Monday, June 02, 2008

Tara Mentored

Happy I am to hear that very talented Australian author Tara June Winch (whom I met at Ubud last year) has been selected for one of the most coveted creative mentorships - the Rolex Mentor and Protege Arts Initiative. Her mentor will be Nobel Prize winner, Nigerian author and playwright, Wole Soyinka.
You could look at it one way as this competition, this philanthropic game, if you like ... You can look at it another way where it's parallel to how culture is passed down - you have a mentor, you have an elder, and you have a young person that is being presented with something true and something sacred ...
says Winch in the Sydney Morning Herald.

You can read a n extract from Winch's novel Swallow the Air, here. At the moment the book is not available outside Australia, but I really hope that it soon become available to a wider readership.

I first heard about the Rolex mentorships*
... created to assist extraordinary, rising artists to achieve their full potential.
when I saw a series of documentaries on the BBC. The one that sticks in my mind is the programme in which the great Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa and his protegee Antonio Garcia Angel, talked about the year they spent working together.

Other mentors have been Toni Morrison and North African writer Tahar Ben Jelloun.

I really like the whole idea of mentorship and wish there was more opportunity for it to happen for young authors.

Hmmm ... if you could choose any great artist to be your mentor, who would it be?

Update (15/6/08):

Jane Cornwell profiles Tara in The Australian :
It's been quite a journey for the young writer of Wiradjuri, Afghan and English descent, who grew up in a housing commission strip in Wollongong, NSW. After her parents split up when she was nine, her mother reared the four children in an environment Winch describes as sometimes fraught but ultimately positive.

Always a reader, she was still at high school when Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken ("Two roads diverged in a wood and I --/ I took the one less travelled by,/ And that has made all the difference") inspired her to become a traveller, too. Travel, geographical and spiritual, has been a passion ever since.

At 17, armed with a two-person tent, a pair of boots and a writing pad, she left Wollongong to hitchhike across Australia. "I just told Mum I was going," she says over orange juice in a London cafe the day after the Rolex launch. "I felt this need to know my country. And because being away forces you to reflect, I started writing as a way of understanding my childhood and my world. Travellers I met gave me books like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, which helped me to look at things differently. I put everything down on paper."

Wanderlust piqued, the word freedom tattooed on her arm, Winch travelled through India, then spent six months at a Tibetan centre in Scotland, practising the Buddhism that continues to direct her life. Back in Australia three years later, she settled in Brisbane and struggled to make ends meet. In her spare time she hung out at the State Library of Queensland, feeding her appetite for reading. "One day I saw an ad for their short-story writing competition. There was prizemoney, so I typed one up on my old orange portable typewriter."

Her story won the $500 runner-up prize and became the first instalment of Swallow the Air. Winch wrote much of the book while pregnant with her daughter, Lila, now 2 1/2.
(*Congrats, of course also to Malaysian filmaker Ho Yuhang who made it to the finals in the Film category, and while he didn't win, at least got to meet Martin Scorsese!)

6 comments:

Jason Erik Lundberg said...

For me, it would be Salman Rushdie, Jonathan Carroll, Milan Kundera, or Neil Gaiman.

animah said...

A.S. Byatt

bibliobibuli said...

i'd like annie proulx though i'm a bit worried because she gives the impression that she doesn't suffer fools gladly.

Yusuf/Martin said...

I know that we live in an ageist world but why does it have to be YOUNG authors?

What about writers who start later on in life?

Mentor well living authors - maybe Michael Moorcock or Umberto Ecco.
Past authors would have been - R.K Narayan or Dylan Thomas when he was sober.

Chet said...

Hmm ... P D James or Sue Grafton.

Leon Wing said...

Animah, great choice. Since you've taken Byatt, I'm opting for Alasdair Gray. His new book is beautiful, in every sense of the word.