Melbourne – a UNESCO City of Literature – Debut Mondays at the Wheeler Centre

Did you know that Melbourne is a UNESCO City of Literature, one of only six in the world? I didn’t. Not until a chance encounter with a lovely Melbourne based author. I described to her in detail my love of books and writing. I shared my childhood memories of endless days sprawled out on my grandmother’s leather couch, reading about the famous five’s journey to smuggler’s top or Jo, Bessie and Fanny’s adventures in the land of topsy turvy. The author listened to my silly sentimental story and told me I should check out the events at the Wheeler Centre, run out of the State Library. “Melbourne is a city of literature’ she said, ‘there is a lot going on”.

The Wheeler Centre is the centre piece of Melbourne’s city of literature status. It hosts a full calendar of literary events like writing workshops, presentations and book readings. A dream for any wannabe writer or serious book lover. On Monday night My Love and I went to ‘Debut Mondays’, a free event run by the Wheeler Centre to showcase new writing talent.

The event is held at The Moat, a charming little bar/café` that sits underneath the State Library. Every month, four authors get behind the microphone in the corner and read excerpts from their new novels or short stories. You can enjoy a lovely glass of wine while you listen, and the books are available for purchase at the end.

We heard some fantastic new talent. Vanessa Russell read from her new novel ‘The Holy Bible’ (published 1 July 2013 by Sleepers). The book was inspired by Vanessa’s own religious upbringing. She took us on a journey with her main character, ‘Tranquility’, who is dreaming of escaping her controlling religious family to become a nurse.

Alice Whitmore, a young student and translator, read a mesmerising excerpt from a short story she has had published in Voiceworks (a quarterly magazine publishing works by under 25’s). Alice’s writing was beautiful and told the heartbreaking story of a girl dealing with the loss of her mother. Alice left us on a cliffhanger, it was wonderful. I wish she would have continued.

Laura Jean McKay reads 'Holiday in Cambodia' at Debut Mondays
Laura Jean McKay reads ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ at Debut Mondays

We also heard from Laura Jean McKay who read from her new collection of short stories, Holiday in Cambodia. My favourite of the night though was Terry Jaensch, an Australian poet, actor and monologist. Terry read a selection of poems and a number of monologues based on his upbringing in a ballarat orphanage. Although not strictly an emerging author, Terry Jaensch was fantastic. His monologues were emotional, funny and original. I felt his every word.

I cannot give you a proper, detailed review of the stories we heard as we only enjoyed short excerpts. I can tell you though that it was beautiful to hear these authors read their stories out loud. It felt very intimate and personal. Not only were they reading their own words, words that they have no doubt spent endless hours working on, but I felt they were displaying a part of themselves too. Their experiences, their childhoods, their views – it was all there.

I loved this event. It is not just an event for friends and family of emerging writers. This is an event for people who love reading, who love Melbourne, and who want to support our writers and our city – and it’s free!

A great Monday night.


Some interesting Melbourne literary facts I gathered from the Wheeler Centre’s website:

  • A third of all Australian bookstores are in Victoria, 41 per cent of Australian booksellers are based in Melbourne generating 43 per cent of total book sales in Australia;
  • Nearly a third of all Australian writers live in Melbourne (approximately 1300) with 97,600 people identifying writing as a hobby; and
  • There are 287 local libraries in Victoria, with 2.5 million members who borrow around 50 million items each year; and
  • Melburnians consume more books, magazines and newspapers per capita and enjoy the highest concentration of community book clubs in the country.

2 thoughts on “Melbourne – a UNESCO City of Literature – Debut Mondays at the Wheeler Centre

  1. I’m so glad I live here! I never appreciated Melbourne as much when I was younger. It took a few years living overseas, then coming home, to realise we really do have an amazing home town 🙂

    1. 🙂 it’s so nice to find great events like this in your own home town! I don’t think I truly appreciated Melbourne until I moved from the outer suburbs to a teeny tiny apartment in the inner city area and started really exploring.

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