A User's Guide to a Pandemic

“A User’s Guide to a Pandemic is everything it should be: enlightening, frightening, and containing death-defyingly good writing from Story Factory students. And I should also add, definitely hilarious. In times of need, turning to the writing of children is so often the answer…”

Markus Zusak

A User’s Guide to a Pandemic was an idea that started during the national lockdown in 2020. The idea was simple – that young people needed to write about this.

Four writing centres for young people across the country joined together – Story Factory (NSW – that’s us!), 100 Story Building (Melbourne), The Story Island Project (Tasmania) and StoryBoard (Byron Bay) – and created A User’s Guide to a Pandemic, a writing project that amplified the voices of young people during the uncertainty and disconnection of the pandemic.

Students wrote in their own time or participated in online workshops, and created pieces of writing that investigated the challenges, the unexpected joys, the boredom, worries and hopes of the pandemic.

What they’ve created is truly extraordinary. A book written entirely by Australian young people during the weirdest year of their lives. It’s full of joy, wisdom, imagination and truth – just like them.

You can buy a beautiful printed copy of this treasure-trove of writing in the Story Factory bookshop.

PS Did we say written entirely? Well, almost. We made an exception for the Introduction. Markus Zusak (author of The Book Thief, an international bestseller for over a decade) did the honours. What a legend. Check it out through the link above!

PPS While every student who submitted work was published in the book, not every single thing that they wrote made it in. BUT, it’s all way too good for us not to share, so we’ve compiled every single thing that was submitted at the link below.

“The air around Astrid was infused with an aromatic mist of industrial candy cane, accompanying the grapefruit-tinged tangerine sky. “

Saniah, aged 15

“Nobody enjoys Zoom meetings, including me. All we do is stare at teachers, who talk for hours and hours, later realising that nobody was even listening to their lecture. “

Leo, aged 15

“Freedom is the ringing of bells at any school. A signal that better times are soon to come. Fear is the green slip of an arvo. A sign that you might be better off if you run.”

Ibrahim, aged 17

A User’s Guide to a Pandemic, proudly supported by:

Program sponsor logo

Stories from this Program

I Survived Online School!

By Leo, Year 9

‘More online school…I really hate it.’ I opened my eyes and stared at the usual old white ceiling. It is always the same ceiling, no colour change, no added texture, just the same old boring one. I groaned.

A Zap of Illuminating Cyan

By Saniah, Year 9

With a zap of illuminating cyan Astrid’s cognitive implants summoned a platinum-glazed automobile; levitating, luminous and in all its glory.

@SydneyStoryFactory on Instagram

It's #AustralianReadingHour celebrating #StoriesthatMatter. For us at Story Factory, our students stories matter so it's the perfect chance to reread #thecoconutchildren by Vivian Pham, who wrote this captivating tale as part of our Year of the Novella writing program.  We want to know what you're reading and getting you feeling inspired too?
Why is literacy so important? Yes, literacy lets you experience your favourite books and different worlds and perspectives, and yes - literacy allows you participate in the workforce, and share your own perspective, and opens all kinds of doors - but ultimately what literacy does is empower.  Literacy empowers individuals and improves their lives. It expands and extends their capabilities to choose the life they want for themselves.  The pandemic has been a powerful reminder of the critical importance of literacy, and the absolute imperative that all young people everywhere are empowered through literacy.  This #internationalliteracyday we'll be doing our bit to make writing fun, accessible and empowering for young people in Western Sydney, so they can experience the life-changing magic of telling their own stories.  Maybe take a moment today the think about how literacy has shaped your own life too.
Tune in at 10am this Wednesday 28 July to NSW Department of Education Facebook page to catch Story Factory's own Matt Roden share some Cyborg poultry poetry tips from our much-loved Robot Bird workshops.  This free online workshop is perfect for primary school students, years 3-6. See you there bird-lovers! 🐦🐔🦅 #education #creativeeducation #creativewriting
Student writing from Marvellous Birds is flapping into our bookstore and into your homes. Pre-order your copy today to get your hands on some truly marvellous stuff, like these excerpts below.  Dinky Winky was a crazy bird but pretty helpful. Sen is easy to see because of her shiny red and blue feathers, her eyes were bright red but not when she looks at someone because she always wears contact lenses. - Staaistah, Dawson Public School  I terminated the call and spread my magnificent wings, stretching inside my New York penthouse. It wasn’t actually mine, I had smashed through the window, grabbed the owner with my massive talons and flung him out the window. - Minh, Blaxcell Street Public School  The woman had very long jet black hair with some silver and white strands. She wasn’t old, just creative. – Maple, Plumpton Public School  ‘I AM SAVAGE BABY,’ he said with half an ice cream in his mouth. ‘You want to hear a dirty joke?’
‘NO I don’t.’ I shot back. ‘Okay, maybe just one, thank you.’
‘The dirty joke is that the man fell in the mud and for a clean joke, he washed himself. Ta da.’ - Huzifa, Punchbowl Public School  PREORDER TODAY: https://shop.storyfactory.org.au/book-shop/snkv4t0g2ocpr93uv9du0e4maqns4a-trtd5
We've got another very exciting new position available at Story Factory. We're looking for an Indigenous Storyteller to help us run creative writing programs with young people aged 7 to 17 in schools, community groups and at our centres.  The person we’re looking for has significant experience working with young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and a deep understanding of how to support them to achieve the best outcomes; as well as a love of creative writing. Applicants be of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.  Sound like you? Apply today!  https://www.storyfactory.org.au/work-with-us/