Fiona Wood’s Cloudwish was recently awarded Book of the Year in the ‘older readers’ category by the Children’s Book Council of Australia, but her newfound fame didn’t prevent her from dropping in at the Academy of Mary Immaculate in Melbourne to discuss feminism, Jane Eyre and the practice of writing with the student body.
Having worked as a writer as her primary career for the past 20 years, Ms Wood gained experience in screenwriting and, more recently, in writing novels.
Presenting to the group of early secondary students, Ms Wood admitted to being a questioning and, at times, challenging student when she was at school, saying that her time in school “gave her an awareness of social justice issues” and the fact that not all people are treated equally.
Wood also stressed the importance of reading, of keeping a journal of events and ideas that occur in life, saying that students should learn to read for their own amusement, but also to study the writer’s craft.
In an interview with WhichSchool, Ms Wood said that she found books to offer “escape and solace” during her earlier years.
“Had I not been a passionate reader from childhood, I doubt I’d ever have dreamt of being a writer, nor would I have had the necessary engagement with story and language,” Ms Wood explained. “I was a very shy student, one who rarely spoke in class, and the library was a haven for me in secondary school.
“I had inspiring HSC (Year 12) English teachers. I’m not at all religious now, and I wasn’t during my school years, either, but the message of the importance of social justice, from the Loreto nuns, has stayed with me and is at the core of my political beliefs, which are, in turn, at the core of my writing.”
While discussing the practice of writing with the girls at the Academy of Mary Immaculate, Ms Wood encouraged them to try reading Jane Eyre by the end of Year 8 in order to identify the themes of political, economic and social equality that are also evident in her novel, Cloudwish.
But creative writing doesn’t have to be reserved for students in secondary school, and Ms Wood suggests that younger children can be encouraged to finding both reading and writing as fun activities.
“Ideally, creative writing will be about feeling safe to take some risks and to be playful with language. It can be fun, particularly with younger students, to combine words and images, or words and performance. If students can finish creative writing sessions with a feeling of lightness and freedom, and a sense that there are lots of ways to be ‘right’, that’s a good outcome.”
Cloudwish follows the story of a teenage girl in Melbourne whose parents arrived in Australia as refugees fleeing Vietnam.
You can read more about Ms Wood’s visit to the Academy of Mary Immaculate Academy of Mary Immaculate – Fiona Wood visit.