Words by Natalie Wadwell
Writing is a courageous process. It requires a writer’s willingness to be vulnerable and readiness to take readers where the process leads, even if it is uncomfortable at first. That is what I understand six young writers have done as a part of Sydney Story Factory’s 2017 Novella Project.
On Sunday 10th December, Sydney Story Factory launched six new novellas to an enthusiastic crowd. It is clear that readers were excited about the launch, with attendees spilling out on to the footpath and standing room only inside. Over the course of 2017, they worked with Storytellers in Chief, Bilal Hafda and Richard Short, along with SSF volunteers to develop their texts.
According to Richard, a novella requires ‘a year’s worth of Sundays, hours of workshops, a big pot (the space) which was the Bankstown Arts Centre, two storytellers, seven volunteers, a handful of biscuits, Isabella’s drawings and 28 cups of coffee.’
His sentiments drew warm laughter from the audience. As you moved through the space the walls were covered in print outs that captured the development process. To the left of the entrance were the initial ideas and handwritten drafts; to the right were the edited versions. Poetically, as you turn the corner you reach the drafts that were worked on with professional copywriters until you walked up to the merchandise table to see the final version. Storytelling and taking readers on journeys is what this team does best.
Author of The Coconut Children, Vivian Pham spoke on behalf of the group. Her words demonstrated the impact participating in the Novella Project has had on her. Producing the novella is almost a bi-product to the boost in self-confidence she has experienced.
‘Working on our novellas has taught us to listen to our own voices and trust that there’s value in what we have to say,’ she said. You can read her full speech here.
Read the blurbs of the six Novellas using the links below.
Rose by Victoria Tyler Bassett-Wilton
The Signal by Alexander Lorenzon
Attempted by Annan Ahmed & The Thing by Bianca Valastro-Franco
Good Will and Regretful Past by Briana Terman
The Coconut Children by Vivian Pham
Starshifter by Isabelle Fischer
You have until 15 December to order your copy of the Novellas before Christmas, here.
A New home for Sydney Story Factory in Parramatta
This event was the first of many at Sydney Story Factory’s new home in Parramatta. A heritage listed cottage in the heart of Parramatta’s CBD will become a home for young writers. The lease was signed on Friday 1 December with renovations to come and an official launch in May 2018.
The love and willingness to nurture young writers oozed from the team at Sydney Story Factory. The Parramatta Director, Nikola Armanovic greeted me with a beaming grin that only grew throughout the event.
‘We write, tell and share stories to make a place into a home. Young people in Western Sydney deserve to have the coolest space in town,’ he said of the new space in his welcome speech.
Concept plans that were on display during the event show that the renovated space will include curvy bookshelves and an open workshop space.
It seems only fair to let the Storyteller in Chief have the final say. As if straight out of Rapunzel or Romeo and Juliet, the audience was shuffled into the carpark to hear Bilal Hafda, from the second story window summarise the year the only way he knew how – in poetry. An excerpt from his piece is below.
Write me a story about dragons and they showed me the ones inside of us.
The brave ones –
The ones we choose –
The ones we chase –
the ones we leave behind.
We asked them to write a story about dragons and they rode on the backs of pens that carried them into sunsets.
You can read my interview with Bilal about the writing process and his new role here.