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DID YOU KNOW THERE IS A NATIONAL YOUNG WRITERS FESTIVAL THAT HAPPENS IN NEWCASTLE ANNUALLY? WE GOT TO CHATTING WITH ALEXANDRA, CO-DIRECTOR OF THE FESTIVAL, TO FIND OUT ALL THINGS #WORD RELATED. PS. YOU CAN FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER: @paper_bag_girl
With Alexandra Neill
By Kian West
Photo Credit: Alan Weedon
So Alex, tell us a little bit about yourself?
I’m a writer and blogger. I like cooking, reading and Dungeons and Dragons. I do not like carrots.
I lived in Newcastle until early this year when I moved down to Melbourne (I know, traitor). I actually moved to Newcastle after going to the National Young Writers Festival in 2009. I fell in love with the place a little and decided to head there for uni. Melbourne is pretty ok but there’s a lot of things I miss about Newcastle.
What’s your role at the National Young Writers Festival (NYWF)?
I’m a Co-Director. There are three of us that share this role (me, Lex Hirst and Jessica Alice) and together we’re responsible for programming the festival. That means (put simply) we choose the people who’ll attend and decide what all the events will be. It’s an amazing job. I’ve had such a great time working with Lex and Jess to put together the almost eighty events across this year’s program.
We heard there is a ball, care to elaborate?
The ball is an NYWF tradition! It’s always a highlight. Held on the Saturday of the festival, it’s a chance for everyone to dress up and do some dancing. The theme this year is “Intergalactic”. Think glow sticks, stars, sci-fi and Davie Bowie. We will likely play a lot of David Bowie songs. It’s going to be a blast (rocket pun intended).
Assuming some people reading this will be kicking themselves realising they have missed the NYWF, If you could steer them towards checking out one young writer, who would it be?
This is such a hard question! I’m therefore going to cheat and recommend a publication instead of a person. If you’re interested in young writers, Voiceworks is the place to go. It’s a magazine which publishes writing and visual art from people under 25 and it’s consistently amazing. If you want to be that guy who brags about knowing the person’s work before they got famous, read Voiceworks. It’s bursting with amazing new voices.
Who is your biggest inspiration?
If you’ll allow me to be really corny, my biggest inspiration right now are the people I’m working with on NYWF. There’s this amazing bunch of people working their butts off behind the scenes to make this festival happen. Most of us also work or study full-time so NYWF is done in the moments we can spare. It’s a labour of love. Working with everyone has been such a privilege and I’ve been constantly inspired by their ideas, enthusiasm and passion. They are the best.
Anything else Novocastrians should know about you?
I once got a concussion at an art gallery because I walked into a statue.
Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818), depicts a young man at the pinnacle of a mountain staring out at a landscape of crags surrounded by mist. His back is turned to the viewer and we are unsure whether his gaze is one of awe, horror or triumph over the huge expanse of nature.I feel just about the same peering into 2014 and what it could mean for Word Hurl. References Romanticism aside, it should be pretty freakin’ awesome! Of course, there’s the continuation of the Anti-Slam, a no rules open-mic spoken word and poetry night, but there’s also the next evolution of the Word Hurl Newsletter: The Word Hurl Times Magazine. Word Hurl Anti-Slam restarts on February 6th at The Terrace Bar at the sexy later time of 7pm. So you should get on down there after some kind of lovely dinner and spark your mind into a frenzy with a desert of spoken word poetry mischief and malarkey. This year’s themes will revolve around the mythological and our first is the Ouroboros. An Ouroboros is a snake that is devouring itself by chewing on its tail. Allusions to eternity and never-ending cycles spring to mind, right? So it did for a myriad of ancient cultures. The Ouroboros appears in the Ancient Egyptian book of the dead, Norse mythology and also in South American folk lore. In various ways the self-cannibalising serpent represents the beginning and the end of time, a start and finish that creates a sort of ‘forever-present.’ But what does this mean for Word Hurl? Well, that’s up to you. Like everything at Word Hurl Anti-Slam, the themes are non-compulsory. You could come and do a piece on the eternity of existence as symbolized by the Ouroboros or you could come, sit down and enjoy an open-mic spoken word night. Conversely, you could not come and never know what happened at that exact point in the forever-present at The Terrace Bar between a group of people who hardly know each other. It’s up to you, but as a doctor I recommend you come, oh yes, please do. Since the beginning of last year, Word Hurl Anti-Slam has been documented and promoted by the Word Hurl Anti-Slam Newsletter. From modest beginnings this monthly emailed .pdf has come to comprise around twenty-five pages of creative endeavors from a wide array of people living in the Hunter and beyond. We’ve had articles, artworks, short stories, ranting columns, event promotions and, of course, poetry. With a growing team of people volunteering their time, 2014 will see the Newsletter become the Word Hurl Times Magazine. An immodest project with the aim of building a literary and arts journal based in Newcastle that follows the ‘ideals’ of an anti-slam. These include an inclusive editorial policy, i.e. any contribution of any kind is welcome, an interest in supporting anything creative and an engagement with people actively promoting the arts. You can find the Word Hurl Times Magazine and past issues of the Newsletter on the Word Hurl Facebook Group page or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe to future editions. If you would like to contribute anything to the magazine then send it to that address too! Then stand precariously at the top of a mountain, stare out at the unfolding vista of promontories and yawp.