Western Sydney artists launch inaugural publication inspired by lockdown

The Writing Zone Program Officer, Ilhan Abdi

Western Sydney University’s three-year program for emerging artists under 30 in Sydney’s West, The Writing Zone is now home to 12 diverse, young artists who will present their inaugural publication ‘Sky Conversations’ at a special online event today.

With support from the University’s Writing and Society Research Centre, the aptly named 60-page digital chapbook was developed entirely online and features a range of artists from high school and university students to more established filmmakers and poets.

Editor and designer of the chapbook, Ilhan Abdi, who is the Project Officer of The Writing Zone, said the collection forms part of an ongoing program where artists from the region are encouraged to tell their stories, polish their craft and build a creative community.

“This chapbook was put together entirely through sky conversations — that is to say, it was written and edited over the Internet, through Zoom workshops, phone calls and emails, without its writers and collaborators ever having met,” writes Abdi.

“The publication gathers together short stories, poems, essays, excerpts from novels, and a screenplay — it’s a celebration of the first writers to join the program.”

Poet Duy Quang Mai’s piece ‘Sky Conversations’ lent its title to the book and reflects diverse sources of inspiration for the group, who have become a close online network representing many communities.

Twenty-eight-year-old contributor Viniana Rokobili is a Fijian-Australian poet and a student at Western Sydney University, who says: “I want to motivate my fellow Fijians and Pacific Islanders to be able to express their pain through writing. My passion is to motivate individuals and inspire other Pacific Islanders from the Western suburbs.”

Dr Kate Fagan, Director of the Writing and Society Research Centre and project lead, congratulated the artists for their resilience and adaptability in producing the quality publication.

“Each of these authors has shown incredible commitment to The Writing Zone, and to their peers in the group. COVID-19 has challenged us all – but from great difficulty, a high-energy model has emerged for online literary community, and for empowering new voices.”

The program is funded by a grant from Crown-Packer’s philanthropic Western Sydney Arts Initiative. Artists are supported by Giramondo Publishing, the Sydney Review of Books and SBS Voices. They also receive mentorship from award-winning authors with strong links to the region, including Eda Gunaydin, Eileen Chong, Mireille Juchau and George Haddad.

Following the launch of Sky Conversations, The Writing Zone team will begin work on a longer anthology of original creative pieces to be released early next year.

For more information on the initiative, visit the Writing and Society Research Centre's website (opens in a new window).


27 November 2020

Ali Sardyga, Media Officer

Photo credit: Sally Tsoutas