Saturday, December 27, 2008

WORDUP - Australia's newest and youngest authors

I was absolutely thrilled to be asked to make a presentation to a group of new young authors in Sydney in early December. The event signalled the completion of the wordUP literacy program which was run during September and October as a contribution to the nationwide Close the Gap campaign, and it included participants from the Yurangai Learning Centre’s Out of School Program, which is operated by Barnardos at the Factory Community Centre in Waterloo.

The project involved writing books – and the books, you may be surprised to learn, were written by some of Australia’s youngest authors. I was excited to release my first book when I was 28, but the youngest author in this group was only five years old! Now that is inspiring and impressive, by anyone’s standards.

The range of ideas and stories in the wordUP project reflects the diversity of our lives in this city, and also the creative minds of the kids in the local area. And creativity and diversity are important to recognise and also celebrate.

The fact that these books were written in four weeks is astounding and I think that I could benefit from some workshops also given my books take between four months and four years to write.

I know there was a lot of commitment from the young authors to get their books written and illustrated, but they completed the work with largely with the support and encouragement of the Social Work Students from the University of New South Wales who were given the broad task of creating a project related to the Close The Gap campaign, which in turn will help to raise the profile of the campaign itself. They found a suitable partner in the Yuringai Learning Centre – and I congratulate them all for your efforts and for ensuring that we will have a generation of creative producers coming out of Waterloo and Redfern.

As the Chair of the Australian Society of Authors, and someone who loves to write and to read books, it was my pleasure to officially present the books to their authors.

Our youngest author is Ben Snaea at only 5 years old – and his book called Jet Li in the Jungle is about Jet Li and his brother Jack and cousin John fighting lions in the jungle. It scared me a little because Ben drew really lifelike pictures to go with the story. But the photos of Ben in the book looks like he had fun writing it.

Liam Thompson is only 6 years old and already he thinks writing stories are fun, and that it’s ‘good’ to be an author. I agree with Liam. Liam’s book Ben Ten and his First Journey involves kangaroos and birds and also has photos of Liam in action! They’re great.

Isabella Redman is 8 years old, and her book King Kong was swinging through the Jungle uses bold coloured pages, and text and Isabella’s own handwriting to tell the story. And on one page, a picture of a packet of bandaids and on another, just the whites of King Kong’s eyes in the dark, means there are some very unique and clever visuals.

Belinda McDonnell is 8 years old and her favourite colours are blue, purple, pink and yellow. And there’s lots of hot pink background in her book The Wicked Witch. Belinda’s book is about a witch with an evil dog called Sniffles and they live in a big castle made out of ice. I really liked the pictures of the evil witches daughter the Ice Princess.

Serika Shillingsworth is 9 years old, and her book The Evil Queen Who Stole The Sky – is a story about an evil queen who raises taxes so she can buy more dresses… and puts the sky in her dress for a while.

Kaleab Gavin is 9 years old and he liked making up names for his book The Mystery Noise about boys exploring the jungle, which is very scary and action –packed with snakes and back flips and fractured skulls and hospitals. But it’s a book about good friends too.

Samantha Redman is 10 years old, and she thinks that writing books can sometimes be boring but sometimes a lot of fun also… and that being an author is ‘very exciting’. Samantha’s book Sam’s Best Pictures is about fish, the moon and a serious Lego fight!

Jerome is 10 year old and I think he really loves movies because he wrote a book called Columbia Tristar Pictures about a Kungfu Panda and dragon warriors. And there are skilful drawings of Olympic Medals too. Maybe Jerome has a future in doing animations for Hollywood blockbuster movies.

Last but not least, Liam McDonnell is 11 years old and the best thing Liam liked about working on his book The Shotgun, was drawing the pictures. And Liam’s illustrations are perfect for his suspense story about an FBI agent on a mission that includes saving hostages.

Congratulations to all these wonderful kids and the team that helped to bring their stories to life.

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