At the tender age of 12, Sunshine Bay Public’s Kaitlyn Sell has a gift for the written word that writers twice her age will likely never achieve.
At an assembly on Wednesday, August 8, to coincide with education week her talent was lauded by teachers and peers alike.
Kaitlyn, who moved to the area from Young just under two years ago, has received two of the coveted Sunshine Bay Principal’s Awards. This year her award was a recognition of a stellar 18-page narrative she penned titled The Silencers: Nameless Terrors.
It’s the young writer’s “favourite” of hundreds of pieces she has written both for school and in her own time.
Kaitlyn discovered a love for the written word when she was just eight years old.
"I started writing stories for both school and myself and I found out that I enjoyed writing stories, so I kept going,” Kaitlyn said.
Her latest work began as a Year Six creative writing assignment.
Many writers talk of staring at a blank page and waiting for that ‘light-bulb’ moment. Kaitlyn however, has a sophisticated practice that includes hours of pre-planning.
"Usually I go into Google and start searching for writing prompts,” she said.
“I find some random things on there and that’s where I start. I usually do quite a lot of planning before I write.”
Since her inaugural piece, which she wrote in Year Two, Kaitlyn has “lost count” of her many stories.
Despite that, the work for which she won this year’s award is special to her.
"I put a lot of effort, and basically just a lot of time into writing this one,” Kaitlyn said.
“It's one of my favourites because I actually stuck to it and enjoyed the plot-line and everything that I did with it. It's just my favourite thing that I've written so far.”
The story begins with a scenic description: “The sun rose slowly, sending bright reds, pinks and oranges into the atmosphere, brightening the row of buildings below. A long shadow stretched beyond the cavernous, brick-built house, the flowers drooping only slightly. Sitting comfortably on the pavement out front, was a female dog, her ears perked as she listened for any suspicious sounds.”
At Wednesday’s assembly, Sunshine Bay school principal Maree Dielman told an audience, which included students, teachers and parents, that Kaitlyn’s story was “amazing”.
Her class teacher, Michael Davis, could not agree more.
“The quality of her work is just years beyond the level of a primary school student,” he said.
“There are lots of adults who never achieve the level of writing and creativity that she does.
Mr Davis has been teaching for 12 years and says that Kaitlyn is “by far” the most creative and talented student of her age that he has taught.
“It’s very affirming as a teacher,” he said.
“It really inspires you to push harder because you want her to reach her full potential. It’s a privilege in a lot of ways.”
When asked about the type of literature that she is drawn to Kaitlyn said: “I like all kinds, from poetry to fiction.”
Kaitlyn, who would like to become a published author one day, is committed to her goal.
"I think it takes reading and just a lot of time and dedication to what you're doing,” she said.
For Kaitlyn, that involves hours of writing which, fortunately is something that she enjoys.
It can take anywhere from "a few weeks" to a few days for her to complete a single project.
"I start with the beginning and how I would want it to play out and then I list the characters, whether they're male or female, and then their characteristics under each name. After that I usually do the plot-line, which wouldn't take too long because I usually know how I want it to go, and then the end - whether it's going to be sad, happy or however,” she said.
“I used to be inspired by a lot of things, especially where I used to live, in Young. It was a big change (moving to Sunshine Bay) but we’re much more relaxed here.”
Kaitlyn feels that her work has improved since the family relocated. Her proud Dad was at Wednesday’s awards ceremony but Kaitlyn was very excited to get home and surprise her Mum with her news.
“She gets home from Sydney tonight (Wednesday) … she was very supportive while I was writing it,” Kaitlyn said.
As she presented a slew of awards to volunteers and students, Mrs Dielman told proud family and friends of the students at Sunshine Bay: "I don't think I can be more proud of what they are doing. We are doing a great job and we are really happy with everybody and where they're going and what they're doing. Their reading has become amazing, their behaviour has improved dramatically and we certainly are on a roll."
His work, which Mrs Dielman described as "exceptional" has been published, along with other entrants, and is available at libraries throughout Eurobodalla.