When people ask why I started Creative Write-it, I usually say it’s for the kid version of me who loved writing, and wished for a special place to go to 'be a writer' with other kids, guided by professional writers. To share the joy, fun, and challenge of tackling a single prompt and seeing it sprout into completely different stories depending on who was holding the pencil. To share the words that poured out from my imagination with more than my teacher and parents. To feel like I was getting better, stronger, and braver with my words and ideas. To make ‘real’ books (not just stapled-together paper stolen from Dad’s printer). Creative Write-it’s programs and spaces have been built around these basic ideas from the beginning, in late 2011.
But the truth is, Creative Write-it also exists for the teen version of me who, without any writing-specific mentors, wrote anyway: short stories, poems, songs, diary entries, letters. Most of these are hidden in a box, deep in a cupboard somewhere, probably never to see the light of day again ... but that’s not the point. The point is that it was all practice: these years of writing helped me find my voice, and every one of those pieces was fuelled by thoughts and emotions I needed to express at the time. Often I didn’t even realise this until I read back over what I’d written and recognised that what had been a messy, teen-angsty puddle inside of me now made more sense on the page, outside of me. Writing on my own definitely helped me to express myself as I got older. I have no doubt that having professional guidance and feedback through that time would have helped me more.
These kids may not grow up to be professional, or even hobbyist, writers. But they will need critical and creative thinking. They will need to be able to look at a problem and work out what to do, with the resources they have at the time. They will need to translate their thoughts and feelings into words others can understand, and also try to understand the translating attempts of others. They will need to forge new paths when none of the existing options feel right. And it will help if they can laugh and enjoy the process of all of this as much, if not more, than the end results.
Writing creatively teaches us to appreciate the joy, mystery, freedom, and roadblocks of the first draft; to know when to push through to the ‘the end’, and when to take a break from a story that just isn’t working. It allows us to feel the satisfaction of the final draft, and all of the tedious but necessary shuffling, deleting, re-writing, and editing in between. All of this is valuable far beyond our writing notebooks.
We are guiding young writers. We are helping them to craft wonderful, bizarre, sweet, hilarious, gross, ‘them’ stories. But mostly, my hope is that through taking the time to get to know them and continually tailoring activities accordingly, we are inspiring and encouraging brave, thoughtful, creative people. People we see realising every day that they can do more than they thought they could when we first met them.
As Creative Write-it grows steadily with the support of parents, teachers, and the wider community – and of course with the continuing enthusiasm and willingness to try from our young writers – our reasons for doing what we do stands as strong as the day we started. I believe in the value of creative writing and our workshops for six year olds, sixteen year olds, twenty-six year olds and beyond. I believe that while we focus on stories, the value of the experience we provide stretches far beyond that. At the very least, we will help every young person who walks through our doors to be a better writer. At the most, we will build their confidence, cultivate connection, encourage respectful self-expression and communication, provide a safe space, and teach them the value of creativity in a world that needs thinkers who know the joy and challenge of sharing stories now more than ever.
Want to join us? Enrolments are now open for our 2018 Summer Holiday Program, Creative Writing Clubs, Private Mentorships, and Online Mentorships. We are also taking bookings for 2018 School Programs within Victoria.
Amy Han is the Founding Director of Creative Write-it, and the author of Ru Dreaming, Breaking Jumps, and A Trip to Somewhere Else. You can read more of her writing at www.amyhan.com.au.
It was just another boring day, as the students stuffed their belongings into their bags and began the long dreadful journey to school. The only person who loved school was Layafettius, the geekiest kid in the entire Small Brain Primary School. He raced to school every single day, answered all the questions the teacher asked and completed his homework during lunch breaks so that he could work on his own inventions at home.
“Now, what do you get if you mix ARSENIC with NITROGEN and RADIUM?” asked Mr Bouterkarluh, the chemistry teacher. He looked around the tables. Some students were picking their noses. Some of them were resting their heads on the table.
“Uhh… hang on… hmm…well…it's like…um”
“Do you know how to do this?” questioned the teacher.
Layafettius’ hand shot up immediately, knowing that it would cause an explosion. If Morwena did not answer, then the teacher would set it as their homework. Sighing, he began to create a plan for this teleporter.
KE-RACK!!! Wires flung out from the circuit board. Attaching them to a disintegrator, Layafettius screwed on a pipe on the side of his teleporter. He then inspected his Uranium and Calcium Carbonate mixture by the window. Perched on the windowsill, it had become a purple mixture, after being fermented in the sun for one and a half hours. Picking up his concoction, he poured it into the carbonator and flicked the switch on. Carelessly leaving it there, he continued working on the locator and antenna, and nailed a globe and a screen into the cabin.
It was time for a test. He began tapping on the screen to make it work. Frustrated by the fact that the screen remained black, Layafettius unrolled the sheet of paper where he had drawn his plans unaware that his Uranium and Calcium Carbonate concoction was spilling…
“No!”, exclaimed Layafettius. “My FUEL!!!”
Swiftly, he retrieved his cleaning materials and sprayed them onto the stain, later grabbing a cloth and hoping that would soak it up. He then created another concoction and left it to ferment by the window.
“LAYAFETTIUS!!!”, shrieked Mrs Fettius, his mother. “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?!!?”
Layafettius stumbled down the stairs, surprised to see that there was a HOLE in the ceiling above the kitchen. The food in the pot bubbled harder than ever, spilling over the sides of it.
“WAS IT YOUR CHEMICALS AGAIN?!!?” yelled Mrs Fettius.
Suddenly remembering what had happened, Layafettius realised that his Uranium-Calcium Carbonate mixture along with the cleaning detergent had burnt a hole in his floor…
The food began to move, piling onto the floor and growing a mouth, it slowly began to extend the left end of itself, wrapping it around the pot… KER-RUNCH!!! and stuffed it in its mouth. Following the same process, it began to eat up everything in its way.
“Amazing! This is simply amazing!”, cried Layafettius, jotting down his observations on a paper bag. “I might have created a new species! I will name it—”
“LAYAFETTIUS!!!”, screamed Mrs Fettius. “DON’T YOU SEE THAT THE MONSTER IS DANGEROUS?!!?”
However, Layafettius was nowhere to be found. The monster was facing a corner. Mrs Fettius grabbed a knife and lurked over slowly. The monster’s mouth swayed from side to side. Layafettius was throwing everything he could at it, but the monster simply devoured everything into shreds.
“LAYAFETTIUS!!!” demanded Mrs Fettius. “WAS THAT YOUR HOMEWORK?!!?” Layafettius’ brain began to think rapidly, patting his hand all over the drawer he was closest to, searching every drawer as he was certain he had left it there…
He flopped onto his knees, sobbing a puddle of tears that soaked the carpet. “My homework!” he exclaimed, thumping his fists on the floor. “It’s GONE!”
“THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX, LAYAFETTIUS!!!” barked Mrs Fettius. “You, LAYAFETTIUS FETTIUS ARE THE SMARTEST KID I KNOW!!!”
“Hmm…”, said Layafettius, thinking out loud. “If I could hand in the monster for my homework then Mr Bouterkarluh would be so impressed! We could study it for Biology and…”
“LOOK!!!” shouted Mrs Fettius. The monster was surrounding Layafettius with nowhere to escape… but luckily Layafettius jumped onto the drawer and leaped over the monster into the safety of his bedroom. He heaved the teleporter onto a small kids’ wagon and dragged it down the stairs.
“YES!!!” shouted Mrs Fettius. “THE BEST IDEA EVER!!! TELEPORTING THE MONSTER!!!”
Although Layafettius wasn’t sure it was going to work, he shoved the monster in and Mrs Fettius began controlling the teleporter…
POOF!!! The teleporter disintegrated into nothing. Mrs Fettius was dancing around with joy.
“MUM!” exclaimed Layafettius. “I was meant to keep it in there like a cage!”
“I DON’T CARE! Hooray!” cried Mrs Fettius. “The monster’s gone…”
RING RING!!! ... Layafettius dashed to the phone.
“Hello, is this Layafettius Fettius?” asked an unfamiliar voice.
“There is a monster terrorising Small Brain Primary School, and people have said that you created the monster, is that correct?”
“W-what do you mean?” stammered Layafettius, hanging up on the phone. “MUM, WHERE DID YOU TELEPORT IT TO?”
Arriving at school in a flash, Layafettius saw that the monster was crashing everything down. Teachers were fleeing and screaming their heads off. As Layafettius headed towards the monster, one teacher explained that it had eaten Mr Bouterkarluh and the canteen lady and all of the science labs. Bricks were scattered all over the place while cement was flying across the sky and water was spraying everywhere due to the fact that so many pipes had been cracked open. The monster was adding to itself by the second, now not only a food monster but it was also made out of bricks, cement, test tubes and student report papers. Growing a pair of legs, the monster trudged up a flight of stairs and by tearing bits of the first floor, it began throwing them down onto the playground.
Luckily, Layafettius thought fast and dashed towards the remains of a science lab retrieving as many chemicals as possible. He took a plastic bag and poured the chemicals into it. Rushing to the gym where the PE teacher was doing a throwing exercise in preparation for his next lesson, Layafettius swiped the ball away from him and replaced it with the PLASTIC BAG “bomb”. The “bomb” crashed through the gymnasium and headed straight for the monster, burning a hole in it. Layafettius prepared for a big, ear-deafening explosion…
Meanwhile, the canteen lady was slicing through layers and layers of the monster flesh. The plastic bag penetrated through and Mr Bouterkarluh caught it, bouncing off his hands.
“Quick, let's escape!” shouted the canteen lady. She yanked Mr Bouterkarluh towards the hole just to find that it immediately sealed.
“Noooo!!!” she said furiously. “We’re going to be stuck forever!!!”
“Cut this open,” commanded Mr Bouterkarluh.
The canteen lady chopped it open and the chemicals spilled onto the inside of the monster’s stomach. Mr Bouterkarluh pulled out a cup of the canteen’s RECYCLED stew (made with all sorts of leftover canteen food from months ago), and poured it where the chemicals were spilled. Then, pulling out a textbook titled, “EVERYTHING THERE IS TO KNOW ABOUT CHEMISTRY” running his finger along the contents page, he turned to the VOMIT experiments, and read about what happens in your stomach when you vomit.
The only missing ingredient was 500ml of mucus, snot or phlegm. Together with the canteen lady, they began coughing up mouthfuls of phlegm and blowing their noses excessively until slowly, the vomit blend began to rise, bubbling with froth spreading all over. Emerging higher, the current of the medley blasted Mr Bouterkarluh and the canteen lady along the oesophagus and into the monster’s mouth. Mr Bouterkarluh wedged the plastic bag in the opening of the monster’s throat and with the help of the canteen lady, escorted the two of them to safety. Scrambling towards a safety helicopter, they breathed a sigh of relief. More and more artificial spew began layering up inside the monster’s stomach and because of the plastic bag, the monster’s stomach bulged out. Layafettius watched from the gymnasium with his fingers in his ears…
All that was left was a heap of food, building equipment and everything else.
“Magnificent work, Layafettius!”, shouted Mr Bouterkarluh from the helicopter. “I will give that an A++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++! As a result, you will not need to do any more science homework for the rest of your life!”
“What about the school?” asked Layafettius anxiously. “It's all destroyed!”
Just then, a small group of reporters huddled around Mr Bouterkarluh and congratulated him for killing the monster.
“And as a reward we will pay you $700 million dollars!” announced the reporters, with cameras and microphones surrounding him. “I’ll use the money to rebuild the school,” said Mr Bouterkarluh to Layafettius, who could not have been more relieved.
“Isn’t this beautiful?” said Mrs Fettius. She and Layafettius were enjoying a holiday at the beach without having to drive there using Layafettius’ new and improved poo-powered teleporter. They also saved a lot on sewage bills by using the teleporter instead of a toilet. Layafettius’ house had been rebuilt using some of Mr Bouterkarluh’s $700 million dollars. Now the walls were resistant to every sort of chemical and the kitchen was placed where the laundry was. Everything was amazing and it would stay that way… hopefully.
Ashton Tan was born in Melbourne in 2006. So far in his life he has been extremely lucky that no radioactive chemicals have fallen into his food, turning into a monster and eaten him otherwise this story would not be read by you.
This story was written as part of a series of Creative Write-it workshops at Balwyn Primary School.
Huffing and puffing, Mackenzie wrote furiously in her diary.
Worst. Day. Of. My. Life! Nothing is more embarrassing than sneezing onto your crush in front of the whole entire school. Plus, to make it worse, about twenty kids took photos on their ipad. The whole story will be known by everyone by tomorrow morning and I’ll be the star of it. Never ever do I want this to happen again.
Earlier that day, Mackenzie had waited patiently for the school bell. She grabbed her bag, dumped it into her locker and headed to the hall. Today they would be announcing the winners of the Science and Mathematics Competition. Quickly taking her seat on the long wooden bench, she scanned the hall. The she saw him. Standing coolly against the wall, talking to a teacher. Jackson. Her fluttering heart beat swiftly inside her chest. Gazing dreamily at him, Mackenzie didn’t notice her best friend Wendy taking a seat beside her. The assembly had begun.
Wendy had just sat down next to me when the lights began to dim. Slowly, everyone’s voices silenced as the principal coughed loudly. I was too nervous to notice anything that was happening around me. Finally the thing I had been waiting for started. Jackson strolled onto the stage with a stack of paper. One by one, each student that had participated in the competition was called up, starting at the lowest received marks. The winner would be announced last. Negative thoughts started to fill me. What if I failed? What if I didn’t submit my project properly? Trepidation was the main thing controlling my mind. Then at last my name was called. I, Mackenzie Boguae, had come first in the legendary competition that even Einstein had competed in! As I climbed the steps leading up to the stage, I felt a slight tickle in my nose. It didn’t seem like much, so I ignored it and it soon went away. Jackson started to shake my hand. I felt the small tickle coming on again. Then I sneezed.
Jackson was so grossed out, he left the school.
To be continued...
Maddy Yong was born in 2006 and currently attends Balwyn Primary School. She loves Sudoku, maths, dachshunds and huskies. 'Just One Sneeze' is the first story she’s written with Creative Write-it.
The scorching pot filled with liquid bubbled madly on the stove. The liquid poured out bubbling like fire with sparks as big as lightning. It reached out for Jeffrey Bobbrey’s magical performance suit. The poison-like substance soaked into the suit, until it overflowed like a sponge that couldn’t soak up any more water.
Jeff entered the soaked room in awe and disgust. He ran towards the kitchen and squeezed through the very wide door, pulling his obese belly with him. He screamed as if he had been shot in the heart; he squelched until his lungs nearly burst and Oh boy! Oh boy! He scrunched and squeezed one hundred and ninety six times but his suit was ruined. His career was ruined. He stamped his foot. Now he could never be the best magician in the world. His brain was half paralysed, frozen. He had been depending on the performance that afternoon but now he’d blown it. He wanted to prove to himself and his audience that he was still the best in the world. Two years earlier, the public had decided his performances were boring and that he shouldn’t have been elected best magician in the world.
Jeff fumed his way to his room and jumped on his bed made with polyurethane, leaving a big hole. Questions dazed him:
‘Where will I find my new suit?’
‘What will I do?’
He thought and thought until his brain nearly burst and he was about to give up. But then, Eureka! He had a brain zap! His suit was magical and he was a magician. He should have thought about that before. He was acting like he was going to die when the problem could be fixed with just a little bit of common sense.
He screamed Abracadabra! and the suit was as dry and clean as new in less than one second.
That afternoon, Jeff strolled to his car and drove to the performance stage. As he hobbled up the stairs he huffed and puffed. He was excited and nervous at the same time. As he squashed through the door towards the stage, his ears tingled. Each sound from the audience made him want to jump in fright.
As Jeff went through his tricks one by one, the audience did not seem to be struck with awe as Jeffrey Bobbrey had expected. Still, he went on to his final trick. That’s when a random man in the audience threw a soft drink at his suit and it went splat all over it. The fizz made a ruffle and Jeff thought, That’s exactly what I need! He then screamed Abracadabra! and the suit dried instantly. Everyone was amazed.
Jeff laughed as he was awarded Best Magician in the World at the magnificent Melbourne Convention Center.
This story was written by Harrison Milas, Year 5, as part of a series of Creative Write-it workshops at Balwyn Primary School.
Gabriel Bergmoser is a Workshop Leader at Creative Write-it, based at our Fitzroy North Studio. His most recent book, Boone Shepard's American Adventure, was shortlisted for the Readings Young Adult Book Prize 2017. Read more from Gabriel at www.gabrielbergmoser.com.
There are a lot of arguments about what the first purpose of a story should be but at the risk of sounding reductive or shallow, your number one task as a storyteller is to entertain. This isn’t to imply for a second that the other stuff isn’t important, that you shouldn’t give comparable focus to having powerful themes, beautiful prose and relatable characters, but the simple, brutal truth is that none of those are worth very much if people find your story boring.
Entertainment is treated as a dirty word by certain writers, but let’s take away the assumption that entertainment refers to popcorn movies and Twilight novels and look at entertaining for what it is; engaging an audience with every tool you have at your disposal. A heart wrenching emotional drama rooted in real issues and problems can be just as entertaining as a superhero blockbuster if done right. But doing it right is the hard part. The very first thing I teach any young writer who comes through Creative Write-it is what I see as the difference between good storytelling and bad storytelling, or more specifically the difference between ‘but, therefore’ storytelling and ‘and then’ storytelling.
‘And then’ storytelling is pretty much what it sounds like; storytelling that is not based in clear turning points, huge twists and terrible obstacles for the characters, but instead just a bunch of stuff happening. Today I woke up and then I went to school and then aliens attacked and then the aliens blew up the school and then I turned into a crossbow wielding manatee and then I fought the aliens and then the aliens said sorry and then I became king of the world and then I decided that there would be no school ever again. It’s bad storytelling precisely because it sounds like a kid reeling off whatever comes to mind, with no clear structure or progression of narrative. Things happen just because, and while this sounds like something that is exclusive to young writers, learning to recognise ‘and then’ storytelling is something plenty of adult writers could stand to do as well.
"It is imperative that young writers
are taught early how to keep
their story moving."
A case study that I am uniquely placed to discuss is my second novel and second instalment in an ongoing series, Boone Shepard’s American Adventure. I’ve often referred to this book as a ‘problem child’, because outside of a few vague ideas of what had to happen in it I didn’t really know what the story was. I knew my time travelling hero was stuck in America in the 1800s and needed to get home to the 1960s, I knew he would meet a bunch of famous musicians and I knew he would have a final showdown on a flying casino. Outside of that, there wasn’t much story and in the first draft it showed; Boone stumbled from situations to situation not because he was trying to achieve a certain objective or reacting to a particular obstacle, but just because. That first draft was ‘and then’ storytelling precisely because it just felt like I was making it up as I went along, throwing more and more absurd events at the page and hoping the audacity of what was happening would outshine the fact that, even by the absurd standards of Boone Shepard, none of what was happening made very much sense. Consequently, of all the friends I sent that manuscript to for feedback, I think maybe one actually finished it. The biggest issue with ‘and then’ storytelling is that it is ultimately really, really boring to read.
Now let’s contrast this with an example of ‘but, therefore’ storytelling. Today I woke up and got ready to go to school BUT I had no toothpaste and I knew I was going to sit next to my crush so THEREFORE I couldn’t go to school with bad breath BUT when I asked mum to buy me some toothpaste she said I was already late and had to leave THEREFORE I ran away from home to buy toothpaste BUT realised when I got to the shops I had no money THEREFORE I had to steal the toothpaste BUT a policeman saw me and THEREFORE I had to go on the run and so on.
The above is hardly an example of sterling narrative craft but the difference is stark. In the above story our audacious central character has an objective he is trying to reach and obstacles stopping him from getting there. Every obstacle (the BUTs) forces the character to react (the THEREFOREs) and leads organically to another obstacle, which leads to another solution and ultimately presents you with a story that makes sense, where the characters do what they do for logical reasons in response to clear problems.
When the time came for me to re-write Boone Shepard’s American Adventure I decided to scrap everything I already had and, using the starting point established by the previous novel, go forward with ‘but, therefore’ storytelling in mind. Boone Shepard is stuck in 1800s America BUT he learns about a potential way home THEREFORE he goes on an adventure to find it BUT while he achieves his goal his best friend is left behind THEREFORE Boone is forced to try to go back for her BUT the bad guys take him captive THEREFORE he is forced to make a deal with Elvis Presley to help set him free in exchange for helping The King with his own problems and so on.
It’s still silly, zany and ridiculous, but within the world the story inhabits it makes sense. Boone has an objective, he tries to achieve it, something gets in his way, he is forced to adjust his goals, and on the story goes until we reach a logical and satisfying conclusion. By structuring the story around a series of obstacles and reactions, causes and effects, the story immediately becomes not only engaging but satisfying, as nothing comes out of left field or feels like it’s been thrown in there for the heck of it, give or take an Elvis cameo.
Having fun with your story is important, but so is the enjoyment of your audience. It is imperative that young writers are taught early how to keep their story moving and engaging in order to reel the readers in and leave them wanting to know what happens next. Teaching them the simple but deceptively effective difference between ‘but, therefore’ and ‘and then’ storytelling is one of the most potent lessons they can learn, and the earlier the learn it the better their work will be.
Genevieve Le Chan
The enduring world is in our hands,
I see the vibrant shades of this land,
I went to Patagonia and saw a natural wonder,
When thunder towered the city I thought the world would sunder.
I went Alaska where hikers climb,
Orcas fly and I can’t keep track of time.
I went to Kenya, dripping with sweat,
Animals and plants were all that I met.
I went to Venice where rivers circle the town,
At dusk and dawn it’s as gold as a crown.
I went to Switzerland and climbed the tallest mountain,
I drank the purest water from a natural fountain.
I went to Russia, St Pertersburg to be specific,
The view there is absolutely terrific.
I went to Bhutan which is very small,
And saw the dragon king behind the stone wall
I went to the Land Of The Rising Sun,
It is busy but also very fun,
I went to The Congo and became soaking wet,
The natives are so different to the Aussies I met.
I went to New Zealand, North and South,
And put sweet delicious Kiwi’s in my mouth.
I went to Samoa’s forest with pockets of blue,
I felt the fresh water slip through my shoe.
Our lands are separated by borders,
Without them all could be in order.
Where young writers (and some older ones) write.
All material is published with the provision that it is the writer's own work. If any material submitted to us for publication is found to be copied or in any way constitutes an infringement of someone else's copyright, it will be removed. Copyright remains with the young authors.