The National Young Writers’ Festival (NYWF) occurs annually in the city of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, over the New South Wales’ Labour Day Holiday Weekend in late September / early October.

NYWF is the country’s largest gathering of young and innovative writers working in both new and traditional forms including zines, comics, blogging, screenwriting, poetry, spoken word, hip hop music, journalism, autobiography, comedy, songwriting and prose. The festival presents ‘writing’ in its broadest sense through panels, discussions, workshops, launches, performances, readings, installations, and more.

NYWF gives young writers a place to present their work and share ideas, to learn about the industry in which they write and to meet with like-minded people in a friendly festival atmosphere. NYWF is a proud co-presenter of This is Not Art. If you’d like to know more about the festival, check out the frequently asked questions or contact a staff member.


Raelee Lancaster

Festival Co-Director

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 The Guardian, The Saturday Paper, Cordite Poetry Review, Overland, The 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.

Twitter: @raeleelancaster

Michael Louis Kennedy

Festival Co-Director

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, The Brag, Going Down Swinging, Transportation Press, Baby Teeth, The 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. 

Twitter: @mikelouisk
Instagram: @mikeylouisk

Isobel Marmion

Festival Co-Director

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, and is on the board of deconstructed opera company Various People. 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.

Instagram: @isobelmarmion

Jesse Oliver

Festival Co-Manager

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.

Twitter: @jesseslamoliver
Instagram: @unsolicited_anchovy

Saoirse Nash

Festival Co-Manager

Saoirse Nash was born in rural Ireland and currently lives on Whadjuk Noongar Boojar in WA. Saoirse is a performance poet, gig runner and anarchist. She has co-ordinated gigs with Spoken Word Perth, Perth Poetry Festival and freelance art parties. Saoirse’s performed around town from Perth sheds to international poetry gigs in Berlin. She also is one half of indie publisher ‘Hectic Measures Press’ which spreads the work of local poets with a particular focus on protest poetry and debut manuscripts. Saoirse is passionate about community and building platforms for others to share their work wherever she can.



Shona Barrett


Shona is CEO of Melbourne Writers Festival, and was MWF’s General Manager for 5 years. She is an arts manager with over 15 years’ experience in the not-for-profit sector, in operations, business and strategic planning, financial management, human resources and fundraising. Before relocating to Melbourne from London in 2011, Shona worked in production and project management roles at the British Film Institute, working with the collections of the UK’s National Film and Television Archive.

Sarah Gilchrist


Sarah trained as an actor and a writer before moving into arts management. She has held marketing and communications roles for a number of arts organisations including the Australian Youth Orchestra, Sydney Writers’ Festival and Pinchgut Opera. She is now General Manager of Pinchgut Opera, a role which is also responsible for marketing and fundraising.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas


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.  In his spare time Mark is the Treasurer on four not-for-profit boards, a blogger, a lecturer 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.

Penny Chalke

Penny is a commercial lawyer who specialises in advising companies, not for profits and individuals on business structuring, commercial arrangements, corporate governance and intellectual property. She is currently a Senior Associate at Melbourne law firm Shiff & Company. Previously she worked at Piper Alderman, a national law firm, and in house at the BBC in London providing commercial and regulatory legal advice.

Carina Bates

Carina Bates is a writer and communications specialist from the Hunter Valley (NSW).  Across her 25-year career, she has written and edited content for corporate publications, intranets and websites, executive speeches, media relations tools, reports and strategic communications plans.  She has applied her expertise to organisations such as the American Red Cross, McDonald’s Corporation (Global), the U.S. Beef Industry and several NSW Government agencies. She also provides writing and presentation training to help managers and their teams strengthen their skills and get results.

Ewa Ramsey

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 Heifetz

Grace grew up between Sydney and the Blue Mountains. She moved to San Francisco in 1997 and worked in restaurant and food PR, with groups such as Slow Food San Francisco and Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Project. After a short stint in London she returned to San Francisco in 2000 and became involved with independent radio producers The Kitchen Sisters. Grace project managed the Peabody Award-winning NPR series Lost & Found Sound and The Sonic Memorial Project, a living archive and online sound installation that tells the life and history of the World Trade Center and the events of 9/11. In 2002 she returned to Australia and began working at Curtis Brown.

Jemma Birrell

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, with ticket revenue increasing 80% over her last two Festivals. After the Festival, Jemma became creative director at Tablo, a self-publishing start-up, helping innovate publishing with writers able to share their work widely. 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.


The National Young Writers’ Festival is supported by the NSW Government through Arts NSW.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

National Young Writers’ Festival is part of:

Produced by:

Sister festivals:


To contact festival staff, please email

For all media enquiries, please email

Please address postal correspondence to:

The National Young Writers’ Festival
c/- NSW Writers’ Centre
PO Box 1056
Rozelle NSW 2039