Faber Academy @ Allen & Unwin

Last week I started the Faber Academy course at Allen & Unwin headquarters in Melbourne. It’s hosted by Sally Rippin, who I know through Booked Out and A Thousand Words, so I’m very excited to have her as a teacher. The group is pretty small, which is great, and it seems like most of us are there not only to hone our writing skills, but to actually make sure that we set aside time each week to write.

It’s going to be an awesome journey and the work that I’m hoping to develop there is a piece for upper primary students which I’ll submit through A&U at the end. Right now, I’m working on my manuscript for Ampersand submission though, but I thought I’d take a quick break to post.

Each week at Faber it looks like we’ll be doing some writing exercises. I haven’t done a lot of these before, normally I just write what I need to and play with it until it works, so it’s nice to write these little snippets. I thought they’d be quite interesting to share here (although be warned, they’re ‘hot pieces’ written in 15 minutes, with no editing at all as I post them) along with the exercise they came from. If nothing else it should show that I’m actually writing when I’m not on the internet!

week 1 – Exercise: Writing to yourself as a child.

Imagine yourself at six, eleven or sixteen. (I went with eight)

Write about an incident that happened to you at that age. Remember how you felt. Be honest and don’t trivialise what might seem unimportant now. Try this in first person or third person and see which is easiest to write.

*this is as real as I remember it, but I’ve used my middle name because I don’t like using my name in pieces.

It had been a bad week. First there was the parent teacher interview. Mrs Hutchinson, who had masses of frizzy brown curls and teeth that seemed almost too big for her mouth, was her favourite teacher. She was kind, and smelt like hugs, and best of all, thought Sarah, she liked Sarah best. She always got the good marks and picked first to read aloud, and Mrs Hutchinson didn’t seem to mind that she didn’t have any other friends.

But the interview had been a betrayal. Sarah had been off sick, but her mum had driven her down to the school (which felt like hours away from home) to go to the interview. Everything had been okay until the end. As Mrs Hutchinson was showing them to the door she leaned in close to Sarah’s mum and said “The only thing is. She can be a little bit b-o-s-s-y.” Sarah was horrified and insulted. This was her favourite teacher. And not only did she think that Sarah was bossy, she also thought she was stupid! It was too much. Sarah felt bitterness hard and solid in her tummy.

When she returned to school the next day, hurt and angry, she was met with the sight of an entire school in casual clothes. She looked down at her maroon uniform and brown knee socks and tried not to cry. That horrible Mrs Hutchinson must have forgotten to tell her about casual day on purpose. She bit her lip and sat down in her chair. The door opened and Mrs Hutchinson walked in, a breeze of ugly frizzy hair, nasty big teeth and sickly sweet perfume.

She touched Sarah on the shoulder. “Here” she said “why don’t you have these?” Sarah looked up at her teacher who was holding out a pair of bunny ears. Nobody else had a pair of bunny ears…..


If you’ve got any exercises that you do as writers or books on technique that you find useful, send them my way, I’d love to hear them!

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