2017 was our largest year ever for WestWords, and what better way to end it than looking back over all that has happened these past twelve months. WestWords would like to extend a huge thank you to all our authors, poets, illustrators, artists, schools and partnering organisations who have made these events possible, and most importantly to all of the young and emerging writers who have taken part in any of our workshops, writers’ groups, seminars and events – and shared your work with us.

WestWords’ Centres across Western Sydney

On November 28th former NSW Premier Nathan Rees launched WestWords Centre for Writing in Parramatta. Over 170 people attended the launch to celebrate the cultural hub of its kind in Western Sydney. Chair Libby Gleeson and Executive Director Michael Campbell spoke of the decade long history and collaboration with the writers and communities of Western Sydney that has brought WestWords to this turning point in literature in the West.  The launch also included the official announcement of the 2017 Western Sydney Emerging Writers’ Fellowships (see below) and the launch of The Writers’ Club an anthology of work resulting from Maryam Master writers’ residency at the school. Maryam launched the book and attendees enjoyed readings from the Parramatta North Public School studentsThe launch also featured a reading by ex-WestWords Fellow Eda Gunaydin, three exhibitions, an audio/visual installation showcasing the work of The Finishing School, and readings of Western Sydney writers by actor Thomas Pidd.

The Centre launch also served as the launch of the co-located Parramatta Writers’ Rooms, one of three new writers’ rooms which we opened across Western Sydney in the November and December.

On November 11, WestWords launched the first of its three new writers’ rooms, the Campbelltown Writers’ Retreat at Wedderburn, in partnership with Campbelltown City Council. Councillor Ben Gilholme launched the retreat and featured readings by Mark Tredinnick and was followed by a workshop from Carol Baxter.

On December 16, WestWords opened the last of its three new writers’ rooms. This room, THE DEN 24/7, is housed at Gallery ONE88 in Katoomba. Over 50 people attended the launch, and the room was officially opened by beloved children’s author Emily Rodda, followed by readings from James Roy, Vanessa Kirkpatrick, and Tohby Riddle.

Awards and Commissions

This year WestWords, with funding from the Cultural Fund of Copyright Agency, selected three talented emerging writers from Western Sydney to receive the CAL Emerging Writers’ Fellowships, a highly successful mentorship and monetary prize fellowship aimed at fostering local talent. Notable past recipients of this fellowship include Peter Polites, whose novel Down the Hume was published by Hachette this year. This year the selected fellows were Michele Freeman, Chloe Higgins, and Shirley Le. Michele is developing a work based on class identity in Western Sydney, while Chloe is writing a memoir about her experiences with trauma and grief. Shirley Le will be developing her manuscript about Vietnamese-Australian women. We celebrated these women’s accomplishments at the launch of the WestWords Centre for Writing in November.

WestWords selected three talented young writers from the Blacktown Writers’ Group; two from Finishing School Collective; and one former WestWords Fellow, Eda Gunaydin, to produce a piece of work developed in writing workshops with Luke Carman, about suburbia. These workshops, commissioned by Urban Theatre Projects, formed one part of the UTP Right Here. Right Now festival which will occur in Blacktown in 2018.

This year it was a great honour for WestWords to take over the administration of the Blake Poetry Prize. The prize runs annually and is presented by the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre and Liverpool City Council. Notable winners of the prize include Robert Adamson and Anthony Lawrence. WestWords selected the judges Maxine Beneba Clarke, Ali Cobby Eckermann, and past Blake Poetry Prize winner Mark Tredinnick, who selected West Australian poet Julie Watts as the winner.

In partnership with Western Sydney University’s Whitlam Institute, WestWords was involved in the judging and prize-giving ceremony of the What Matters? annual writing competition. Our Executive Director Michael Campbell was one of the judges, and WestWords offered the opportunity the school of one of the shortlisted writers to receive an author visit. Chosen randomly, Coffs Harbour Senior College, was the luck school and Melina Marchetta, who delivered an author talk to their entire English cohort and gave a writing workshop at the school in November.

Publications

Tell Me More, Tahmoor!: an anthology featuring selected writings from Tahmoor Public School K-6 students, with artwork by Tony Flowers, the result of a 6-week residency conducted by Luke Carman.

The Writers’ Club Anthology: an anthology featuring the short stories from Parramatta North Public School Year 4-6 students, with artwork from Sadami Konchi, the result of a 6-week residency conducted by Maryam Master.

Blacktown Writers Anthology: an online-only publication officially launched at Blacktown Arts Centre on the 18th of May with Bryan Brown AM and the Deputy Mayor of Blacktown.

The Big Black Thing: featuring the creative work of Sweatshop members, those of students at Sir Joseph Banks High School and Lurnea High School, as well as participants of Ellen Van Neerven’s Work Talk Later writing group for Indigenous young people.

Residencies

In partnership with Varuna, the Writers’ House, WestWords sent four emerging Western Sydney authors, Rawah Arja, Chad Modernel, Omar Sakr, and Stephen Pham, on a week-long residency. Former Text Publishing editor Elena Gomez provided one-on-one, live-in editorial support and mentorship for the duration of the residency.

In partnership with Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage, WestWords offered two illustrators’ residencies to the talented Delene White and Sadami Konchi. The illustrators received the opportunity to work intensively with Margaret Hamilton in September and October respectively. Much of the work Sadami produced during her residency formed the illustrations included in the Writers’ Club anthology, capturing the Parramatta North Public School children’s work in vivid watercolours.

Illustrator Tony Flowers was the WestWords artist in residence at the Parramatta Artists Studios for two weeks in July, allowing him to develop illustrations and a new book idea in direct response to the workshops he conducted at Max Weber library and with local schools.

Children’s author Deborah Abela completed a six-week long residency at Bossley Park High School, delivering creative writing workshops to Year 7 students in the school’s gifted and talented class.

Children’s playwright and screenwriter Maryam Master completed a six-week long residency at Parramatta North Public School, delivering creative writing workshops to Year 4- Year 6 students. The stories that came out of these workshops were anthologised by WestWords in our 2017 publication, The Writers’ Club. Maryam and the students involved in the program delivered speeches and readings about their experience at our launch of the WestWords Centre for Writing in November.

Writer Manisha Jolie Amin undertook a five-week long residency at Glenwood High School. Manisha is a Kenyan-born writer who moves between India, England and Australia, and works for a children’s welfare charity. She worked with Year 11 students from a wide mix of cultures and writing interests, with fifty-two percent of the school’s population made up of NESB students.

WestWords worked with Baulkham Hills High School to run a series of workshops targeted to improve the Year 9 students’ skills in crime writing, essays, and self-editing. Three writers, Pamela Freeman, Ben Peek and Mark Abernethy, completed a five-week long residency with five classes of Year 11 students focusing on character and structuring short story around events and genres such as the aftermath of the bomb, the end of the Cold War, and science fiction.

This followed a Masterclass Day with writers specialising in various writing genres, in order to assist BHHS students with preparing for their major HSC project. These writers were Andy Kissane (poetry), James Roy (short story), Michelle Cahill (critical analysis and short story), Martin Langford (poetry), and Becca Johnstone (screenwriting). One student also worked with Word Travels’ Miles Merrill.

Award-winning novelist Luke Carman completed a six-week long residency with Year K-6 students at Tahmoor Public School in south-west Sydney. The varied stories the children produced were anthologised in the WestWords publication Tell Me More, Tahmoor! with illustrations by Tony Flowers.

Writers’ Groups

Our Blacktown Young Writers’ Group, working with writer Siobhan Colman, which has been running since 2013, has provided an opportunity for writers aged 14 to 18 to strengthen their creative skills. It includes weekly creative writing workshops, masterclasses and online publication. Throughout the duration of the group’s existence we are grateful for the partnership and support of Blacktown Arts Centre. The Blacktown Young Writers’ Group also welcomed two guest facilitators this year, young adult author Will Kostakis and writer and lecturer Luke Carman. WestWords was also proud to launch the first anthology of these young people’s writing at Blacktown Arts Centre in May. The anthology was launched by Bryan Brown AM and the event was well-attended by family and supporters of this talented group.

WestWords has worked together with Sweatshop, its director Michael Mohammed Ahmad and the Writing and Society Research Centre, Western Sydney University to bring about the Western Sydney Writers’ Group, an ensemble of emerging and established culturally and linguistically diverse writers and artists from Western Sydney. They collaborate on a range of literary projects and events and meet fortnightly to develop and critique new creative writing.

The Story Room: creative writing for children was a five-week course presented by WestWords in partnership with Parramatta City Library. Award-winning author Matt Cosgrove took students aged 9-12 through a series of workshops dedicated to developing creative writing techniques, focusing on descriptive narrative. The children’s creative writing pieces were presented at the end of the program.

WestWords has also facilitated a Western Sydney Teachers Writers’ Group to meet every two to three months on our premises. The group is attended by teachers and educators interested in enhancing their writing skills in pedagogical contexts.

Workshops

Young people’s writer and trained teacher Deborah Abela delivered a workshop for teachers accompanying their students to Young Writers Day at Western Sydney University.

WestWords was proud to partner with the NSW Writers’ Centre to deliver the inaugural Boundless Festival at Bankstown Arts Centre in October. The festival was the first of its kind to showcase the works of emerging and established CALD and Indigenous writers, as well as the work produced by students through the Bankstown Youth Development Service. WestWords organised a workshop for 10-12 year olds called Writing Your Origin Story, which was delivered by Wai Chim. WestWords also facilitated a workshop for 16-18 year olds called From Potential to Publishable with young adult author Sarah Ayoub.

As part of the launch of one of three new writers’ rooms across Western Sydney, award-winning historian Carol Baxter christened the Wedderburn Writers’ Retreat by delivering our very first workshop in the space. Carol focused on writing interesting histories, the process of researching historical events, and how to make your historical writing feel vivid, close, and alive.

Ex-Detective Sergeant and crime novelist AB Patterson delivered three crime writing masterclasses to Year 11 students at Granville Boys High School across the month of March.

Fantasy and short story writer and teacher Benjamin Peek delivered creative writing workshops to students at Northmead Creative and Performing Arts High School as well as at Granville Boys High School across two days in September. The workshop at Granville Boys focused on zine-making, while the workshop at Northmead High focused on world building. The zine-making workshop was delivered through WestWords’ partnership with the Information and Cultural Exchange’s Here or Wherever project, facilitated by Rebecca Gallo and Jarmaine Stojanovic.

Illustrator Cheryl Orsini, whose work has been featured in several picture books and exhibitions including Picture Gallery, delivered four one-hour illustration workshops to kids age 7-11 and 11-14 at both Penrith City Library and Blue Mountains Library in April and October respectively. The workshops were fast-paced, funny and highly interactive. Cheryl helped a group of enthusiastic young illustrators create their own storybook characters through games such as ‘Quick Draw Deadlines’ and ‘Trial by Illustration’.

Poet, comic performer and teacher Harry Laing ran a day-long workshop of experimental zine-making at the Penrith Regional Gallery & the Lewers Bequest in October, where a group of enthusiastic 9-12 year olds interacted with the Emu Island: Modernism in Place and the Young Moderns exhibition to produce their own creative works in response.

Author James Roy delivered a creativity workshop to the teaching undergraduate students of the University of Sydney in March.

Lu Sierra, senior editor at Harper Collins, ran two self-editing workshops with the Year 12 students of Baulkham Hills High School and Granville Boys High School.

As part of his Parramatta Artists Studios residency, Tony Flowers delivered two workshops on Drawing for Picture Books for kids ages 5-8 and 9-12.

As part of Way Out West Festival presented by Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, WestWords facilitated Oliver Phommavanh to deliver a fun-filled writing workshop for ages 6+, which incorporated our most under-utilised writing sense, smell! Oliver ran four 45-minute workshops entitled Aroma-rama, which focused on producing writing based on olfactory stimuli.

Illustrator Tony Flowers delivered the How to Draw Awesome to a crowd of enraptured 9-12 year olds at Blacktown’s Max Webber Library in July.

Academic Tim Fitzpatrick delivered a workshop on Shakespeare’s Othello at Arthur Phillip High School in August, as part of the student’s English curriculum. Actor Bobbie-Jean Henning also performed.

Actor and director John O’Hare delivered a performative workshop on Shakespeare’s The Tempest at Arthur Phillip High School in November, as part of the student’s English curriculum. John O’Hare also performed parts of the play for the students with fellow actor Graeme McRae, to encourage the students to reflect on how choices about theme and theatrical techniques are made when staging plays.

Luke Carman delivered a two-hour creative writing for exams workshop to approximately 100 Year 12 students at Northmead Creative and Performing Arts High School in June.

In partnership with the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre and Cambridge Park High School, Sally Sussman worked with a group of Year 10 and 11 students to develop a piece of theatre resulting in two Flannofest: The Tower performances at the Q Theatre.

Felicity Castagna, in conversation with visiting US writer AS King’s books, discussed gender as well as various approaches to literature, with over 170 Year 11 and 12 students from Macarthur Girls High School, Parramatta, in June.

Sheryl Perrson delivered the poetry workshop 21 Doors to 30 Year 5 and 6 students from Cabramatta West Public School, to create a poem that is progressively revealed by opening 21 different doors. The exhibition that resulted was presented at the Way Out West Festival in partnership with the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre.

WestWords, in partnership with Casula Powerhouse and NSW Writers’ Centre, facilitated the highly popular HSC English Extension 2 workshops delivered by Felicity Castagna. These workshops focus on improving students’ understanding of the outcomes they are expected to meet in the Extension 2 course, and how to write a successful reflection statement.

Events

As part of Boundless Festival, WestWords also presented the panel discussion What Needs to be Said, with Sarah Ayoub, Helen Chebatte, Roanna Gonsalves, and convened by Irini Savvides.

As part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival program and in partnership with Studio Stories (hosted at Parramatta Artists Studios and curated by Felicity Castagna), the CAL Western Sydney Emerging Writers’ Fellows from 2016 (Tamar Chnorhokian, Joey Chebatte and Eda Gunaydin) spoke on the panel Words from the West, along with Candy Royalle and Miles Franklin winner AS Patrić. This event rounded out the fellowships from 2016, during which Tamar Chnorhokian worked with mentor Melina Marchetta; Joey with Bryan Brown; and Eda with Maxine Beneba Clarke.

WestWords was extremely pleased to help launch Peter Polites’ Down The Hume at Bankstown Arts Centre. This novel was developed during Peter’s Emerging Writers’ Fellowship in 2015.

As part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival program, and presented in partnership with Word Travels, WestWords was proud to present The Rumble, a youth poetry slam.

Also as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival program, WestWords in partnership with Sweatshop launched the publication The Big Black Thing, showcasing readings by included young authors at Walsh Bay.

As part of Varuna, the Writers’ House Sydney Writers’ Festival program, James Bradley and Mardi McConnochie participated in discussion Generation Next with WestWords Executive Director Michael Campbell chairing. The authors chatted about their new young adult books at the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba.

Exhibitions

One of the wonderful benefits of expanding into our new premises, the WestWords Centre for Writing, is our new ability to host installations and exhibitions of art by local artists. This year, we installed the highly-successful Finishing School Collective art installation designed by Felicity Castagna and Marian Abboud. It originally featured at Parramatta Lanes Festival before it was able to call WestWords home for a few weeks in November.

We are also hosting, on a permanent basis, the full collection of original artworks created by Sadami Konchi for The Writers’ Club anthology.

We are also hosting a sample of the original artworks illustrator Tony Flowers designed for the Tell Me More, Tahmoor! publication.

This year, too, in conjunction with the Sydney Writers’ Festival Children’s Festival of Moving Stories, WestWords has also been able to present the Cover to Cover exhibition, a collection of artworks that have served as front covers to various beloved Roald Dahl books from around the world. This exhibition has toured Walsh Bay, as well as Penrith City Library and Max Webber Library (Blacktown) this year. It is currently being exhibited at Blacktown Library until January 2018, at which point it will continue onto other libraries in the Western Sydney area, along with accompanying workshops for children.

Following on from its success in 2016, WestWords in partnership with the Sydney Writers’ Festival, presented Picture Gallery, a collection of artworks by exceptional contemporary Australian children’s book illustrators. The exhibition was hosted by Penrith City Library in April, Katoomba Library in October (along with accompanying workshops by featured artist Cheryl Orsini), and is now on show at the WestWords Centre for Writing.

The works of Tony Flowers, Graeme Base, Gus Gordan, Sarah David, Ann James, Stephen Michael King, Matt Ottley and Freya Blackwood were exhibited at Max Webber Library.

 

Additional resources and development opportunities

The Q, in partnership with WestWords and with the support of ATYP, offered 6 playwrights between the ages of 12-26 years old the chance to develop a new short, 10-15 minute, work under the mentorship of a team of professional theatre makers. The workshops were hosted at the Joan and ran across 8 intensives.

Executive Director of WestWords Michael Campbell, in partnership with the National Theatre of Parramatta, developed Fish into a full-length work over the course of 6 months.

Poet Vanessa Kirkpatrick ran 12 weekly one-on-one online mentoring sessions with a student to improve his skills in unpacking texts and understanding poetic techniques.

 

2018 is looking to be even bigger than 2017! Keep up to date with next year’s events by subscribing to WestWords’ newsletter. We’ll keep you in the loop with all our upcoming projects. If you have ideas for events or workshops you’d like us to explore, send us an email to admin@westwords.com.au.