I recently interviewed Scribblers Festival Manager, Maria Alessandrino to ask her about their junior writing competition and how the festival connects with young adult readers. Perth teens have a fabulous opportunity to get involved with Scribblers. Read on for more info…

NLK: Can you tell us about the Scribblers Festival and how it came about?

MA: Scribblers launched in Claremont in May 2018. It’s an annual festival of literature and arts for young people, devised and run by the cultural organisation, FORM. The artistic director of the festival is Katherine Dorrington, and the manager is me, Maria Alessandrino.

The idea for Scribblers emerged in 2017. FORM runs a Creative Learning program which uses creativity to help children fully engage with learning and helps them develop key skills while they’re taught the curriculum.  FORM wanted to have something that could be the public face of Creative Learning, and reach out beyond school-based activities to all communities of pre-schoolers, parents, educators, grandparents, libraries and so on, not only in Perth but also in regional Western Australia.

We also wanted to promote literacy and creativity as part of living a productive, healthy and creative life; after all, stories are what we all have in common. So Scribblers was born.

The festival brings together authors and illustrators, poets and creators from Australia and around the world to celebrate the magic of storytelling and everything that goes into it.

So, as I’ve said, we held the inaugural festival in May 2018 and we have just announced a fantastic line-up of national and international authors for May 2019. We have a dedicated schools program and a jam-packed weekend of free, family events in Claremont around our creative hub, The Goods Shed.

In 2019 we have a strong YA focus, and we’re going to involve young curators in devising a special YA program.


NLK: Can you tell us more about The Golden Pen Award writing competition?

MA: It’s a writing competition that’s open to all WA high school students, and we’re really looking forward to uncovering the next generation of great storytellers.

There are two age-based categories: 12-14 years and 15-17 years. Entries must be an original piece of creative writing – prose, poetry, creative non-fiction, comics or graphic novels – and respond to the theme of Discovery in 3000 words or less.

Our judges are from all sorts of different backgrounds – educators, librarians, publishers and Festival guests – and there are fantastic prizes up for grabs, for those who make the shortlist as well as the ultimate winners.  Book vouchers, invitations to a masterclass at 2019 Scribblers, and a cash prize of $500 for the winner.

The competition is now open and applicants have until 31 March 2019 to get their work in.


NLK: Why did you choose the theme of Discovery?

MA: It’s a theme that sparks lots of ideas and reactions both material and philosophical. We hope young writers bring their own ideas to this theme and see where it takes them. Judging from the entries we’ve already received they certainly are using their imagination, and it’s wonderful to see how different and creative they are.


NLK: What’s your favourite memory from the 2018 Scribblers Festival?

MA: That’s such a hard question – I had so many wonderful moments. It was really exciting to put the first festival out there and to see the response, and we also had an amazing group of creators involved that were lovely to work with.

If I had to choose, a highlight of mine would definitely have to be the night of the laureates.  We had Chris Riddell from the UK, PJ Lynch from Ireland and our own Leigh Hobbs talking about their experiences as Children’s Laureate and what the role means. They are three fantastic creators and it was really powerful and inspiring to listen to their journeys and to see the impact of this program across different countries.

Another highlight was the session Let’s Get Graphic– Nicki Greenberg spoke to Chris Riddell, Richard Fairgray, Sarah Laing and Soolagna Majumdar about the world of graphic novels and the uniqueness of this genre.

The schools days were also a highlight – they were chaotic (lots of students!) but a lot of fun. It was great talking to the students as they came out of the sessions and finding them so inspired by the authors and illustrators. There was so much energy across all three days and a really wonderful atmosphere.

NLK: Being chosen as a YA curator for the 2019 festival would be a fabulous opportunity, what lessons/experience do you hope the curators will be able to take home?

MA: I suspect it’s the sort of thing a lot of adults wish they could have been involved with when they were at high school! We want to offer a behind-the-scenes experience for teenagers so that they can see how festivals are run and sessions put together. We also want to give teenagers a voice within the program; to explore ideas that are relevant and of interest to their peers.

The curators will work with a mentor and the festival team to design the sessions, schedule them across the day and look at the production logistics and requirements. They’ll also take on different roles, such as producer, host, artist liaison and reviewer giving them the opportunity to try out different things and see what fits for them.

I think it’s really important to expose young people to different environments and give them the chance to experience new things.  Collaborating with guest artists of Scribblers 2019 will be a memorable opportunity and hopefully an inspirational experience for our young curators. And also fun!

Applications for youth curators are open until 23 November.


NLK: Which 2019 presentation will be a DO NOT MISS event for YA audiences?

MA: Without a doubt, the inaugural YA Collective event on Saturday 11 May: a whole day dedicated to teenagers, and programmed by teenagers. It’s free but you have to register to attend. It’ll feature international stars Tomi Adeyemi, Neal Shusterman and Renee Watson as well as Australian stars Lynette Noni and AJ Betts, and creatives Zoe Norton Lodge and Sha’an d’Anthes. What exactly they do and how they do it is up to our awesome youth curators (once selected), so look out for the full program in the New Year.


Maria Alessandrino Image
Maria Alessandrino, Festival Manager.                                                                                                        (Photograph by Bewley Shaylor. Image courtesy of FORM, 2017)



Find out more about Scribblers on their website.

Image courtesy of Scribblers Festival