Feast on writing – MWF16

You could hear the pens scratching in the air. It’s the Melbourne Writers Festival 2016. There is a mix of writers; professional, emerging and students.

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Oliver, Year 12, shares his notes on Adam Curley, writer and musician:

The world of music magazines is filled with people interested in writing and music, but also gives you an opportunity to be published, and get feedback.

Song lyrics sit in a strange place – harder to study with less of a history – less a form of writing, differing styles between different writers. Began as storytelling, branches out.

For Adam, he is a vocalist, and lyricist, collaborating with his band Gold Class to write songs collectively.

Usually starts with a catalyst, a beat or rhythm in what his band members are writing – always has a notebook or his phone ready writing ideas, words, phrases, that could be used.

Melody can craft lyrics, and lyrics and melody. Inspiration – can be found anywhere! For his inspiration, Adam tends to look inside for his inspiration, taking from his feelings on issues, world or personal. However, other writers he knows write third person narratives, long abstract phrases, really it can be anything.

Style – impressionistic language surrounding a key idea or feeling.

Songs don’t have to follow on line by line, don’t have to be linear narratives.

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Reagan, Year 11, reflects on Meg Rosoff:

“Creating Great Characters” conducted by Meg Rosoff was perhaps the highlight of the Writers Festival. When entering the presentation, most of us witnessed Meg lounging about comfortably on the couch with her interviewer, giving little hint of the brilliant personality that lurked beneath. Excited chatter gave way to enraptured silence, broken only by the open laughter which greeted every deprecating remark she made of herself.

Meg spent the entire workshop detailing her own troubles with writing and rowdy dogs, her anecdote of the years she spent bluffing a book to her editor reducing the audience to a laughing wreck. Throughout the workshop, there was never a dull moment, the presentation being refreshing in that she genuinely downplayed all of her own achievements and awards. Meeting her afterwards, I could not help but purchase one of her books simply for a chance to meet her. Throughout her question session, she never made a single attempt to promote her works, but her warm and sincere thanks when I brought the book to be signed revealed more than a witty and humorous speaker, it exposed her as a writer with a true connection to her readers.

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Ayush, Year 9, shares his thoughts:

At the Melbourne Writers Festival 2016 we had the chance to see and listen to many writers and authors. One in particular stood out. Meg Rosoff, the author of How I Live Now, was a particularly interesting and entertaining person to listen to. She was a very funny person and her thoughts and ideas always caused the audience to chuckle. She was very fun and open as well which always kept the audiences attention. She was also very willing to talk about herself with a group of relative strangers which helped us understand her and her books in greater depth. Out of all the authors we watched and listened to this was, in my opinion, the best as she had intriguing ideas and stories and wasn’t afraid to put herself out there.

Noah, Year 11, writes:

One of the highlights of our day at the Melbourne Writers Festival was hearing author Meg Rossof talk about her writing process and how she worked on characters. Hearing her reminisce about her friend helping her with crucial plot points, how the characters got away from her with minds of their own at times, and how her story about characterising animals went off onto a long tangent about her own dog were all delightful, and her dry sense of humour punctuated every piece of advice or story, making it all the more enjoyable. I am certainly looking forward to reading some of her work, and I’ll be taking her advice on characters to heart. I must say, her admission that she often didn’t know where the book was going to go when she sat down took a weight off, and contrasted with the over-planning toted by many other writers. I would recommend the Writers Festival to anyone, especially with panels like this one!

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Frank, Year 11, writes:

At the Writers Festival is where I met Meg Rosoff, an accomplished author winning both the Guardian Prize as well as the Printz Award. She was one of the most inspiring writers, possessing great wit and was always charming. Yet despite winning prestigious awards, she was charming and incredibly down to earth.

She began the workshop of ‘Creating Great Characters’, by professing her love of dogs. She told us that “writers don’t have a sociable lives, that’s why I love dogs.” In her book Jonathan Unleashed (2016), all of the central character’s many problems, are all curiously resolved through two dogs. Although she laughingly admitted that dogs seldom solve the problems we experience in real life, “Dogs make good characters in books because you can make them into whatever you like.”

She then proceeded to give insight into the often-enigmatic writing process of an author. For one, there is no one definite way of writing, and that writing habits tend to differ from person to person. For Meg, she uses her ‘unconscious mind’, where a lot of the writing comes from the place in the brain responsible for dreaming. Where the conscious mind is compared to as a horse rider, the unconscious is mind is the horse itself, and sometimes, it may be better to let the horse lead for a change.

Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of the day, her unique advice in combination with her wonderful sense of humour really inspired us, hopefully, to take step towards a future filled with a little bit of creativity, and a little bit of writing.

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Daniel, Year 9, captures John Marsden’s creative writing session:

“In fourteen words we wrote our story. Without one vowel we described our view.”

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 Our pens will certainly be writing furiously following these inspiring sessions.

 

From There to Here

MHS old boy Jon Faine returned to the school on Tuesday to talk to the Year 10 students. He doesn’t generally give school talks anymore but made an exception for us.

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He focused mainly on his travel memoir From Here to There, co-written with his son Jack, which relates the story of their drive from Melbourne to London.

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Jon kept the students transfixed with tales of his adventure and they had plenty of questions about it at the end. He also talked about his time at the school and his subsequent career as a lawyer and in radio broadcasting. A key message he had for the students was not to be too narrowly focused in their studies and to recognise the importance of telling a story no matter what profession they are planning to go into.

– Mr Blair Mahoney

The story continues….. On 774 ABC Melbourne the morning following his visit, Jon recounted his visit to MHS. We’d presented him with a book on English industrial history as he’d been the last borrower of this volume in 1974. He also recounted visiting his Vietnamese mechanic on the way home. The mechanic told him his son had attended Jon’s talk. The next generation of diverse students continue to attend MHS.

Thank you Jon for returning to MHS and sharing your story, and to Blair for organising our Literature Festival guest speakers. They provided us with wonderful insight into the literary world.

 

Our year 9s workshop with Mark Wilson – endangered species, Vietnam war, comics and looking for the shapes in things

Mark Wilson visited our year 9s today. His most recent book, Beth: the story of a child convict, has almost sold out even though it isn’t officially released until May 30.

Mark kept 2 classes of year 9 transfixed talking about his 2 main interests – our natural environment and endangered species, and his experiences of the Vietnam war. The combination of his passion and talent for storytelling was followed by a hands-on workshop where he focused on identifying shapes in things as a drawing tool. Mark fired drawing prompts at the boys while he demonstrated how it was done on the whiteboard.

“It’s all about movement”. – Mark Wilson (who grew up on comics and learned by studying how comics were drawn.

Thank you, Mark, for a very entertaining, informative and inspiring session which I’m sure our boys will remember for a long time. Whether in terms of awareness of our environment or endangered species, issues associated with war, or drawing techniques, our students’ understanding and appreciation for these things has been broadened. Thank you to Marie for organising the workshop, and to Suelyn and Mihaela for their support. It was also great to have the opportunity to collaborate with Stonnington Libraries.

Developing female characters – workshop with Kirsty Murray – and reading awards

Exciting day today with the annual Year 9 and 10 Reading Assembly celebrating reading. Prizes are awarded to students whose reading is prolific, demonstrating depth and breadth.

Some of our winners

A less serious pose

A highlight of the day was Kirsty Murray’s much anticipated writing workshop in which she focused on the development of female characters.By the end of the workshop students had created 20 unique female characters which they now have the opportunity to develop and integrate into a story.

Kirsty shared with us her criteria for good writing:

  • originality, a fresh perspective, using your own voice
  • good use of language – how words work; poetry sharpens use of language
  • good characters – driving force in all fiction; characters define the shape of the story
  • structure – the shape of the story

Samhita Arni visits MHS for annual Book Week Literature Festival

The Year 9 students were privileged to see guest speaker Samhita Arni this week as part of our annual Book Week Literature Festival. Samhita was visiting Australia for the Melbourne Writers Festival and we were very lucky that she had time to come to MHS as well. She talked to the students about her books, including The Mahabharata: A Child’s View (published when she was just 11 years old; she said that opportunity for publication just arose through luck). She said that her first book arose out of her voracious reading and love of mythology combined with the loneliness she felt after moving back to India after living in Pakistan. She showed some of the beautiful images in her bestselling graphic novel Sita’s Ramayana(illustrated by Moyna Chitrakar) and explained the historical background behind retellings of this Indian epic from a woman’s point of view as well as the implications of the renewed reverence for the story in modern India. She also talked about her most recent novel, The Missing Queen, which is another retelling of the Ramayana, this time in the form of a thriller set in the modern world. Other projects she mentioned included her participation in the cross-country anthology Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, and her online project, Out of Print, which provides a platform for writing about sexual violence in South Asia.

The students were very positive about her talk, some of them saying afterwards that it was “an eye-opener,” exposing them to a side of India that they weren’t familiar with. One student said he really appreciated the way she conveyed feminism in an interesting and approachable way, arising out of her life experiences and her books. Another student commented that he found it fascinating the way she explained the relevance of ancient Indian epics to modern day life, reinvigorating mythology. The overall consensus seemed to be: “Brilliant!” (written by Mr Blair Mahoney)

Samhita Arni has been interested in Hindu mythology since she was a child. She has written The Mahabaharata: A Child’s View, a version of another great Indian epic, which has been translated into seven languages and was named Book of the Month by the German Academy for Youth Literature and Media, and one of the Best Published Books of 2004 by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. It also won the Elsa Morante Literary Award (Department of Culture, Campania, Italy). Samhita has also written scripts for film and television and is currently working on a thriller based on The Ramayana. She lives in Bangalore, India. (Source: Goodreads)

Sita’s Ramayana

The Missing Queen

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean

A collection of sci-fi and fantasy writing, including six graphic stories, showcasing twenty stellar writers and artists from India and Australia: Isobelle Carmody, Penni Russon, Justine Larbalestier, Margo Lanagan, Lily Mae Martin, Kuzhali Manickavel, Prabha Mallya, Annie Zaidi, Kate Constable, Vandana Singh, Mandy Ord, Priya Kuriyan, Manjula Padmanabhan, Samhita Arni, Alyssa Brugman, Nicki Greenberg and Amruta Patil. (Source:Goodreads)

When she was eight, Samhita Arni started writing and illustrating her first book. “The Mahabharata – A Child’s View” went on to be published in seven language editions and sell 50,000 copies worldwide, winning the Elsa Morante Literary Award, and receiving commendations from the German Academy for Youth Literature and Media and The Spanish Ministry of Culture. (Source: Amazon)

   

We meet Isobelle Carmody and Alison Goodman!

Thanks to Paul Collins and Ford Street Publishing we hosted the launch of Isobelle Carmody’s Scatterlings. Scatterlings was first published in 1991 and, as you tell from this review, is a much loved book, and now it’s being (re-)launched with a new cover featuring Isobelle’s own daughter. It was awesome to meet Isobelle Carmody and also author Alison Goodman of Eon fame. Alison introduced Isobelle as our ‘national treasure’, reminding us that she has been writing from the age of 14. We could have listened to Isobelle for the rest of the day! It was obvious that MHS students were enthralled by her passionate talk about writing which she did without notes and from the heart. Students had the opportunity to win a prize by imagining a snow dome – since one features in Scatterlings – with the winner choosing a book prize. We were happy to see two old boys (grad. 2011), Ruben and Paolo, come and visit for the event, as well as Acting Assistant Principal, Nick Fairlie, and English teachers Helen Bekos and Lynne Hamilton, Stonnington Library staff and other visitors. Thanks to Monty and Gregor (leaders of our Book Club interest group) for the excellent introduction.

Laureate Launch 2015 – guest author Chris Womersley

170505-111203-rev-womersley This year’s Laureate, our literary magazine, was launched in the library this afternoon, with award winning Australian author, Chris Womersley, as guest speaker. There is no doubt that Melbourne High School has an abundance of writing and artistic talent, and we celebrated this in style today. After his speech Chris presented our talented students with a copy of the Laureate. We were happy to see so many people at the event – parents (and possibly grandparents), teachers and students all enjoying a lovely afternoon tea and good company. Thank you, Chris, for coming and presenting your speech to encourage our students. Thanks to Mr Sam Bryant for organising the event. Thanks also to the talented students, including those who finished last year. Thanks to our principal, Mr Jeremy Ludowyke, and our assistant principals, Dr Janet Prideaux and David Smyth, for supporting the event. Thanks also to the teachers who came to support their students. Note: This was a photographer’s nightmare with everyone moving and shaking during the Laureate magazine presentations for contributing writers. Please excuse the blurry photos resulting from multiple filters attempting to block out reflection from all the ceiling lights and from windows. unnamed (8) unnamed (26) unnamed (11) unnamed (3) unnamed (1) Isaac Reichman presents Chris with a token of our appreciation. (… a couple of tokens…)unnamed (29) It was great to see our past students again. Many had contributed last year to this year’s Laureate. unnamed unnamed (25) unnamed (24) unnamed (23) unnamed (22) unnamed (21) unnamed (7) unnamed (20) unnamed (19) unnamed (18) unnamed (17) unnamed (16) unnamed (15) unnamed (14) unnamed (13) unnamed (11) unnamed (9) unnamed (6) unnamed (4) Interesting – I wonder what what they are pondering. unnamed (2) trio Richard Nicholas   The cover of the Laureate 2014 features art work by Hieu Nguyen, the student whose art was awarded the Melbourne High School Art and Cultural Trust & Melbourne High School Foundation Art Acquisition Prize 2013. unnamed (31) A big thanks again to Mr Sam Bryant for organising this very important event. Library staff always enjoy hosting school events, especially if they promote the talents of our wonderful students. Thanks also to parents/grandparents who joined us.