By Suzanne Robins | Posted: Wednesday November 16, 2022
Congratulations to our Junior Writers who competed in the 2022 Junior Writing competition this year.
1st - Hana Niak
2nd - Arlette Delaborde
3rd - Felix Robinson
1st - Sam McGee
2nd - Arlette Delaborde
3rd - Jenah Allum
Highly Commended - Miseki Honjo
1st - Xander Gosling
2nd - Lilyan Son
3rd - Laura Simpson
Highly Commended - Jordan Turner
Hana Niak - Unamed
Night-time quivers between me and the scarceness of day
Nothing is greater than the
Incessant, Impulsive, Irreversible feeling
Of life following design
Flourishing up and over the days of the weeks
Which turn to months
And then turn to years
But still I stay the same, looking at myself through the lens of A prescription that is due to be renewed
Day-time is lithe between my fingers
Slithering up and away down my left sleeve just to slither back down my right
leaving me with a sternful intertwining
It slips through me like sand,
And I slip through it like sand
We both swallow each other in the shallow light of dusk
And yet I still do not waver, keeping to my quiet setting in the reflection of a clock that moves time but does not move itself
Arlette Delaborden - Poem 1
Leaves me bare
A naked child
On that deserted country lane
We all choose
Its dust coats my throat
With those promises
That fickle hawk
Long have those ivory palaces
Of your love
In crumbled ruins
How they did shine
A luminous map
That told of how
Our stories grew brilliantly intertwined
Now an empty canvas
Of how much fell apart
Of what we were
Here you stand
In your beauty
Were you not
Pieces of you
Did the arrow of love
With none of the agonising accuracy
It did me
Did its enticing poison
Felix Robinson - The world that was
First came light
Then came sound
Then sense and touch
Slowly giving shape to the world
And finally meaning, purpose
An idea of life, but no life yet
An impossibility formed
A seed, a tree, a husk
Its children spread
Growing, dying, changing
Carpeting the world in leaves
Oceans and mountains hidden
By a blanket of green
And then a flicker
A sleepy flame
A promise of change
Blankets of black smoke covered the sky
The forests cried in pain
Charcoal covered the world
To a place beyond memory
Last night in bed I had the growing suspicion that I was being watched. A dim but threatening light coming from my camera’s battery charging cast deep and murky shadows from my bookshelf. With my senses out of order, I unconsciously rolled over onto my side and clumsily whacked my bedside clock. The luminous blue from the digital clock face attacked my barely open eyelids. It displayed the time 4:29am, which is known as the most despicable hour to wake up at. I see my teddy Poo staring menacingly at me from where mum left him perched up on my desk, those black soulless eyes staring deep inside of me. Suddenly I catch a red light blinking just beside the left eye. It carries on blinking until I hear a dim beep from my alarm clock signalling 4:30.
What if my teddy was actually a spy for the CIA, watching over me and sending data back to their headquarters? Have I been watched my whole life by people I didn’t even know existed? Are the people that I love and care about actually paid actors scripted to say things? Does my Dad really love listening to the Guardian Football Weekly, and does my brother actually even go to school? Most importantly, what happens when I am asleep? Is everyone I know actually submersed in dreamland, or are they really just learning new scripts? We learn at school that our brain needs to reset when we are asleep, and why sleep is so important, but are they actually telling the truth? Or are they really just trying to keep me oblivious to what nonsense is going on behind my back?
I seem to remember in the Truman Show, Truman has a similar feeling. What if I am in my own show? The McGee show? No, no-no no no. How could this be possible? How could there be a world outside of my world? This can’t be real. I have been to Rarotonga, surely there can’t be a set that big that they can use? Wait a sec, hold on… So… When I went there, I was on the plane for 3 or 4 hours, right? Hear me out. What if the “window” wasn’t even a window? What if it was just a super detailed TV screen that somehow changed views when I moved my head? Would that mean that I didn’t even move at all? Would it only take them a couple of hours to change the whole set? How much sand and water would they have to import to make it look like an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Unless…
Is everything around me even real? Like as in physically real? Am I actually just living in a hologram made by aliens? How could technology like this exist? I mean I always wondered how Aidan Dixon was so good at maths, and I sometimes made jokes about his Dad uploading more data to his ever expanding knowledge, but I never expected it to almost be true! And now, just to realise that my life has changed all because of one single teddy bear. And speak of the devil, that light is blinking again. Maybe I shouldn’t be writing this down, because you will probably think I am just being silly, but trust me it is completely rea-
End of log, last edited on 5/11/22 9:12:42…
Of course, as we sit here, we begin to notice the time gone past, the regrets we didn’t think we’d have already. We begin to see more clearly, perhaps, the wasted chances and lost meadows of fallen flowers and evening dreams, those quiet moments of forgotten solitude. The ones before the storms. A sky such an innocent blue is not expected to behave the way it did, and yet is that not life? Those clouds it summoned with such an ease, one couldn’t help but believe it had planned it all along. I wake with a start remembering, remembering those tired eyes, those resigned smiles that put us to sleep for an eternity, until of course, they didn’t anymore. We watched those tears that rolled down each other's faces, tears that rolled into rivers so deep they never cease to run. Followed by laughter we heard so much we never thought capable of forgetting. Your fingers I held so tightly, I didn’t dream of letting go. Ages go past. The only proof, those crumbling towers of priceless memories. We watched them fall, bit by bit, day by day. Leaving rubble and rock, left only for those like us. The ones left behind to make what they can of it. A castle is built, in a land of breaking, a castle that grows taller each year. Year after year, after year. Because somebody out there refused to forget. They chose instead, to remember.
Jenah Allum - Terror
Lights flicker out
The violent snapping of a bungee cord
Releasing me into madness.
My foot cautiously steps forward, bracing for the shift of my weight into a suddenly unfamiliar door frame. The doorframe leads to an equally unfamiliar room. I blink. Once, twice, nothing. Darkness encapsules every potential shape, or lack thereof. In such darkness, I am vulnerable. To my own imagination, to make-believe monsters who lurk in every crevice of my mind. Arms outstretched, I sheepishly take another step, then another. Cool metal greets my hands and I grasp hold of it. The half hearted recognition of the ladder leading to my bed is drowned by an unnerving feeling of being watched.
My back is open. I look around and all I see are eyes. Deep hazels, pale blues, the odd green. They stare at me, cling to my vision no matter where I look. Not real. My heart pounds. I climb the ladder. They follow me still, even atop this lookout that once was my top bunk. I freeze. The eyes disintegrate, fade into nothing before being replaces by one set. Gaping holes of pupils, too wide, staring at me. The partial face fades, interrupted by flashes of more.
My mind indulges in disturbing imaginings.
My heart falls faster, dropping out of my chest. An outlandish being approaches me. I realize suddenly I am on solid ground, gravel that cuts into my palms, though I do not remember landing. The creature's skin is a pale, sickly yellow which seems too plentiful for its body. It sags and bunches up over a skeletal interior. My vision traces up to its head, its eyes. Those inkstained pupils, too black, whites not white. The skin attached to its face is particularly mutilated, too tight, too loose. As though it does not belong…
The mouth grins sinisterly, predatorily, almost desperately. Nostrils with no nose, seem to be cut from the flesh. Grease ridden, matted hair falls past its shoulders, moving as it approaches. The thing reaches a blood stained hand, attached to an arm too long. I open my mouth in horror, try to scream but no sound comes out.
Yet it is when I look away that I double over in choked tears. Bodies, cut up, intestines, a rogue lung. Bones scattered. Each body lacks a heart, missing skin on its inner thighs and forearms. Worse yet, many bodies are new, the blood still wet. Suddenly I hear a deafening noise, high pitched and muffled. It drones on and on. My stomach feels as though its already been strewn across the floor. Hesitantly I look back to the creature, it crouches still, but as its eyes meet my own it inches close. Closer, closer, too close. The droning scream is my own. I run.
Ducking under it, I sprint. Stepping over the entrails on the floor, my heart pounds. The ground disappears beneath my feet and I glance behind myself. It’s gone. No, the creature is right in front of me.
No, no, no.
No, no, no, no, no, NO.
I smell the rancid breath as it mingles with mine and I close my eyes, hard. I can’t think, I can’t breathe. I tremble, it shoves me to a wall. The wind is knocked out of my lungs before it takes a sharp fingernail, cool on my chest. The skin splits easily under the pressure, and I see my own heart in its hand.
My vision spots with black, flickering out.
On certain summer nights, I would often look outside my bedroom window, only to find my attention drifting towards a small figure. 11 years old and filled with curiosity for the workings of the universe, the frail figure of the small boy next door can be seen in the distance. I’d recognize those Knee-high socks, old leather shoes, wide-brimmed sunhat, and vibrant blue rain jacket from anywhere. His dwarf-sized legs hang off the edge of a crooked wooden fence, swinging back and forth in boredom as he tilts his head up to the sky, searching for an answer. My eyes tell me he’s just another person, but my head says he’s more than that. He’s interesting, and I don’t just mean the way he dresses. From what I know, he often tends to question the world in a way that no one else does. He's a bumblebee, constantly buzzing with things to do, answers to find, and mysteries of his own to solve. He’s really not much of a people person, and is often seen alone, trapped in his thoughts.
Snap! A blindingly bright white light suddenly flashes from his face as he brings the shiny inanimate object up to his eyes once again, scanning his surroundings for a new photo to take. Through the glass lens lies a whole new world to him. He adjusts the lens, lifting them as he squints his eyes and frowns - searching for the perfect shot. A moment later, he grins in satisfaction to himself like a mischievous little kid. He jumps down the fence and onto the grass, lying down on his back and touching the cold and fresh surface as he waits for the stars to arrive even though they are still hours away. The clouds hide, and the birds call. The sound of crickets chirping emerges from the depths of the long grass. I can tell how much he enjoys the calmness of the warm summer breeze and the ambience of the endless meadow of flowers.
A sudden gust of wind picks up and lifts his tucked hair forward, letting them flow through the wind. His hair is like a pile of autumn leaves, short and fluffy, with golden brown tips. The cold breeze intrudes his thoughts, snapping him awake and revealing his sleepy yet mesmerizing icy-blue eyes. His hand reaches out to clench his hat tight, avoiding it from flying away in the wind, although it's too late. Up and up and up it goes, spiralling up into the infinite sky above. In an attempt to catch it, he abruptly jumps up and chases his hat around like a dog chasing its tail. He spins, jumps, and spins some more - almost as if he is dancing. A sudden collapse follows as he laughs to himself while feeling dizzy. Footsteps lay on the sunken grass, keeping a trace of his comings and goings.
A faint call can be heard coming from his his house, probably for dinnertime. Normally he would be eager to leave and go home, but today he takes his time. I can feel a gaze wandering to my direction as he catches me looking at him from my bedroom window, eyes meeting for a split second. After shooting me a look of utter confusion, I see him mouth the words: “See you again tomorrow.” Instinctively I do the same, whispering “see you again tomorrow too” as I quickly close the curtains of my window, hoping he didn’t actually see me. I’m his friend, the girl next door. His name is Aether, the boy next door.
Xander Gosling - I am not Esther
I am not Esther is a gripping psychological thriller written by Fleur Beale. The plot centres on Kirby Greenland, who is sent to live with her uncle and his family, who are members of a very strict cult, after her mother abruptly leaves after acting strangely. Kirby's mother Ellen was a fascinating character who I thought effectively conveyed the themes of the book. The majority of the book focuses on Kirby as she battles the toxic, oppressive nature of the cult she was forced into, struggles to maintain her identity, and tries to understand why her mother left and what her mother meant when she said "ghosts of the past" were to blame for her strange behaviour.
“I’m Kirby, not Esther for God’s sake.” this is one of the most powerful quotes in this book as it demonstrates her determination to show them -and herself -how strong and true she is. However, after spending so much time in an unfamiliar setting and with unfamiliar people, this book leaves you with the distinct impression that Kirby is in a hopeless predicament. She has no idea of her mother's whereabouts and no way to get in touch with her. The author has done a fantastic job of illustrating the impact the conflict has on Kirby's mental health, and she is stuck. Additionally, we see that the situation is hopeless for everyone born into the Faith, including Kirby's cousin and adopted brother Daniel, who feels torn between the life they want to live and the family, faith, and community that form their lives. Kirby begins to doubt whether she is actually Esther or Kirby and perceives the two of them as separate entities. But when Mrs Fletcher, the school counsellor, intervenes and provides her with support, she, at last, starts to see the hope she had been looking for. This is also what her mother needed after running away and ending up in a mental hospital. When they were finally reunited, the shared sense of despair and fear helped them cooperate to grow and become stronger for themselves and each other.
Ghosts are frequently mentioned in the book, especially in the first few chapters, which I thought was an interesting metaphor. At first, Kirby's mother's response when she was questioned about why she was acting strangely was, “Just ghosts from the past. Put it down to Christmas. Don't they say Christmas brings out all sorts of stresses?” The word "ghost" is used in this sentence literally to refer to something that is haunting Ellen in the same way that a ghost is said to do in myth, but this ghost is not an undead spirit; rather, it is an untold secret. Kirby could tell that she was concealing something and was starting to give in to it. “Whatever the ghosts were, my mother had them well shut back in their box and she wasn't going to talk about them. The same way she'd never talk when I tried to get her to tell me about when she was a kid and her family and everything. By the book's conclusion, we discover that Kirby was correct in assuming that Ellen was concealing the fact about her past and that she is disturbed as a result of being mistreated by an elder member of the cult her family belonged to.
With the help of this metaphor, the author develops a parallel character between Ellen and Miriam, the alleged deceased daughter of Uncle Caleb. Both of the characters were expelled from the family because it was believed that they had fallen too far into sin and were no longer loved by God and that they instead brought shame upon the neighbourhood. By contrasting these two characters, one can see how they react to pain in very different ways. The fact that Ellen kept running shows that, at her core, she was still the confused, innocent 16-year-old that someone had used and discarded, which is awful. But Miriam found people to call family who accepted her for who she is.
This book introduces us to a variety of characters, each of whom has a unique narrative to share. This story is specially developed thanks to two characters. Due to their shared experiences of being disowned by their families as a result of the strict authoritarian system known as The Rule, Ellen and Miriam were developed as parallel characters. This emphasises how the various characters respond and develop in often stressful and unfair conditions.
We also watch Kirby struggle for freedom as she is imprisoned by a religion that exists only to control and deceive its followers into conforming to the societal standard established by the so-called Lord. By the novel's conclusion, Kirby has received the help she needs and has discovered the truth about Ellen's "Ghosts from the Past." Fleur Beale has written a really thrilling tale with a beautiful conclusion.
Book Response Essay for I am not Esther by Fleur Beale
4. Describe an interesting character and Explain what themes the character communicate
The character is Martha Pilgrim / Ellen Greenland
Ghosts (parallel characters)
Lilyan Son - Title: The Rugmaker Of Mazar-e-Sharif
Text Type: Autobiography
By: Najaf Mazari
Great stories can be realised in the form of literature, granting readers a world full of individuals with vastly different perspectives and situations. The book, ‘Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif’, follows Najaf Mazari’s (the main character) his experiences of conflict which spiralled him into a refugee fleeing from everything he loves. The writing style switches sporadically from the present moment, the future, and to his childhood. I felt really connected to this because you can slowly piece together the reasons he reacted to events/problems with certain emotions. A moment that stood out to me that portrayed this was when Najaf is working, and he hears bombs dropping or the threat of them from a coworker. Right at that moment the story cuts, to his childhood where he loses his brother in a bombing in their humble farm house. He immediately panics and surges to run back home and try to save/warn his family.
Through gradual societal development, we know amongst the concentration of vulnerable refugees, Najaf is not unique. The scenario above is not unique either, it has happened countless times over history. There are millions who go through similar or perhaps worse experiences. Enabling large scale international conflict results in detrimental immediate and long term consequences and displacement of people. Through reading this book, I strongly realised that as refugee’s voices grow scarce in our world, they should be increasingly more valued. Because complex issues cannot be understood without their voices, their experiences, trauma, and resolve. I feel as if this book should be met by global recognition because it would open opportunities for most importantly millions of struggling refugees, teach people that it is okay to struggle, and that there is hope and solutions to our problems.
Through the course of the book, Najaf’s actions stem from core principal roots that keep him grounded. As a young boy he didn't care much, living thoughtlessly, and his biggest worry was what to do during school in order to not get bored. However, by the time he is a young adult, he must take on tremendous responsibility because of this we get to see the incremental development of Najaf’s priorities. By the end of the book he is a very caring man, who takes his time to talk to and educate the people around him, a very grateful and content person because he knows what misery can do to himself.
“If that happens, so be it. It will make me unhappy, but God expects that we can survive these disappointments. He has given us sufficient strength.” This epiphany Najaf has illustrated his faith in religion and his God. Using God as a mentor, he gains the ability to not lose his rationality, and think more critically about his surroundings and potential opportunities. This allowed Najaf to calmly assess and improve himself from teenagehood to adulthood.
Conflict can have numerous effects on an individual's morals and philosophies. Ranging from opinions on their political, cultural, and identity.
“‘Anger is a hammer,’ he told me, ‘It only has one task- to strike hand, and strike again. And your enemy’s anger is just the same.’ Gorg Ali (Najaf’s older brother) denotes this metaphor to Young Najaf, in context to his thoughts about the civil war going on in Afghanistan, his home country. Which gives Najaf a new perspective, and an instinctive underlying suspicion, and distrust towards the chaos. This was a detail I felt that was really worth noticing because the quote uses imagery to show the detrimental effects of the bloodshed and fighting. It furthers the reader's sympathy, and we can more easily gauge why Najaf is so empathetic in situations where it seems the people bombing his country are doing nothing but the devils work.
Community and reassurance helps an individual preserve themselves through different scenarios. When times are ever changing, the idea of daily remains a constant for Najaf.
“Remember always what God can provide.’ I said speaking only to myself, and then I plunged back into the crowd.’ This scene was describing when Najaf was getting married, a momentous and joyful occasion. A ceremony filled with life, surrounded by greenery, and people he loved. I reacted to this with a smile on my face really, reading this filled me with contentment. Because after so many trials and tribulations, Najaf stays consistent, his values and gratification towards God shines more than ever. As he thanks God for the motivation and hope he brought him during troubling times. Although I am not religious, I could identify with the gratitude of having reassurance and support because I do not believe I’d be myself or where I am today without the people around me. This idea made me realise things like this do not happen overnight, and the result of success/happiness cannot be understood without failure/conflict and sadness. Najaf Mazari, to me, is a prime example of how someone’s challenges are the foundations to their greatest achievements.
Recently, inspired by this book I’d been watching a TED talk on the refugee crisis worldwide by speaker David Miliband. He said an absolutely marvellous quote that I thought was relevant to this book. “Empathy and altruism are two of the foundations of civilization.”
This quote made me think that without empathy, we are estranged from our human nature to simply care and provide, and the ability to trust one another. Najaf, as I have stated previously, is a very family-oriented man, but also cares for the strangers he meets. The actions, thoughts and decisions made by Najaf reveals to me what a genuinely good individual he is. The author’s purpose in this case lies in his depiction of his struggles and how he manages to overcome them. I truly feel as if reading this book can empower people, give them hope, and let them see a new light whilst simultaneously helping readers understand what refugees go through. Without stories we lose our history and future, which is directly tied to our empathy towards others. I strongly recommend this book to anybody.
Laura Simpson - Shrek
What was a significant scene and why was it significant
The most significant scene in my opinion was the wedding scene. I think these reasons describe why the most significant scene in my opinion was the wedding.
Firstly this scene was significant because Shrek actually realizes that he loves Fiona. He stops doubting himself and he decides to come to the wedding and tell Fiona how he really feels about her and he is now confident enough that he knows that he needs to tell Fiona how he feels, even if she doesn't feel the same way. This was significant because Shrek is known to doubt himself and be negative to himself about how people see him because he is an ogre.
Secondly when shrek arrives at Fiona and Lord Faquuards wedding, Shrek sprints up to the stage and impatiently says “I OBJECT!” moments before Fiona is supposed to kiss Lord Faquardn after Fiona finally turns into her real form. Shrek doesn't care that she is an ogre and actually, he feels even more crazy about her. Shrek asks Fiona “are you alright” because she looks like she is in distress, Fiona says “Yes, but i dont understand im supposed to be beautiful” Then shrek says “You are beautiful” As soon as Lord Faquuard sees Fiona is an ogre he orders his guards to arrest Fiona and lock her back in her castle, but Shrek didn't let that happen. Instead he fights all the guards until it is only Fiona and him standing up on the stage. Shrek knows that is the perfect time to tell her how he feels and he does. This was also significant because they have a happy ending.
Lastly Fiona and Shrek had a happy ending, of course since this is a satire film it is not a typical happy ending it is a satire happy ending. When Shrek and Fiona kiss the curse is supposed to lift and Fiona is supposed to go back to being in her human form but instead she stays in her true form being an ogre. What was significant about this is that Fiona didn't actually mind; she is just happy that she and Shrek can finally be together. They live a happy ending, but not the typical way fairy tales usually end.
These reasons are why i think the wedding scene was most significant, Shrek actually realizes he loves Fiona, Shrek loves Fiona even more when he sees her in her true form as a ogre, and they live a happily ever after (with a twist of satire)
Jordan Turner -