When I hear the word ‘pigeons’, I immediately visualise dozen of birds flying around, crapping on the heads of famous statues. But there’s more to that word. ‘Pigeons’ also happens to be the name of a non-profit organisation dedicated to running literacy programs in Melbourne. Their latest project, Pigeon Letters, which saw primary school students teaming up with established authors to co-write stories, has resulted in the publication of an anthology. On Monday, as one of the participating authors, I went along to the launch of the book. And what a fantastic event is was! Excited kids, proud parents and assorted authors gathered together to celebrate this unique publication.
But let’s backtrack a little as I tell you about Pigeon Letters. This is the second year that the project has run, organised primarily by Lachlann Carter and Jenna Williams, along with their merry band of helpers. It’s an in-school letter writing exchange, linking primary school students (10-12 years of age) with established Australian authors (at varying levels of young-at-heart). Each student is paired with an author. Over the course of two terms, through a series of letters, the authors and students collaborate on the writing of a short story.
The pilot program in 2009 worked with a class of students from North Melbourne Primary School and 12 authors. This year, the program was expanded, involving a larger group of students, Class 5L from Footscray City Primary, and 21 authors and comic book creators. The result was a collection of 18 short stories and 3 short comics.
I was lucky enough to be one of the participating authors, along with:
- Jen Breach (Sawbones)
- Stephanie Brotchie
- Mirranda Burton
- Bernard Caleo (Tango Collection)
- Sherryl Clark (One Perfect Pirouette)
- Paul Collins (The Slightly Skewed Life of Toby Chrysler)
- Meredith Costain (Dance Academy: Learning to Fly)
- Robert Greenberg (Swimming with Skeletons)
- Michael Hyde (Change the Game series)
- Jackie Kerin (Phar Lap the wonder horse)
- Alison Lloyd (Year of the Tiger)
- Andrew McDonald (The Greatest Blogger In The World)
- Kirsty Murray (Vulture’s Gate)
- Martine Murray (Mannie and the Long Brave Day)
- Michael Pryor (Laws of Magic series)
- Sally Rippin (Beautiful Haircut)
- Claire Saxby (There Was an Old Sailor)
- Jen Storer (Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children)
- Gabrielle Wang (Little Paradise)
- Tony Wilson (Thirsty Flowers)
The program is a terrific opportunity to enthuse kids about writing and for them to learn from people who are actually professional writers. And it’s a great opportunity for authors, as well. It gave me the chance to interact with a young person of the age that I write for. And it was a great learning experience for me. It was my first attempt at co-authoring a story. Me and my writing partner, Joel, crafted a World War II story called “Friend or Foe?”. Joel was the driving creative voice. He has an interest in World War II history, so he came up with story setting and concept. What started out as a traditional adventure story about a German soldier on a suicide mission, turned into a human drama about the effects of war. It is not the sort of story that I would have written on my own. So I owe a debt of gratitude to my young co-author for pushing my boundaries and getting me to think outside the square I would normally write in. I have no doubt that Joel has the potential to become an author in his own right, if he chooses to go down that path. And if he doesn’t… that’s okay too. He has, at the very least, had the chance to write a story, have it professionally edited and published in an anthology. A pretty fine achievement for one so young!
Copies of the anthology, Pigeons: Stories in the Post Volume 2, are available for purchase, with proceeds from the sale going towards future literacy projects. So, to buy a copy or to find out more about Pigeons, check out their website.
Are there any other projects like this running in Australia? If anyone knows of any, please, leave a comment and tell us about it.
And tune in next time for The Rosie Black Chronicles.
Catch ya later, George
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