Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Newcastle Writers Festival is coming very soon!

It’s just 15 days (probably less by now) until the Newcastle Writers Festival begins!  The 2016 program is the best yet I think, and that’s no small accolade since 2015, 2014 and 2013 were all exceptional.  I’ve been to quite a few literary festivals, and this one is, hands down, my favourite.  Not just because I know a lot of the writers and attendees and it’s an opportunity for me to catch up (I feel very much at home here), but because it’s an intimate and down-to-earth event even for those who aren’t locals (I’ve brought guests with me in the past and they’ve confirmed this) - you tend to get pretty close to even the most famous writers, and there’s a very comfortable and welcoming vibe.  The queues for the free events aren’t outrageous, and there’s a perfect mix between genres, sessions aimed at readers and sessions aimed at writers, current affairs and politics, poetry (always lots of poetry at the NWF), family events, and performance.

This year, I’m involved in several sessions.  On the Saturday the 2nd of April, I start the day at 10am in Hunter Room, City Hall, with Playground Politics, a free session with Brigid Delaney, James Fry and Rebecca Starford in which we’ll be discussing bullying, particularly as it plays out in institutions like schools.  Brigid Delaney’s novel Wild Things is set in an elite university college where hazing and bullying are endemic.  James Fry’s memoir The Fry Boy looks at the long term ramifications of school bullying on him in chillingly honest detail, and Rebecca Starford’s memoir Bad Behaviour looks at the bullying at a school camp, taking a very close look at the complex and often subtle factors that underlie bullying.  Each of the settings of these books is very different, as is the impact, but they are all equally powerful and I expect the session, which remains absolutely topical, to be fascinating.

At 1:30 in the Playhouse at Civic Theatre, Rebecca Starford rejoins me, along with Kate Holden and Michael Sala for The Aftermath, a session in which we’ll be looking at the impact of memoir - what happens when the private becomes public.  Kate Holden’s memoir Under the Skin is both gorgeous and intensely confronting.  I’ll be reviewing it shortly (before the festival, hopefully!) as soon as I’ve finished Kate's follow up - The Romantics, which I’ve just started.  Michael Sala’s memoir The Last Thread is partly set in Newcastle, and is a poetic and novel exploration that plays with the memoir form.  I expect this session to appeal to both readers and writers - particularly those who are working on memoir.  It’s a growing and very popular form, and as someone who has personally felt the aftermath as a named “character” in a family biography, I’m looking forward to exploring this topic more.

Since Rebecca Starford is in two of my sessions, we did a pre-session podcast to talk about her memoir Bad Behaviour

At 4:30pm in the Cummings Room, City Hall, I’ll be joining Morgan Bell and Talulah Cunningham for the Sproutlings Book Launch.  Sproutlings is a wickedly funny anthology, and Morgan has very successfully crowdfunded the publication, so we’ll be focusing our conversation on self-publishing, crowdfunding, on creating an anthology, selecting pieces, illustration, and lots of other topics.

Finally, I’ve got a session on Sunday at 1:30pm in the Mulumbinba Room City Hall titled Home Grown.  This is another free session hosted by Jenny Blackford in which I have the great pleasure of reading poetry along with the wonderful poets Ivy Ireland and Keri Glastonbury.  I’m not sure I qualify as home grown, but after 26 years in the Hunter, I certainly feel like a local.  Blackford is, of course, a fine poet herself, so again, I think this will be a superb session with perhaps a few little surprises.

All of these sessions will be interactive and the audience will be encouraged to join in with questions, so if you’re able, please come, say hello, and join the fun!

Grab a full program here: (or request a printed one).

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