By David Lawrence
If you think writing a book is a daunting task, imagine being asked to write, illustrate, and launch one… in just five days!
That’s what seven talented young authors from the Tiwi Islands recently accomplished, as part of the ILF’s Create Initiative.
From the moment they arrived at Penguin Random House’s Sydney office on the Monday morning, Micky, Naida, Tahleea, Bella, Kim, Taylah and Demaga all worked brilliantly as a team.
The book these Tiwi College students created is called Japarrika Rises - the sequel to last year’s enormously successful Japarrika (The Storm Bird); a story about a young Tiwi woman who dreams about playing in the AFLW.
This new, beautifully illustrated book, is full of excitement and humour, and is truly representative of the students’ lives, loves and culture. Best of all, it is a cracking good read!
Fellow ILF Ambassador Shelley Ware and I were mentors during the week, and as always we learnt so much from the students. After lunch on the Wednesday, the girls were told they could take any left over muesli bars and fruit back to their hostel for a snack. Instead they asked if they could hand them out to the homeless people they had seen on their way to the train station.
This simple, thoughtful gesture best sums up what makes these young women so special, and will stay with me forever.
Throughout the week the students had incredible support from Penguin Random House who provided every resource possible – the most important one being the fabulous Jess Owen, Senior Editor. Having two sensational Tiwi teachers (Tictac and Ashlee) in the room was also invaluable.
A huge thanks to the ILF team for organising everything – apart from the Laser Tag, which the girls seemed to interpret as, ‘Lets see how many times we can shoot David!’
It was an absolute joy to work with Shelley and these awesome young writers. And in terms of the impact of the Create Initiative, I’d like to share the heart-warming words used by Tiwi College teacher Ashlee Healey at the very emotional book launch on the Friday.
I can assure you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the (PenguinRandom)house!
“Through this week, I’ve seen their confidence, their self belief and their literacy skills grow and improve. I’ve watched them build each other up and I’ve seen their creativity not limited by anything. This has allowed them to get excited with reading and excited with writing again, something that’s a challenge for many of our students back home. The growth that occurs during this week, stepping up and becoming an author, they return to their communities as role models and leaders, that’s in the school and in their home communities. There’s no doubt there are future generations of people and young students on the Tiwi Islands that are looking up to these girls and wanting to be part of something so wonderful like this.”
'Japarrika Rises' has been published by Penguin Random House and will be released to the public in 2019. Stay tuned!