#NYWF15: writers talk to writers about being writers

Bridie O’Shea reveals what went down at the National Young Writers’ Festival.

If you missed the National Young Writers’ Festival (NYWF) that took Newcastle by storm from the 1st October to the 4th as part of the This is Not Art (TiNA) festival, shame on you! (Kidding, we’re all friends here). But don’t worry I’ve got you covered. Here’s what went down at some of the fantastic events that popped up around our city.

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Freelancing Workshop

Ever wanted to be your own boss? Work within your own time constraints? And have the flexibility to pick and choose which writing jobs to take? Fulltime freelancer, Adeline Teoh, hosted a workshop that covered all these bases and more. First of all, if you want to be a freelancer, what you must remember is that you are a business. Yes, you. Your time is money so try to refrain from doing projects for free; otherwise you might get pigeon holed as the pro-bono person. And that’s never good for a business. Also registering for an ABN is a way to make your business seem more professional and could be the distinction between you and someone else.

A freelancer also needs to be very self disciplined and a good budgeter. There may be a cash flow gap in between when you submit your work and when you get paid, so staying on top of what work you have coming in and going out is paramount to you being able to pay bills and all that fun stuff. Lastly, keep communication open between yourself and your client/publication this way you can ‘stay to brief’ and get paid on time!

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Worldbuilding Workshop

Creating your own fictional world can be an exciting yet daunting task. Young adult (YA) fantasy author of the Akarnae series, Lynette Noni, ran a workshop on how to bring that story inside your head to life. One of the hardest things a fiction writer can come across is how to keep characters, magic and non-magic worlds believable in a space where ideas run wild. To begin the workshop, Lynette emphasised that choosing your conflict is vital to the story; whether that be an inner conflict, protagonist verses antagonist, character verses society, nature or even supernatural.

Next you need to ask yourself a series of questions: Is this world in another dimension? What are the rules of physics? Why set the story in this place? What is the weather like? How does it affect the people living there? What are the values held? Any opposing values? Who has them? Is there choice and religious freedom? Is there a sense of right and wrong? Any rituals in this world? What are they for? What do they mean? How does social status affect behaviours of people who live here? Are your characters in danger? Threatened? From who or what? What is wrong in this world? What is at stake in this place? WHY THIS WORLD?

Answering these questions will give you a basis where your story can take place and all that’s left for you is to just write it!


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All About Mentorship

One of the more practical sessions at the NYWF was hosted by YA authors Sarah Gates and Gabrielle Tozer. Both have experiences working with a writing mentor and gushed over the positives it can bring to your own work. Mentors can be both formal -through a scholarship- and informal -through a more organic connection with another person like a teacher or boss. A really great mentor can push you further than just the writing job itself. Both Sarah and Gabrielle felt that their best mentors were the people who cared about them personally and showed this by sending job applications and networking contacts their way.

But not all mentors will be suited for you. It’s like a relationship – you need a good connection and understanding of what you both want to get out of this mentorship experience. If you’re looking for a mentor, it’s best to do some research about them first (it’s a waste of time to approach someone who writes for a economic magazine if you’re interested in historical fiction). Your mentor should also guide you instead of telling you what to do and take over your project. They are supposed to plant a seed; you’re the one who makes it grow. Gabrielle also stressed the importance of asking questions. You know what they say – there are no bad questions.

If you’re confused about where to start looking for a mentorship hit up your state Writers Centre or the Australian Society of Authors. They often have mentor programs or grants to get you started!

I hope this gives you some insight into the fascinating NYWF and makes you want to check it out next year. I’ll save you a seat.

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