One of my favourite things to do as an English Teacher is to bring the delights of the literary world into the classroom. To really embrace the creative writing process, these worlds need to be explored, experienced, tasted, challenged and felt by the students. I love the way words connect us as human beings and allow us the freedom to escape the mundane routines we face in the everyday. This escapism has never been more timely than in the current difficulties we find ourselves in today.

Our creative writing class is a lively bunch – with excitable thespians, illustrious illustrators, avid readers, aspiring authors and energetic, mohawked orators. A small group of students that commit to writing, indulge in the fictional worlds of others and encourage each other through magnificent teamwork and explosive brainstorming activities.

Being a small group we were able to create two stories each, to showcase not only our time with Catherine Jinks but also to represent the literary skills that we had learnt through writing stories

This whole process has been so inspiring for everyone involved. I have seen the students grow in confidence, embrace things that at first seem scary, step outside of their comfort zone and develop a renewed sense of belief in themselves. I would like to thank these amazing students for embracing this opportunity with both hands and squeezing everything out of it. Their hard work and dedication is evident in the final products they have presented.

Cara George, Head Teacher English, Blaxland High School 2021.

 

During Term 4 2022, 3/4L and Miss Liauw from Bennett Road Public School in Colyton (between Blacktown and Penrith in Sydney’s West) participated in our ‘Writer in Residence’ program. Over the first few weeks sessions were conducted through Zoom due to the COVID lockdown. Despite this challenge, writer Jodie McLeod, author of Leonard the Lyrebird and Lilah the Lyrebird,  helped guide the students’ creativity to develop ideas and turn them into emotional journeys in writing.

From Jodie:
“No matter where writing takes you, it’s the practice of writing itself – of switching on your imagination and structuring your ideas in a way that is engaging to others – that will be of greatest value for you throughout life. Your imagination is your secret survival skill – there to help free you when you’re confined, to be your friend when you’re alone, and to help you change the world when you can see a better way. Practise using this precious part of your mind – and most importantly, have FUN with it! – and the future is looking especially wonderful indeed.

From Iliena (a student in 3/4L):
The experience with Jodie was the happiest day of MY LIFE!!! Our activities that were given to us really inspired me to try and try. I even learnt how to start my story with a BANG. Even though it wasn’t easy because of the fact that we weren’t together (Home learning), we still made it to the end to finally see each other face to face! I will NEVER forget when we had our fun times!!!

The Blacktown Mayoral Creative Writing Prize 2021 was open to adults and children who live in Blacktown city. Entrants wrote a short story or poem responding to the theme of The only way is… The total prize pool was $1,600.

The Mayoral Creative Writing Prize is a chance to showcase and foster the talents of Blacktown City’s aspiring writers. Blacktown City Council introduced the competition following the National Year of Reading in 2012 to celebrate the stories of Western Sydney.

In its 10-year history, the Prize has encouraged children, teenagers and adults from Blacktown City to embrace their inner writer. Since its inception, the competition has grown significantly, attracting hundreds of entries each year. The works were judged on originality, the construction of the story or poem, the use of language, (including creative expression, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling) and the way characters, atmosphere or setting was developed, or used words in a creative way.

Congratulations to the winners and the commended writers, and thank you to everyone who contributed. It takes real courage to hand your words and ideas over to strangers to… well, judge. But it’s also something of a thrill. So if you are reading this and wishing you’d had the courage to enter, we’ll be back in 2022.

Below, in the electronic version of the book you will find the list of winners and highly commended along with all their stories and poems. Read them. Be inspired and enjoy!

Proudly in partnership with

Each of us is made of stories,
Some we’ve heard,
Some we hold close,
Some we long to share.

Each November, the legendary Festival of Fisher’s Ghost comes alive in Campbelltown. The Festival is steeped in history, dating back to 1956. It is named after Australia’s most famous ghost, Frederick Fisher. 2021 marks the inaugural Fisher’s Ghost Writing Prize to coincide with the Fisher’s Ghost Festival. We received 98 entries across all the categories. The works were judged on originality and creativity, the construction and use of language, (including creative expression, grammar, sentence structure, punctuation and spelling) and the way characters, atmosphere or setting was developed, and engagement with the theme, Hiding in plain sight.

The 2021 Fisher’s Ghost Writing Prize was open to adults and children in Grade 4 and above, who live, or go to school, in Campbelltown City. Entries could be in the form of short story, narrative non-fiction, memoir or poetry.

Congratulations to all the winners and highly commended writers in the inaugural Fisher’s Ghost Writing Competition. It’s always amazing to see the depth of creative talent there is in Campbelltown.

The world has entered a new phase, life as we know it has changed. Yet it is through these “unprecedented times” that a “new normal” has emerged. As we grapple with these changes, students from The Ponds High School’s Creative Writers Guild have come together to face these new challenges. They have identified that it is through family and connections that we can enable change – change brought about by moments together, change that brings about relationships. The time that these students have spent together becomes the stepping stones for their transformation. Some steps are small and only require a nudge, whilst other steps are leaps of confidence and faith. Every step bringing them closer to themselves. Afternoons spent in the library, connections made, working together as a team; we would like to share their visions.
Rosyline Caro, Head English Teacher (Relieving)

WestWords would also like to particularly thank the Cultural Fund of the Copyright Agency through the Writers in 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.

Bringing one’s creativity to publication is like no other experience. In that moment of seeing your words reflected back to you from the printed page there is a galvanisation of one’s self in the world. For the reader it is an intimate glimpse into the imaginative worlds of our collective future. It was the second year in a row that we brought 12 writers to work with Cherrybrook Technological High School’s entire Yr 10 cohort. In 2020 it all happened in One Week in December (see below for the associated publication) In 2021 it was Three Weeks in November. It is a massive undertaking and a remarkable commitment by the school to invest in their students’ ongoing development as students and as people.

It was our privilege to be able to bring these accomplished writers to work with these young people  – Kirsty Eager, Susanne Gervay, Laura Greaves, Michelle Hamadache, James Knight, Will Kostakis, John Larkin, Belinda Murrell, Ben Peek, James Roy, Hsu-Ming Teo and Helen Thurloe; and the students themselves who brought all their enthusiasm and inspiration to assist these young people create what you are about to read.

” In Term 4 last year, the Year 10 cohort at Cherrybrook were fortunate enough to play host to a variety of writers who guided them through the processes of constructing, drafting and editing a story for publication. After a year like no other, this represented a welcome opportunity to reflect on the events of 2020 or simply escape from the year into the many worlds of the imagination. The stories here therefore represent both the uneasiness that came with the pandemic and the unflinching optimism of young people who find hope and humour in unexpected places. My hope is that you enjoy these narrative offerings of our students.”
Steve Henry: Head of English, Cherrybrook Technical High School

Three Weeks in November: 2021

One Week in December: 2020

When I accepted the offer from WestWords to facilitate this group back in August of 2019, little did I know how different our world would be as we neared the close of a tumultuous 2020. Lockdown, online meetings… what a journey it’s been!

Our initial meetings were tentative – we were getting to know each other. We had just started talking about the possibility of an anthology when COVID struck, and I wondered whether the group would survive. But as it did for so many, Zoom came to the rescue, or so we thought, until it became apparent that the writers, who in many cases were working from home, were beginning to struggle, then, just in time, the lifting of the lockdown!

I strongly believe that our return led to us solidifying as a group, with our stories of coming out, cultural heritage, sexual adventures, and all the other vital architecture for a queer writer finding fertile ground. I for one started to feel at home. I became aware of the impressive risk-taking required, whatever the genre, in exploring boldly but gently those childhood, teenage and adult perspectives of identity.

I am very grateful to WestWords, and of course to the wonderful group of writers that is slowly developing. I hope this group will continue to make a lasting contribution to telling stories that need to be told about Western Sydney. They have created a space where queer writers can safely come and share their vulnerabilities, and can see that confidence spill into their writing.
Wilfred Roach: LGBTQIA+ Group Facilitator

The LGBTQIA+ writers’ group is proudly supported by 

The African Literature Development program is designed to support, develop and promote African Australian writers from Western Sydney. It began when Noël Zihabamwe, founder and Chair of the African Australian Advocacy Centre approached WestWords with one clear aim – to provide the means by which members of the African Australian community could tell and celebrate their own stories, in their own voices.

In a year of difficulty where acts of community building and skills development have radically changed we moved a comprehensive program of intended workshops, events and writing groups online. This resulted in us facilitating four groups focusing on fiction and non-fiction, graphic novels and comics, writing for children, and poetry. This publication marks the culmination of the first of three years for the program.

from Noël Yandamutso Zihabamwe,
co-founder and Chair of the African Australian Advocacy Centre
Africans throughout the aeons have told stories to their young people about the land, culture, language and customs, and they in turn have passed it on to subsequent generations. This rich cultural vein can be lost if it is not passed on and recorded, especially if people move to other continents, far away from the traditional wisdom and teachings.

This program allows the expression of a rich tradition of storytelling for African Australians, giving them the opportunity to reach out to their communities, their neighbourhoods and their new homelands, and to show other Australians how richly imbued with energy, culture, sensitivity, wisdom, laughter and joy they truly are, as they seek to establish themselves in a new culture.

WestWords would like to thank Nöel Yandamutso Zihabamwe and Daniel Gobena and everyone from the African Australian Advocacy Centre for their knowledge, guidance and collaboration; Lesley, David and Julia from the Adès Family Foundation without whose ongoing support this program could not exist.

The African Australian Literature Development Program is proudly supported by the Adès Family Foundation

For five sessions over three weeks award-winning writer James Roy worked with the Year 6 students at Bidwill Public School in the Mt Druitt area to assist them telling their stories – because kids love stories. We all do! This publication features their work set against the illustrations of Leanne Mulgo Watson, a recipient of the children’s category of the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Award.

Students at Bidwill Public School are enthusiastic learners. They have the potential to achieve whatever they want, however, don’t always recognise their own abilities or realise opportunities available to them. Over the past two years, we have implemented programs that promoted a culture of reading for pleasure, engagement with authors and ‘quality literature’ and ultimately developing their writing skills. The Writer in Residence program has been an inspiration for the students involved, has provided authenticity for them as writers and purpose for what they produce.
Mrs. Sheryl Cootes, Assistant Principal

WestWords would also like to particularly thank the Cultural Fund of the Copyright Agency through the Writers in 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.

The following collection of work proudly represents the dedication and creativity of The Ponds High School Creative Writers Guild. This inaugural publication is a testament to the enthusiasm of these students as well as their mentors, sharing a passion for literature with each other and the school community. The stories and compositions within these pages capture the imagination and perspective of these young writers, sharing views of the world that are varied and complex. As they find the edge pieces, connect them together and form a mosaic of student voices, this anthology marks a significant achievement.
Benjamin Bennett and Lara Jane Hancock, Acting Head Teachers English, The Ponds High School

The Ponds is part of a growing region, out on the crackling edge of Sydney’s north-west edge, spreading and engulfing old milking sheds and chicken farms like lava. This is Western Sydney on fast-forward. This is the whole world looking for opportunities, finding them here, and getting on with it. Getting on with it – this is what the students in the Creative Writers Guild did.

It’s been a pleasure working with these young people. As they hold this collection in their hands, I hope they take a moment to enjoy the pride to which they are entitled.
James Roy, award-winning writer and facilitator 

WestWords would also like to particularly thank the Cultural Fund of the Copyright Agency through the Writers in 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.