ZW 17 Editor’s Award:The Big Black Thing Chapter. 1

Stephen Pham, Winnie Dunn, Maryam Azam, Shirley Le

When we have a strong idea for a story, or a promising few lines of poetry, we want to crack open the possibilities. We won’t be satisfied with an easy, clichéd product. More likely we want to be honest. But good writing is a steep hill and being honest makes it steeper. The steady, patient build on inspiration/knowledge can be the answer.

Recently at NEW Writers Group inc we used an example given by director of Sweatshop, Michael Mohammed Ahmad, in his keynote speech at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival “Forest for the Trees”. Mohammed began by reading a school student’s piece from Sweatshop’s latest title, The Big Black Thing – Chapter. 1. Mohammed explained that the initial text was very brief. He kept asking the writer to include “more detail” and the result is a fetching story of a house and its people (or of people and their house). When war strikes the house and the people, we the readers know the loss, feel the fear.

The Big Black Thing Chapter. 1 is a vigorous contribution to the growing record of Western Sydney voices. It’s also fun to read. I love this volume because I’m busy at the moment. I can pick it up and take in two or three works, all different, and put it down again knowing that tomorrow I’ll be interested in the next story, the next poem. Contributors come from diverse cultural and language backgrounds. Members of the Western Sydney Writers Group, school students, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, have all been wonderfully featured in this first of a series – a great way of advancing literature and community in Western Sydney, and I trust, beyond.

The Big Black Thing Chapter.1 will be the Editor’s Award for ZineWest 2017. Published by Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. Edited by Michael Mohammed Ahmad and Winnie Dunn. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writing edited by Ellen van Neerven. Project photographer – Socorro Cifuentes. Available from sweatshop.ws

‘Sweatshop was tired of waiting to see more cultural diversity in mainstream Australian literature and media, so we decided to create The Big Black Thing ‘ Michael Mohammed Ahmad.

SE Crawford, ed ZW