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Anthology sparks creative thought in ambitious young writers

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The Orana Anthology of Creative Thought has published 39 unique interpretations of creative writing and illustration from school children across Canberra.

When you were a kid, did you just know what you were going to be when you grew up?

I was seven when my teacher asked the class our career aspirations. While most kids chose fireman, acrobat or superhero, I raised my hand and said “I’m going to be a journalist and write stories”. It is a moment etched on my memory – a pinnacle point when I knew my love of words would become something more.

And that’s exactly how the select group of Canberra kids who dream of becoming writers feel after securing the ultimate bragging rights—being published in a book before they have even graduated from school!

From a fantasy adventure, to a short story of displacement and belonging; a graphic novel about the life cycle of a mobile phone; and a poem in the shape of an apple tree, the CTRL+A competition received a slew of submissions from school children in Year 2 to Year 12 from a variety of primary and secondary schools across the ACT.

The Orana Anthology of Creative Thought is a fundraising initiative of the Orana P&C, run entirely by volunteers. Set to the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s (CBCA) theme of Old Worlds, New Worlds & Other Worlds for 2021, the competition fosters young aspiring authors’ creative thought processes in the form of poems, short stories and graphic novels.

The winning and notable entries have been published in a thoughtfully compiled, professionally printed and visually appealing book by CTRL+A organiser Caroline Xeri, which will be launched at the Book Cow, Kingston on Saturday 2 July at 2.30pm. The authors also received a certificate and book.

“The literary competition aims to give a platform to the ambitions of young writers, to share the joy of storytelling,” said Caroline, an Orana Steiner School parent and volunteer. “Inclusion, the celebration of creativity and promoting the aspirations of young writer’s is what drives me to volunteer my time and effort.”

Judged by award-winning graphic novelist and screenwriter Shane W. Smith (Triumviratus Best Fiction, ACT Writing and Publishing Award), and poet, children’s author, creative writing teacher and comic performer Harry Laing, the anthology is a work of “creativity and courage”.

HerCanberra spoke to a selection of the young scribes what inspires them.

What does it mean to you to be published at such a young age

Alexandra Brown, (16), Narrabundah College (Orana Steiner School at time of entry) with her short fantasy story, Mortal Morals. 

Alexandra Brown (16), Narrabundah College (Orana Steiner School at time of entry):

At first, I was unsure about submitting a short story for Ctrl+A, I wasn’t confident that it would be selected because it was my first time in a writing competition. Now, having had my story and illustrations published, it has made me realise I could consider writing as a career because it’s something I love to do. I am grateful to Caroline, the judges and all the other organisers of this anthology for the opportunity to have my story and illustrations published. This will encourage me to seize other opportunities like this in the future.

Ava Adore Hope (8) of Torrens Primary School wrote a poem in the shape of an apple tree for her submission.

Ava Adore Hope, (8), Torrens Primary School: It’s cool because not much young people get to do it. I was the youngest person in the book, and that’s really cool. The end.

Elsa Appel (10), Orana Steiner School wrote a short story of family life and friendship for her submission Underbubble. Elsa received a $50 cash prize for her submission. 

Elsa Appel, (10), Orana Steiner School:  I was not expecting to win because there were so many people older than me, so to be published at such a young age means a lot and is an incredible feeling!

Is creativity and writing something you value and would like to continue throughout your life? How will you do that as you grow up?

Alexandra: From a young age, I have always loved creating in any way I can, from visual art and music to dance and writing. I always keep a sketchbook handy and have kept subjects like art and English throughout school. As I’ve grown up, I have continued to expand my creative horizons by taking up textiles and trying to find my art ‘style’ through endless experimentation.  I have also always been an avid reader, and some of my favourite authors have inspired me to write myself. Once I discovered that I love writing, it was easy to decide that I want to continue throughout my life, either as a hobby or a career.

Ava: It is something I value because it is a chance for me to be creative and I like being creative because it is really fun. You can just draw or paint, sketch or write whatever you want. It transports you to a new world. It is a family tradition because we all like to be creative a lot. My grandma is a writer and that’s really cool because not much people in my school get to have a grandma as an author and illustrator. I want to be an artist and a writer when I grow up.

Elsa:  Creativity, especially writing, is something I value greatly and as I grow up, I will continue being creative by writing, drawing and designing every day that I can. I’ve always loved the art of telling stories and actual art, like drawing.

The Orana Anthology of Creative Thought is available via the Orana School P&F shop between 10—11am on Sundays. The book will be launched on Saturday 2 July at 2.30pm at the Book Cow, Kingston and will be available to purchase in person. Tickets are free but registration is essential. The young authors in attendance will be invited to read their piece for the audience.

Disclaimer: Megan Reeder Hope is Ava Adore Hope’s mother. Megan has volunteered her time for the fundraiser.

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