Spotlight on: The New Zealand Young Writers Festival


From the 4th to the 7th of June, the sleepy little university city of Dunedin played host to the inaugural New Zealand Young Writers Festival. Being, of course, the Australian equivalent, we were naturally quite curious about the advent of this new festival for young writers, just a quick dip across the Tasman. Some of the NYWF team was lucky enough, with the support of Melbourne UNESCO City of Literature Office and the Dunedin City of Literature, to attend. With 20 events over four days, it was a fantastic way to learn about another writing culture – so similar and yet so very different to our own – and to spread the good word about our own young voices back home. Having met so many talented young NZ writers, we can’t wait to have some of them over to our festival in the future and to come back to Dunedin next year! In the meantime, we thought we’d turn the spotlight on some of these young New Zealand writers here.



Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet and bookseller with a MA in poetry from Victoria University. Her work is beautiful and surprising, and we’re pretty sure she’s going to be famous as all heck one day. We were lucky enough to attend her workshop on erasures (or blackout poetry) and we were all thoroughly impressed and stimulated! You can check out some of Hera’s work on erasures in Llyr, a collaboration between Hera and Dunedin based painter Ella Knapton, which was launched at the New Zealand Young Writers Festival.




Starling is a new online literary journal, to be launched later in the year, which aims to celebrate and promote new writing from young New Zealand writers. Founded by poet and 2015 Robert Burns Fellow Louise Wallace, Starling will publish writers under the age of 25. Voiceworks has a Kiwi sister – who knew? If you happen to be a New Zealand writer under the age of 25, you can (and should!) submit your work here.


Counterpoint is a team of young Dunedin theatre makers, and consists of writers, directors, actors and designers. Over the course of the festival they were tasked with producing “72 Hours, 72 Dollars”, an experiment wherein at the start of the festival, Counterpoint were chucked 72 bucks to create something from scratch good enough to present on closing night. The NYWF were absolutely blown away with the two productions Counterpoint managed to stage, and the quality of the writing (and acting!) was phenomenal. Definitely watch this space. 


Arthur Meek is a playwright and performer. He is a graduate of The New Zealand Drama School (Toi Whakaari) and the University of  Otago, in Dunedin. His work includes everything from large scale plays for the Auckland Theatre Company, through to one-man shows. He has also spent time in New York as the recipient of  Harriet Friedlander New York Residency. We saw him do his one-man PowerPoint extravaganza: On the Conditions & Possibilities of Hillary Clinton Taking Me as Her Young Lover.


Suzanne Claessen is a Dunedon-based illustrator and writer. Originally from the Netherlands, she moved to Dunedin to study science communications and stayed. She has worked on graphic novels and is a contributor to upcoming NZ female comics anthology Three Words. He work looks at topics including human’s relationship to insects and she’s passionate about finding ways to communicate science stuff through visual storytelling. She’s also a great person to sit next to a zine fair.

Last but certainly not least, Leonie Hayden is the editor at Mana Magazine, New Zealand’s only nationally distributed Māori magazine, which is a print and digital platform run and written by and for Māori audiences. Leonie is a super talented emerging editor and writer and has edited a bunch of key NZ publications, and seeing her speak on the Young Māori, New Media panel about using digital platforms to connect with the wider Māori community was a total highlight for us. 


The staff of NYWF would like to thank the Melboune UNESCO City of Literature Office and the Dunedin City of Literature for their support in sending us to Dunedin. We’d also like to thank Aaron Hawkins, Josh Thomas and all the staff and volunteers at the NZ Young Writers Festival for their help, support and welcome.