Holly Dawson

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.Me-in-Berlin_interview_small

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.

Best/worst moments
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.

Berlin is… 
…big enough to lose yourself, small enough to find yourself.


The Hemingway room Berlin is back! After a few month pause we were happy to welcome our first fellow in 2013 ELEY WILLIAMS

78_519403629170_2417_n Eley Williams is a british writer, currently undertaking a PhD in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, University of London. Not only did she read a wonderful story at our PenTales Berlin Salon Night (will be posted here and on facebook soon). She also amazed us by getting a real Berlin Curry Wurst at the Currywurstbude next door at 2 o’clock at night – in her jammies! We loved your spontaneous way and having you here. Thanks Eley!

Why did you apply? I had become aware of PenTales through its online incarnation; the idea I could pop up and take advantage of the offer of time in Berlin and the room’s breathing-space to write was too good an opportunity to miss.

When did you come? 19-22nd February, mild-snowy season.

What did you do in Berlin? I spent a lot of time in arrant toddle mode with my eyes open, falling into scenes, cafes and galleries as I found them. I also visited the Grimm brothers’ graves in Alte St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof for a project I’m working upon, as well as the city’s Spinnboden and various places related to Vladmir Nabakov’s stay in Berlin.

What did you think of the project? It was a great privilege to be granted the time at the flat as well as such great, interesting company. Being in unfamiliar surrounds but where one is made to feel quite so comfortable is a rare treat; an incomparable place and opportunity.

IMG_2784What did you work on whilst in Berlin? I was exploring any links that could be made between the Grimms’ Deutsches Wörterbuch (1854) and their collection of Fairytales, hopefully to create a short work of fiction.

Best/worst moments: Not one single bad moment and many excellent; the people and stories that attended at the PenTales ‘Dreams and Illusions’ reading event on the Thursday was a sure highlight!

‘Berlin is — : Great! And I can’t imagine a more bonny introduction to it.’

Philip Hodges Fellow # 1

Philip is a German / American film director with a heart for the fantastic and true. It was truly fantastic having you stay in Berlin, watching you be creative and listening to your song/story at our PenTales Salon Night!

Why did you apply?

I cannot help but create, and with the support of this generous fellowship I was free to explore Berlin and let my imagination and camera run free.

Why did I accept?
I am impressed that Louisa saw a glimmer of potential in an artist rough around the edges and am flattered to have kicked off this ongoing tradition.

298854_975626913681_2636135_nWhen was your stay in Berlin?
I came during the rainy month of August and stayed until the sun would let me play outside again.

What did you do in Berlin?
I was uncertain what project I would pursue until the end of my tenure, and while this can be limiting at times, I find it exhilarating to work under pressure; I shot a video about street life in Berlin that was projected onto a museum in Washington D.C.

IMG_2804What did you think of the project?
I loved and still do love my project.

What did you work on whilst in berlin?
Meeting and making friends was a very memorable part of my stay, while snapping pictures throughout.

408522_10100633035468641_1410689002_nBest/worst moments
My best moment was meeting Louisa for the first time.
My worst moment was waking up late on my last day of filming and thereby missing out on valuable daylight, hence my projects title “Art After Dark”.

conclusion- Berlin is:
My homebase!

Check out Philip’s Website: http://philiphodges.com/

Carmen James: “Berlin is a ferocious and elegant metropolis that will hold any poet in her embrace”

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Carmen James is a Ph.D. student in the Philosophy and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia.  Her Masters thesis, titled “Imagination: A Practice of Attentiveness for Building Understanding,” was completed in May 2011 when she graduated from the same program. She is interested in strategies for incorporating a curriculum of aesthetics and ethics into schools, such as the way aesthetic experiences, particularly poetry and cultural centers like museums, can be morally and philosophically educative and how these types of experiences are critical for identity formation and for developing flexible and open modes of understanding. She has explored questions of culture, education and urban identity abroad, most recently in 2011 working with a grant in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She graduated with an A.B. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University where her Senior Thesis was titled “The Poet and the City.”

Why did you apply?

The opportunity connected to be deep seated and long held interest in the way people carve out space for aesthetic experiences in cities and how poets capture that experience. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. Its a gift, as Virginia Woolf writes, to have a room of one’s own.

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When did you come?
June 2012
What did you do in Berlin?

I wrote poetry, walked, enjoyed Berlin culture. I designed daily walking tours through the city. I photographed and took writing breaks.

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What did you think of the project?

It was a gift to have the time to breathe and be to write and dream, housed in safe quarters and well fed with currywurst and other treats. 

What did you work on whilst in berlin?

Poetry. I read Rilke’s poetry and wrote a series of responses to his poems

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Best/worst moments

Walking through the city. Worst, none really. perhaps the very brief wait for my lost luggage.

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conclusion- Berlin is:
a ferocious and elegant metropolis that will hold any poet in her embrace.

Carrie King – Fellow # 8

There I am (taking the photo)!

Who are you?
My name is Carrie, or so they tell me. I come from Ireland and am a sometime journalist, oftentime poet and mosttime wanderer.

Why did you apply?
Because I fell in love with Berlin a long time ago and have been itching to be back. This seemed like a perfect way to combine two loves. Writing and Wandering in Berlin

IMG_2771When did you come?

In a very chilly week in February.

What did you do in Berlin?

Coffee, wandering, writing, coffee, wine, coffee, gallery-mooching, film-watching, poetry-reading, poetry-writing, meeting old friends, coffee, making new ones, coffee, walking, freezing, speaking broken German, feeling guilty for making others have to speak English, coffee, drawing (badly), being amazed at how cool everyone is, taking photos, reading maps, oohing and aahing at art. Coffee.
What did you think of the program?
Before I came, I was more-than-slightly convinced that it would all be one big hoax as it seemed far too good to be true. Turns out, some things are just amazing. It’s an unbelieveably generous undertaking for Louisa and it’s an incredible luxury just to take a step out of your own life for a little while, to jolt the old creativity. It’s a wonderful programme.

What did you work on whilst in berlin?

You mean other than my tan? 😉 I wrote mostly. I always find thinking easiest when on the move, so while walking around the city, I composed some poems in my head and then stopped for coffee to write down the swirling ideas and write them down. I sketched quite a bit as well, which was wonderful to get back to.

Best/worst moments
Best? Well, it was all pretty damn snazzy. I think the best moment was the PENTales Night, and being part of a creative collective. It was just such a great time.

Thanks everyone!

Lyn Bleiler Fellow #5

Who are you?
I’m a freelance writer, poet, mixed media artist, and assistant director for a non-profit literary organization called SOMOS (Society of the Muse of the Southwest) in Taos, New Mexico.

Why did you apply?
Mainly because I love new adventures and have been interested in seeing Berlin for a long time. I knew I’d be in Europe for two months as an Emily Harvey Foundation fellow, so I decided to apply.

When did you come?
I was there from January 9-12, 2012.

What did you do in Berlin?

Initially I intended to stay in the Hemingway room and work on poetry. But since I’d never been to Berlin and Prenzlauerberg is so fascinating, instead I did a lot of exploring on foot. I found a memorial and segments of the wall (truly amazing) and visited a museum in what had been a school before the war. There were several videos on exhibit – one in particular that really intrigued me of a female artist filmed in her East Berlin apartment, the interior of which had not been updated. The apartment showed evidence of neglect and hard times, and gave the sense of how bleak residents’ existences were during the occupation. Also in the exhibit was a very powerful assemblage art piece – an old rusted birdcage with two female figures inside. Both, wearing torn and faded clothing, stare straight at the viewer. One sits in a broken chair, while the other is splayed out on the floor of the birdcage. For ‘doll’ figures, their expressions were surprisingly authentic and tragic. I’d love to know more about the piece and who the artist is/was.

IMG_2773On a much lighter note, I sat for a long time one morning in a cafe around the corner from the Hemingway room/apartment and watched as pram after pram rolled by, as well as many young parents with bundled-up toddlers on bicycles. Everywhere it seemed there were young parents and healthy, happy children. A youngish father in the cafe had his little one propped up on the table facing him. They seemed truly engaged in an interesting conversation. The kind you might have with a peer. I noticed a similar situation in a corner pub one evening. A mother came in with an adorable little girl of maybe ten who was all dressed up. They sat next to each other on bar stools having what seemed to be a fascinating conversation. The mother looked sincerely interested in what her daughter was saying. These encounters struck me as being indicative of the kind of wonderfully responsible, optimistic and committed young people are living in East Berlin. In that neighborhood, I also noticed a conspicuous lack of middle-aged and older folks, and it occurred to me that perhaps living there is too hard for those with firsthand memories of earlier times.

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What did you think of the program?
The program is fabulous. The generosity of time and space in Berlin is a gift. I doubt I’d have been able to spend time there otherwise, and what I saw of Berlin has left a lasting impression. I’ve been thinking of ways to offer a similar short term residency in Taos. The exchange of ideas and broadening of views that come with these kinds of programs is immeasurable.

What did you work on whilst in berlin?

While walking the streets, I took over a hundred photos, and afterward realized that many of these were of old wooden doors leading to apartments. So in the end, this is what I chose to make my project about.

IMG_2801Best/worst moments
Truly, I enjoyed every minute of being in Berlin. It was a rare treat to spend time in your beautiful apartment, and I thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating conversation at the dinner party. In talking to your friends, it became clear that there is an energy and commitment among the young residents in restoring Prenzlauerberg’s reputation as a mecca for artists, thinkers and intellectuals. It was a privilege to witness this.

conclusion- Berlin (or at least Prenzlauerberg) is: undergoing an exciting transformation, and is a city that belongs to the young.