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:

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Stories from this Program

Sensations Through Nature

By Eva

A flower blooms, opens up to the sun, breathes in the warm rays of daylight. Nurtured by the moist soil, admired by crawling garden creatures. Brought to life by the...

(Untitled)

By Clarissa

I WAS ALWAYS rushing. Rushing between bed and breakfast, rushing between one bit of cereal to another, rushing for the train in the next two minutes, rushing to live. Life...

(Untitled)

By Herman

Independence is the mice against the unnerving winds. Gratitude is the clouds above us, unreachable and uninterpretable Euphoria is being immersed in the treacherous and daring depths of life. Resilience...

Untitled

By Ruya

THE SUN FLOATED through the window and stirred the dust as it lit up the pages of her book. It lit up the folds in the pages, the sagging spine,...

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

Story Factory acknowledges the oldest living culture in the world.  We also extend our respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and acknowledge their ongoing connection to land, sea and community.  Always was and always will be.  Artwork by Danielle Mate.
This week Story Factory Executive Director Cath Keenan is down in Canberra to celebrate 20 years of the Australian of the Year Local Hero Award. The Local Hero award celebrates people who lead by example and encourage others to be active in their own communities and become agents of positive change for a more diverse and inclusive Australia. You can read more about the awards and some of the other amazing previous receipts here: https://www.australianoftheyear.org.au/20-years-local-hero
Become a part of our vibrant volunteer community in 2023!  We are on the lookout for creative writing tutors both online and in-person to help nurture and amplify the voices of young people across NSW.  If you are interested in getting involved, the first step is to join us for an information session where we’ll provide more details about the volunteer role and what’s involved.  The next information sessions are on:  Thursday 19th January 3.30pm – 4.30pm via zoom.
Friday 20th January 12.00pm – 1.00pm at the Story Factory Redfern Centre.
Tuesday 24th January 12.00pm – 1.00pm via zoom.  Find out more and book in via the link in our bio.  📷 Jim A. Barker
Story Factory will be closed from Wednesday 21 December until Monday 16th January. We will respond to all enquiries, and mail all book orders, on our return in the new year.  Massive thanks to everyone for your continued support. We wish you  a very safe and happy holiday!
Recently we have been running a very special multilingual writing project called In a Flash, inviting people of all ages to send us a very short story or poem in English, Mandarin, Arabic or Vietnamese. 
We’ve been getting such wonderful responses that we’ve decided to extend the deadline to next year to allow more time for people to submit their writing!  Here’s one of the many great submissions we have received:  Stranded upon the shore, battered, beat and sore.
A glimpse of hope starts to rise
River water taking human size  River-person helped the boat
To keep it balanced and to stay afloat
As the boat sailed away into morning light
The river person sunk back into the water that night  Submissions are now open until the 28th February!  Follow the link in our bio to find out more and enter now.  This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.