Young public school writers showcase their work

Budding writers studying English Extension 2 for the HSC have had their stories celebrated and published at the Young Writers Showcase. Pascal Adolphe reports.

Three students standing in front of a white brick wall. Three students standing in front of a white brick wall.
Image: Young writers Charlotte Tan, Ryan Jones and Olivia Maietta.

Eight public school students are now published authors courtesy of their creative minds and the Young Writers Showcase.

The eight budding writers were among 19 selected from a cohort of 1415 English Extension 2 HSC students to have their major work published in the Young Writers Showcase Anthology.

The Anthology, which brings together works of poetry, short stories, scripts, critical analysis and even a podcast, was launched at the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

Cultural heritage was a significant influence on the selected works of three public school graduates, Charlotte Tan from North Sydney Girls High, Ryan Jones from Normanhurst Boys High and Olivia Maietta from Northern Beaches Secondary College Manly Campus.

Charlotte and Ryan drew inspiration for their stories from the migrant experiences of their respective families.

In her poetry entitled Chrysallis**, Charlotte writes about her grandmother’s failing memory due to Alzheimer’s. Charlotte describes it as “her memory falling out”.

Her grandmother moved to Australia from China and Charlotte said her memories and stories had tied them together.

“How do we as humans understand the world around us? This is so complex,” Charlotte said.

“There are so many different parts of it and the only thing that we can do that from is build memories and understand people through these memories, understanding yourself and creating identity through that.

“Memory is a chrysalis that fragments over time by the recesses of the human mind.”

Ryan said his short story, entitled The Apple Does Not Fall Far From The Kumquat Tree, was a personal reflection on his relationship with his Croatian family history and heritage.

“It’s an exploration of my grandfather's journey from Yugoslavia to Australia in the 1960s and how that has funnelled down through our family and impacted our experiences with Croatian culture,” he said.

“I heard bits and pieces of my grandfather’s story from my childhood, but never a whole story.

“I got to investigate that part of the family history that I had never fully heard about before and in the process, I learned a lot more about Croatian culture and our family heritage that I would have never learned otherwise.”

The life stories of her grandparents also provided Olvia with the inspiration for her selected work.

Entitled ‘Ceibo flowers Los desaparecidos’ - ‘The disappeared’, her story delves into the heart-wrenching predicament of her grandparents living in Argentina in 1975, where citizens critical of the military dictatorship would routinely disappear. 

Olivia grapples with the ‘what ifs’ of her family’s decision to migrate. She contemplates how different her life would have been if her grandparents had not made the brave choice to leave Argentina.

“My grandparents tell a lot of stories about their past. It was quite a scary thing, the idea of people being disappeared,” Olivia said.

“It was one of those things that you never want to happen to you so when they told me about it, I thought that’d be a great thing to explore that idea of what if it actually happened to me.”

Charlotte was “delirious” to be selected for the Young Writers Showcase while Ryan described it as a “cool experience”. However, neither harboured any ambition to become a fulltime author.

Australian author and Young Writers Showcase alumna Vivian Pham spoke at the launch and said writing could be a tough career path.

“Six years ago, I was in your shoes. I went to Birrong Girls High School and graduated from university,” Ms Pham said.

“I’ve published a novel and essays in various newspapers and poems in various journals, I’ve travelled to New York on a writing residency, and I am currently adapting my novel into a play and a film.

“To many that may sound impressive, but the truth is I come from a low socio-economic background, and I have continued that tradition in choosing to be a writer.

“I thought I should break it to those of you considering it as a career that writing for most is not paid well.”

In 2021 aged 19, Ms Pham penned her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Coconut Children, which was shortlisted for the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Fiction and the Voss Literary prize. She also won the SMH/The Age Best Young Novelist of the Year and the Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year at the Australian Book Industry of the Year awards.

This is the 23rd year in a row that the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has developed the Anthology and the first year the book has been launched at the Sydney Writers Festival.

Renowned Australian playwright David Williamson wrote the foreword for this year’s Young Writers Showcase Anthology, available for purchase now via the NESA Shop.

  • News
Return to top of page Back to top