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.



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.

Podcast Panel.jpg


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


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.


How To Make A Basic Twine Game

Are you new to Twine? Have you just opened up the program and don’t know where to begin? Well, fear no more! I have eight simple steps on creating your very first game with Twine. Today we will be making a basic game that requires very little programming.


Here is the opening menu of the engine. As you can see, I’ve made a couple of games on here already. You have three formats to choose from, which you can find in the “formats” tab. However, for this, we’ll stick with the default Twine 2.0 setting (Harlowe 1.2.2). Begin by clicking the green button that says “+Story”. Name your story and press “+Add”.


This is the storyboard blueprints. This is where you will create your game. This is zoomed in, but you can zoom out by clicking the boxes on the tab in the bottom right. You can click the green “+Passage” button to create a new passage, but this will be unconnected so don’t do that. Instead, double-click the “Untitled Passage” box in the middle of the screen.


What you have here now is the passage. It is here that you can write your story and build your game. As you can see, I have already begun writing. The [[Begin Learning]] is the most basic form of programming in the engine. This is your button function, which gets you from one passage to the next. Go ahead and write anything in and when done, click the close button in the “Untitled Passage” line. We will ignore the “+tags” function for now as that is for later reference when your game is more complex.


As you can see on your blueprints page, you now have a second passage that has appeared. You will also notice a line between them. This means you have successfully linked the two pages, meaning you can go from page one to two now. To continue, double-click this newly made passage.


Repeat the same process as you did in Step Three. You don’t have to enter the exact story I have but do a similar one as it will make this easier to follow. This time, add two button functions instead of one. Once you do so, exit the passage.

A note to remember: Twine is very sensitive when it comes to passage names. Always use unique names as a passage can always be linked with the wrong one. I’ve made this mistake many times in my time with the engine.


Do you see two passages extending off the one now? If so, you have successfully created a branching narrative. This is where you can make your story with multiple endings. Continue the repeat the processes you did in Step Three and Five.


Now we come up to an interesting part of this: linking back to previous pages. As you can see here, I have a vampire in front of the castle. You may want to give your players a choice, either approach them or return to the fork in the road. To return to the fork, simply make a passage called [[Return to the Fork]]. From there, go to this new passage and then simply type the title of the passage (mine is [[Begin Learning]]). It should automatically show up when you begin typing, making it easier.


If your storyboard looks like mine then you have successfully created a nonlinear story that gives players choice. If you are happy with this, click either the TEST or PLAY buttons on the bottom right hand corner. You have successfully created a game, congratulations!

*As you can see on your game you have the automatic choice to go back, rendering the [[RETURN TO THE FORK]] function useless. However, keep it in as this will not be present in formats like SugarCube (port of Twine 1 engine).


BONUS: Publish

You can share your creation with your friends and family by clicking on your story name below. Go to the PUBLISH TO FILE function. Select your save spot and name it whatever you want. Save it as a HTML document. From there, find your file and your game will appear up in your browser of choice. You now have a game up and running. Well done! You can now either decide to work on this story more or explore the program more and create more complex one once you have gotten the hang of it.

Words by Cameron Lowe

Twine: A Game Engine For Writers

Throughout my creative writing degree, I wanted to learn how to write and make video games. However, I found out it was a topic not mentioned much by my tutors, due to it possibly being seen as digital media rather than literary. It was even more difficult finding an engine that uses literary skills rather than digital skills. However, writers rejoice, there is a game engine we can use. This engine allows the use of literary skills to create video games, allowing us to get in on the popularity of games. This engine is called Twine.

First released in 2009, Twine is an open source game engine that allows users to create interactive fiction. This interactive fiction is primarily text-based, much like PC games from the early 1980s like Zork, but can contain images, music and video. The program is free to download and from the time of writing is currently in Twine 2.0 (version 2.2.1). Twine uses three different computer codes to work: JavaScript, CSS, and HTML5. For those writers unfamiliar with coding terms, these are the most basic codes used in computer programming. They are typically used in creating web pages and their functions.

You can create many different narratives with Twine. My personal favourite (and recommended for beginners) is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” narrative. This allows you to create a narrative with multiple endings and make the players think carefully before they making a choice. This was the first story style I created when I started with the engine back in 2016, hence why I recommend it for beginners. The narrative style is simple to create and requires little coding knowledge.

If you are looking to create a more complex game like a survival horror or RPG, then you will need to learn coding. Thankfully, it is very easy to create code in Twine. The internet contains many tips and shares source code on how to develop functions like keys, playback video, and health points. For those interested, check out this example from Twine Wiki about creating a key using code. A word of warning: some codes were written a few years ago and may be incompatible with newer versions of Twine. It will also take time to learn this, but it will let you create more complex stories.

One piece of advice before creating anything in Twine: plan your narrative. You need to know what happens on each panel before you begin in the engine. You have to make sure your story makes sense before constructing it, or you will find it to be very difficult and tedious going back and fixing everything later on. I know this because I have made the same mistake. I am usually someone who never plans when writing, which is fine for short stories or novels, but not for video games.

You can also use Twine as a basis for developing a game further in another engine like Unity. Due to its basic coding script, you can develop a game completely within the engine and give it to a friend or colleague who knows game programming. The narrative aspect of the engine also allows your programming friend to get a feel for your game which they can replicate in another engine.

If you are looking into writing for video games, Twine is a great starting point. It allows literary writers to transfer their skills to digital media with ease. Check out some examples of what people have made here. You can download the engine from the link to their site here.

Words by Cameron Lowe 

camCameron 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.