Anthology Launch – Ghost Cities

Ghost Cities, the second print anthology from The Writing Zone (TWZ), was launched on Wednesday 28 September 2022 at Pari Gallery in Parramatta. The event features a terrific line-up of readers, and guests shared drinks and snacks as they celebrated the creativity and hard work of TWZ’s stellar writers. The launch was MC’d by Chris Donoghue and Geneva Valek, and Ilhan Abdi DJ’d two special sets on the night.

Ghost Cities is titled partly for the often-eerie experiences of living through a pandemic. As the streets of Western Sydney shut down in wave after wave, a small band of local writers came together and began to navigate the times. Across 2021 as our screens delivered new variants of fear directly into our homes, the twelve writers who joined TWZ met via video calls, group chats, email and phone. In a period of intense stress and intermittent isolation, they became each other’s first readers, editors and friends.

Ghost Cities is a testimony to the solidarity and literary flair of its writers. These stellar essayists, poets, dramatists and fiction writers share a sharpened interest in the uncanny, in grief and loss, and in energies that come directly from the earth, binding us to place.

Anthology Launch – The Wayward Sky

Group of people in two rows, one row standing, one kneeling. All 15 people are smiling. It is the members of TWZ 2020 cohort, TWZ staff and mentors
TWZ 2020 Cohort, Staff and Mentors (Kate Fagan, Nadia Maunsell, Martyn Reyes, Ilhan Abdi, Ryan Bautista, Christine Lai, Yasmin Ali, Tina Nyfakos, Catriona Menzies-Pike, Melinda Jewell, Eileen Chong, Hyen Helen Hac Tran, Sophiya Sharma, Mirielle Juchau, Kim Pham) Photo Credit: Christina Donoghue

Thursday 24th March 2021 saw the launch of the first print anthology for the 2020 cohort of The Writing Zone (TWZ). TWZ is run by Western Sydney University’s Writing and Society Research Centre in collaboration with the Sydney Review of Books. 

The Wayward Sky is a collection of diverse cultural pieces, written in the homes of the contributors at the height of lockdown and highlights unique perspectives of families, relationships, kin networks and communities. 

The night saw a gathering of the 2020 cohort of TWZ participants many of whom were physically in the same space with each other for the first time. Indispersed silence and uncontrolled laughter could be heard vibrating around the room and terrace of the Peter Shergold building as the writers took what was printed on the pages and filled it with sound.

Revered poet and mentor to TWZ, Eileen Chong, braved the semi-masked world to officially launch the book. Sharing both her own words and a poem by Li-Young Lee, it was a perfect launch to a warm and inspiring event.

To live in words and ideas in a world where the rewards for such endeavours are few and far between is an act of disobedience, and therefore, powerful. To come together as a group to make this choice together in support and camaraderie is a sustained leap of faith.

Eileen Chong, 2022

Eileen’s full speech is included here.

Launch of The Wayward Sky, 24 March 2022 

This evening, we have come together to celebrate The Wayward Sky, a project borne out of The Writing Zone under the auspices of Western Sydney University’s Writing and Research Centre and the Sydney Review of Books This anthology collects the essays, short stories, scripts and poetry of twelve writers, namely:  

Yasmin Ali, Ryan Bautista, Duy Quang Mai, Yasir Elgamil, Christine Lai, Nadia Maunsell, Tina Nyfakos, Kim Pham, Martyn Reyes, Viniana Rokobili, Sophiya Sharma, and Huyen Hac Helen Tran.  

These twelve writers, along with their mentors Eda Gunaydin, George Haddad, Mireille Juchau, and myself, under the care of Ilhan Abdi, Kate Fagan, Melinda Jewell, and Catriona Menzies-Pike, came together, despite the global pandemic, despite prolonged isolation due to factors beyond our individual control, to achieve something utterly radical—to give time to words, to think, to speak, and to write in collaboration, and to collect these words in an anthology. 

To live in words and ideas in a world where the rewards for such endeavours are few and far between is an act of disobedience, and therefore, powerful. To come together as a group to make this choice together in support and camaraderie is a sustained leap of faith. In order to write, we must necessarily look inwards, we must hold up mirrors to our lives, and make deep space for the stories we all hold within.  

I’d like to read a poem here by one of my touchstones, the poet Li-Young Lee. It is from his collection Book of My Nights (2001, BOA Editions). 

You have all dug deep to create, craft and polish these transformed and transformative works, and they now share a home in this volume. These works of yours are a marker at the beginning of your writing journey. There will be many more milestones to come.  

It is a long road we have all chosen to walk, and at times, it can be solitary, and seem unrelentingly uphill. But if we can lift our eyes from our individual paths, we might see that we are not the first or last in this multifaceted tale, and we do not walk our paths alone under this wide, overarching sky. 

My hope is that this book will be an anchor and a refuge for you, now and in the future. This evening we celebrate you, your stories, and all the words that belong to you, and to all of us, in the unknown, as yet unwritten days, months, and years to come. My deep and heartfelt congratulations on The Wayward Sky

Eileen Chong 

24 March 2022