Ashleigh Mounser … writing ”since birth”.IN HER year 12 English class, Ashleigh Mounser was suffering writer’s block. Her teacher told her to write what she knew.

”She said, for example, like you wouldn’t write about, like, a gay love story in World War I,” Ms Mounser said, ”because you wouldn’t understand that.”

Yesterday the 18-year-old from Kincumber High School was named The Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year.

One of her winning tales – a gay love story set in World War I – is reprinted in today’s Spectrum. It follows two English soldiers, Ryan and Christopher, who discover their love for each other under fire on the Western Front.

”Ashleigh constructed her story with humanity and dignity and love,” said Rachel McLean, a teacher at St Vincent’s College who has judged the competition for the past five years.

Ms Mounser’s portfolio was chosen from more than 1000 entries written by year 10, 11 and 12 pupils across NSW and the ACT. Stories by the competition’s 13 regional finalists have been published in an ebook, When Words Take Flight, which can be downloaded free today at smh苏州美甲学校.au/youngwriter. Selected stories can also be read in the Herald’s tablet edition.

Along with poems, short stories and essays, Ms Mounser has been writing a blog about the ”wicked witch-like manner” in which she is melting under the pressures of ”school, work and extracurricular weirdness”.

She has been writing, she says, ”since birth, with varying degrees of legibility”. Her earliest work – about a lonely cow called Jemima who gave birth to a sheep – was penned in scrawl that only she could understand. Her first novel, The Life and Times of a Perfectly Sane Psycho, is being represented by a literary agent.

The Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer competition is supported by the University of Western Sydney, the State Library of NSW, NSW Writers’ Centre, D Publishing, Dymocks Books, Pilot Pen, Holiday Inn and the English Teachers Association.

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