Sydney Writers Festival Western Sydney Roadshow

26th November 2015
On writing, Public events

It has been a huge but fantastic week visiting libraries in Western Sydney and giving talks and writing workshops, along with Melissa Keil, Claire Zorn, Catherine Jinks and Tim Sinclair as part of the Sydney Writers Festival 2015 Roadshow. We’ve been to Blacktown, Parramatta, Cabramatta, Penrith and are finishing the week off tomorrow in Bankstown. So many wonderful students! So many eager writers!

Best high school student questions of the week:

– What time period is your novel set in – is it in the past or recent history? (By a boy who hadn’t read the book but was interested in how it fit with Aboriginal history)

– How do you feel about the fact that Aboriginal people in communities like the one you lived in live shorter lives, have worse health outcomes etc and people accept that as normal, whereas events like Paris get a lot of attention and coverage?

– What airline do you fly on to get to Yirrkala? (A pertinent question given the closure of the refinery in Nhulunbuy which has meant that Qantas no longer flies there!)

And my favourite scene that was written by a workshop attendee:

The students were given the scenario of creating a scene about a girl coming home after skipping school. Her dad knows she skipped – he got a call from the principal that day but wants to see if she’s going to confess before he busts her.

The students were asked to use subtext and the idea of ‘show don’t tell’. A group of Islander students said that if this were an Islander household the daughter would arrive home and the dad would have a row of implements laid out in front of him – a stick, a belt, a shoe etc. The scene went something like this:

Dad: How was school?

Girl: Okay.

Dad: What did you have today?

Girl: Oh just maths, english, you know, the usual…

At which point the Dad just starts beating her with whatever implement he picks up first.

Of course I don’t condone the violence but it is a fantastic, culturally-specific, realistic scene and I loved it for its honesty.

Over and out.


Melissa Keil, me, Claire Zorn and Catherine Jinks.


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