In 2018 the WestWords-Varuna Western Sydney Emerging Writers’ Residential Program will offer Western Sydney emerging writers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds the opportunity of a six-day residency at Varuna, The Writers’ House in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains.

The residency is limited to four participants and includes:

  • a mix of mentorship, private writing time as well as social time for unstructured conversation.
  • One-on-one mentorship/consultation
  • Six nights’ accommodation at Varuna including meals

The residency is intended for the development of a current project where a significant amount of work has been completed. Prior to taking up the residency successful applicants were required to submit the manuscript they intend to work on. This is for the purposes of tailoring the mentorship to their needs.

Varuna, the National Writers House is a creative retreat and writers’ network for Australian stories and ideas.  They support bringing rigour and commitment to the writing craft; building a respectful and inclusive community; valuing of heritage and place; and making writing and creativity matter.

This years successful applicants are:

Pola Fanous 
Pola Fanous is a young Egyptian Spoken-Word Poet from Western Sydney. At age 20, he has been featured at the Parramatta, Granville and Bankstown Poetry Slams and at events state-wide. In 2016, Pola competed in the Poetry Olympics and spoke at the City of Sydney’s Youth Leadership Conference. In 2017, his poem ‘Mr War (Palestine)’ was incorporated into: ‘Listening Device VII: Felt Histories’, which went on to be awarded the 2017 Paramor Prize for Art & Innovation. 2017 also saw Pola published in ‘The Resurrection’ Anthology and perform at the Digital Writers’ Festival, The Plot Music Festival, the BPS Grand Slam and the Parliament House of Australia. This year, Pola began writing for Honi Soit, performed at the Sydney Writers’ Festival and made waves with the video for his poem: ‘Westies’. Pola is currently working on his debut collection of poetry: “STRONGSOFT”.
Patrick Forrest 
Patrick Forrest is a writer and designer born and raised in Blacktown. His writing draws from his experiences in Western Sydney as a young, gay bi-cultural Australian (with both Filipino and Anglo heritage). He currently works for SBS VICELAND’s THE FEED, a youth-oriented current affairs program dedicated to telling stories for a diverse Australia.
Zoe Ghani
At nine years old Zoe hand wrote her first novel using a HB pencil, in a scented diary with a lock and key. At the heart of what she wrote back then was the same story she wants to tell now. Ranging from Afghanistan in the 1970s to India in the 1980s and on to 1990s Australia, she is working on a novel which tells the story of two people who build a loving family only to have it torn apart by war.
Zoe is currently completing a course called the Year of the Novel with Emily Maguire. She has also been longlisted for the Richell Prize for Emerging Writers for her manuscript (winners to be announced in Nov 2019).
Professionally in her role as Chief Technology Officer at THE ICONIC, Zoe is responsible for the end-to-end experience that customers have with THE ICONIC’s website, mobile app and mobile commerce site. Always with the consumer journey front of mind, Zoe leads the company’s tech engagement strategy to ensure customers have the best possible shopping experience, and her teams oversee the data science, product, engineering and user experience across THE ICONIC’s products and business. She is also directly responsible for driving innovation across THE ICONIC’s renowned customer-friendly delivery and returns policies, pushing the boundaries to offer a world-class and customer-first e-commerce experience for Australian shoppers.
Zoe also sits on the board of Australia for UNHCR and holds a BA in Communications, Text & Writing from Western Sydney University.

Jason Gray 

Jason Gray is a Mauritian-Australian fiction writer and poet.



Presented in partnership with Varuna, The Writers’ House