The Newcastle Writers Festival – The Grapeshot Edit

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Words || Cameron Colwell

A great opportunity for those studying media, the Newcastle Writers Festival will be commencing on the 1st of April with an assemblage of esteemed writers from around Australia. Guests speakers include Tony Windsor, Tim Flannery, Abdi Aden, Liesel Jones, Stan Grant and many, many more!

Todd Alexander

Featuring at the festival will be Todd Alexander, whose novel, Tom Houghton, was released last year. Split between modern Sydney and 1970s Seven Hills, the novel, Alexander’s fictional debut, tells the story of Tom Houghton, who we first meet as a middle-aged Sydney-based actor playing Miranda in a gender-bent Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Within alternating chapters, we read of his childhood and coming of age in Seven Hills, where he escapes from bullies and an unapproving grandfather into a niche, unmanly obsession with the Golden Age of Hollywood.

While the prose may not be too spectacular, the nice blend of the warmth and vulnerability of the child Tom and the poisonous, witty embitterment of his adult self make for a potent literary cocktail. We come to fear for the former, particularly as the novel as he blissfully heads towards his painful humiliation near the climax, while the latter beckons audience hatred, mitigated by Alexander’s unique brand of wit.

Alexander will be appearing at the ‘Boys to Men: Exploring Masculinity Through Fiction‘ event at the Newcastle Writer’s Festival alongside Ed Wright, Chris Flynn, and David Burton, on April 3.

Click HERE for more information about this (free!) event.

Charlotte Wood

Also appearing at the festival will be Sydney-based author Charlotte Wood, whose fifth novel, The Natural Way of Things, was published last year to critical acclaim. The Australian described her as “one of our finest and most chameleonic writers”.

2016 has been a premier year for the author, whose novel was shortlisted for the 2016 Indie Book Award and the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award, and longlisted for the Stella Prize.

Her latest opus, something of an Aussie The Handmaid’s Tale, has been called “is a gripping, starkly imaginative exploration of contemporary misogyny and corporate control, and of what it means to hunt and be hunted.”

Written in stark, frank prose, which evokes a chilling, dystopian version of our county, the novel has gripped many readers alongside attracting critical claim. The book is suspenseful, at times like a thriller, yetretains a literary sensibility through its layered prose and dark, waspish voice.

She will be appearing at two events at the festival: Reality Bites and The Misogyny Factor

Ellen Van Neerven

Featuring at two events, free sessions ‘The Most Forgotten Race on Earth’ and The Ties That Bind’, Ellen Van Neerven is one of Australia’s most exciting young writers.

Her short story collection, Heat and Light, won the David Unaipon Award for indigenous writers, and it’s not hard to see why: The book combines an immersive mysticism and a searing, though tender, realism into an eclectic voice that comes across as a sterling voice from two communities who are too-often ignored within Australia’s literary scene: That of the queer, and that of the Indigenous people of Australia – Van Neerven is a descendant of the Mununjali (Yugambeh) people from Beaudeser

Particularly demonstrative of this magnetic dualism is the first story in Heat and Light, ‘Pearl.’ The story is a sort of compressed family history of the Kresinger line, centred on Pearl, a mystical figure who cheats death more than once and is described as being “Taken by the wind.” Tony Birch, another acclaimed writer, had this to say of the story:

“The maturity displayed by van Neerven is evident immediately in the book’s first story, ‘Pearl’, set in the terrain of marginal Australia, both geographically and socially. The young narrator is an observer to the fragmented lives of the town and the resulting experiences of prejudice. She is also, somewhat mysteriously, sensually immersed in it.”

Ellen Van Neerven’s writing has also been published in McSweeney’s, Review of Australian Fiction, Overland, Frankie Magazine, The Lifted Brow, Meanjin, andMascara Literary Review.