New program to foster emerging literary talent in Sydney’s West

Ilhan Abdi, the first local arts worker to participate in the program

Western Sydney University’s Writing and Society Research Centre has launched The Writing Zone — a new initiative to support emerging Western Sydney writers and artists under 30 years old.

The three-year program, funded by a $222,000 grant from Crown-Packer’s philanthropic Western Sydney Arts Initiative, will connect young writers with mentors and literary networks, including Giramondo Publishing, the Sydney Review of Books and SBS Voices.

Project lead Dr Kate Fagan, Director of the Writing and Society Research Centre, said the initiative will strengthen the rich creative community in the region, and aims to develop talented writers from a diverse range of backgrounds.

“The Centre has a long record of supporting diverse voices in the region. It’s clear to us that working directly with mentors and with access to community networks can make a huge difference to aspiring writers and artists,” said Dr Fagan.

“Now more than ever, it’s important to connect young writers with real opportunities to publish, edit and perform alongside each other.”

In its first year, The Writing Zone will offer 12 places to emerging local writers, with two places prioritised for Indigenous authors. Dr Fagan hopes the program will attract a range of published and unpublished writers across poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, scriptwriting and writing for performance.

“Diversity is the fabric of Western Sydney. For us it’s about increasing the visibility of writers and artists from early on in their careers and supporting them to develop and sustain a practice in their community,” she said.

Writers in the program will be mentored by experienced authors and editors, in a series of writing workshops and mentoring sessions. The program will span six to eight months and will begin virtually, and conclude with an anthology launch featuring the work of all the writers involved.

According to Professor Ivor Indyk, Giramondo publisher and Whitlam Chair in the Writing and Society Research Centre, The Writing Zone will build on the successes Giramondo and the Centre have had over the past ten years in nurturing a distinctive Western Sydney literature.

“This project will allow us to provide support to a new generation of writers, with our established writers in mentoring roles, and our literary, editing and publishing resources working to provide them with a range of opportunities,” said Professor Indyk.

Ilhan Abdi, who is the first local arts worker to participate in the program, will also be employed as a Project Officer to work with the Centre.

“To be able to spotlight Western Sydney — where I have lived all my life — and to be able to connect writers from my community to opportunities like this, is a dream for me,” said Ilhan.

“The pool for literary and editorial roles for emerging arts workers in Sydney is so small, and even smaller for people like me; so it’s incredibly rewarding to have this opportunity.”

Applications for 2020 close 19 June. For more information, visit the Writing and Society Research Centre website (opens in a new window).

ENDS.

15 June 2020

Ali Sardyga, Media Officer

Photos: Sally Tsoutas