Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in Redfern, and we spoke to two of their upcoming young writers, Wallis and Briana. The girls told us about their favourite books and authors, why they love to write, what they’re working on for the inaugural Pen to Paper Challenge (learn more about that here), and what’s so special to them about the crew at the Sydney Story Factory.
We chatted with Wallis (pictured left, with Hawraa Kash) and Briana at the Story’s Factory’s first annual Survival Salon, a family-friendly day of events to support all the writers undertaking the Pen to Paper Challenge. Through panels, activities and talks the Salon was a chance to get inspired by several Australian authors, including Wallis and Briana, who both got up on stage at the Redfern Town Hall to share and speak about their work.
Wallis is eleven, and passionate about poetry. At the Salon, she spoke on a panel with fellow poets Bilal Hafda, Aden Rolfe, Yasmine Lewis and Hawraa Kash. Wallis has an eclectic list of favourite writers and books, with classics like Emily Dickinson and Lewis Carroll right alongside Rick Riordan and his Percy Jackson series. She’s currently reading Dickens’ Great Expectations, and finding it more fun that her last read, Wuthering Heights: ‘the language was hard, but I powered through. It took a week!’
For the Pen to Paper Challenge Wallis is working on a poem inspired by her all-time favourite book, Heidi by Johanna Spyri. For Wallis, poetry is important because ‘in poetry I can express my feelings more… writing comes more naturally than talking.’ She writes poems for herself, and before joining Sydney Story Factory found her process of just jotting down all her ideas made it more challenging to
get things done. Now, she’s more of a planner.
Wallis enjoys writing at the Sydney Story Factory because it’s interactive, ‘you can ask questions and everyone is serious about writing. No-one will laugh at you, unless you’re telling a joke…. if you give them respect, they’ll give you respect.’
Briana, 15, agrees. ‘You can write whatever you want,’ and you always get feedback, whether its good or bad. Briana is one of the students taking part in SSF’s Year of the Novella, which is a full 12 months of writing workshops that culminates in a complete novella (we’re talking somewhere between 20,000 to 40,000 words).
She came to SSF with a small idea that has now grown into TWO connected stories. Briana’s novellas feature Finley, who is forced to leave his hometown after it was destroyed and journeys to find his friend and learn who he really is. It’s her own brand of fantasy, with ‘a bit of sci-fi and time traveling.’ You can head here to read a short excerpt.
Briana writes because she can let her ‘imagination go wild’ with all the things she wants to express. Most of her ideas come from sitting quietly in her room and staring into space, and writing is a major stress reliever.
She also likes to reread old favourites, and particularly Australian writers like Jackie French, Tim Winton and Carole Wilkinson. At the Survival Salon, Briana held her own on a panel with authors Fiona McFarlane, Debra Oswald and James Bradley (pictured left).
Both Wallis and Briana have bright futures ahead as writers, and thanks to Sydney Story Factory, more and more Australian kids are finding their own unique voices, and getting them heard.
Click here to learn more about Sydney Story Factory and The Pen to Paper Challenge!