Feast of Words 2018 – A Recipe for Success!

The first course of Coonabarabran High School’s Feast of Words Festival wrapped up on Friday 6th April. The Feast of Words, now a highlight of Coonabarabran High’s calendar, aims to foster a love of literature and give students the opportunity to engage with professional writers in a fun, educational and interactive week. This year, Coonabarabran was host to an ensemble of writers, both familiar and new to the Festival: J.C. Burke, Anna Maria Dell’oso, Alex Tighe and Justine Landis-Hanley.

J.C. Burke, long-time friend of CHS, returned to hold workshops with junior and senior English students on the craft of writing. Jane has been a headline guest of the Festival for many years now, and is always an inspiration for our flourishing readers and writers. Her latest novel, The Things We Promise, has been named a Notable Book for Older Readers in the 2018 CBCA Book of the Year Awards. Anna Maria Dell’oso has also joined the Festival for the first time in 2018. Critic, journalist and short-story author, Anna Maria’s prose graced the columns of the Sydney Morning Herald for many years. Anna Maria presented to students on creative writing, and her workshops were highly engaging for students across the cohort.

Also joining the panel this year were two young journalists from Sydney; one of whom was returning to home turf. Alex Tighe, Coonabarabran alumni, was able to spend time reconnecting with some of his teachers whilst holding tutorials with students.  Joining Alex in their workshops was Justine Landis-Hanley. Justine is a burgeoning investigative journalist and fellow student at the University of Sydney. Alex and Justine, both accomplished journalists and editors in their own right, were able to share their insights with students into the world of professional journalism, as well as their memories of high school and the challenges and successes they had experienced beyond the HSC.

Wednesday night offered a chance for the authors to share their professional and personal journeys over dinner, with an audience of community members and supporters of the Festival. Coonabarabran High wishes to offer sincere thanks to the Acacia Motel for hosting the dinner, which was an excellent night with fantastic food.  We also appreciate the long term support of Prezzies for this event.

The final day of the Festival’s first course ended with a Q&A session in the school library, with students crowding the writer’s table, asking questions about favourite authors and advice about the future long after the final bell had rung.

“It really was an eye-opening experience for me,” said Annabelle Shannon, a Year 10 student. “Having professionals come to the school and share their stories is really important, I think. Especially in a country school, I think it’s great that we still get the opportunity to meet with successful authors and writers and have them share their knowledge with us,” said Hannah Meier, another student.

The Feast of Words proved a valuable opportunity to engage our students in an aspect of English that many find daunting and difficult.  It was a most entertaining and rewarding three days of immersion in words.  The festival would not have been a success if it were not for the tireless efforts of the Feast of Words Committee, to whom we are grateful. All the writers were incredibly generous in giving of their expertise and in their praise and in their appreciation of our students and our town.  We would like them all to come back for another festival!

Feast of Words: The second course will feature spoken word poet, stand-up comedian, television host, motivational speaker, musician and hip-hop artist Zohab Z. Khan.  Zohab is the 2014 Australian Poetry Slam Champion and World Champion Slam Poet.  He will be running a poetry boot camp for Years 10 and 11 on 1 May where students will learn to share their stories in a different format.

The Festival is supported by the Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal, Coonabarabran High School’s P&C and Equity funding.