It’s been a while since the dust has settled on the National Young Writers’ Festival. But let’s be honest, we kicked it up pretty hard.

Being in Newcastle over the Labour Day weekend really is one of the highlights of my year. There’s a beach to rival any other city beach, an influx of all your favourite people and one of the most exciting and enduring Arts festival in Australia.

This year, I was involved in it for the first time as the coordinator of the Younger Young Writers’ program. For the first time, it was a national program that linked 13-17 year old writers from around Australia with a series of workshops, panels and activities happening online and in Newcastle. Check it out, I’m pretty proud.

Seeing the faces of young writers light up as they talked about post-feminist theory, poetry for the seasons or fantastical worlds of wizards with mentors from the larger NYWF, was so disarming. Months of preparation and all I needed to do was watch these young people develop and pitch their stories over the course of the weekend with looks of disbelief and relief on their faces. From shuffling into The Loft staring at the floor to making lasting friendships. Some writers are even having their work published by some of the mentors. So good.

Some images from the YYWP Facebook page.

In the spirit of learning new things, the following is a list of the 5 things I learned at TiNA/NYWF this year:

1. This is my favourite festival in Australia

Maybe it’s because it actually feels like a writers festival. The distance between what is happening in a panel and the audience is almost non-existant. Sitting around in a venue waiting for an event to start, there will be a call of ‘shall we get started’ and the three or four panellists will get up from an off the cuff conversation they’re having and start. It’s one of the most inclusive festivals I’ve ever been to.

It’s also nice by the end of the festival to be walking down Hunter Mall and seeing all your new best friends. Some times you wish the weekend didn’t end.

2. Freya Wright-Brough might be the nicest person in the world.

We took the Younger Young Writers to come and visit Freya. She was sitting, by herself, in the Elderly Citizen’s Centre, writing for 24 hours. The Centre was really a room with a lot of doilies under the main car park in town but it was home to Freya for the whole of Saturday night/Sunday afternoon. How she was able to stay so fresh after that amount of time is beyond me. Check out the 4am videos of dancing rabbits:

3. The NYWF team is the hardest working team in rock n’ roll. Or any industry for that matter.

NYWF was literally back-breaking work for one of the Directors. Chad Parkhill managed to co-ordinate the whole bloody thing with a smile on his face and looking ridiculously dapper.

The Co-Directors should take a brace assisted bow because it really was one of the best NWYF’s ever.

4. Nobody parties like TiNA. Except maybe Tom Tilley.

It’s hard to believe that anyone has any energy after going from 10 till 10. But they do. Well into the night.

Boozing at the Newcastle Baths and responding to calls of “5 BEACH STREET!”, well, you get the idea.

5. The kids are alright.

Not only were the Younger Young Writers full of ideas and dreams, it was so nice to take them to see people not much older than them living theirs. Panels like Youth Group and Fresh and Frank: An insiders Guide to the Publishing Industry showed just how talented some of Australia’s young writers and editors really are. To say it was influential, would be an understatement.

NYWF is over for another year and it really was one of the most fulfilling weekends of my professional life. Look out for the work of the talented YYWPers in a digital portfolio coming soon to an inbox near you.

What are your favourite NYWF memories?

Geoff Orton is a teacher, founder of Writers Bloc and coordinator of the Younger Young Writers’ Festival. He writes short stories, poetry and the occasional recipe for his friends.

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