5 Things I Learnt at the Newcastle Young Writers Festival
Last weekend, I flew over east for the Newcastle Young Writers Festival, a four-day event for writers, editors, and others in writing-related industries under 35. At the festival, I met young creatives, attended panels and readings, got to the third round of a spelling bee, went to a 90s themed ball, bought a bunch of zines, and generally basked in the surprising warmth of Newcastle.
Here are the best pieces of wisdom I gleaned from my time there:
1. BE ON TWITTER
Almost nobody I know in Perth is on Twitter, but apparently this is not normal and we are living in a little tweet-free, uncultured bubble over here. My friend who moved from Perth to Melbourne to work as a writer tells me that she met almost all of her writerly friends on Twitter. No idea how to use it? Me neither. Just follow some people and post whatever: your witty takes on current affairs, anecdotes about your dog, weird poetry. Find your people!
2. BUILD YOUR BRAND
If you’re serious about being a writer, what makes you different to everyone else? What are you an expert on? What’s your niche? Once again, Twitter is great for this. Tweet about things you’re interested in and people will come to know you for them, even if those things are writing Lord of the Rings fanfics or having shitty ex-boyfriends. One editor of a literary magazine even said that he commissioned a piece after someone he followed tweeted that she wanted to write about her favourite new video game. And make sure you have a website or Facebook page so people can contact you or check out your portfolio.
3. GO TO EVENTS
Half the trick of getting gigs as a writer is who you know. Getting to know people online is great, but meeting in person is even better. People will remember you more when they have a face to put to the Twitter handle. It’ll be scary at first, but it gets easier the more people you meet. Plenty of people I met at NYWF who seemed like festival veterans said that last year was their first time, and they didn’t know anyone. Just remember that almost everyone in the arts has social anxiety just like you.
4. SAY YES TO ALL THE THINGS
Lord knows it’s a tough job market out there, especially for those of us trying to make it in the ‘creative industries’. The harsh reality is that it’s going to be next to impossible to get a full-time job straight out of uni, and lots of entry-level jobs require heaps of experience. So how can you get that experience under the proverbial belt? There are plenty of opportunities even while you’re still at uni – submit something to go on the CWC website or in the next edition of Coze, volunteer to write or edit for Grok, join a club committee. Otherwise, you can make your own opportunities, from starting a blog to entering writing competitions, to offering to run a social media account for a family friend’s business. Anything that you’ve done that can be put on a résumé or used as proof of your skills could help you get that next gig. Don’t feel like your writing isn’t good enough – even if it might not be the most refined prose or the most fascinating topic, just having something out there is a great start.
5. YOU’LL PROBABLY HAVE TO MOVE TO THE EAST COAST
Let’s be real – the Perth cultural scene is pretty small, and while it’s vibrant (see Perth Fringe), there are not all that many actual jobs here. If you’re going to try to make it here, good luck to you! As for me, I’ll most likely be in Melbourne next year, sipping long macchiatos, riding trams, and getting into AFL. Hit me up if you’re coming too!