State of Mind with Wee Waa High School

"It kept raining and raining until the water in the channels were overflowing, covering the road making its way up to the levee. The rain finally stopped but the water didn't go away quickly – we were stuck in the house for 14 days."

Done wrong, a writing workshop can feel like being stuck inside in a flood with nothing to do. In any group of students we work with, there are always a few (sometimes practically all of them) who are absolutely sure they've got no stories to tell. "Nothing interesting happens to me!" they'll say and we heard it from our Wee Waa High School group as much as any other.

When we sat them down and told them we were going to make them write, there was the usual chorus of exasperated sighs. But by the end of the week, every single one of them had written a story – and it seemed like most of them even enjoyed it.

The Wee Waa group outside the Story Factory in Redfern. Looking good, Nathan.

The Wee Waa group outside the Story Factory in Redfern. Looking good, Nathan.

"The ground that wasn't occupied with water had almost dried – the mud was firm enough for us to shape, in Wee Waa it doesn’t snow and we had always dreamt of making a snowman. Instead we made a mud girl."

The State of Mind project reaches out to students across NSW to document and share the diversity of teenage experiences. We're looking for the everyday as well as the unique; stories that make you say "Me too!" as often as "Wow!" 

The book we'll be publishing at the start of 2017 will be a panorama of the state through the eyes of its young people – the people who are busy writing its future as well as its present. This is their chance to take the stuff of their everyday lives and shape it into something beautiful: to craft something meaningful among the seemingly ordinary.

A sea of post-it notes: turning memories into story ideas.

A sea of post-it notes: turning memories into story ideas.

"We decorated her with green grass from the paddock. It added a nice mix of colour compared to the black mud that she was made out of."

A day in the life of a teenager is never dull, and we work with students to make sure their stories prove it. Decorating their stories with their very best creative language and using a variety of exciting forms, the Wee Waa group produced incredible tales of rain gauge prophets, trampoline spaceships and nearly running over kangaroos.

As one of their teachers told us, "Every student commented on how easy the tutors made writing … one girl said, 'I hate English, but I loved that'".

Heads down, pens up: students hard at work on their stories.

Heads down, pens up: students hard at work on their stories.

Thanks to the students and staff of Wee Waa High School for taking part in State of Mind. We'll definitely see some of your work in the final publication!

We're completely booked up for Term 2 but if you'd like to sign up your school for Term 3 or 4, get in touch by emailing sheila@sydneystoryfactory.org.au. You can find out more about the project at our State of Mind page, which includes our offer to schools across the state.

The quotes in this post are taken from a (really awesome) story by Montana Jones.

Words by Matt Norman, intern at the Sydney Story Factory