National Young Writers Festival 2018

 

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.

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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.

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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.

Zine Collection

 

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

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2

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.

The Art of Taxidermy

The Art of Taxidermy

Sharon Kernot
Text Publishing 2018


Sharon Kernot’s Young Adult verse novel The Art of Taxidermy offers an intimate look at the mechanisms of grief and how it can make you strange. Charlotte is just thirteen, has lost her mother and her younger sister, and is obsessed with making the dead look alive again. Her obsession leads her to collect, and then later taxidermize dead animals she finds in the bush surrounding her Australian home. Her aunt is horrified by this behaviour, but her distant father defends it as the burgeoning habits of a young scientific mind. Kernot makes the collection of the dead feel like a natural extension of Charlotte’s grief and pain; much like the meddling of Charlotte’s aunt and the distance of her father is an extension of theirs. The desire to resurrect the dead with whatever means available is both naively young and incredibly human, and Kernot explores it with a matter-of-fact tenderness.

It is not only their grief that makes Charlotte and her family strange. They are German immigrants and her father and grandfather were interned in the Loveday camp, near Barmera on the Murray River. The verse novel is set in the years after the second World War ended and the family’s German heritage marks them as different, as Other. It’s hard to imagine this family living outside this deep saturation of sadness – their tragedies started before Charlotte was born and it feels as though they will continue long after she’s dead.

Kernot paints a family in freefall after the unthinkable has happened, not once but twice, with a sure and steady brush. The work couples the swift, clipped charm of a verse novel and the unpredictable beauty of the Australian landscape in a captivating manner that showcases an author entirely comfortable with her form. This is a novel easily consumed in an afternoon, but one that lingers in the mind for weeks afterwards.

The Art of Taxidermy is due for release July 2 and can be purchased from Text Publishing here.

The book will be launched July 18 at the Tea Tree Gully Library from 6:30pm click here for more information.

5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair 2018

 

Despite being a small city, Adelaide has a number of pop culture conventions, one being the Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair. Now in its fourth year, the Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair is held around the Adelaide CBD and this year’s April 28th event was held on the first level of The German Club on Flinders Street. I decided to make my first visit and I am happy to say that it did not disappoint.

I felt at home right as I entered the room, after paying the $2 entry fee. I found figurines from popular franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Action Man filling the tables inside. The variety of them was diverse, from boxed Farscape figurines selling at $15 to a $500 boxed Black Series Boba Fett with Han Solo frozen in carbonite. Alongside all of these were Lego (but not actual Lego) sized figurines of super-heroes selling for $10-15 each. Whether it be for starting a toy collection, or finding your favourite childhood toy, the Comic and Toy fair had it all.

 

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For retro game collectors, the Comic and Toy Fair did not disappoint. There were boxes full of games, mainly from retro consoles like the Sega Saturn and PlayStation 2. Many games were the usual shovelware titles, but there were some hidden gems. One gem was a copy of Resident Evil: Deadly Silence (case included) for the Nintendo DS selling for $40. Perhaps the most impressive find was a copy of Final Fantasy V (cartridge only) for the Super Famicom selling for $7[1]. Speaking of the Super Famicom, one was on sale for $130 with its box for any willing game fan.

For bookworms, the Comic and Toy Fair had enough books to quench your thirst for reading. There was a little a bit of everything, from the classic Doctor Who Target Books series to old encyclopedias of the Star Trek universe. Comic book fans were also spoiled for choice, having a wide selection of comics from both the past and present. Both Greenlight Comics and Gamma Rays had a presence, offering the usual $2-$4 range of old single-issue superhero comics to trade paperbacks of V for Vendetta. Alongside these were comics from Adelaide indie comic writers like Darren Koziol of Dark Oz, and Dr. Mike 2000 of the Universe Gun series. Fans of the DECAY series could pick up the final issue for $12 from Koziol himself.

 

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The final interesting part of the Comic and Toy Fair was the presence of two Adelaide pop culture clubs. These clubs were Starship Mawson and TinTin Club Australia, with the former being the prime Adelaide sci-fi fan club. Some memorabilia from Lexicon, a recent pop culture exhibition at Unley Museum, was on sale too, including a framed 1960s Spiderman comic being sold at the Starship Mawson table for $90. For anyone who might be interested in joining these club, I recommend looking them up and getting in contact.

Overall, the 2018 Adelaide Comic and Toy Fair was a worthwhile experience. It was a fun day out where you could find a hidden gem and discover more of the Adelaide pop culture scene. I recommend anyone who is interested in pop culture expos like AVCon and Supanova to go check out the Comic and Toy Fair next time it is held.

If you are interested in pop culture and toy collecting, the Mega Toy Fair will be on at Adelaide Showgrounds (June 2nd-3rd). For more information, click the link here.


[1]WARNING: Super Famicom games will not work on your Australian Super Nintendo (SNES). This is due to region lock. To play a Japanese game, you will need either a Super Famicom, or a third-party region-free system. Another word of warning: Super Famicoms run on the Japanese 110V power setting, well below the Australian 230V standard. To prevent possible motherboard frying or a fire, you must buy a step-down convertor.


Words by Cameron Lowe