The National Young Writer’s Festival (NYWF) has been a go-to for young writers across Australia for over twenty years. Held in Newcastle, NSW, over four days, NYWF is part of the This is Not Art (TiNA) Festival. This year it was held between September 27-30 and it was my first visit to both the festival and Newcastle. My time there has left my mind teeming with new ideas and a better understanding of what it’s like to be a young writer in Australia.
There was something for essentially every writer possible at NYWF. There were panels and workshops on fiction, journalism, and gaming to name just a few. I attended a variety of different topics, from community journalism to getting work as a writer.
I found there were two particularly memorable panels. The first was ‘Write Off the Page’, where four panellists gathered and discussed games and digital poetry. The panellists included: Andrew Gleeson, Karen Lowry, Chad Toprak, and Cecile Richard. Lowry spoke of her digital poetry and electronic literature, which includes a detective game with poetry (check it out here). Toprak mentioned a game (Cart-Load-of-Fun) he made for the trams in Melbourne to try and bring games into a public sphere. One of his successes of this game was convincing a sceptical stranger and making them smile. Read more about Toprak here. Twine, a game engine, was mentioned and recommended for writers wanting to explore game development.
Another memorable panel was ‘Narrative Prosthesis’, which was panelled by Robin M. Eames and Alistair Baldwin. I went into this panel at random and discovered it was about disability in the arts. Being someone with a disability, I found this panel extremely empowering. It made me feel equal to other issues discussed over the weekend and raised some interesting points about disability in the arts. One fact I discovered is how it’s cheaper to hire a non-disabled person to play a disabled role on television than someone with that disability. I was surprised to hear this and it’s got me asking two questions: why does this happen and how can they get away with it? I wish to explore this further in future.
As I travelled to NYWF with Empire Times (which I currently edit), I attended and participated in the ‘Student Media Symposium’. Held by the editors from Farrago (Melbourne University student magazine), the Symposium was mainly a discussion about student media, which included topics like what is expected of student media and how we address student politics. We also discussed issues in student media, coming back to common contemporary issues, such as budget, diversity and university politics.
Beyond the panels, discussions and workshops were plenty of other free events to attend across both NYWF and TiNA. Countless readings were on across Newcastle on a variety of different topics. One reading I sat in was called The Best Book I (N)ever Read. It was fascinating to listen to the stories on what other people thought about what are often referred to as the ‘best’ books and why they didn’t read them. Other readings included By the Sea (held at Newcastle Beach), Why I Write, and Late-Night Readings.
Another event that took place was the NYWF Zine Fair. Held on the Sunday at Newcastle Library, the Zine Fair was where attendees could pick up zines from writers from Newcastle and across Australia. It’s here that I picked up copies of The Line (a free Newcastle zine) and a graphic novel called Ghost Beach by Ben Mitchell.
NewsXpress, a newspaper for TiNA, was also present throughout the festival. NewsXpress ran over the four days in different locations of the festival and was created by editor Danni McGrath through screen printing. The newspaper printed a new issue every day of the festival, typically discussing news and what’s happening around Newcastle. I watched McGrath create a copy of the Sunday issue when I picked my copy up (also on Sunday), fascinated by how it was done. It has now left me with the intention to try it out at smaller conventions here in Adelaide in future.
Overall, the 2018 NYWF overall was a lot of fun and full of useful information for every kind of writer. I enjoyed my visit and the addition of panels about gaming and podcasts make it the most contemporary and advanced literary festival I have attended yet. All the panels and workshops were free and the Zine Fair is a fantastic place to pick up a literary souvenir and support local writers and zine-makers. If I have the opportunity, I would love to go back next year, and if you do too, I highly recommend you visit it too.
Words and photography by Cameron Lowe
Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.