Writing for English Extension II – student workshop

remnant machinery

If your Sunday is a beautiful spring day, and you have chosen to attend professional development, then it needs to be as informative and rewarding as possible. That’s exactly how the student workshop for English Extension II with Felicity Castagna at Casula Powerhouse happened.

Subtitled ‘Everything you need to succeed’, Castagna’s passion and knowledge was tightly structured with strategies to take students beyond the fundamentals of writing to consider how their Major Work could be distinctive and display an authentic voice.

This workshop was presented in conjunction with Westwords and Casula Powerhouse, under the auspices of the NSW Writers Centre. Castagna is well qualified to share her insights – her novel The Incredible Here and Now received the Prime Minister’s Literature Award (YA) and she is an experienced HSC marker for English Extension I and II.

Here is an outline of the day:

  • What makes an original and distinctive creative work?
  • Researching for creative writing
  • Applying critical theory to a creative work
  • Voice
  • Play and experimentation.

At regular intervals, students were challenged to reflect on their work by responding to questions, such as:

  1. What are some things you want to achieve in your extension piece?
  2. How do you research for creative writing? How might it be different or similar to other types of research?
  3. What do you have to say to what particular audience?
  4. Revisit your answer to the last reflection. How will you make your content or subject more specific?
  5. What are some ways that you might play with structure and form?
  6. How might you be more specific with your language and images?
  7. How will you use your syntactical structure to create an awesome sense of voice?
  8. How will you use subtlety to great effect?
  9. What might you have to tell me that I didn’t think about before?

Castagna’s final suggestions included her three major rules for editing:

  1. Leave it and go back – distance is important to identify flaws
  2. Start big and end small – start by looking at the overall shape of the piece, then on your next draft consider smaller things like word choice and grammar
  3. Cut everything that doesn’t move your story forward.

by the river at Casula Powerhouse

During the day, our breaks could be spent outside at the riverside, or wandering through halls and spaces filled with artworks. The current exhibition is titled ‘Soft Core’ and includes works by Kathy Temin such as

Purple Tree

Purple Tree, 2015

and

Pet Tomb: Roger 2014

Pet Tomb: Roger, 2014
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