A winning way with words

Resisting common advice to write what you know, Ashleigh Mounser has won the Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer 2012 competition with her story depicting forbidden love on the World War I front line.

Of Blood and Mud: the three battles of Ypres was chosen from more than 1,000 entrants from years 10-12 across NSW and the ACT and also won the Future Leaders Writer's Prize in 2011.

The judges said Ashleigh was an extremely talented young writer, whose portfolio of work conveyed simple ideas written with sophistication, poetry and technical skill.

The 18-year-old from Kincumber High School in the Hunter Central Coast has been writing ''since birth, with varying degrees of legibility'' and is awaiting publication of her first novel, The Life and Times of a Perfectly Sane Psycho.

Kincumber High relieving principal Beverley Sampford said the school was very proud of Ashleigh's success.
"This is an amazing achievement from a student with a history of achievement as a writer. Ashleigh has already been published in a book of short stories and was awarded third place in the Campion College essay-writing competition while still in Year 10," Mrs Sampford said.
A member of the school's Gifted and Talented Program, Ashleigh had strong support from a team of English teachers (including Dawn Sexton and Christine Blakeway) who had encouraged her to enter competitions, workshops and creative-writing courses and had nurtured her talent.

"At first I was just stunned when I realised I'd won," admitted Ashleigh.

She said the idea of entering competitions was motivated by "being around people with similar interests and being forced to write things I wouldn't normally write about".

"A lot of what I write comes from what I'm studying in different classes," she added.

With the HSC looming, Ashleigh said she was hoping to take a gap year in Europe and after studying Writing and Cultural Studies at UTS in 2014, gain steady employment in a literary-related field, while retaining the option of "writing novels, poems and short stories on the side".

Now in its 27th year, the Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer is a prestigious writing competition for senior school students in NSW and the ACT. Each year students are asked to submit a piece of writing with a ‘trigger word' as their inspiration. For 2012 this word was ‘flight'.

Other public school finalists included:

  • Dinusha Wijesuriya – Baulkham Hills High School (Western Sydney)
  • Ruby Conolan-Barrett – Denison College of Secondary Education (Western NSW)
  • Lauren Pearce – Macquarie Fields High School (South Western Sydney)
  • Fenn Idle – Fort Street Public School (Sydney)
  • Charlotte Brady – Vincentia High School (Illawarra South East).

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