Affirmative action: new mentorship for western Sydney authors

The Western Sydney literacy movement known as Sweatshop has joined forces with one of Australia’s fastest-growing publishers, Affirm Press, to establish a mentorship which will enable two Western Sydney writers from culturally diverse backgrounds to develop their debut novels.

The Affirm Press Mentorship for Sweatshop Writers was originally conceived by Sweatshop Director, Dr Michael Mohammed Ahmad. “This is a unique opportunity for two of Western Sydney’s most exciting new writers to work with one of Australia’s best publishers. The mentorship will result in two new novels which reflect the incredible diversity of contemporary Australian culture,” said Dr Ahmad.

The mentorship follows a string of powerful literary initiatives that Sweatshop has been developing with culturally diverse and Indigenous writers from Western Sydney since 2012. Sweatshop’s annual program includes two ongoing writers’ groups for emerging artists from Western Sydney, writing workshops in schools, and the production of publications, videos and podcasts, which can be accessed via the Sweatshop website:  

The two writers who have been selected for the Affirm Press Mentorship for Sweatshop Writers include Vietnamese-Australian writer from Yagoona, Shirley Le, whose short stories and essays have appeared in The Lifted Brow, SBS Life and Meanjin; and Palestinian-Australian Muslim poet from Bankstown, Sara Saleh, who is best-known as ‘slambassador’ of the Bankstown Poetry Slam.

In a joint statement, Shirley and Sara said, “We are honoured and humbled to be selected for the Affirm Press Mentorship. Thank you to Sweatshop and Affirm Press for such a wonderful opportunity. We are ready to get started. As women of colour from Western Sydney, we have plenty to contribute to Australian writing. It's time for the shelves in our libraries and bookstores to include more voices from culturally and linguistically diverse communities.”

Affirm Press is an award-winning publisher based in Melbourne which is committed to publishing books that ‘influence by delight’. Publishing Director of Affirm Press, Martin Hughes was one of the driving forces behind setting up the mentorship with Sweatshop, and will be working directly with Sara and Shirley to help develop their debut novels.  
Mr Hughes said, “We are committed to nurturing new talent and promoting greater diversity across our publishing list, and we could hardly be more excited about teaming up with an organisation as dynamic and direct as Sweatshop. Shirley and Sara are exceptional young writers and we can’t wait to collaborate with them on the first two books in this splendid initiative.”

Sweatshop works in partnership with the Western Sydney University Writing and Society Research Centre and WestWords: Western Sydney’s Literature Development Organisation, and is funded by Create NSW, and the Packer Foundation and Crown Resorts Foundation. 

For media enquiries contact Winnie Dunn, General Manager, Sweatshop Literacy Movement
E: P: 0422 560 781


8 November 2018

Media Unit.