Holly Dawson is a British writer. Before Berlin, she thought she only wrote short fiction; but, like her competitive eating protagonist, the story she came here to work on has grown and grown and she is now grappling with her first novel and screenplay.
When did you come?
Four very hot days at the end of March 2012.
Why did you apply?
I was looking for foreign residencies for my StoryMaps project – a series of short stories in which the setting becomes a protagonist, presented on a map of the area. Berlin was top of my wish list.
What did you work on whilst in Berlin?
A story called Berlin’s Digestion of Joe ‘Python’ Leach. Joe is an American professional eater who arrives in Berlin for the World Currywurst Championships. He spends three days walking the length of the city, as part of his training.
What did you do in Berlin?
I basically did what Joe did: walked ten hours a day, all over the city, making the observations he would make, thinking his thoughts. He is documenting his life on the pro-eating circuit for a memoir, taking photos and collecting food-related memorabilia, so I did that too. It was like ‘method’ writing – except I didn’t eat 55 sausages in 12 minutes at the end of it.
What did you think of the project?
It was an extraordinary opportunity for a level of focus and creative self-absorption that I could never experience in my home environment. It granted my story a verisimilitude I could never attain with imagination and research alone. And it gave me the chance to fall in love with a city I just want to return to again and again.
I had the gorgeous luxury of four days’ pure writing and adventuring, in an enviable apartment, in bright sunshine. I ate the best vegetarian meal of my life (at Lucky Leek). What’s not to like? I wish I had known about the Currywurst Museum, though. Would have really helped my story.
…big enough to lose yourself, small enough to find yourself.