Felicity Castagna is the author of the multiaward-winning novel The Incredible Here and Now, and its stage adaptation which will premiere at The National Theatre of Parramatta in 2017. Her collection of short stories Small Indiscretions was named an ABR book of the year. Her work has appeared on ABC Radio and TV as well as in national journals and newspapers. She holds a PhD from Western Sydney University, has served as the National Ambassador for Literacy and is currently a director at WestWords. She has taught creative writing all around Australia and currently runs the storytelling series Studio Stories. Her next novel No More Boats is forthcoming in June. www.felicitycastagna.net
About the book Felicity will be working on:
Felicity is currently working on co-writing a cross-cultural Young Adult novel with Sheila Pham and Faith Chaza. Their novel explores the lives of young people in western Sydney and the tensions that erupt after a party goes disastrously wrong.
Faith Chaza PRODUCER
Faith is a reluctant adult. Having grown up in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa, Faith now finds themselves in Sydney learning how to be a real person. Data wrangler by day, Faith spends their down time creating music and, on occasion, playing with words. Some of their work can be found in Itch, Aerodome, and The Ghost Eater and Other Stories collection.
About the book Faith will be working on:
Faith is currently working on co-writing a cross-cultural Young Adult novel with Sheila Pham and Felicity Castagna. Their novel explores the lives of young people in western Sydney and the tensions that erupt after a party goes disastrously wrong.
Sheila Pham PRODUCER
Sheila Pham is a writer who works across radio, digital media, community development and public health. She produces radio for the ABC and her writing has appeared in print and online publications including Womankind, Southerly, Overland, New Philosopher, Griffith Review, The Big Issue,Kill Your Darlings and Peril. She has had two short plays staged and performed in Stories Then and Now, which had seasons at Carriageworks and Casula Powerhouse. Sheila is a CAL WestWords Western Sydney Emerging Writer Fellow and produced The Africultures Story Hour as part of her fellowship. Throughout 2016 she managed Sydney Story Factory's State of Mind creative writing project which involved more than 750 high school students across New South Wales. sheilatakeabow.com
About the book Sheila is working on:
Sheila is currently working on co-writing a cross-cultural Young Adult novel with Felicity Castagna and Faith Chaza. Their novel explores the lives of young people in western Sydney and the tensions that erupt after a party goes disastrously wrong.
Frances An is a 3rd year, Psychology student at Western Sydney University. Frances’ writing focuses on the Vietnamese diaspora’s internal, intergenerational conflict as well as its alienation from mainstream, white-Australian society. Her work’s surreal and macabre themes reflect inspiration from writers like Franz Kafka and Yan Lianke.
About the book Frances An will be working on:
After a voice in Xa’s dream convinces her that she is dead, Xa searches for Glass Garden, a brothel in Bankstown. As she works as a Vietnamese-to-English translator there, her interactions with its residents represent her attempts to reconcile with her status as a second-generation immigrant.
Peta Murphy is from Fairfield in south west Sydney. Previously a member of the Westside writers' group, her work has appeared in several Westside publications and The Lifted Brow.
About the book Peta will be working on
Over the next couple of years Peta Murphy will be writing a book about awkwardness, fat bodies, femme sexuality and how these things contribute to and shape her shame and humiliation. It should be a bloody good laugh.
Born and bred in Punchbowl, Rawah studied a Masters of Teaching at Western Sydney University and is currently a primary school teacher at Wiley Park Public school. Her passion is to write authentic stories that give diverse groups a voice and a sense of belonging and to explore the Muslim identity.
About the book Rawah will be working on
The F Team shows how a rugby league competition helps ease racial tensions and encourages a groups of high school boys to bond through sport. However, what happens when the eight boys chosen have no skills in football and begin to fight? An Arab and a Jew? An Indian and a Pakistani? An Islander and an Asian? An Aboriginal and a white Australian? The F Team, to sum it up. Can they move past their prejudices and win the Grand Final or will they let hate divide them?
May Ngo is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. Her research focus is on processes of industrialisation and factory work in Cambodia and the nexus between migrant labour, economic development and religious NGOs.
About the book May will be working on:
I am working on a short story collection based on interviews I conducted with my Dad about his memories of joining and fighting in the Vietnam War on the side of the Viet Cong. Although Cambodian of Chinese origin, he joined the Viet Cong in Vietnam after the secret bombings of Cambodia by the U.S and their support of a coup d’etat in the country, reflecting how the wider region was implicated into the war from the very beginning.
In lieu of writing a non-fiction memoir of my Dad’s experiences (although I intend to do this one day), I think that fiction is a singular vehicle able to express how these forces impact on an interpersonal, relational and emotional level as well as in a very concrete way on individual lives, and how these individual lives navigate and respond to them. Although based on actual events, they are fictionalised so not everything happened in the way the stories are written, and some did not happen at all. But I believe they are true to the spirit of the experiences.
They will be complete short stories in themselves but are held together by the thread of a central character whose name and geographical location changes, as he moves from Cambodia to Vietnam and then migration to Australia, specifically to western Sydney. It is at once a war story, a migration story, and an inter-generational story.
The ‘other side’ of a war is a story rarely told in the West. My goal is not to make a case for either side, but rather to show that there are many sides to a narrative, to an event, especially one as monumental as war. And that some accounts are privileged over others- in writing this collection of short stories, I want to add another account.
Brittany is an English Teacher at Robert Townson High School and likes to tell people she is now teaching young people to love language at the very same place she feel in love with it as a teen. She is passionate about all things words, young people and Western Sydney. Brittany believes with her whole overly passionate and somewhat fragile heart, that teaching young people the power of words can change their lives. Which is exactly what she hopes to do
About the book Brittany will be working on:
During the project I will be working on is a novel that tells the stories of a 5 of young people from Campbeltown. Each of these young people will be from different walks of life but share unexpected friendships that flourish in times of crisis. With my novel I hope to tell some of the untold stories of Campbeltown that we don't see in the media. The story of a community dominated by diversity of all kinds, young people grappling with opportunities their parents never had and parents grappling with young people who don't seem to understand the beauty and fragility of life.
I addition to this, I want to tell the same untold story of teenagers that is rarely captured and certainly is not what is dominating televisions at the moment. A story of their resilience, their kindness to each other, their hope that pushes them to survive even in the darkest of times and their unwavering loyalty to each other despite their differences. I hope to capture the challenges of growing up and living in that strange in between place as well as what it means to be almost invisible to the world around you.
There are so few representations of Campbelltown. Those that do exist are almost always negative. With my novel I hope to counteract that and give young people from Western Sydney a place where they can see themselves to encourage them to tell their own stories.
Claire Nemorin is a content associate in the travel industry and a creative writing degree dropout. Her interests include Black African and diasporic histories and cultures, and how borders cause violence. She has published under a pseudonym and is slowly accepting that despite her fears, she has to pitch again to be potentially published.
Claire will be working on a book about:
The novel will trace the mental disintegration and attempted reintegration of Antonia, a 50-year old Black African migrant from London living in western Sydney, who is slowly losing touch with her present reality and self. She "regresses" into the 17-year old radical, working-class, active feminist, bookshop worker and heterosexual version of herself, as opposed to the middle-class, politics-avoidant high school teacher with her own LGBTQ family. This loss-of-current self occurs in the face of unsupportive family members with their own problems, her sister, Kinaya, who has arrived from America to make amends after a 32-year old betrayal, and poor professional support and treatment from psychologists and psychiatrists who don't know enough about her condition. My objectives are to explore betrayal within families, how at least part of our identities are bound with other people's, and how mental illness causes lost time.
Michele is a teacher, writer and producer based in Sydney. Her written work has been published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Daily Life, Meanjin and Overland, and she has also produced radio stories for FBi’s “All the Best” program.
Michele enjoys writing both fiction and non-fiction and often writes about music, culture and the arts, politics and society and the human experience. She is currently working as a high school Special Education teacher.
Michele will be working on a book about:
A fractured family trying to negotiate the settling of a problematic will in a way that will not further divide their already tenuous connections.
The work will deal with how some families must grapple with the dysfunction of their past in order to inform their future. It will draw on the people and places of Western Sydney that Michele grew up with, and to that end capture a sense of isolation of place, and misunderstood complexity in people (in particular, trying to unpack the narrative of the ‘demonised bogan’).
Kelly Cheung is creative-adrift. The swell is high, the
breeze is soft, and the water cradles where her mind flows. Sometimes you’ll find Kelly up on the banks, book open in her lap. Or perhaps she’s in a lookout, casting eyes to the horizon. She’s learnt a river is not the same as the sea but can be cupped in
the hand just as well.
About the book Kelly will be working on:
The book draws from Kelly’s two worlds and two lives living in Western Sydney and in the coastal community of the Central Coast.
It explores the shifting ground of belonging and alienation that comes from losing one’s identity in the loss of one’s home and perhaps, finding oneself in the home and welcome of another. Social class, culture, and sexuality are revealed to be knives which
cut even as we seek to seal the bonds between us
Eda Gunaydin is a 23 year-old researcher and emerging writer of fiction and creative non-fiction from Western Sydney. She is a 2016 CAL WestWords Emerging Writers’ Fellow and writes about class, race and the Turkish diaspora. She has been shortlisted for the Monash University Undergraduate Creative Writing Prize, the Scribe Nonfiction Prize for Young Writers, and performed for the Emerging Writers' Festival, Sydney Writers' Festival and University of Sydney. Her work can be found in publications including Voiceworks, The TJ Eckleburg Review, and Tincture Journal.
About the book Eda will be working on:
As an Emerging Writers Fellow, I completed half of a collection of memoir and short stories that I am endeavouring to complete in 2017-18. These stories draw on the lived experiences of our network of family and friends spread across Australia and Turkey, and myself. My writing centres themes of migration; intergenerational trauma; family and gender violence; cultural expectations; and class mobility.
Ailsa Liu is studying Fine Arts/ Arts at UNSW. She is a Chinese-Australian who grew up in Merrylands. She would describe her writing as strangely optimistic mundane stories of flawed and confusing people. Short stories of hers can be found in UNSWeetened 2016 and Westwords Jr Vol5. Her interests include Chinese-Australian diaspora experiences, intergenerational trauma, intersectional feminism and the slippery nature of human connection.
About the book Ailsa Liu will be working on
a book which explores the semi-autobiographical and the ways that fiction blends into poetry. She will be writing about liminal spaces, feelings of discomfort, loneliness and anxiety as generative spaces. She examines the shaping of meaning and the introspective process of experience. Her writing centers around authentic dialogue and visual imagery.
Hajer is a first year, Arts student at Western Sydney University. Hajer’s writing focuses on the experience of being a second-generation immigrant and finding community whilst being suspended between western society and traditions and conservative Islamic culture.
About the book Hajer will be working on:
Hajer’s book will explore the relationship of second generation immigrant children and their parents. She will be collaborating with a fellow Finishing School artist, Ailsa Liu, on this project. Their book will be investigating issues relating to gender and race within ethnic communities as well as issues ethnic communities face in Australia.
Chloe Higgins is the founder of Wollongong Writers Festival, and recently stepped down as Director to focus on her Creative Writing PhD. She was the 2016 Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers’ Centre Emerging Writer-in-Residence and the Ray Koppe Young Writers’ Resident at Varuna. Her work has appeared inSuburban Review, Prowlings, Lip mag, Tertangala, ZPlatt, and Kindling. In May 2017, she was named the winner of the inaugural Feminartsy Memoir Prize. She was raised in Western Sydney and currently lives between Western Sydney, Wollongong and backpacker hostels around the world.
About the book Chloe will be working on:
Chloe is writing a memoir of losing her two sisters in a car accident in 2005
Zarlasht is a PhD Candidate at Western Sydney University in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology. Her research involves exploring the transnational and intersectional dimensions of Afghan Australian identities. She has formerly undertaken roles within government and the higher education sector but currently focusing on research and writing.
About the book Zarlasht will be working on:
Inspired by the lived realities of Afghan Australian women, the work will explore how disrupted connections to place and culture impact upon the sense of self.