An anthology of short stories, poems and illustrations by young people who live, work or volunteer in Salisbury will launch at Salisbury Writers’ Festival.
The anthology You’re Not Alone is the work of True North, a collective of northern suburbs writers who meet once a fortnight. Founded by Adelaide University’s Stephanie Hester and Salisbury Council’s Tabatha Pettigrew, the collective grew from the Write Now competition and anthology two years ago. “The Write Now competition and anthology was very much the inspiration for the True North project,” says Hester. “The City of Salisbury and University of Adelaide teamed up to run the Write Now competition as part of the Salisbury Writers’ Festival for two consecutive years; we ran this competition for high school students who lived, studied or volunteered in the City of Salisbury, and published the winning entries for each year as an anthology. “One of the things that became apparent through this competition was the depth and breadth of young writing talent in the City of Salisbury. This made us decide to establish a program that would offer ongoing development for young writers in Salisbury, which led to the founding of True North.” The idea of the anthology came from one of the group’s young writers, Lorren Cianci, who is also the editor-in-chief of You’re Not Alone. Hester says the group drove the project. “Every editorial decision about how the book should be structured, and what pieces should be included, have been made with great maturity and clear-sightedness by the group,” says Hester. “While the process has been driven by a central group of editors, I am delighted to say that many gifted young writers and illustrators have had a hand in creating this book.” The anthology’s title and theme (You’re Not Alone) is simple, powerful and universal. “Lorren came up with the theme as part of her original concept for the anthology,” says Hester. “As she notes in her introduction in the book, she herself was inspired by a True North session during which the group members spoke about aspects of modern life and society that can make young people feel alone, or perhaps, conversely, give them a sense it’s impossible to ever be alone. It was a great session that produced a lot of great writing, and I think Lorren did very well to remember that and later propose the theme of ‘You’re Not Alone’ in her pitch.” Looking on from the sidelines, Hester says she sensed that something magical was occurring before her eyes, which the finished product reflects. “I think the group has gone into this project with a very strong sense of wanting to produce a work that other people will gain enjoyment and soul nourishment from, and I think this intention really comes through. There’s a warmth and generosity of spirit in this book that I find quite moving.” Aside from editing the anthology, Cianci contributed two short stories, a poem and three images. “I’m pretty proud of the stories, they’re some of the longest ones I’ve ever managed to finish and be happy with,” says Cianci. My first story, Just Another Pair of Shoes, is about a housemaid who is thrown out of her workplace and shown kindness by strangers. The other story is called 80 and features Chris, who is divorced and hating his life so much that he tries to end it, but through his children realises there is so much more to live for. The poem Just Think includes an online friendship and the three images are ones I’ve taken, edited and captioned myself so they coincide with the theme. I actually have a Facebook page called Intricate World Photography by Lorren where I post some of my pictures. True North has really encouraged me to look at other art forms rather than just writing prose and the anthology has given me that chance to really develop some of those interests.” Cianci says True North is very important to her as it is one of the best environments for her to be in as an emerging writer. “In a regular session, Steph [Hester] gives us writing exercises to do, then we share what we’ve written and get constructive criticism from other group members. It is honestly one of the best environments you can be in as a young writer; everyone is so friendly and creative. It’s wonderful.” The anthology explores some dark and confronting themes such as suicide, which are in the second half of the book. Hester says she has nothing but praise for how the editorial team approached these themes with sensitivity but without censorship. “I am conscious that some of the pieces in the anthology are quite confronting, and I certainly have reflected on that and discussed this with peers and the True North group,” says Hester. “Ultimately, I think it is really important to publish pieces that are addressing the issues we know are affecting a lot of young people, and people generally, in society. We know that many young people in Australia have contemplated self-harm, and that many others are living with significant mental health issues. What I think can be even more isolating for young people in these circumstances is the sense that they are alone in what they are experiencing and can’t voice how they are feeling for fear of being further isolated. While our anthology hasn’t been created specifically as a work that focusses only on ‘issues’, as it were, I think it does have a really powerful, sincere message to share that no-one is as alone as they may imagine, whatever their circumstances.” You’re Not Alone launches at Salisbury Writers’ Festival on Friday, August 21. The anthology will be on sale at Dymocks Adelaide for $15. All profits will go towards future True North writing projects. Salisbury Writers’ Festival runs from Friday, August 21 to Sunday, August 30. salisbury.sa.gov.au/truenorth