During Term 4, Stage 2 students and their teachers from St Nicholas of Myra, Penrith were honoured to participate in the author-in-residence partnership with WestWords. The students were beyond excited to have Jodie McLeod come in and work with them sharing her stories and experiences as a professionally published author. The students and teachers were struck by her talents as she shared her story, Leonard the Lyrebird.

Over the weeks, the students writing continued to develop and we as the teachers could see them beginning to beam with confidence. We saw our already talented students begin to believe in the power of their own writing and really believe in the magic of their own words.

Jodie guided the students to come to know and understand that writing is meant to be fun and imaginative, creative, and experimental. She emphasised the importance of first, learning the rules of writing and then you can break them, and transform them to power your own ideas. She has a wonderful ability to turn a simple sentence or idea about a mundane task into the most fascinating stories. Jodie worked with the students to explore the avenue of showing and not telling and helping students select words with power and purpose. Jodie created a platform for students to share their memories and take their readers on an emotional journey.

We were also honoured to work with Eloise Short, the incredibly talented professional illustrator of Leonard the Lyrebird. Eloise presented students with different views on how to approach colours and patterns within nature and challenged them to break some of these norms. Eloise encouraged students not to be constricted by the real colour of things, imagining if the trees were pink, how would this change the story. Students were able to develop and transfer skills from week to week to refine the process and be challenged by space, colour, and line work. Their artworks were decorative and interesting and enhanced the stories they had been working on.

The experience was incredible for both teachers and students as we were able to see the passion of students come alive, through the emotional journey of their characters and vibrancy of their final artwork included in this book.
Miss Margaret Dobrucki: Leader of Learning, St Nicholas of Myra Public School

Jodie McLeod is a writer, copywriter, editor and author of the children’s book Leonard the Lyrebird, which was awarded the 2019 Whitley Award for Best Young Children’s Book from the Royal Zoological Society of NSW. Leonard was also shortlisted for the student-nominated 2019 Reading and Enjoying Australian Literature (REAL Awards), aka the KOALAs in NSW and the YABBAs in Victoria. With a degree in Creative Arts – Writing (Hons) at the University of Wollongong, Jodie has enjoyed a diverse career working with words: editing magazines and writing feature articles, advertisements, copy, music and fiction. When not dabbling in creative side projects Jodie can usually be found running the trails (and encountering local wildlife) in the Blue Mountains where she lives with her husband and two young daughters.    www.jodiemcleod.com

Eloise Short is an illustrator, textile designer and artist based in the Blue Mountains, where she lives with her family. She holds degrees in both Visual Art (Fine Art) and Textile Design. Her paintings have been exhibited throughout Australia over the last 15 years and her Textile Designs have been included in fashion ranges both in Australia and overseas. Her first children’s book Leonard the Lyrebird (with Jodie McLeod) was published in September 2018 and has since been a finalist in the KOALA awards 2019. It was also the 2019 Whitley Award Winner for Best Young Children’s Book (Royal Zoological Society of NSW).   www.eloiseshort.com

WestWords would also like to particularly thank Catholic Education, Diocese of Parramatta, the Cultural Fund of the Copyright Agency through the Writers in Western Schools project and the Australian Catholic University who support WestWords’ publishing program. Without their combined support we could not deliver beneficial programs such as this to the young people of Western Sydney.