Day Two of Writers Camp – Author Workshops

Let me preface this blog by saying I feel completely out of my depth. I’ve spent the morning watching some of Australia’s best children’s authors impart their wisdom upon some of Sydney’s most talented and engaging young writers.

Sue Whiting’s was the first workshop. The students started sleepily, but within minutes, they were showing us all just why they are here. According to Sue, being a good author means:

  1. Making stuff up
  2. Being a bossy boots
  3. Being a trouble maker; and
  4. Being a problem solver.

Suddenly, the students were coming up with incredibly creative reasons why the wheelie bin was on the roof of our Earth Lab. Was it there to catch the elephant which was due to drop from the plane as it flew overhead? Or was it a nuclear weapon and we must all run?!!

THE most creative “get to know you” game I’ve ever seen had the students modeling Gus Gordon’s Herman and Rosie to write an evocative paragraph describing themselves.

Sue “showed” students how to show rather than tell the story, as she stormed into the room, slamming the door and frightening the life out of all of us. Students then had a turn, when attacked by a giant hairy spider.

While the creative juices silently flowed in Sue’s workshop, we could overhear the giggles and bursts of laughter outside from James Roy’s workshop.

I soon discovered why students in James’ workshop were laughing. His advice: In real life, be nice to people, but as a writer, don’t. This got students thinking about developing characters – not just creating characters, but developing them.

While in our historical sandstone classroom, Susanne Gervay had students enthralled. She was enthusiastically and passionately challenging the students to plan and think about fantasy.

The willingness and openness of these students astounds me. Their stories are so deep and personal, and so creative and quirky. To me, this speaks volumes about the type of environment created by the authors running the workshops. Students are usually too shy to share. Two days ago these students were complete strangers, but they are all completely aware of this ‘judgement free zone’, and are incredibly supportive and positive. So refreshing.


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