The National Young Writers’ Festival (NYWF) is an annual gathering of young writers. A place to show work, share ideas, and learn. Our programs are free, and made by and for young writers who create across stage, page, web and beyond.
In 2021, we are returning with a hybrid model; retaining a digital program that will exist alongside the usual festival which takes place across the October long weekend in Newcastle, NSW.
NYWF is so-called Australia’s largest gathering of young writers, with artists bringing their craft from all around (cities, regional, rural and our beloved regular cohort from Aotearoa). We showcase work in both new and traditional forms including zines, comics, blogging, screenwriting, poetry, spoken word, hip hop, music, journalism, autobiography, comedy and prose.
The festival presents ‘writing’ in its broadest sense through panels, discussions, workshops, launches, performances, readings, installations, and more. Our program combines practical skill-building sessions with social events, interactive projects, writing showcases and collaborations.
National Young Writers’ Festival takes place on the land of the Awabakal and Worimi peoples in Newcastle, NSW. We acknowledge and pay respect to the Awabakal and Worimi people on whose land our festival was born; and many, many other First Nations Peoples as the traditional custodians of the unceded lands on which the festival occurs this year. We pay respect to elders, past, present and emerging. We acknowledge the resilience of their continuing cultures. This always was, always is, always will be Aboriginal land.
Since its creation in 1998, NYWF has partnered with Octapod, a Newcastle-based leading regional arts and cultural development organisation, to present the festival as part of This is Not Art (TiNA). This is Not Art is an experimental environment where artists can test and exchange ideas that belong outside of institutions. It usually comprises three sub-festivals: Crack Theatre Festival, Critical Animals and the National Young Writers’ Festival, and in the past has included special guest events from Electrofringe and City Evolutions. In 2021 we are presenting NYWF as a solo festival while TiNA takes a break.
Lur is an Iraqi and Australian writer and playwright, and the Co-Director of the National Young Writers’ Festival. She is winner of the AM Heath Prize for Prose, the Scribe Nonfiction Prize and the Deborah Cass Prize. Her work has been widely published in Australia and the US. She is a recent graduate of the Oxford University Master’s in Creative Writing.
Michael Louis Kennedy
Michael Louis Kennedy is a playwright and writer based in Sydney. He has previously worked for the Sydney Fringe, Summerhall (Edinburgh Fringe) and Belvoir Street Theatre. His work has been featured in Overland, Voiceworks, Brag, Going Down Swinging, Transportation Press, Baby Teeth, Sydney Morning Herald and more. As a playwright he has had readings and productions on the Sydney Fringe Festival, at the Old 505, Sydney Mardi Gras’s Playlist playreading festival, and Queer Theory in Glasgow, Scotland. In 2019 he was a member of ATYP’s Fresh Ink program for emerging theatre voices, and is currently undertaking a mentorship through Kill Your Darlings to develop a new Australian novel.
Isobel Marmion is an Adelaide based performer, writer, producer and lapsed indie bookseller. She has worked festivals and organisations including Vitalstatistix, Humber Mouth and Contains Strong Language, is on the board of deconstructed opera company Various People, and a member of Adelaide based collective RUMPUS. She predominantly explores social issues in her creative work via storytelling and uses comedy and cabaret to explore class disparities, loneliness and mental illness. But in a sassy, fun way with like, glitter.
Merryana Salem (she|they) is a proud Wonnarua and Lebanese–Australian writer, critic, teacher, and podcaster on most social media as @akajustmerry. Check out their podcast, GayV Club where they gush about LGBT rep in media, or her bylines in Junkee, The Big Issue, or Kill Your Darlings. Either way, she hopes you ate something nice today.
Saoirse Nash is a freelance events organiser, performance poet and one half of indie arts org Hectic Measures Press. She has worked with a collection of collectives including Spoken Word Perth, Perth Poetry Festival, and Haxa House a to create arts events that entertain, inspire, challenge and propagate in backyards, pubs, libraries and across the world wide web. She likes to grow flowers you can eat and community you can feast on.
Haneen Mahmood Martin
Haneen Mahmood Martin is a freelance writer, artist and consultant based in Darwin who engages with the ideas of reclaiming and exploring culture, food, beauty and pop-media through active making. Haneen is also currently a Co-Producer of the Darwin Fringe Festival and is passionate about any work that aids intercultural understanding and helps have any underrepresented voices heard.
She was a finalist in the Frankie Good Stuff Awards 2020 and has been published by The Guardian, SBS Voices and more. Haneen is slowly working towards her first book, when the Territory heat and general over-commitment isn’t getting the best of her.
Jack Gow is a writer and comedian based in Sydney. Handpicked by the Sydney Comedy Festival for the prestigious Break Out Comedy showcase, Jack is one of the most exciting voices on the national comedy scene and has toured sold out, critically acclaimed shows across the country. He is a two-time The Moth Sydney GrandSLAM finalist, a four-time StorySLAM winner, and his stories have appeared on Radio National, the Story Club podcast, and FBi Radio’s All the Best. He has trained at the Improv Theatre Sydney, is a former editor of Honi Soit, a former director of the University of Sydney Arts Revue, and he contributes articles and opinion pieces to ABC News Digital. When he’s not writing or performing, he moonlights as a communications professional with experience in the public, not-for-profit, and commercial sectors.
Mark is a consultant who works with businesses and individuals to help them to excel. Often working with arts companies, start-ups, and entities that have fallen on hard times, he guides them to rationalize their strategic objectives and he gives them focus on those priorities that will help them to achieve their goals. Before commencing his consulting business, Mark worked for 25 years in the Financial sector, with 10 years in senior management, and before entering finance he enjoyed a career in engineering. Mark sits on three not-for-profit boards and on the Regional Council for an Industry Body in the Finance Sector. In his spare time he blogs, and lectures at Western Sydney University and for a finance industry body. He is a competitive rower and runner, and often is confounded by his two teenage children.
Joanna is an investment professional who has worked in the investment and superannuation industry for over 30 years. With experience initially managing assets in London and then Sydney, her career has progressed to senior leadership roles providing strategic input to the development of a business. Joanna was formerly Regional Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand of Colonial First State Global Asset Management and earlier Director of Sales & Client Service at Russell Investments. She is also an Honorary Associate of UTS. With a detailed knowledge of the superannuation industry and an extensive network Joanna has a passion for helping others achieve dignity in retirement.
Ewa Ramsey is a writer and arts administrator based in Newcastle. She is currently operations manager for the Newcastle Writers Festival. Previously, she was volunteer co-ordinator for the National Young Writers Festival and worked in print production and magazine publishing. She has written for Limelight Magazine, Atomic, PC & Tech Authority and the Sydney Morning Herald and her fiction has been published in the Newcastle Herald and won a commendation in the Newcastle Short Story Prize. She has recently finished her first novel.
Grace grew up between Sydney and the Blue Mountains and has lived in London and San Francisco. Grace returned to Australia in 2002 and began working at Curtis Brown where she worked in a number of roles until mid-2019. In July 2019 she joined forces with fellow literary agent, Gaby Naher, to create Left Bank Literary where she represents clients such as Mark Brandi, Chris Hammer, Bri Lee and Nakkiah Lui. Grace is also on the board of the Blue Mountains Writers’ Festival and the National Young Writers’ Festival.
After working in publishing in Australia, Jemma Birrell moved to Paris, directing events at the iconic Parisian bookshop Shakespeare and Company, and co-directing three editions of FestivalandCo, literary festival. Jemma then became Artistic Director of Sydney Writers’ Festival from 2012 til 2016. Year on year there was an increase in audience numbers, culminating in the highest attendances, book sales and ticket sales in its history. After the Festival, Jemma became creative director at Tablo, a self-publishing start-up, and she is currently working on a new imprint, hosting a regular podcast called The Secret Life of Writers and reviewing books for The Saturday Paper. Jemma has been on the advisory arts board for The University of Technology, on the judging panel for the Sidney Myer Creative Fellowships and an academy member of the Walter Scott Prize for historical fiction.
Rachel has a background in events, corporate sponsorship, philanthropy, arts management and public policy, having worked across government and for leading and grassroots arts organisations, festivals and tours across Australia. She currently works for MOD. – an Adelaide-based future-focussed museum which explores the intersection of art, science and technology. Here she leads the design, development and delivery of its public and education programs. Previously she has held leadership roles for organisations such as the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival, and Rundle Mall, and was previously the Festival Manager of National Young Writers’ Festival in 2014 and 2015. She has also held positions within the South Australian Government’s Arts SA and Adelaide Writers’ Week, and has worked as a book buyer and literary event producer.
Alexandra Neill is a producer and writer from Northern NSW, currently living in Melbourne. She works at the ABC on community engagement projects benefiting young people, including Heywire and Trailblazers (targeting regional youth) and the place-based Takeover Melbourne. She’s a long-term NYWF devotee, having attended the festival every year since she was 18 and working in various roles including as a Co-Director in 2014 and 2015. She’s been called the festival’s “Unofficial Fairy Godmother”, a role she hopes to continue by advocating for the festival as a board member.
Marika Webb-Pullman is a communications professional from Sydney, currently living in the Macedon Ranges, just outside Melbourne. She’s the associate publisher at Scribe Publications, one of Australia’s key independent publishing houses, where she’s building a list that includes literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, and projects in translation. Marika has been working in publishing and online media for more than a decade, across roles in marketing, editorial, and digital strategy. Before joining Scribe, she was the marketing and subscriptions manager at Crikey.
The National Young Writers’ Festival is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, the NSW Government through Create NSW, and Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.
NYWF 2020 presenting partners are Hachette, ABC Heywire, Express Media, Voiceworks, Carclew, Country Arts SA, GayV Club, Stand Up for Poetry (a Hunter regional poetry program presented by Newcastle, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, and Port Stephens Libraries), Sweaty City, The Joy Offensive, Word Travels and Australian Poetry Slam.