'So, How Was the National Young Writers' Festival?'

Unfortunately I didn’t make it to NYWF this year, an annual literary alchoholic-ginger-beer-fuelled fest held in Newcastle as part of This is Not Art (TiNA). So I asked a few friends to share an experience or two of their weekend in early October.

Amy Vought Barker:

Our remix masterclass was great. We did cut ups of Danielle Wood’s How to Domesticate a Pirate. And they were all so artistically done that I’m going to have to scan these cut ups, rather than just type them up. Scott-Patrick Mitchell, who was running ‘The Trickster’s Bible’ – public poetry throughout Newcastle streets – even did our first ‘fold in’.

We encountered the ‘serial pest’ in the festival club on the Saturday night. You know the guy? Peter Hore. He had his own novelty sized mic and at one point stipped off all his clothes. We thought he was ‘part of the act’ (you know, there’s some pretty out there performance stuff that goes on during the festival) at first. Apparently in previous years he has had a pet cat draped over his shoulders but was solo on this particular night. I made the mistake of sitting right next to him trying to get a front row seat for Bel Shenk’s (Artistic Director of Express Media) poetry reading from her new book which was supposed to be launched on the night but has been delayed by her publisher, Wakefield Press. I managed to block the serial pest and his personal commentary out and focus on Bel’s reading. So impressed was I that I was determined to buy the pages she read from and was prepared to pay $5 for them but by the time I approached her someone else had got them for the bargain price of $1.

The famous alcoholic ginger beer was pooh poohed by everyone, apparently it was a different type/manufacturer than previous years. The free champagne was cheap and nasty and left me with a killer hangover on Sunday.

Kieran and I apparently offended quite a few people (being a little bit outspoken and opinionated about various issues including smoking and writing cred)…

But my highlight was the ocean baths at East Newcastle, where just 20 metres away from where we were swimming Kieran and I watched a pod of bottle nose dolphins, including a baby, surfing the waves. It was a magical sight and I felt it was a gift for my novel Omega Park – in the final scene Dingo sees a dolphin out in the surf and I’d tried to research this but just had to make it up while I was in Ireland. Now I’ve felt what it was like to be that close to wild dolphins first hand, and watched the surfers’ reactions. It’s just mesmerising.

And of course the festival just wasn’t the same without Miss LiteraryMinded…

Amy’s book Omega Park was one of my ‘Best Unpublished Books’ earlier in the year. She has since won the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript, and will be published by UQP in 2009.

Luke Stickels:

There was a pretty interesting panel on Saturday arvo, ‘mining the personal’. One of the panellists was pretty impressive at batting away anything the moderator sent their way, such as ‘would you like to say something about your experience…’, replying ‘no not really…’. It was pretty obvious the panellist wasn’t pulling weight, especially with the others being so generous and candid with their experiences and their immediate thoughts.

A classic moment was when the panellist was asked a question about whether they thought all journalists were ruthless individuals wanting to turn a writer’s personal history into pulp for their own ends (as they had suggested). The questioner said ‘I’d like to think not all your experiences with journalists have been so negative and self-serving’ and the panellist’s answer was her question: ‘you’re a journalist aren’t you?’ which everyone thought was hilarious but wasn’t followed with any further comment, that WAS the answer, and pretty disrespectful. Spoke with a few people that night who weren’t that impressed…

Otherwise, I didn’t see any reckless public groping, vomiting etc from festival attendees. There was some drinking in the park, where my dream was fulfilled to at least feel like I was part of an early Silverchair music vid.

The main space had often-conflicting utilities: serving drinks, people chattering away vs stage performances from folks who needed some quiet, who didn’t get it, who started heckling the talkers up the back, who took, generally, no notice. I was one such talker who was trying to extricate himself from a conversation so I could listen, but it’s more about the space being set up in a kind of contradictory way.

Luke is a writer from Melbourne. His short story ‘Guerillas in Your Midst’ is published in the most recent issue of Meanjin.

Josephine Rowe:

Some things make more sense at two in the morning, after inhaling half a bottle of tequila and showing your underwear to complete strangers. A wall mounted deer head lip-synching to ‘Rawhide’ is one of these things. Our hotel (okay, it was a motel) had Buck the Talking Stag mounted in the dining room, much to the amusement/disturbance of numerous shickered TINA guests.

Josephine is a Melbourne writer and poet.

And last but certainly not least, Nathan Curnow talks about his ghost poetry session at the festival on his blog.

5 thoughts on “'So, How Was the National Young Writers' Festival?'

  1. Pingback: ‘So, How Was the National Young Writers’ Festival?’

  2. I was booked in to sit on two panels, ‘Save Our Souls’ and ‘The End of Travel’, but Horrid Family Virus stopped me.

    It sounds like it was great fun (but, to my shame, I don’t regret my choice to stay home).

  3. Curious to know why Luke’s words were changed to not mention that it was Tara June Winch who was not pulling her weight on the panel. Are you worried that you will seem as disrespectful as she? If people weren’t impressed that’s of interest but of no use without particulars for the people who weren’t there.

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