On the 15th of July, I attended the Microlit Writing Workshop which aimed to aid writers in creating pieces for the 13th Annual Joanne Burns Microlit Awards. For those who are unsure what the term ‘microlit’ means, it refers to very short pieces of writing, and in this scenario, the Award only accepts pieces with a maximum word count of 200. The workshop was hosted by Newcastle City Library and run by the fabulous Helen Hopcroft, a 2022 and 2023 finalist.  


There were several exercises spread out across three hours with the hopes of encouraging participants to think of the word ‘remnant’, this year’s theme for the competition. Helen asked us to think of anything that came to mind surrounding the word ‘remnant’. Everyone was encouraged to participate and soon we had a whole plethora of words/phrases relating to ‘remnant’. It was interesting to see the different ways peoples’ minds thought and went off in varying directions due to this one word. From the word bank we’d created, we then had to come up with our own definition and here’s mine: 


“Remnant is something that remains when its value/nature/moment has passed, where it’s no longer relevant/has no present meaning but is proof that it happened.” 


In the following exercise, we came up with six common nouns, three feelings, and three colours, and put these words into alphabetical order. The challenge was to write a piece, still centered around ‘remnant’, using these words in alphabetical order without repeating any. Again, everyone got a chance to read their work and the exercise revealed the originality of writer’s minds and the various stories that arose from having the same set of words to insert into their work and write about.  


The workshop was designed to help writers explore narrative arc, structure, and word choice in order to craft a piece for the Award, but the techniques discussed and practiced can be applied to aid writers in other ventures.  


The third exercise were mind-maps, where we started with ‘remnant’ and branched out words from there. Then we picked a word from that mind-map and created another one, ever expanding on the feeling and meaning of remnant. These ideas don’t necessarily have to be directly related to the word but whatever comes to mind when you think of it.  

For example, when I think of house, my words might be ‘walls, garden, picket fence, family, farm’. There are a lot of different areas to explore here: ‘walls’ make up the house, ‘garden’ and ‘picket fence’ are what’s around the house, ‘family’ is who lives in the house, ‘farm’ is where my childhood house is located. The beauty of living and personal experience is that words will have different meaning to everyone and evoke different emotions/thoughts and memories.  


The last exercise was a stream of conscious writing for about five minutes on a topic relating to the theme. The topic I chose was very personal and after the five minutes I found myself still writing which Helen encouraged me to keep doing while others shared. I’m very glad I kept writing as I narrowed down the exact topic and drafted my first piece which I will be submitting to the award. One of the competition rules is that you cannot submit anything previously published and for this reason I cannot share it with you here.  


Overall, the workshop was very fun and I learnt a lot. There were numerous other writers of varying genres and interests there who were very friendly. I look forward to seeing them at other events and attending workshops similar in future. 


The Joanne Burns Microlit Awards was established in 2011 to showcase high quality microliterature by Australian writers. There are two categories, one national with a $15 entry fee, and the other for the Hunter region which is free. There are an unlimited number of submissions one writer can enter into the competition. The Newcastle Writers Festival has sponsored the Hunter category since 2016.  


The Award is open to all ages and encouraged submissions from young writers. If you are interested, click on the link above and keep an eye out for next year! 

Sarah Grace

Sarah Grace

Currently writing my first book based on prevalent issues for young adults in today’s society. When I am not studying for a Bachelor’s, I’m dabbling in some poetry or reading a fantasy book.