Nick Atkins Fellow # 3

Our third Fellow Nick Atkins is a performance Artist from Sydney. He came to Berlin to work on his writing.

Why did you apply?

My creative practice so far has been focused on working as a performer specialising in the area of physical theatre. Over 3 months at the end of last year I went on a working tour to try and test myself as a writer. I’m trying to convert the storytelling I have traditionally gesture to the written word.

When did you stay Berlin?

It was late september early november.

What did you do in Berlin?

i walked the streets and fell in love with the buildings! I also spent a lot of time reading placards and memorial descriptions . i discovered an interest in the “weightiness” of the writing and the deep respect that was demonstrated through this. I’ve been trying to integrate this into some of my work currently.

What did you think of the project?

I think it’s a wonderful opportunity and brilliant method for building a creative node through which people of all paths can move through. Those few days in Berlin were a wonderful chance to consolidate much of the writing I had been doing at my residency previously.

What did you work on whilst being in Berlin?

I worked on the first two chapters on an extended creative writing piece. (This is a first for me!) See above!

conclusion- Berlin is: a place where things can begin.

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Fellow # 2 Brendan Sullivan

Our First Berlin Fellow Brendan Jay Sullivan is a writer and DJ from New York
 

Who are you? My name is Brendan Jay Sullivan. My writing appears in Esquire in the states and L’Optimum in France. My first book TEXTS, DRUGS & ROCKNROLL will be out next year. I live in Brooklyn, New York and tour under the name DJVH1.
Why did you apply? I was lucky enough to be the first Pentales Hemingway Fellow.  A friend of mine encouraged me to apply.  But I wasn’t sure when I would have time to be in Berlin for four days anytime soon.
Why did I accept?  That same friend went on book tour a week later in East Germany and got really homesick.  So I flew out to see her and on my way to the airport I called Louisa and asked if the Hemingway Room was still available.
My,’ she said. ‘We’re lucky that you found the place.”

“We’re always lucky,’ I said and like a fool I did not knock on wood. There was wood everywhere in that apartment to knock on too.”
-Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
When did you come?  The next night!  It worked out perfectly.
What did you do in Berlin?  I ate so much currywurst.  Breakfast, afternoon snack.  Every morning I got up with the city and wrot
e in perfect peace in the apartment.  Getting a change of scene really helps your writing.  You see minor differences and then when you sit down to write you think, “What if I had never seen this street before, how would I describe it to someone else who’d also never seen it?” Or, “What would I see on this street that someone who grew up on it might not notice?”  Then I had a perfect Berlin weekend at the clubs and I made some great friends and heard some great music.
What did you think of the project?  I just wish there were people like Louisa with big hearts and insatiable curiosity all over the world.
What did you work on whilst in berlin?  My new manuscript is titled DON’T LOOK DOWN.  It’s about a kid who works in an art museum.  He’s trying to learn Kurt Vonnegut’s famous “Eight Rules of Creative Writing” by applying them to his life.  Each chapter is him learning or failing to learn one of the rules:
  • Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  • Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
  • Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  • Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  • Start as close to the end as possible.
  • Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
  • Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
  • Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
-Kurt Vonnegut, introduction to Bamgombo Snuffbox: Uncollected Short Fiction
 
Best moments: There was a dinner in the house my second night there.  Great food and such nice people.  Some of them I had met out the night before through friends and it was just such a wonderful way to feel at home in Berlin.  When I think about that night, I just have this warm, candlelit glow of us all having a nice spaghetti dinner together.
Worst moments: None!  Remember what I said? CURRYWURST!  I’ll use this space to list even more best moments: I crashed Anna Borowy’s art
opening and she signed a print for me.  Thai food at Goodtime, beers at Ankerklause on t
he river, picking broken glass out of my drink at King Size in Mitte, dancing at Watergate with my new friend Kika.
Conclusion- Berlin is: Awesome!  Anyone who is lucky enough to see it from the warmth of the Pentales Hemingway Room should knock on wood.  I felt as lucky as Hemingway did when he came home that cold day and first told his wife that he’d met Sylvia Beach at Shakespeare and Co:

Sebastian Michael Fellow #4

7079672Who are you? 

i’m sebastian michael, i work in theatre, film and across media as a writer, director and producer. i live in london.

Why did you apply? 

an old friend of mine from switzerland who now lives in new york (and who had first got me onto pen tales) told me about the hemingway room and i thought this would be an ideal opportunity to go and spend a few days there and use the visit to write something, inspired by my stay. i’d been to berlin before, but never with an ‘artistic brief’, as it were. i love berlin and i’ve always felt a particular connection to it because my grandmother was from berlin but left for switzerland as a very young woman. my dad was born in berlin but he never lived there and my grandmother never went back after the war – for her the city had been ruined by first the nazis and then by the separation into east and west. at the time of her death, in the early 1980s, the thought of a german reunification was virtually inconceivable. so berlin, especially what used to be east berlin, has many poignant facets for me, and while i also never lived there, i feel at least one branch of my roots reaches to this city, and right to the beginning of its most troubled period in history.

When did you come to Berlin?

on the 1st december 2011, staying for four nights.

What did you do in Berlin?

i decided to come with no agenda and just see what happens. one of the first things that happened, while i was still on my way, was that a friend who by coincidence was also in berlin, and my niece who was doing a practice placement near dresden, both got in touch, wanting to hook up. also in berlin was the friend from new york who had told me about pen tales and the hemingway room. so in no time did i have a social schedule. and then there was the magnificent party i and my friend and two of his friends were allowed to gatecrash. the rest of the time i spent having breakfast (at the november café, just round the corner from the hemingway room, recommended), going to the theatre (the bat studio, also recommended: a drama school with a great performance space and a very inexpensive bar), strolling around the kulturbrauerei (directly opposite the hemingway room), where i discovered elk sausages, and writing.

What did you work on whilst being in Berlin?

much in the spirit of not setting an agenda, i also didn’t think about, or let alone decide on, what i was going to write in advance. i considered this my chance to literally just go somewhere with an open mind and, metaphorically, with a ‘blank sheet of paper’. the only parameters i had set myself, and that i had promised louisa and the hemingway room, was to write three short texts. 

it then so happened that on the day i arrived, christa wolf died. i had never heard of her before, but that changed rapidly, as she was front-page news in berlin and the berliner zeitung ran a two-page tribute to her. i spent my first morning in berlin reading up about her and as i did so it became very clear very quickly that berlin itself was going to be the subject of my three texts. the themes of the city’s past, present and future, of its significance for me and my family, of the stories i’d heard about it and that i felt i almost remembered myself, even though they were pure evocations by someone else, the curious and really quite unique position it holds in europe, in the world even, and certainly in my heart, all these came rushing to the fore as i was learning about this most influential of german writers. this also prompted my decision to write both in german and in english. i hardly ever write in german these days. i was interested now in also taking this opportunity to ‘reconnect’ with the language i’d more or less grown up with (my actual mother tongue is swiss german) and that i’d written my first plays, my first novella and of course my first poetry in. so what emerged, over the duration of my stay at the hemingway room, was what is now call the berlin triptych, which consists of three short texts about berlin, one in german, one in english and one with both languages melding together. 

 

What did you think of the project?

i loved it. it combines an almost old-fashioned concept of arts patronage with a very contemporary informality and it provided me with a genuine moment of creative freedom: a simple window in time and space where i was able to open myself up to inspiration and follow through on it.

Best/worst moments:

best moments: talking to a man who has been working on his dissertation here for six years, during which he has so far produced some 30 pages (he reckons he’s got about another 100 pages to go…). buying a theatre ticket, two ‘salamibrötchen’ (continental half sandwiches, with the upper slice missing) and a glass of pinot grigio, and still getting change from a tenner in euros. arriving at a berlin house party at 2:30 in the morning and finding it buzzing with friendly people. 

worst moment: waking up a shortly after 1pm on sunday to find a text message from my hostess saying ‘brunch at 1?’ and thinking: ‘my head hurts, i need a shower, i can’t eat anything for at least another four hours and what i hear in the hall out there are the guests arriving…’

conclusion- Berlin is: 

still a quarter home to me.

whatever you’d like to get off your chest:

queueing, my friends: if there’s one thing i wish the germans would learn from the british it is how to queue…