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This page is part of the 2008 FESTIVAL ARCHIVE.
Visit the current Melbourne Writers Festival website for details of the next festival.

Write Across Victoria Award

Write Across Victoria 2008
The Melbourne Writers Festival, The Age, Express Media and Paper Mate have come together to bring you Write Across Victoria – a fantastic creative writing competition for students in Years 7–9. Using our story starters – written by our guest authors Danny Katz, Margo Lanagan and {David Metzenthen<,b} – students had to weave their own tales.

Now, after judging the hundreds of entries we are able to publish the winning stories. And the winners are …

Overall winner: Joanne Ha

Year 7 winner (female): Kate Oleinikov

Year 7 winner (male): Adam Speirs

Year 8 winner (female): My Tran

Year 8 winner (male): Richard James Ma

Year 9 winner (female): Ellen Rymer

Year 9 winner (male): James Hill

Stay tuned for Write Across Victoria in 2009!

More information from this, the Melbourne Writers Festival website and also:

Education Age
Express Media and Voiceworks magazine
Margo Lanagan
Danny Katz
David Metzehthen

Overall winner: Joanne Ha (St. Albans Secondary College)
Grandfather’s Stories

“It was without a doubt, the most nauseating thing Ollie had ever seen – more nauseating than a flattened dog, or a bowl of infected scabs. He’d just been wondering through the park on his way home from school, when he spotted it there, lying on the ground, slightly hidden behind a tree. So he stepped closer to get a better look.”
“What happens next?”
“What does he see?”
The students were eager to hear the rest of the story.
“Think for yourself.” Mr Gawsen said.

Brain thought of his grandfather and his grandfather’s story. His grandfather was an avid story-teller, always droning his anecdotes that Brian refused to pay attention to – tales of life during war, surviving poverty and migrating from place to place. As a young child Brain was never too keen to listen, and he regretted it. If only he’d listened, he’d probably know his grandfather a bit more.
Brian only remembered one story that his grandfather told him:

“When your dad and aunt were just a few years old we were fleeing the Vietnam War, always hungry and fearing for our lives. We were fairly rich before the war annihilated everything. Money became worthless. People clung to each other, to family and the will to live. We craved for food and never got it. Once I left your aunt and dad and joined a throng of people to get the food supplies. There so many people, so many I couldn’t count, and they were all charging for the bags of rice, so crazy and ecstatic they caused a riot. They grabbed and pulled and tugged. Some climbed over other people and grabbed at the top ones and some towed at the bottom ones. The stacks tumbled over and I was squashed beneath all the weight.”
Brian’s grandfather had paused here and raised a quivering hand to wipe his tears before continuing.
“I was so afraid then. I was so afraid … I thought I’d die there and leave your dad and aunt all on their own to face the war … but I survived, and all the rice was gone. I thought we’d starve to death. But you know what? We came by a tree. It was all straggled and twisted, its limbs breaking off, and behind it we saw a person. It was disgusting, horrible, a nauseating sight. The person was dead, covered completely in blood and thin as a stick, nearly decaying and stinking badly. But I didn’t care. I walked closer to have a look and saw that the carcass was surrounded by scattered rice grains and smashed eggs. My first thought was food. I kneeled on the blood smeared ground and scooped up as much rice grains and remnants of raw egg as I could. It was horrible, doing this beside a decaying cadaver. I wanted to vomit but couldn’t.”

“So what do you think it is?” Mr Gawsen asked the class.
“An alien covered in snot!” cried a girl.
“My dad’s underwear stained from his diarrhoea!” suggested another gruesome classmate.
Mr Gawsen looked at Brian, “What do you think?”
Brian gazed intently at Mr Gawsen, remembering his grandfather. The prospect of scooping rice and eggs from beside a corpse was certainly more nauseating than a flattened dog, or a bowl of infected scabs.
Brian didn’t respond. He simply cried … for his grandfather, and for the unheard stories.

Year 7 winner (female): Kate Oleinikov (Ivanhoe Girls Grammar)

I rode my bike to the beach one golden morning. Here, near a rusted sign that warned of rips I sat, there was one other person.
“I’m not from here,” they said, “Can you tell me where I can swim?” I pointed.
“I go there, but if you go too far out, you’ll come across a pearl necklace. Leave it!” The stranger nodded, then started towards the direction I had pointed. A tourist, no doubt, who saw nothing of this place except golden sands and blue seas. As the seagulls cried out in their demanding voices, I wondered if she would take the necklace. If she did, she wouldn’t be the first. To the right of me lay the remains of an old wooden house. Nobody tried to clear any of it away. For the one hundred years it had stood there, it had remained unchanged, unaltered. The tourist emerged from the water now.
“Thanks, great spot,” she said to me before heading up to her car. I said nothing. She had tried to hide it, but in her clenched hand she had held the pearl necklace. She had taken it. Almost on cue on old weathered rocking horse on my right began to rock. She was here.

The tourist saw it to, but unlike me she did not know what it meant.
“Hey, what the?” exclaimed the woman as she walked over to the old horse. She bent down to examine it, there was no wind and the stranger was clearly puzzled. Then she turned to face me.
“All right, enough is enough, what’s the trick?” Her eyed were angry, but her heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t have to answer though, because right at that moment a wave crashed into the sand. Making the woman jump. It wasn’t a large wave, but there had been no waves before. Waves continued to pound the sand. A pale face began to appear in the foam. Soon a girl no older than seven stood before in the foam. She would take a few steps forward then disappear underneath the wave. Only to be carried up again by the next. Soon she stood before us.
“What the?” said the woman again, the colour draining from her face. I said nothing as a single tear slid down my face. The white girl turned to face the woman, her wide eyes questioning.
“What does she want? What does she want?” The stranger was almost incoherent.
“The necklace, throw it out to sea. To the place you found it.” I replied as yet another tear fell to the ground. The woman nearly choked with fear as the girl took another step towards her. Then she threw the necklace far out to sea. A good throw for someone who looked as if they were about to faint. The ghostly girl began to walk into the ocean. Then a wave crashed on her, and she was gone. Again I had lost my sister. With one final tear, I disappeared.

Year 7 winner (male): Adam Speirs (St. Peters College)
The Thing Behind the Tree

It was, without a doubt, the most nauseating thing Ollie had ever seen – more nauseating than a flattened dog, or a bowl of infected scabs. He’d just been wandering through the park on his way home from school, when he spotted it there, lying on the ground, slightly hidden behind tree. So he stepped a bit closer to get a better look.

As he rounded the tree a disgusting smell hit him – a mixture of manure and rotten garbage, and then he saw it properly, a skunk that was turned inside out.
“Ahhh!” screamed Ollie as the skunk sprayed its stink at him. Then Ollie ran home.

When Ollie got home he told his brother, David, about the skunk he’d seen.
“Yeah right,” said David, “You didn’t see an inside out skunk and it didn’t spray stink at you. You only smell because you’re always playing with that dumb dog of yours.”
“He’s not dumb!” Ollie yelled.
“Keep it down up there. I’m trying to watch T.V.” said Ollie’s sister, Jane.
“Be quiet Jane,” said David.
“If you don’t believe me, follow me home from school tomorrow and I’ll show you the skunk,” said Ollie.
“Okay,” replied David.

The next day after school, David followed Ollie through the park to where he saw the skunk.
“I knew you were lying,” said David, “I knew there wouldn’t be a skunk that was turned inside out.”
“But …”
David interrupted, “No buts,” he said, “you lied to me.” Then he walked away.
“David!” yelled Ollie. David ignored him. Ollie, feeling sad, sat down by a tree, “There was a skunk, I know it,” he thought to himself. He was about to walk away when he smelt that disgusting smell again. He looked around the tree and there, next to a bush, was the inside out skunk. He stood up and walked towards the skunk with caution, so it didn’t spray stink at him again. As the skunk started walking away, Ollie followed it. After about ten minutes the skunk stopped in front of a big hedge. Ollie thought to himself, “Why has the skunk stopped here?” Suddenly the hedge opened up and revealed a huge lab.
“Whoa,” said Ollie surprised. Inside the lab there were cages of inside-out skunks, bottles and bottles of green liquid and a scientist in a white coat.
“Oh no,” the scientist said when he saw Ollie, “if he tells the police about this I’ll be dead.” Ollie tried to run away but the scientist had a stun gun and zapped Ollie with it.

“There, finished,” said the scientist, “That will teach you not to interfere with my plans.”
“What did you do to me?” asked Ollie.
“Take a look yourself,” the scientist said as he handed Ollie a mirror.
“Aahh!” screamed Ollie when he saw himself in the mirror.
“You’ve turned me inside out,” Said Ollie, “This can’t be real.”
“Oh but it is,” chuckled the scientist, “Hahahaha.”

Then Ollie woke up and realised it was all a dream.

Year 8 winner (female): My Tran (St Monica's College)
A Day in the Outback Can Have Deadly Results

I rode my bike to the beach one golden morning. Here near a rusted sign that warns of rips, I sat. There was one other person.
“I’m not from here,” this person said. “Can you tell me where I can swim?”
I pointed. “I go there. But if—”.
“Not there. I won’t swim there. I have heard stories about a strange creature causing disappearances after three days,” he said.

She woke up.

Shady trees were all that Ellie could see from her bus. She was going to the outback to escape the endless nights of work. She stared out into the rocky landscape and allowed her mind to escape from her body, to past dreams and the future.

The bus came to a sudden halt at their destination.

All around were the natural colours of the earth. Ellie never thought that such a place existed, and neither did the other tourists, judging by their admiring looks. The ground was a burnt orange and showed the damaging effects of the drought with cracks. It was scorching, but the trees provided shade. There was no sign of any buildings or traffic lights. Perfect.

Their home for the next three days resembled a rusty can and the metal roof creaked when the wind blew. The house looked dangerous – as if a sudden movement would cause it to crumble.

The first adventure was bush walking amongst trees that grew in every direction, and dazzling plant life. There were strange exotic plants that Ellie didn’t expect to find in the outback. They were of the most vivid rubies, lustrous pink sapphires and richest topazes. She noticed something in the distance. Eek-bok. What’s that? Ellie thought. She shrugged it off, but it reminded her of her dream.

That night, she heard the sound again. Her eyes caught something darting along the wall. She shivered, hugging her blanket tightly. When morning came she moved out of bed. She inspected the entire length of the wall but found nothing. Sighing, she prepared herself for today’s swim in the lake. The rocky ground made it hard to walk. The lake was full of fish and plants. It was beautiful. Growing bored, she wandered away. Eek-bok. There it was again. Ellie walked swiftly back to the bus, not daring to look back.

On their final day, still weary from lack of sleep and the previous day’s activities, she stayed in bed. Secretly fearful because today was the third day since she had first heard the strange sound.

But it was only a dream. Wasn’t it?

Tiredly Ellie lit the bath’s water heater and threw the match aside, then slid in to enjoy a long soak. Suddenly, a strange scent filled the air. FIRE! There was no hope of getting to the door. Screaming was pointless as there was no one around to hear; everyone had gone bird sighting. She was alone, with no phone, no help, no hope. Breathing had become difficult. The air was filled with a heavy cloud of smoke. She felt her eyes closing; her vision blurred. In the distance Ellie heard her name being called. It was coming closer, but she was already too far from consciousness to reply.

Year 8 winner (male): Richard James Ma (Samaritan Catholic College)
Sugar Lovers Imagination

It was, without a doubt, the most nauseating thing Ollie had ever seen – more nauseating than a flattened dog, or a bowl of infected scabs. He’d just been wandering through the park on his way home from school, when he spotted it there, lying on the ground, slightly hidden behind a tree. So he stepped a bit closer to get a better look.

It was brown, covered in scales but it seemed to radiate heat instead of the cold feeling you get when you looked at snakes. It wasn’t quite like a snake but more like a fat worm, with a curvy body that oozed a yellow liquid. Ollie stared at it in disbelief, but the worm itself was not what he was worried about. He was actually more worried about the yellow liquid. Whatever it touched it burned. Most people can imagine the sizzling sound made when you burn something. But this was different. The sound that the burning liquid made sounded like when you were scraping metal against metal.

The sound made Ollie realize something. The yellow liquid was not actually dissolving things, like an acid would, but instead it scraped and sanded like a sander. By the time Ollie had worked this out, the worm had noticed it was being watched and turned to face Ollie. It stood up on its tail, like a viper ready to strike and lunged at him. Ollie leaped back. Wherever the worm touched, the oozing yellow liquid would secrete from its skin and start sanding out whatever it was touching. As the worm drew back, gathering its momentum again to strike Ollie, Ollie just smiled. Confused, the worm struck and Ollie just waved it away, as if it was a feather in the air. The grinning boy reached into his clothes and drew his sword. The blade, which had inscriptions written all over, shimmered in the sun. With a flick of a wrist, he swung the sword at the worm, sending it to the other side never to return.

Ollie turned and put his ruler back into his pocket and turned away smiling like an idiot. Soon he realized what his mum said was true: “Ollie, if you keep eating sweets like this it’s going to make your imagination run wild.”

Of course Ollie didn’t listen and continued eating as much as he wanted. But as he looked back onto the brown, crazy-looking scarf, he realized that maybe he should cut down on the sweets. Just a bit.

Year 9 winner (female): Ellen Rymer (Kilbreda College)

“It was, without a doubt, the most nauseating thing Ollie had ever seen – more nauseating than a flattened dog, or a bowl of infected scabs. He’d just been wandering through the park on his way home from school, when he had spotted it there, lying on the ground, slightly hidden behind a tree. So he stepped a bit closer to get a better look.”

“Then what happened?” Caity whispered leaning forward into the camp fire as the other kids covered their mouths with horror. Bridget hissed and stared at all of them, her eyeliner slightly darkening under her eyelids. There was a long pause, to which the fire crackled dangerously in front of them and the creek babbled cautiously. It was as if the whole world was silenced to hear what had happened to Ollie Ferns.
Bridget closed her eyes, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you...” She smirked, and all the campers shouted all at once and almost reached out to Bridget for the answer. Bridget motioned for them to be quiet and she cracked her knuckles. “Ollie Ferns had peeked around the tree. I mean, he hadn’t been expecting it to be so awful. So disgusting. But boy, was he in for a shock. He gasped when he saw it. It was. The FOWL! The campers erupted into gasps and gags as Bridget laughed at them all while they spoke in hushed tones, “Of course, it’s not true. Just a story, you know, to shut you all up so you can get up early to pack your tents!” Bridget laughed and stood up, ushering the now laughing kids to their tents, but Caity remained on her log, alone with the fire. She stared absently out into the bush, thinking about The Fowl. Bridget came back and removed her leaders whistle from her neck and picked up her dirty runners and socks. She waved a hand in Caity’s direction, “You should go to bed, Little C. We have a big day tomorrow.” She smiled. Caity grinned at Bridget, tapping her feet on the soil,
“Do you think it really exists?” She asked digging at some dirt in her fingernail. Bridget rolled her socks into her runners,
“I doubt it. But I guess it never hurts to have a little imagination.” She said softly. “Sweet dreams, Caity.”
The next morning Caity rose early and headed outside. The air was cold, so she decided to go for a walk in the bush. Her boots thumped noisily on the wet soil and crunched through dead leaves and twigs. She was thinking again, until she heard a branch snap behind her. She turned, her heart skipping a beat. There was a faint snarling and she crept slowly towards a large gum tree. She peeked over a tree branch nervously and then she saw it. The Fowl. It didn’t look as sickening as Bridget had made it sound and she stepped towards it. She licked her lips as it looked at her with golden eyes. She reached out, the wind grazing her fingertips, when she heard Bridget calling her name. Caity turned and frowned and then turned back again. The Fowl was gone.
So maybe it had been in Ollie Fern’s imagination, thought Caity as she packed her tent a few hours later. She looked out to the bush again.
Maybe it had been in hers too.

Year 9 winner (male): James Hill (Southwood Boys Grammar School)

It was, without a doubt, the most nauseating thing Ollie had ever seen- more nauseating then a flattened dog, or a bowl of infected scabs. He’d just been wandering through the park on his way home from school, when he spotted it there lying on the ground, slightly hidden behind a tree. So he stepped a bit closer to get a better look.

This thing was like nothing that Ollie had ever encountered, it was black like night and thick like oil and it was moving closer to Ollie and it mutated into some black deformed baby like thing. It started to attack and attach itself to Ollie until it became a black orc like creature fused with Ollie.

Ollie thoughts became distorted into thoughts of blood, gore and mass murder. Lily who was Ollie’s best friend, and the girl that Ollie had a crush on, came walking by. When she saw Ollie, she screamed until Ollie ripped her head off with his teeth and ate her whole. Those people who witnessed the attack started running away while those unfortunate became Ollie’s next meal.

Local police who were on a coffee break started to shoot at Ollie, but the bullet’s were only enough to disable the use of his left arm because his chest was protected with a hard shell. The police were then devoured with the taste of coffee delectably flavoring their blood.

With the loss of his left arm, Ollie tried to run as far away from town as possible. He ran through the city while trying to get out of town, but he was surrounded by SWAT officers. The head command of the team tried to convince Ollie that they wanted to help him. That only led to Ollie smashing his hands together on the guys head.

A Sniper that was situated on the building above shot at Ollie’s back. The Sniper however missed Ollie and shot a Fire Hydrant instead. H2O was like acid to Ollie because it was burning the symbiote off his body. Within minutes, Ollie was back to his regular state, however Ollie was then sent to an Asylum for killing all those people. As the van drove off a small amount of the symbiote ran to take refuge in a sewer.