Featured / News / Education / 27th July 2023
New flavours at Feast of Words
Students have been inspired to munch on the effects of writing at the annual Feast of Words festival held at Coonabarabran High School.
The 11-year-old tradition remains flourishing, as the high school’s own writing festival, continues to bring a diverse range of authors and communicators.
An annual event, Feast of Words was brought to life in 2011, offering opportunities for students to engage with successful writers and learn how words can be utilised in various environments.
This year’s event saw five talented creatives hosting workshops on the diversity of writing.
The presenters supplied students with practical writing tools and encouraged students to value and create their own stories.
Coona High English teacher, Rachel Blazely, who organised the festival, described how access to a multitude of opportunities in rural schools can show students that they are valued.
The goal of the festival is to establish a connection between communication skills and how words interact with the world.
“Words are how we share our understanding of the world,” Ms Blazely said.
“We can’t learn about others’ experiences and respond without words.”
Festival guests included author of Denizen – Coonabarabran born and raised, James Watson, author of Looking For Alibrandi, Melina Marchetta, and Jeff McGill, author of Rachel, a Warrumbungle pioneer. Also included in the Feast of Words line up were diverse communicators, authors and comedians, George Catsi and Mandy Nolan.
The presenters spoke on creativity and how students can explore the foundations of their own story.
All workshops engaged students, exploring this year’s theme of ‘share your voice’.
“Some kids struggle to care about their voice, or don’t realise they have one” Mr Watson said.
“I wanted kids to write about what they knew, to show they do have experiences to draw from.”
The authors were excited for the school to focus on the arts as a means for self improvement and to prepare students for the workforce.
“Content creation is not just about writing. The workforce requires skills in communication and collaboration,” Mrs Nolan said.
Mr Catsi added, “You have to have a story to tell to be successful. Who are you as a character?”
Melina Marchetta noted the importance of schools and the value a student holds.
“Schools are full of stories and say a lot about a town,” she said.
Ms Marchetta believes in the authenticity of a novel and how a student can discover their own story through writing about the world around them.
Jeff McGill also shared the notion of authenticity with his biography of his great-great grandmother, Rachel Kennedy.
“Rachel has brought the community together. She is not perfect and I think that makes her relatable,” he said.
His workshop showcased the value of research, and how language can turn knowledge into an accurate scene.
Feast of Words also included a friendly writing competition for both students and teachers to participate in. The competition was judged by the authors.
A public dinner, involving all authors and the community was a highlight for many. The Acacia Motel provided a two-course meal and the evening provided a chance for the professional writers to meet with locals and share their stories of success.
PHOTO: Coonabarabran High School’s Feast of Words presenters Jeff McGill, Melina Marchetta, Mandy Nolan, James Watson and George Catsi at the dinner event on Tuesday, 25 July.