Writing & Society Research Centre, Room To Listen online seminar series

Event Name
Writing & Society Research Centre, Room To Listen online seminar series
27 November 2020
11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Address (Room): rsvp to S.Gapps@westernsydney.edu.au for Zoom details


Featuring Ilhan Abdi, Viniana Rokobili, Sophiya Sharma, Huyen Hac Helen Tran, Yasir Elgamil, Christine Lai, Nadia Hirst, Kim Pham, Martyn Reyes, Duy Quang Mai, Yasmin Ali, Ryan Bautista and Tina Nyfakos - chaired by Sophiya Sharma and Kate Fagan

Join the authors of The Writing Zone for a very special series of readings and conversations, as they publicly launch Sky Conversations – the first book completed under the Writing and Society Research Centre’s new mentoring program for emerging Western Sydney authors and arts workers. Sky Conversations showcases some of the most exciting new voices emerging from the GWS region. It’s a high-voltage collection of fiction, poetry, essays and screenplay extracts that celebrate diversity, imagination, and the power of creative communities.

The Writing Zone began in July 2020 with its first intake of 12 young Western Sydney writers. This program offers intensive mentoring, editing, publication and performance opportunities to local writers under 30, while employing and training young arts workers from our region. The Writing Zone will run for three years, involving 36 emerging Western Sydney authors and inaugurating a new partnership with SBS Voices. Under COVID-19, we adapted the program to run fully online – an experience both challenging and exhilarating. Sky Conversations is the first book to emerge from The Writing Zone. It was edited and designed by Ilhan Abdi, our 2020 Program Officer, who also works under TWZ as a junior editor for the Sydney Review of Books.

Abdi writes in her preface to Sky Conversations: “Reading through and editing these submissions, I found myself continuously amazed by the authors’ capacity to imagine new worlds and create fully fleshed characters, and to examine the complexities and polarities of life on earth. I was inspired by the ways they wrote of and researched their own cultures and histories without betraying their people and principles for a certain gaze. They bared their souls and examined their lives with vulnerability, while interrogating the structural and societal limitations they grapple with.”

In this special final W&SRC online event for 2020, Bengali-Australian author Sophiya Sharma and Dr Kate Fagan, director of The Writing Zone, will chair a series of readings from Sky Conversations and hold a conversation around these ideas: What might be the role and significance of mentoring within creative arts communities? And how adaptable are digital platforms to close mentoring? Join some of our best young regional authors as they discuss how their professional approaches to writing practice have transformed while working with The Writing Zone – and what they have learned from one another.

  • DATE: Friday 27 November, chaired by Sophiya Sharma and Kate Fagan
  • TIME: 11am – 12:30pm, online
  • RSVP to: Suzanne Gapps, S.Gapps@westernsydney.edu.au and you will be sent the Zoom link.

All welcome! please note the special extended time of 90 minutes


CHRISTINE LAI is a photographer and poet whose work seeks to capture in-between places where time appears to stand still. She is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Arts/Advanced Studies, majoring in English and Film. She was one of the virtual “Writers in Residence” for a new essay-writing program run by the Bankstown Arts Centre and Sydney Review of Books for the 2020 Bankstown Biennale.

DUY QUANG MAI is an international student from Hanoi, Vietnam who has just undertaken his HSC. His philosophically-charged poetry has been published in The Lifted Brow, Cordite, Eunoia Review and Poets in Revolt!, and by the Red Room Company. His debut chapbook Homeward was published in 2018 by the Sydney Story Factory.

HUYEN HAC HELEN TRAN has written and published reviews, interviews, poetry, short fiction and essays. She works as the Sales and Marketing Coordinator at New South Books and has held various editorial roles prior to joining The Writing Zone, such as Director of Student Publications and Editor-in-Chief for UTS’s Queer Vertigo.

KIM PHAM has long been fascinated by the art of filmmaking. After completing an MA in literary history at Western Sydney U, she wrote her first screenplay, “Where the Green Lime Grows”, and realised how important writing is to visual storytelling. In her scripts she aims to “enter the minds of the audience and direct their thoughts before their eyes”.

MARTYN REYES is a Filipino-Australian writer who explores various intersections of identity in the form of creative nonfiction. He holds a BA in Communication (Journalism) from the University of Technology, Sydney. His work can be found in SBS Voices, Peril Magazine and LIMINAL. He was a “Writer in Residence” for the 2020 Bankstown Biennale.

NADIA HIRST is an essayist who explores themes of historical revisionism and cultural trauma. She is interested in the essay as a venue for challenging dominant cultural narratives, and is completing a Bachelor of International Studies and Journalism at UNSW. Her work appears in Tharunka and Junkee. She was a “Writer in Residence” for the 2020 Bankstown Biennale.

RYAN BAUTISTA is a creative non-fiction writer from Blacktown whose essays explore 2000s Australian and American pop culture, with an emphasis on culturally diverse identities and queer cultures. He has previously been published by SBS Voices and Voiceworks and is a recent graduate of Arts (Media, Culture and Technology) at UNSW.

SOPHIYA SHARMA is a Punjabi immigrant writer whose work explores tensions between embracing and concealing cultural heritage, especially as these are explored in diasporic literatures and communities. She is currently working on her PhD thesis which examines themes of religious plurality, class, sexuality, performance and the uniting potential of Sufi devotion in North India.

TINA NYFAKOS is a literary fiction writer from South Western Sydney, whose writing explores intergenerational ties in post-migration communities. She was a recipient in 2019 of a West Words residency at the Varuna National Writers’ House, and is writing a non-fiction essay for SBS Voices exploring aspects of mental health and travel under COVID-19.

VINIANA ROKOBILI is a Fijian-Australian poet and student at Western Sydney U, who writes: “I am a Fijian, born and raised in Australia, with traditions of my father and mother that shape my sense of belonging, my thinking, and my writing. I want to motivate my fellow Fijians and Pacific Islanders to be able to express their pain through writing.”

YASIR ELGAMIL is a Sudanese-Australian writer studying literature at Macquarie University, who has always held a fascination for novels and their capacity to “suck a person into a different reality”. He brings into his writing aspects of his Sudanese cultural heritage, while exploring the poetic power of language, especially through his love of hip-hop.

YASMIN ALI is a Somali-Australian writer who wrote poems and scripts for her high school newsletter and radio program. She is currently doing a Bachelor of Primary Teaching at Western Sydney U, majoring in Creative Writing. She is interested in exploring “Kafka-esque” and gothic fictional modes as a form of cultural allegory.

Program Officer, The Writing Zone ILHAN ABDI is a Somali-Australian writer, editor and arts worker who graduated in Media Studies at Macquarie University. She is a former editor of Grapeshot magazine and maintains a digital archive of 20th century Somali music alongside her work in literary culture. She is the first Program Officer for The Writing Zone and works as a junior editor for the Sydney Review of Books as part of that role. She edited the chapbook “Sky Conversations”.

Web page: https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/writing_and_society/events/writing_and_society_seminars/2020_seminars

Name: Suzanne Gapps


Phone: 0403 699 455

School / Department: Writing & Society Research Centre