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 2020, our program was completely online and digital, and ran from 1 to 4 October. Most events are available to watch in-demand: click on individual event pages to access as you wish.
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 usually takes place on the land of the Awabakal and Worimi peoples in Newcastle, NSW, but in 2020 as we go digital, we now have writers tuning in to our events from bedrooms, living rooms and libraries spread across the land, a land comprised of over 500 unceded Nations. 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 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). In 2020 we are presenting NYWF as a solo festival while TiNA takes a break.
Raelee Lancaster is a writer, collaborator and creative producer based in Meanjin (Brisbane). Her current goal is to empower young creatives and provide space for Indigenous knowledges and expertise. Raelee was a recipient of a Copyright Agency First Nations Fellowship 2019 with Varuna and her poem ‘haunted house’ was awarded first place for the Nakata Brophy Prize for Young Indigenous Writers. Her writing has featured in Guardian, Saturday Paper, Cordite Poetry Review, Overland, Lifted Brow, the EX-EMBASSY exhibition and text series in Berlin, and more. Raised on Awabakal land, Raelee is of Wiradjuri, Biripi and European descent.
Michael Louis Kennedy
Michael Louis Kennedy is a playwright, poet and occasional journalist based in Sydney. He has previously worked for the Sydney Fringe Festival, Summerhall (Edinburgh Fringe) and Belvoir Street Theatre. His work has been featured in 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.
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.
Jesse Oliver is a Perth based writer, producer, and Australian Poetry Slam Champion. In 2018 he toured both nationally and internationally, performing at destinations such as the Byron Bay Writers Festival, the Ubud Readers & Writers Festival, and the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. In Perth, Jesse has directed engagement programs with the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, produced spoken word slams and fringe shows, and is a previous NYWF Co-Director. Jesse now successfully works freelance and writes poetry for whoever needs it.
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.
Emma Rose Smith
Emma Rose Smith is a writer, arts producer and educator. She is interested in change and the many ways that living things interact with change. She has worked in arts management for various writing organisations and groups, including Red Room Poetry, Unspoken Words Storytelling, Word in Hand, and Red Dirt Poetry Festival. She moonlights as a shrinky dink aficionado and identifies as a softie.
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.