A storm bird takes flight

A storm bird takes flight

Author David Lawrence shares his experience mentoring this year's Create Initiative workshops with Tiwi College. 

The brief from ILF Executive Director Karen Williams over the phone was very straight forward: "We'd like you and Shelley Ware to mentor 10 students from the Tiwi Islands as they write and illustrate a story ..."

'Simples' I thought.

"Oh, and the book will be printed and launched by Penguin Random House ..." continued Karen.

Mmm, that's a bit more pressure, but still ...

"And the whole process has to be completed within five days ..."

What? Five days! No way! That's impossible!

"Sure count me in," I replied before hanging up in a cold sweat.

Fast forward to September 4. It’s a freezing Monday morning in Melbourne as Shelley and I greet these amazing young Tiwi women on arrival at the stunning Penguin Random House office.

We started with a blank piece of butcher's paper and my somewhat nervous question: "So, um, what would you like the story to be about?"

What happened over the next few days was magical!

Watching these students work together to create an AFLW inspired story called Japarrika (Storm Bird) was an absolute joy. They stretched themselves, looked out for each other and came up with numerous brilliantly funny, sad, exciting and spiritual ideas.

On top of writing a book they also managed to fit in attending an AFLW State of Origin Match, a night at the incredible Bangarra Dance production of ‘Bennelong’, tours of the MCG, Etihad Stadium and the Essendon Football Club, conducting media interviews, being in the studio audience of the Marngrook Footy Show and doing a presentation and dance for over 300 students at Federation Square on Indigenous Literacy Day. Wow!

Writing Japarrika was a wonderful accomplishment by these young Tiwi leaders, and the look of pride on the girls’ faces as they held up copies of their book on the Friday will stay with me forever.

It was very sad to say goodbye to these students who had taught me so much, including how to do the Crocodile Dance. (Although given their peels of laughter every time I performed it, there’s a good chance I still have some work to do!)

A huge thank you to the ILF for involving Shelley and me, and also to Penguin Random House for putting so many resources behind this wonderful project, enabling it to be turned around so quickly and successfully.

Finally, to the Tiwi girls: you rock!  And may Japarrika be just the first book in a very successful AFLW series!

  • Posted 20 September, 2017

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