Community News

Kaia Mercy and her grandfather Lester Mercy. Image: Contributed

Winners announced in Clarence Valley schools writing competition

The short list and winners of The Long Way Home short story competition for Clarence Valley schools have been announced.

Close to 200 stories were entered in the creative writing competition, nearly twice as many as last year, according to The Long Way Home co-ordinator and judge, Claire Aman.

“The quantity and quality of stories this year really blew us away,” Ms Aman said.

“It was so difficult trying to come up with a short list because every single story had something magical about it. We are just so impressed by the quality of writing our Clarence kids are producing and also the creative inspiration our teachers are giving.”

The theme for all stories was ‘to the island’, reflecting our affinity with the islands of the Clarence River and beyond.

‘The theme really sparked the imagination of our Clarence kids. We read about zombies taking over islands, plane crashes on desert islands, volcanoes, treasure, quests, blood and gore, death, longing, love, friendship, detectives, fart power and quite a few turtles and ponies,” Ms Aman said.

The winner of the high school category was Kaia Mercy, Year 8, from Maclean High School.

Her story, ‘To The Island’ tells of Kaia’s yearning and connection to Ulgundahi Island, an island in the Clarence River where her grandfather, Lester Mercy, grew up.

Kaia said she grew up hearing stories from her grandfather, a Yaegl Elder, about life on Ulgundahi Island, so as soon as she saw the theme for the competition, she knew straight away the story she would tell.

It took her a day to write the winning story and she credits her teacher, Ms Hamilton, for suggesting Kaia enter the competition.

[extract below]

Kaia has won tickets for herself and nine classmates to attend the Byron Writers Festival Secondary Schools Day in August.

Shaan Singh from Grafton High School came second with a story following the fate of a refugee family coming to Australia and Stella van Leest from McAuley Catholic College was third with her story, ‘Aunty Island’.

Tayla Willis from Grafton Public School took out first place in the primary school category with ‘My Island’, a beautiful descriptive tale about travelling home from an island, only to find she’d left something behind.

Tayla was given the exciting news of her win while on a school trip to Canberra last week. Tayla has won a family pass the Byron Writers Festival Kids Big Day Out.

Second place went Tayah Cole from St James Yamba. Tayah follows in the footsteps of her sister, Lani Cole, who came second last year. The Cole sisters again both featured in the short list.

Annabel Dungey from St Mary’s Grafton was third, and Alice Gunn of Yamba Public was highly commended in the primary school category.

Stories were submitted from schools right across the Clarence Valley – from Baryulgil and Glenreagh public schools at the top of the Clarence, down to St James and Yamba Public school at the saltwater end of the valley.

All of the short-listed stories will be published in The Long Way Home book, Stories from The Clarence Valley 2019, released just in time for Christmas.

The judges were Grafton writer, Claire Aman, Bundjalung columnist Janelle Brown, former teacher Ann Reeve, and writer Erin Brady.

Extract of winning story: High School category

‘To The Island’ by Kaia Mercy, Maclean High School

‘It was my home. The place where I grew up. My special place.’ Those words will forever be ingrained into my head. It goes to show how much my family loved it. I wish that I could see it. I wish that I could experience the things my aunties and uncles and grandfather did before me. I’m sitting across the river right now with the water gently splashing against the rocks. It’s like a soothing lullaby, it’s just so calm and peaceful, just like my grandfather.