Praise for student authors

The Mercury newspaper’s special project for the National Year of Reading has reached its conclusion…


Lian Tanner

Lian Tanner

TASMANIAN students who carried on the Mercury’s never-ending story throughout the National Year of Reading have been congratulated by author Lian Tanner.
“I’ve been so impressed at the way this story has gone, over so many months,” Tanner said after reading the final chapter of the Lovesong of the Crow.
Tanner wrote the introductory chapter and gave the story its title and then set it free for students to continue on a weekly basis throughout the year.
“When I wrote the first chapter, I had my own ideas about what might happen,” she said. “None of them turned out to be true instead, the story careered into far more exciting territory.
“I loved the way the different writers used the title to such good effect. I loved the introduction of Rourke and the shape changers, and Andre.”
Tanner said it had been wonderful how something quite small and seemingly insignificant from a previous chapter would suddenly turn
out to be extremely important.
“As for the ending I feel as if I’ve been holding my breath for the last few weeks, waiting to see how things would turn out.
“Now at last I know! Congratulations to everyone involved it has been
wildly successful and a terrific read.”
Enthusiastic students and supportive teachers around Tasmania ensured the project’s success.
“This was a great project for the Mercury to organise in recognition of the 2012 being the National Year of Reading,” said New Town High School English curriculum leader Daniel Howard.
“It has given so many students from English classes across the state the opportunity to complete an authentic writing task and have their
writing published for a real audience to read and appreciate.”
* The Lovesong of the Crow will be available as an e-book downloadable from 


Part 33b – The Conclusion

New Town High School students Marley Sar’i, Matt Trenham and Josh French present part two of the concluding chapter of the never-ending story…

JOHNNY closed his eyes tightly and saw his mum and dad, smiling proudly at him. He realised two things: that they loved him dearly, and he was never going to see them again.
“Johnny, where are you?” yelled Andre as he climbed down the side of the cliff. When he got to the water, there was no sign of Johnny. The crow’s lifeless frame lay in the shallows, its wings twisted at odd angles and the alpha-crow bone still lodged firmly in its beak.
“Poor Johnny,” said Andre, freeing the bone and pocketing it as Johnny had done just days before. “I will finish what we started!” Andre threw the final bone into the fire. Nothing happened.
Desperately, he undid the flask and held it upside down above the dancing flames. One drop of blood dripped into the fire, which then exploded with a bang into thick black smoke.
Andre was unsure exactly how weakened the crows would be, or for how long. He fished the pocket knife out of Johnny’s bag, snapped a straight branch off the tree next to him and started to sharpen it at both ends.
When Andre was finished, he had a double-ended spear. He took a deep breath and crawled back through the hole in the wall.
The cave was unusually quiet. When he and Johnny had first entered, they heard the birds cawing to each other, but now… nothing.
Andre snuck around and saw some crows asleep on a perch. When he got to Eliza he looked around to make sure the coast was clear. The place was full of crows, but they all appeared to be asleep.
Andre unlatched the cage door and removed Eliza’s gag. As he knelt to untie the knot around her ankles, his spear clanged against the bars of the cage. The siblings looked up and their eyes were met by the piercing glare of hundreds of pairs of beady crow eyes glaring back at them. They were surrounded with no way out… they were goners thought Eliza.
“BANG!” Suddenly a bird fell to the ground. The twins looked around and saw Johnny with a shotgun in his hand. “I thought you were dead?” said Andre. “Me? No. Not yet anyway,” smiled Johnny as he shot down
another crow. “But let’s not push our luck all the same – run!” yelled Johnny and they all escaped out the tunnel. “We will be coming for you soon,” one of the crows cawed, shifting into its human form.
“Where did you get a gun!?” asked Eliza. “After falling off the cliff I woke up, washed up on the beach. I found scrap metal, ruined luggage and then it hit me! I was back at the beach where our plane crashed.
“The gun was in a case washed up on the sand. Most the stuff looked ruined but this gun was one of the useful things left so I picked it up and came looking for you guys. But I don’t get it – I didn’t recover the third bone, so how was the crow weak enough to be killed?”
A smile appeared on Andre’s face. “Johnny, I found the bone at the bottom of the cliff after you went over. I took it back up and put it into the fire. It must’ve worked!”
Eliza was keen to keep moving. “Guys, we have to think up a plan otherwise the crows are going to get us soon. Who knows how much longer they’ll be weakened for; I want to be out of here!”
“I”ve got a plan!” said Rourke, flying in from above. “This might not work but it”s all I’ve got, OK, so here it goes. Johnny can use the gun to shoot down some of those rocks above us. Hopefully, this’ll cause an avalanche of sorts, cave-in the entrance and trap all the crows inside.”
Johnny smiled enthusiastically. “That might just work!” The others stood back as Johnny took aim at the rocks balancing high above the entrance. He spent all the ammunition he had, but only a few pebbles fell.
Then Andre came up with an idea. He told Rourke to take his spear, fly up to the top of the cliff and use the spear as a lever to loosen the rocks. Rourke flew up there and stuck it in so hard that the shaft nearly snapped. With enormous strain, he gave one final almighty effort and the boulder
was nudged loose from its position. It tumbled down, starting the avalanche they needed. When the dust settled, the entrance to the crows’ lair no longer existed.
“We did it!” yelled Eliza as she did something else she never thought she would do and kissed Johnny. “What was that for?” asked Johnny. “Because you saved my life,” replied Eliza happily.
“OK lovebirds, time to go,” said Rourke. “Where?” asked Eliza and Johnny in unison.”To the boat!” “What boat?” asked Andre. “The Lovesong of the Crow, of course!”
“But it was destroyed,” said Eliza. “Who said we were going to use it?” Rourke said in a tone that made him sound smart. “We’re going to use
the flare gun.”
“Won’t it be soaked?” asked Eliza with a face full of confusion. “They always come in waterproof casing just in case you capsize,” said Rourke. “Or if someone gets stranded with mutant crows that are out to eat you,” cracked Johnny.
“Hang on,” interrupted Andre, “why haven’t you used it already?!” “I was never going to leave without my wife. Besides, the crows would’ve stopped me somehow.”
Eliza swam back to shore from the sunken boat, half-dressed and fully soaked. “Got it!” she shouted like she’d just won the Person of the Year award.
“Shh, SHHH,” hissed Rourke. “Can you hear that?” “Hear what?” asked Eliza, wiping her face. Johnny fired the flare and a long red trail of smoke flew into the air and exploded in a bright red flash high in the sky.
The faint sound of helicopter blades became louder and louder. They screamed and waved from the beach below. “Johnny? JOHNNY!”
Johnny screamed at the top of his lungs, “MUM, MUM!” As the rescue chopper landed, Eliza, Johnny and Andre hugged in happiness and relief. But there was no sign of Rourke. He was gone.
As the helicopter headed back towards Hobart, Johnny and Eliza looked back to the shore behind them to the place where this unbelievable adventure that had almost killed them had started.
What appeared to be a large black cloud began to form over the beach.
Their hearts dropped; it was the crows.

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on December 11, 2012

Part 33a

New Town High School students Josh French, Matt Trenham and Marley Sar’i present part one of the concluding chapter of the never-ending story….

AND then they woke up and realised it was all just a bad dream. For just a
moment Johnny let himself think that was how this story would end. But he
knew it wouldn’t be that easy. As Eliza fell to her knees sobbing, Johnny
walked over and comforted her, trying to not show his despair.
“I guess we should give Alice a proper burial,” he said. “Yes, we can’t leave her like this for the crows,” Eliza said. As she wiped the tears off her face, a dash of the little girl’s still-warm blood smeared across her forehead.
Johnny remembered the list from the journal and said “We … we need some of her blood.” Johnny could tell by the change of expression on Eliza’s face how she felt about performing that task. She picked up Alice’s backpack and searched through it, finding an empty drink bottle. As Johnny collected the blood, Eliza and Andre dug a grave for the little girl’s body.
“Okay, so we have the blood, we have the three bones; now we just need the raven’s heart,” Johnny said with a growing confidence. Eliza sat on a log a few metres away staring sadly at the ground. Johnny knew she was strong and was holding her emotions in, so he thought it was best to just to sit quietly next to her.
Andre limped wearily over and also sat next to Eliza, gently resting his head on his twin sister’s shoulder.As the sun fell below the horizon, a cool sea breeze began to blow softly against them. Eliza was still in agony over the death of Alice and it was getting cold so Johnny hugged her tightly and, absolutely exhausted, the three drifted off to sleep.
Johnny woke to the sound of the wind rattling through the trees.His heart skipped a beat when he realised there was no sign of Eliza. “Eliza where are you?” There was no answer. He started to worry.
Looking around, he noticed the indent of crow’s feet in the sand. “The crows have her,” came a voice from seemingly out of nowhere. “Huh?” Johnny spun around, looking for the source of this unwanted news.
“I said the crows have her,” repeated Musta from his perch high above. “I can’t believe I let myself fall asleep! Where is she? What have they done with her?” “She is unharmed – for now. But to save her, you must gather the items from the list,” Musta said. “When you combine these ingredients under dancing flames, the crows will be drained of their strength. They will then be weak enough to kill.”
“Okay,” Johnny said. “The only thing I need is a raven’s heart … but where can I get that?” “Take mine; I said I would do anything to help you.” “Would you really give your life?” “Yes, I will if I must.” “No Musta! There has to be another way.” “There is not. You must kill me.”
“Musta, I’m so sorry. Thank you,” Johnny stroked the proud black feathers of Musta’s wings. “It’s okay Johnny. Good luck.” A tear rolled down Johnny’s cheek as he clenched his fingers around the noble bird’s neck and the quiet snap somehow seemed to echo throughout the entire forest.
With Musta’s lifeless body resting in his hands, Johnny looked towards the horizon; many dark shapes appeared in the sky.
As he heard the crows caw in the distance his fears where confirmed; they were coming for him and fast! Johnny grabbed the ingredients and ran to
cover. “Andre! Andre! Wake up, the crows are coming!” “Huh?” Andre said
sleepily. “Eliza was taken by the crows and Musta sacrificed himself so we
can save her. This is his heart,” Johnny explained quickly. “Now c’mon – we need to find cover, because they are coming!”
Johnny and Andre dived in to some thick foliage for cover. The crows flew straight past them, swooped suddenly to the left and disappeared out of site. The boys cautiously followed the path taken by the crows and discovered a small opening in the rocks.
They squeezed their way through and found themselves in the narrow
mouth of a cave with a faint flicker of light coming from deeper down. Their jaws dropped as they discovered where they were: in the crows’ lair.
In the centre was Eliza, bound and gagged, being held prisoner in a human-sized birdcage.
On every branch, ledge and surface of the cave’s walls were crows:
hundreds, if not thousands of them. “We have to save her!” Andre whispered to Johnny. “First we have to build a fire and burn the ingredients so we can weaken the crows!” Johnny whispered back.
The boys crawled out of the cave, found a secluded spot and, after a few failed attempts, lit a fire. “Do you reckon the flames are big enough?” “It will have to be.”
The items were  all laid on the ground: three alpha-crow bones, blood of a dying soul and heart of a raven. As Andre began to put the ingredients in the fi re, a lone crow swooped down and snatched one of the bones in its beak. “Johnny! Get it!” Andre yelled. Johnny sprang into action.
The bird was slow and barely a metre high; the fire must have already weakened it. Johnny looked up and realised  the crow was heading towards the cliff; this was do or die. He was gaining, his heart was pounding: he could do it.
As the trees on either side of Johnny cleared, he knew the cliff was close.
With the cliff only metres away, Johnny lunged forward and snatched at the crow right in front of him. His hands empty, the crow fell off the precipice and Johnny followed it, both of them flapping helplessly as they plummeted down, waves lapping at the rocks below.

To be concluded next week

First published in the Mercury newspaper, Tasmania, on December 4, 2012

New-Town-part-33-webTHE student-written story Lovesong of the Crow should be turned into a movie, say the last three authors. Three New Town High School students have worked together on the final chapter of the Lovesong of the Crow, which is being presented in two parts. They are Grade 8 students Josh French, Matt Trenham and Marley Sar’i.
They were selected by the school’s head of English, Daniel Howard, because they had all chosen writers’ workshop as an optional subject for next year. “I thought it was an amazing opportunity to be able
to write something that would go in the Mercury,” Josh said.
Matt said his first impression was that this was going to take a long time. “The first thing we did was read through the whole story so far and write down notes about the important events that had happened in the story,” he said.
The group shared their ideas for the story and then picked the best ones to include in the final chapter. Marley said the hardest part had been the re-reading of the previous 32 chapters. “The biggest challenge was probably just bringing all the ideas from past writers together. It was really hard to finish it all off with a satisfying conclusion,” he said.
The boys thanked their teacher Daniel Howard for the opportunity, as well as science teacher Duncan Brain who had followed the story all year and provided some useful insight. “I think that the story should become a movie now,” Matt said. “And I should play the role of Johnny Dance,” said Josh. Mr Howard said he was proud of the way the boys had embraced the challenge and dealt with the pressure of working to a deadline.