Each year SWF hosts a writing competition for secondary school students in years 7 to 9. This is a wonderful opportunity for students to hone their creative writing skills and be in the running to win some great prizes.

The competition was popular this year, with almost 1500 entries across the three year-groups.

Students chose from one of the three ‘Story Starters’ that had been written by 2014 School Days authors Lisa Forrest, Will Kostakis and Fiona Wood, then were challenged to continue the narrative, completing a short story in less than four pages.

Competition was fierce. It was such a difficult task for our judges to select winners and runners up that several noteworthy young writers also received an honourable mention. This year’s impressive book prizes were donated by Penguin, Harper Collins & Pan Macmillan.

THE WINNERS

Honorable Mentions:

Year 7 Category

Mirror Mirror by Mia Smith from Barrenjoey High School

Illusion by Felix Ashford  from Saint Augustine’s College

Year 8 Category 
Righteous Wings by Ada Qiu from Fort Street High School  

Two by Asha Harvey from Inaburra School

Year 9 Category

Three Sides of a Secret by Lucy Lennox from St Philips Christian College 

The Perfect Person by Jessica Belzycki  from Masada College

Haunted Memories by Sally Fenton from Willoughby Girls High School

Runners-up 

Year 7 Category

I Remember by Joshua Lin from Shore

Year 8 Category

Just Ten Minutes by Jonathan Kang from Shore

Year 9 Category 

 At First Glance  by  Ben Jefferson from Shore 

Winners

Year 7 Category

In School Hours by Lucy Bailey from Fort Street High School

Year 8 Category

 Open My Eyes by Isabella Buraczak from Trinity Catholic College

Year 9 Category 

Sweet Revenge  by Levi Zulman from Moriah College

Congratulations to all the students!

Some amazing lines we found inspiring… 

‘My heart had shrunken down to my stomach and shriveled like a sultana’

‘This was possibly the toughest decision of my life: kebabs or pizza?’

‘I am trying to deal with a tuna without a head and a dog tryiong to claw my leg off’

‘I never saw what really happened that day a few years ago but it ended with a bite mark on Fraser’s bum’

‘Welcome to the Secret Organisation of Underground People, or S.O.U.P for short’

‘He was wearing a t-shirt that said “I wish I was eating chips”‘

‘And I thought it would never end … until it did’

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Guest instagrammer Denoodle captured some beautiful scenes at the Festival this year. Head to the SWF Instagram account for more…

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Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel is at a moment of existential crisis. Ari Shavit tells the story of Israel as it has never been told before, and asks difficult but important questions: Why and how did Israel come to be? Can Israel survive? His unique ideological vantage point challenges the dogmas of both the right and left and has made him one of the leading political thinkers of the Jewish state.
Thanks to the University of Sydney for this podcast.

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It’s been a pleasure to blog at the festival. I was accused, a number of times, of typing furiously on my laptop in order to terrify other writers into thinking I was working on my next novel. No – I was having much more fun. What a glorious week of words, ideas, compassion, wit, and great weather.

My highlights included:

Talking to Steven Gale about the delights of presenting at the opening night party, watching John Safran plot how to get this photo with the Prime Minister, Andrew Solomon’s opening address, A.M. Homes being funny, modest and so smart with Susan Wyndham on Saturday night, story time at the Festival Club, hearing Eimear McBride read aloud from A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing, my session with the fabulous Charlotte Wood, seeing Ceridwen Dovey launch her amazing new story collection, Only The Animals, getting ready for the Australian Book Industry Awards in the lobby bathroom at Pier One along with the festival’s head of marketing Ainslie Lenehan, feeling as if Vivid was really lighting up Sydney in honour of the written word, Alexis Wright reading the Prime Minister’s funeral scene from The Swan Book, and working with my fellow writer-in-residence, Chris Flynn, whose strange, brilliant, funny, gorgeous second novel, The Glass Kingdom, is out next week.

It’s been a pleasure. Here’s to the festival, to Sydney, and to books.

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So that’s it. Whilst it has been a pleasure to hear the likes of legendary overseas guests Alice Walker, Irvine Welsh et al speak about their work in Sydney, I kind of love how Stella Miles Franklin seems to watch over the festival from her perch in literary heaven.

With the Stella Prize awarded just prior to SWF 2014, and the Miles Franklin shortlist announced too, the festival promises to provide a cornucopia of Australian riches at this time every year from now on. Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka ensures that the women of the gold rush era will not be forgotten, and her appearances at the festival have been electric. Her reference to the history tomes on display in bookstores as, “the dick table” was a funny and prescient reminder of the dangers of historical tunnel vision.

The Miles Franklin is looking sharp this year too, and although I may be slightly biased because I’ve gotten to know her a little as my fellow writer-in-residence, my fingers are crossed that Fiona McFarlane will win for The Night Guest on 26 June. Since the festival is now officially over, I figure what the hell, I might as well blurt out how much I admire her writing.

Although we only met this week, I’ve been watching her from afar for years. No, that wasn’t me standing in the bushes across the street with a pair of binoculars, Fiona. You should really call the cops about that guy.

She’s had short stories published in Zoetrope magazine (twice) and The New Yorker (!!!) but the one that left me hanging out for her first book appeared in New Australian Stories 2 a couple of years back, about a newly married couple whose life together is tainted by a nasty accident. The Night Guest is a brilliant, tense novel about a 75 year-old woman who may or may not be going through the early stages of dementia. She believes a tiger is visiting her house in the night, and the carer who turns up out of the blue brings with her a tornado of doubts and agendas. I squirmed and sweated all the way to the exultant, majestic coda. Any other year she’d walk it, and she still might, but she’s up against Tim Winton, Richard Flanagan, Alexis Wright, Cory Taylor and Evie Wyld. 2013 was the year of heavy hitters. Still, the bookies have Fiona at 8-1. Worth a flutter. Although scratch that – buy the book instead, duh.

As a final fun game – which books on show this year do you think will make the Stella and Miles shortlists in 2015? If it wasn’t for that damn restriction on short story collections being ineligible for the Miles, I’d say Tony Birch’s The Promise,

Maxine Beneba Clarke’s Foreign Soil and Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals would be shoo-ins. Still, I’m sure they’ll pop up and win elsewhere. It’s kind of delicious that in addition to celebrating the great books of today, we also get a glimpse at the stars of tomorrow at this festival. There they go, off to the airport to be scattered around Australia once more, having lit up our city just as brightly as the swirling mosaics that have danced across the Opera House roof. Just like that – they’re gone. The festival may be over, but as Emma Donoghue said at the last, the season for thinking has just begun.

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The festival couldn’t run without the help of an army of volunteers, so I decided to meet some of them and find out why they chose to spend their time at the SWF. The first thing I discovered was that many of them referred to this year’s T-shirt colour as “tangerine dream.” The second thing was that these people love books and the festival atmosphere. I think they’re fabulous.

Allison (left) – 1st year volunteer
“I’ve been coming to the Writer’s Festival for years and I love it and just wanted to be part of it.”

Laura (right) – 1st year volunteer
“There were a lot of great authors on this year and I just wanted to be part of it.”

Emily – 1st year volunteer
“I changed from a law degree to a writing degree so I just wanted to get as much experience as I could…It seemed like a good starting point to meet people and have an idea how it all works.”

Michael – 2nd year volunteer
“I wanted to give back to the community.”

Jenn (left) – 2nd year volunteer, volunteer supervisor
“I’m the events and programming coordinator at Woolhara libraries…and it’s great to see how a large-scale event is run. Plus I see so many people I know – so many library patrons.”

Hayley (right) – 1st year volunteer
“To encourage myself to make sure I come in future years…I enjoy reading and I have an English major, so I have a general interest in writing and reading.”

Syanni (left) – 2nd year volunteer, volunteer supervisor
“Last year I was an intern and had a lot of learning experiences…I found that really rewarding, so when I was asked back to supervise I just wanted to jump on that experience.”

Karim (right) – 1st year volunteer
“I volunteered for the Sydney Film Festival last year. I love the vibe, the sense of community…I wanted to be part of that again.”

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