Rendle-Short said the project will shape the world because the power of writing is more than just stories.
“This intercultural writing project gives students who wouldn’t normally work with each other the opportunity to explore their cultures through story, workshops, writing together, and shared cultural experiences in Guangzhou and Yangshou," she said.
“It is underpinned by principles of mutual respect and desire for genuine exchange of ideas, expression, loves, losses, fears and desires.”
Associate Professor David Carlin, Deputy Dean of Communication in the School, said the funding of $59,400 is an outstanding achievement and a terrific reward for a sustained and ongoing body of work on Rendle-Short’s part, within non/fictionLab and the Creative Writing program.
“The grant helps to consolidate the strong relationship that the RMIT writing programs have been building with Sun Yat-sen University, and Professor DAI Fan, in the Department of English through Rendle-Short’s innovative intercultural studios,” Carlin said.
Students in Melbourne and China have been collaborating online in these studios since 2015 using the messaging app WeChat to produce new anthologies of creative writing.
Four anthologies have been produced so far through these studios: Sea of Honey (2015), The Fish are Fine (2015), Shared Moon (2016), Under a Clear Sky (2016).
Kate Abbey, a student in the studio, said that through WeChat, phones began to beep and buzz as virtual conversations flashed across the ocean between Melbourne and China.
“Friendships blossomed,” Abbey said.
Student Cordelia Rice agreed, saying the distance began to shrink and shrivel.
“It becomes clear we are bonded, through words, through narrative, we have created a book, we are left changed,” Rice said.
The 2017 study tour will be open to all students in their second year of creative writing and is a chance for students who might not otherwise be able to afford to undertake an overseas experience.
While in China, students will engage with cultural institutions and the local community.
For RMIT, it means a chance to grow a shared transnational literature, building a network of emerging Indo-Pacific writers who are stronger and more creative together.
Story: Wendy Little and Ronnie Scott