Year 9 and 10 English students were thrilled to attend the Sydney Writers’ Festival event on May 4th at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta. Four authors engaged us with sessions throughout the day that we shared with students from other schools from Sydney and beyond. Each session was unique and offered a variety of ideas, perspectives and inspiration to which the young audience responded with enthusiasm and fervour.
“Question time” gave the students the opportunity to engage with the authors’ and demonstrated the palpable love the students had for novels and literature. We would like to share with you some highlights from the day.
Michael Pryor, author of the Sci-fi hit novel “Ten Futures” (which we study in year 8 at Edmund Rice College) spoke of speculative fiction and how extrapolation, where you take an idea and draw it out through writing, is key when learning how to write creatively. Michael taught us about three classic elements of a story: character, location/setting and plot/series of events. Another great tip was to draw the room in which you are placing a scene in your story. Once you have drawn the layout of the room, you can allow your character to interact more authentically in the room in your writing. It can add rich detail to your creative tales – try it out!
Another tip was to use details in order to allow the reader to observe the characters. The audience was asked to picture a character sitting in a chair that he placed on the stage. Whilst we tried to picture this imaginary character, Michael observed the audience. He explained how different we all look when “thinking”. By observing people, we learn how to add details, such as how a character might touch their hair, or shift in a chair whilst thinking. Details that will bring a story to life!
Another highlight was author Leanne Hall, who talked about her writing process and read extracts from her novel “The Gaps”. The crime novel is set in a high school and touches on topics such as humility, guilt, abduction, friendships and social awkwardness. Leanne explained how having points of conflict and tension within a story can help draw the characters out.
“The Gaps” shines a spotlight on the violence and harassment of women. During question time, a student asked Leanne “What do you think of men?”. Leanne answered by asking the boys in the room to speak to the women in their life, to read female stories and challenge themselves to engage with the art and the writing of women. By challenging yourself to get to know women better, she said, “you will only enrich your life”.
The session was rounded out with author of “The Lost Soul Atlas”, Zana Fraillon, who opened by narrating a tale of the Old Fox Lady. An interactive session, we answered a series of questions which culminated in the audience drawing our very own character (called a “guardian”). She finished an inspiring day with the words “The smallest acts matter, and the smallest acts of resistance really matter. Books matter. And your ideas matter”.