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northerly By ron Writers Festival Magazine

September-October 2017


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SEPOCT2017 002 A note from the Festival chair 003 That's a wrap

Emily Brugman picks her highlights from a stellar Festival weekend

004 News

Members' Book Club returns for September, No Fixed Abode launched and more


006 Poem

'Counting on Murwillumbah' by Nola Firth

007 Notes from the Festival

Michael Sala interviewed by Katinka Smit

008 Writing for recovery

The role that writing a book played in David Roland's recuperation from a stroke

010 Extract: Morris Gleitzman


A taste of the Australian children's author's new book, Maybe

012 Small wonders

Emma Ashmere analyses the phenomenon of micro-fiction

014 Susie Warrick Young Writers Award Read Tara Anne's winning story 'The Grey'

015 Notes from the Festival

Mei Fong interviewed by Katinka Smit

016 SCU showcase


Fiction from Gina Watkins

017 Rising

Q&A with emerging local author Megan Wynne-Jones

018 What YA Reading?

Young-adult fiction reviews with Polly Jude

019 Book review

Chris Black on The Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong


020 Festival poems

Verse from Festival poets and volunteers, Louise Moriarty and Jenni Cargill-Strong

021 Written in blood

Colleen O'Brien's new column on crime writing continues

022 Competitions 024 Writers’ groups


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Chair's Note

northerly northerly is the bi-monthly magazine of Byron Writers Festival. Byron Writers Festival is a non-profit member organisation presenting workshops and events year-round, including the annual Festival. LOCATION/CONTACT Level 1, 28 Jonson Street, Byron Bay P: 02 6685 5115 F: 02 6685 5166 E: W: POSTAL ADDRESS PO Box 1846, Byron Bay NSW 2481 EDITOR: Barnaby Smith, CONTRIBUTORS: Tara Anne, Emma Ashmere, Emily Brugman, Jenni CargillStrong, Nola Firth, Polly Jude, Andrew Lih, Louise Moriarty, Colleen O'Brien, David Roland, Katinka Smit, Gina Watkins, Kimiko Yoshinaga INTERN: Katinka Smit

It was our twenty-first Festival year and what a celebration! One hundred and thirty writers, thinkers and commentators from across Australia and around the world converged on the beautiful Festival grounds at Elements of Byron to discuss, debate and enlighten. In glorious Byron sunshine, we hosted 12,000 patrons throughout the entire Festival period that included 117 on-site sessions, fourteen workshops, twenty offsite Feature Events, the Schools Program (Primary and Secondary) and the Byron Writers Festival Road Trip to regional towns. I always love sitting in the Kids’ Big Day Out marquee on Sunday and seeing children of all ages transported by their favourite storytellers. There are simply too many other Festival highlights to mention. I’m sure you have your favourite moments. We’d love to hear about them. We held our volunteers’ thank you party the other night and it was lovely to chat and relax with many of our marvellous volunteers. This year over 200 volunteers put everything into delivering the best experience possible for our patrons. Sincere thanks to you all. We have received an avalanche of feedback from patrons, authors and the publishing industry, with many saying this was our best Festival yet. I love this from Caroline Baum: The best writers’ festival, a typically Byron mix of laidback, feel-good vibe at a site bathed in the beauty of winter sunshine and sculpture, and a pitch-perfect program that nourished all the senses. I came away stimulated, entertained, provoked and inspired. I discovered new voices and reconnected with favourites. Byron demonstrates that size is not everything, that curating with care really pays off and that staying true to your audience means they love you back. But we won’t let you suffer Festival withdrawal for long. A.C. Grayling is returning to Byron on 6 September by popular demand. He will explore the challenges facing democracy today. And don’t miss Richard Flanagan on 10 October on his first visit to Byron Bay since winning the Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Richard will chat with Kerry O’Brien about his haunting new novel First Person. See you there. Jennifer St George Chair, Byron Writers Festival 002 | northerly

BYRON WRITERS FESTIVAL BOARD CHAIRPERSON Jennifer St George VICE CHAIRPERSON Adam van Kempen SECRETARY Russell Eldridge TREASURER Cheryl Bourne MEMBERS Jesse Blackadder, Kate Cameron, Marele Day, Lynda Dean, Lynda Hawryluk, Anneli Knight. LIFE MEMBERS Jean Bedford, Jeni Caffin, Gayle Cue, Robert Drewe, Jill Eddington, Chris Hanley, John Hertzberg, Fay Knight, Irene O’Brien, Jennifer Regan, Cherrie Sheldrick, Brenda Shero, Heather Wearne MAIL OUT DATES Magazines are sent in JANUARY, MARCH, MAY, JULY, SEPTEMBER and NOVEMBER MAGAZINE DESIGN Finola Renshaw at Kaboo Media PRINTER Quality Plus Printers Ballina ADVERTISING We welcome advertising by members and relevant organisations. A range of ad sizes are available. The ad booking deadline for each issue is the first week of the month prior. Email DISCLAIMER The Byron Writers Festival presents northerly in good faith and accepts no responsibility for any misinformation or problems arising from any misinformation. The views expressed by contributors and advertisers are not necessarily the views of the management committee or staff. We reserve the right to edit articles with regard to length. Copyright of the contributed articles is maintained by the named author and northerly. CONNECT WITH US Visit Sign up for a membership. Stay updated and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

Byron Writers Festival and northerly magazine acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional custodians of this land.


Byron's best and brightest

In the wake of another hugely successful Byron Writers Festival brimming with talent from home and abroad, Emily Brugman picks out her favourite moments from across the weekend.

The Simple Life with, from left, David George Haskell, Magdalena Roze, Emrys Westacott and Paul Barclay.

It’s cool to be a cheapskate

On Festival Saturday, philosopher and self-professed tightwad Emrys Westacott sat down with David George Haskell, Magdalena Roze and Paul Barclay to ponder the vital question of how to live, and whether or not, as Westacott suggests, the simple life is the good life. Westacott introduced the ancient philosophies of Epicurus, who posited that frugalism was a virtue. In modern times, Westacott said, the argument for frugalism is also about reducing one’s ecological footprint. In the current world climate, he said, questions about the good life must extend beyond ourselves, to our communities and future communities. But the simple life is full of its own challenges and contradictions, as we heard when the panel got fired up about issues of class and privilege, mass production and consumerism. As it turns out, the argument for a simple life is actually quite complex!

For the love of reading

In a session called This Book Changed My Life, Barry Jones, Tracey Spicer and Susan Wyndham spoke to Adam Suckling about their most influential reads. These panels are a favourite of mine, when books become the connective tissue among a crowd of strangers. Wyndham spoke about reading Honour and Other People’s Children by Helen Garner, an author she (and many of us) hold up as a guiding star. 'I remember thinking,' she told the audience, 'this is Australian fiction, this is our literature – I see myself in these pages – and this is something to strive for.' Barry Jones passionately sang Tolstoy’s praises, highlighting his extraordinary understanding of the human condition. Next, Suckling asked the panel which books they believe have influenced the world, and Barry Jones said emphatically that the Koran eclipses the Bible and all other texts in history, in its absolute and long-lasting impact. When asked which book she would recommend to our prime minister, Spicer selected Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, for its depiction of displaced peoples, and said that Turnbull has lost his compassion.

How much did your parents really love you?

The event Bedtime Stories at Byron Theatre featured four writers reinterpreting their books as though for children, against a backdrop of Sarah Blasko’s heavenly vocals.

After the opening song, event host Erik Jensen began by explaining the concept of a bedtime story, stating that if your parents never read to you before bed, they didn’t love you. First, John Safran retold his experience of infiltrating extremist groups in the theme of Doctor Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. Jennifer Down followed with a subtle exploration of grief, while Jensen retold his artist biography as a beautiful beatnik rhyme. Hannah Kent then delivered a chilling Lemony Snicket-style reading of her book The Good People, and to finish, Sarah Blasko belted out another haunting number. In my opinion, a perfect mix of performance and storytelling – my only gripe being that Kent gave away the ending of her book, which I was halfway through reading!

What’s your least rock and roll moment?

The Music Makers, with Holly Throsby and Sarah Blasko, closed the Festival on Sunday afternoon with an easy banter reflecting more than ten years of friendship. They spoke about the creative process, pregnancy and motherhood with chair Anneli Knight. In an earlier panel, Tex Perkins and Jimmy Barnes had been asked about their most rock and roll moments, so Knight threw the same question at these two songstresses. With characteristic modesty, they turned the question on its head, and instead told the audience about their least rock and roll moments. Blasko described a time when she 'tried a bit too hard to be friends with Björk'. She was on a Big Day Out tour when she spied Björk and her crew dancing back stage. Blasko thought she’d found her people, and began dancing towards the Icelandic superstar, but when she got close she choked, and said awkwardly, ‘I’m from Sydney'. Björk just danced away from Blasko, who never lived it down. Throsby, similarly, recalled a night many moons ago, when both she and Sarah found themselves in a hot tub with Missy Higgins and Ben Lee. Throsby said she had a crush on Missy Higgins, but Missy didn’t love her back. I’m not sure about everyone else, but these funny little anecdotes sure made me feel better about the blunders I’ve made around the people I idolise. What was your favourite Festival moment and why? We will be compiling highlights from our members and publishing these on our blog. Please email submissions to and include your name, the session title and approximately 120 words.

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Festival launches No Fixed Abode

August's Byron Writers Festival played host to the launch of a unique new book, No Fixed Abode: Stories From the Streets Around Byron Bay, a collection of interviews and photographs that draws attention to the plight of Byron Shire's homeless community. The book, a collaboration between Byron Writers Festival and Byron Community Centre, features the photography of Drew Rogers alongside interviews with local people 'of no fixed abode', conducted by volunteer writers including Sarah Armstrong, Anneli Knight, Carly Lorente, Tricia Shantz and Vivienne Pearson. All profits from sales of the book will go towards homeless services in the region. To purchase No Fixed Abode email or order from QBD Books at

Festival welcomes Grayling, Flanagan

Back by popular demand, A.C Grayling returns to the Byron Theatre stage with a talk based on his new book, Democracy and its Crisis. Grayling will provide an urgent explanation of the challenges facing democracy today. With the advent of authoritarian leaders and the simultaneous rise of populism, representative democracy appears to be caught between a rock and a hard place, yet it is this space that it must occupy, argues Grayling, if a civilised society that looks after all its people is to flourish. The lecture is presented in association with Bloomsbury and takes place at 6pm on 6 September. Tickets $30 for members, $35 for non-members.

Cover story

The cover art for this September-October issue of northerly comes courtesy of Venkat Shyam and his work Under The Tree (2015). Born in Sijhora, India in 1970, Shyam is a Gond (a form of folk or tribal art in India) artist and has exhibited the world over. Shyam participated in Byron Writers Festival 2017 and gave the workshop, The A to Z of Gond Art. 004 | northerly

Richard Flanagan visits Byron Bay for the first time since his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North won the Man Booker Prize in 2014. In conversation with Kerry O'Brien, Flanagan will discuss his new novel First Person. Written in the style of a memoir, inspired by his own experience but very firmly a work of fiction, First Person is a comment on the ‘cult of memoir’ that he sees growing within literature, particularly in the American market – the proliferation of the idea that the only authentic way to write about the world is through autobiography. Richard Flanagan in conversation with Kerry O'Brien takes place at 6pm on 10 October. Tickets $20 for members, $25 non-members. To buy tickets for either event, visit www.

Members' Book club welcomes Armstrong

Byron Writers Festival's Members Book Club, one of the Festival's key 2017 initiatives, will continue on Monday 14 September with Sarah Armstrong's 2016 novel Promise. The novel addresses the question of how far one should go to protect a child in danger. A new family moves in next door to Anna, who soon realises something is very wrong with five-year-old daughter Charlie, who is heard crying and then seen to have suffered injuries. The novel takes flight when Charlie turns up on Anna's doorstep asking for help. Promise is Armstrong's third novel, following Salt Rain and His Other House. She is a former Walkley-winning radio journalist and now lives in Mullumbimby with her husband and daughter. The Members' Book Club, a free members-only event, is a book club with a difference in that the author joins the discussion for the second half of the evening. Bookings are essential due to limited space. For more information visit


Hachette Mentoring Program invites applicants

A partnership between Byron Writers Festival and Hachette Australia, the Hachette Mentoring Program will select one writer's manuscript for a mentoring program that will include structural notes, correspondence by email and a maximum of five phone calls. The program is open only to current financial members of Byron Writers Festival. The deadline for submissions is 2pm on Thursday 12 October – note that manuscripts should not be under consideration by publishers. For application information and to become a member go to www. or phone 02 6685 5115.

Manuscript assessments with Alan Close

Local author Alan Close will be on hand on 5-6 October for manuscript assessments at the Byron Writers Festival office on Johnson Street in Byron Bay. Participants are asked to submit up to twenty pages of a manuscript (preferably consecutive and from the beginning) along with an application form, synopsis and a query letter describing what they hope to gain from the consultation. Sessions are twenty minutes long and are $85 for members and students and $95 for non-members. For bookings go to

Comedy workshop with Mandy Nolan

A forthcoming workshop with comedian Mandy Nolan will show you how to use comedy techniques to reframe serious situations with humour. Nolan's workshop will challenge writers to celebrate flawed characters that reflect the struggles of the 'ordinary' person. Attendees are asked to bring a plate of food to share at the break. The workshop will take place on 16 October. For full details and to sign up, go to Cost is $55 for members and students and $65 for non-members.

Murwillumbah writing community seeks members

A new 'writers' room' based in Murwillumbah is seeking five committed writers with a project in mind to join a weekly meetup. For $40 per day, writers will have access to a room at The Healing Arts Centre, Murwillumbah to focus on their work. Experienced writers are preferred, but new writers who are committed to a project will be considered. It should be noted that the initiative will not be a writing course or offer a learning environment, rather a meeting of peers to support each other and perhaps a networking opportunity. There is some flexibility regarding time slots for writers to work, and there is scope to hold workshops in the venue. For further information contact Megan Albany at or by calling 02 6679 7365.

Walter Sickert and tribal rugs for ADFAS

The 2017 series of ADFAS lectures continues on Monday 11 September with the lecture Murder, Mayhem and Paint: The Disturbing Story of Walter Sickert, given by Michael Howard. Sickert, one of the most celebrated English artists of the turn of the last century, is believed by crime author Patricia Cornwell to have been responsible for the crimes perpetrated by Jack the Ripper. Howard's lecture will attempt to untangle the truth about Sickert and the veracity of Cornwell's claims.

The following ADFAS lecture, on Monday 16 October, will be given by Brian MacDonald and is titled Treasures of the Black Tent. This talk will explore antique tribal rugs and dowry weavings of the Persian and Central Asian nomads. The lecture will tell a story that begins in Outer Mongolia in pre-biblical times and follows the eleventh century migrations from Turkmenistan into the Caucasus, Persia and Afghanistan. Tribal weavings illustrate the skill of the women who produced these works of woven art using vegetable colours and ageold designs whilst living and travelling in primitive conditions and hostile landscapes. Both lectures start at 6:30pm at the A&I Hall in Bangalow. Doors open at 6pm, with guests welcome at $25 per person, including wine and a light supper.

Competition success for local

Congratulations to local writer Stevi-Lee Alver, whose short story 'Contributory Negligence' was commended in Australian Book Review's Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. Stevi-Lee receives $850 and publication in the journal. First prize was won by English writer Eliza Robertson for 'Pheidippides'.

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Winner, Dangerously Poetic Byron Writers Festival Poetry Prize Counting on Murwillumbah Nola Firth

With homage to Kevin Brophy’s poem ‘Numbering’

3 police cars chase a Holden down Main Street, lacing our life with sirens, burning rubber and risk. An older battle platform, a grey plank, is wedged into a dead tree trunk in the park. Here we are to remember that pioneers with balance and crosscut saws tamed 'the big scrub'. Cheers rang out as each straight, 2000 year old, red gold pole fell. And fell. All gone in 30 years. Opportunity is still sought. There are 5 opportunity shops in town and the homeless man sleeping in a red car on the reserve tells us that the snakes and spiders are out now. Regardless, that night we eat at one of 3 Indian restaurants in the street under orange fairy lights. 3 children, laughing, push each other in a supermarket trolley past the restaurant along the nearby empty pavement. 2 streets away the Sikh temple’s cupolas glow. Their school notice board says truth is self knowledge. The nearby Anglican church fete sells coconut ice in tiny, handmade paper baskets. Blessings arrive from 2 more directions. The Hare Krishna temple, just out of town, has a golden cow guarding us all. The Austral café also welcomes us into its pale blue 1950s booths And 4 currawongs call from red seeded chandeliers that drip from the Bangalow palms. The carpet snake that lives in the roof of the old Queenslander is not so blessed. He took a kitten in his huge embrace and ate it. ‘Relocation’ will be his punishment. Will he, original dweller, find his way home? 7 brush turkeys parade through my backyard, seemingly unsurprised by life and the big black vertical tail that follows their every step. They live on the hill under the camphor laurels, the weed trees, non-natives, new residents, like me.

Earlier this year Nola Firth published a biography entitled The Armour of Light: The Life of Reverend Doctor Barry Marshall. She also writes poetry and has been shortlisted in several national poetry prizes. In 2015 she was a winner of the Rhonda Jancovic Literary Award for social justice. Her first poetry collection, Even if the Sun, was published in 2013. After many years working as a researcher and advocate in the field of support for students who have dyslexia, she recently moved from Victoria to Murwillumbah. Nola holds a PhD, is a Churchill Fellow and an Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne and at The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

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the Festival: Michael Sala Michael Sala’s first manuscript, Memory Vertigo, won the Vogel Award in 2007, a success that encouraged him to write his award-winning memoir, The Last Thread (2012). His most recently published novel, The Restorer (2017), has wowed critics with its insightful, devastating portrait of a family locked in a pattern of violence. He spoke with Katinka Smit at Byron Writers Festival 2017. Can you explain your notion of ‘poetry of place’? Poetry of place is a way that you infuse place with story, through what characters do and how the action of the story unfolds. It’s the rhythm and flow of the situation in each moment in time. It’s finding the right details that are evocative and all-present, but are just a part of the story. How has writing about and from your hometown affected the experience of writing for you? I really wanted to bring Newcastle to life as a character. When I was writing The Restorer, I became obsessed with the way that light fell at different times of day, at different times of year. I was running around in different neighbourhoods, thinking about illumination, how that would work into the story. There’s also an undertone of violence in Newcastle, this incredible violence being done to the landscape, to the city; the mining under the city, the industry, the hospital being torn down. That features in the book too. Why did you choose 1989 as the setting? Was that because of the earthquake? I was fourteen in 1989, and so is one of my protagonists. It was a weirdly eventful year – the earthquake, but also Tiananmen Square and the fall of the Berlin Wall, which is really one of those big signposts to the collapse of a whole world. Huge historical events happen, and yet intimate, more at-hand things happening at the same time can be more important. It depends on how life unfolds in relation to the big events. What is it about intimacy that fascinates you? We’re always struggling with intimacy. It’s how we find out so much about ourselves but it’s also where we are led astray so easily as well. We go down paths we would have never imagined going down. I love exploring the difficulty of everyday issues and situations because I think that’s where the drama of human life really plays out. People keep referring to your first book, a memoir, as a novel. Perhaps that’s referencing the fictional technique, because a lot of it is written in the third person, or maybe it’s the publisher’s way of creating a bit of a safety barrier, because I do implicate a lot of people in that first book in ways that could make for uncomfortable situations. Not everyone in that book is going to like how they are presented.

Photo: Kimiko Yoshinaga

The Saturday Paper described The Restorer as ‘so real and so possible’. Why do you keep prodding the painful past and how do you handle that in your writing? The second book really came out of my first book and the judgement that was shot towards my mum. Some of the reviewers just ripped into her. I think that’s so fundamental to how domestic violence gets treated. People are always ready to judge. They’re always ready to blame the victim. ‘Why did that person not leave the relationship?’ I really wanted to get into the complexities of a situation like that, how difficult it is for someone like Maryanne, my female protagonist, to make the right decision. I mean, at the start of the book she’s left the relationship, she’s out of it. She goes back into it. So why does that happen? And that’s the classic moment where people go, ‘Well, look at her, she’s an idiot, why did she go back to it? She was out of it.’ But the reality is, she’s traumatised. Her reference point for the world is distorted. It’s that idea that when you have been in a traumatic situation, you can’t just step out of it. What you really need in that moment is clear navigation, and that is the one thing that you can’t have. And it’s about the importance of consciousness. What is it about ourselves that leads us down those paths? We tend to minimise that in our society and yet that’s an important part of being human. Can you discuss this idea of trauma shaping identity? I’m really interested in trauma. If you don’t come to it on your terms, it will come to you on its terms. The traumatic can completely overwhelm your identity, but through the struggle you can also engage with it, and get that positive part of your identity. And when you have suffered, it potentially gives you great compassion for those who are vulnerable as well. There are gifts you can get from it. The Restorer is published by Text Publishing, $29.99.

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Writing through trauma David Roland's remarkable recovery following a stroke is chronicled in his acclaimed 2014 book, How I Rescued My Brain, a work that also saw him come to terms with some traumatic events from his career working as a psychologist. The book was recently selected by The Reading Agency in the U.K. as a prescription book to be made available in the nation's libraries and referred to by health professionals. Here, he offers a snapshot of how he approached writing about his experiences, and how writing proved to be a therapeutic process. I was dreading, really dreading, writing about the murder. I’d swept past it in the early drafts then returned, cautiously circling it, describing another incident that occurred in the same place. But, as the essential story nuggets brightened with each new rewrite, I knew, finally, I had to face it; the manuscript wasn’t going to be true to the story without it. A fledgling psychologist in my early twenties, I’d begun work at a new maximum-security prison in Sydney. With razor-wired ramparts, bare, modernistic architecture and state-of-the-art security, it was soulless. My first-storey office overlooked the main quadrangle through which muscle men in footy shorts strutted, razor-thin druggies sidled and those of indeterminate intentions traded ciggies. She had been abducted while walking home from the train station – uncharacteristically late after going out for drinks with her workmates. She was pushed squealing into a car with five men, pummelled when she tried to escape and taken to a remote paddock where she was repeatedly raped, assaulted, tortured, her throat sluiced open when redundant, only to be found the next morning by the resident farmer who wondered why his cows were hovering in that part of the paddock. Three of the men were brought to my jail after being apprehended. Two of them obviated any need for psychological help but one, who feared for his life and that of his family on the outside, sought my counsel. His fears were realistic. The community uproar was enormous, citizens barricading the courthouse when they appeared, and on the inside, their lives threatened. As he sat before me I couldn’t shake the images of his depraved actions from my mind nor relinquish the professional ethic to help someone in need, barely able to contain the revolts of disgust coursing through my body. Twenty years later, I was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of accumulated incidents from my career as a clinical and forensic psychologist. My therapist took me through the trauma memories, with the murder event and several others remaining stubbornly stuck and defiantly festering in my mind. A trauma memory is a fractured memory made up of sense impressions. The brain’s smooth operation during trauma is so overwhelmed that it repeatedly stalls and jags

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back into action creating flashes of memory, rather than a smooth sequence. This, together with the emotive content, causes the memory to loom larger than an everyday memory dislocated from the context in which it was manufactured. Standard therapy, which aims to desensitise trauma memories, requires the person to be re-exposed to these memories in a safe, contained environment such as that offered in the therapist’s office. But an adjunctive approach is to write out a description of the memory, rewriting it until every detail of the inciting incident is unearthed, sometimes drawing on corroborative sources of information if these are available. Miraculously, this process helps to suck the emotional juice out of the memory, leading to a more coherent narrative of the event. It also places that event into the larger context of the person’s life, but as any trauma survivor knows, entering the shards of a trauma memory even in this managed way is a very scary act – and a courageous one. When I came to write my memoir, How I Rescued My Brain, I wasn’t the pacing, irritable, hypervigilant, fearful, avoidant person I had been. But I remained apprehensive of reminders or cues that might trigger a re-experiencing of past traumas, concerned that this might plunge me back into their dark worlds, unable to re-emerge. But for a memoir such as mine I needed to take the reader into these worlds, otherwise they would not get the drama of the story, nor the visceral connection. To do this I needed to draw on all the literary devices used by novelists to engage the reader. But researching my topic was not, primarily, the perusal of documents in libraries or researching family histories or conducting interviews but to sit still, close my eyes, turn inwards and reawaken the past; I had to return to the embryonic state. In the case of the murder incident, a journalist had written a full-length book in which she had pieced together all the events, interviewed the key people and read the court documents. In order to submerge myself into that world, I decided to read the book and timetravel back to my early twenties, revisiting those critical few months. I read a few chapters of the book each morning before unease set in, feeling a sense of disassociation, adrift from the world. I then did gentle restorative activities in the afternoon. I primed the family as to what I was doing and suggested that I might be more agitated, more distant and more unavailable than usual. But by the end of the week I had completed the book, hugely relieved that after twenty-plus years I had faced this demon, survived and re-surfaced. Now I was ready to write about it. In the event, the description of the murder occupied only ten paragraphs in the memoir amongst the 70,000 or so words, but it was a major breakthrough. Modern neuroscience tells us that the storytelling part of the brain, the part that sequences events into a meaningful order and places them into the larger context of a person’s lifespan, is the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain immediately behind the forehead. The left prefrontal cortex, in particular, assigns words to these experiences. The ability to reflect on and attribute meaning to our life events is most developed in human primates, an advantage that affords us the capacity to develop and pass on our species-specific culture.

Readers often ask me if writing the memoir was ‘cathartic’ or ‘therapeutic’. My immediate response is that writing the book was hard work, like the writing of any fiction or non-fiction work. But in the case of some incidents, like the murder, it was therapeutic; I would have shied away from fully re-entering this experience if the writing discipline had not demanded it of me. And what is this writing discipline? A memoir needs a through-line that dictates what goes in and what stays out of the work; not every incident can be included. My through-line was framed by two questions, 'How did I get into this shit?' and 'How do I get out of the shit?' The great thinker Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, wrote that man could survive the most horrible of circumstances if he is able to find meaning in them. I wanted to work out why the precipitous, unforeseen events occurred the way they did and what sense I could make of them. Because I emerged not only as a survivor but also a new person, one that I liked better than the person I was before, I wanted to give my story to others, just as others’ stories had lifted and guided me. Readers’ feedback since publication suggests that I succeeded (names have been changed): Sarah: I read it and cried in many parts. For you, for me and for my husband. When I read your book, so many things made so much more sense and I was able to begin to understand what he might be feeling and why he was doing what he did. I just wanted to thank you for sharing such a personal story. In doing so you have really helped us. John: The past year, since I developed PTSD as a result of my work, has been the hardest and the loneliest of my life. I know there is still a long road ahead but, since I discovered your book, I feel that I have encountered an understanding guide on this unenviable journey. Your courage touched my heart and the fight you fought (albeit in an increasingly gentle and calm way) was inspiring. Emily: I wanted to let you know from the bottom of my heart how grateful I am to have read your story, and what a difference your book had made to our lives. The practical guidance, the bibliography and your inspirational, personal account of your survival gave us the belief and tools to know that we too, would survive just like you. Serena: Your book gave me so much hope and practical guidance for my partner’s rehab. You really made a difference in my life during a very dark and gloomy time. I offer you my eternal gratitude and wish you all the best for your future.

There is one other aspect of the writing process I haven’t mentioned. At the recent Byron Writers Festival I caught up with one of my writing heroes Dava Sobel, who writes in the science genre. We exchanged books. The inscription she wrote in my copy of her book, The Glass Universe, reads, 'For David, wishing you joy in your writing and courage until it reaches the joyful point.' Yes, there was joy. How I Rescued My Brain is published by Scribe Publications, $29.99.

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Extract: Maybe by Morris Gleitzman Maybe is the powerful latest instalment in Australian children's author Morris Gleitzman's series of books about Felix, a young Polish boy buffeted by the tides of history during the Second World War. This sixth book in the series sees Felix set out on his journey to Australia in hope of a better life.

Maybe this isn’t a mob.

Maybe all these people are just citizens having a meeting. Maybe they’re angry because the town council hasn’t been doing enough repairs. Those big posts over there, for example. They look like they need attention. They’re leaning badly and they’re extremely weatherbeaten. Oh.
 I stare at the posts, feeling sick.
 I think I recognise them.
 They’re bringing back memories I don’t want to have. Please let these be different posts. Ones I’ve never seen before. Posts for holding up Christmas decorations or showing the prices of pigs in the market. But they’re not.
 They’re the ones.
 I glance at Gabriek. I can tell from his face that he knows it too. They’re the posts the Nazis hanged people from. Innocent, loving people who never did anything bad in their lives. My best friend, Zelda. 
 Gabriek’s wife, Genia.
 I stare at the posts. Memories burn inside me. Genia saving me from the Nazis. Zelda saving me from becoming a killer. 
Me not able to save either of them. 
Suddenly I’m grabbed by angry hands and pulled out of the cart and dragged across the cobblestones and now I know for certain that this is a mob. ‘Stop,’ I yell at them. ‘You can’t. The war is over. You can’t do this any more.’ Nobody listens. They yank me to my feet. I’m surrounded. Not just by men, by women and kids too. All shouting things and looking like they want to kill me. I try to see Gabriek. But I can’t. Just a seething mass of twisted faces. ‘Gabriek,’ I yell. We have to stay close, watching each other’s back like we always do. And we must try to calm this mob. Offer them repairs to their town and medical attention and hot tea and cakes. Except suddenly I don’t want to do that. I want to get out of here. Go back to the city with Gabriek and Anya and take our chances with Zliv. ‘So,’ hisses a voice in my ear. ‘The vermin returns.’

010 | northerly

A familiar voice.
 I haven’t heard it for years.
 But I know exactly who it is.
 I turn. A boy is smirking at me, a boy of about my age with very fair hair and wet pink lips.
 Cyryl Szynsky.
 He sticks his face close to mine. 
‘I’ve missed you, Wilhelm,’ says Cyryl. ‘Where’s your little friend?’
 He sniggers and glances at the posts. He knows exactly what happened to Zelda. 
I want to hurt him. But two men are holding my arms tightly and I can’t. 
‘My name’s not Wilhelm,’ I say to him. ‘It’s Felix.’ No point using pretend names now. Four years ago, when I first met Cyryl, I needed to hide. Now I want them all to know the truth. ‘Her name wasn’t Violetta,’ I say to Cyryl. ‘It was Zelda. She was six, but she had the loving heart of a ten-year-old.’ Just saying her name makes me feel weak with sadness. I can see that Cyryl doesn’t have a clue what a loving heart is. ‘Big tough Cyryl,’ I say to him. ‘Betraying a little girl to the Nazis. Did it make you feel proud? Watching them kill her.’ Cyryl glances at the crowd around us who have gone quiet and are listening to this. He looks worried he might be in trouble. But nobody in the crowd tells him off because mobs don’t care. Most of this lot probably did similar things. With a smirk, Cyryl puts his face close to mine again. ‘What’s the big deal about a dead Jew?’ he says. ‘Who cares if she was six or sixty? There’s thousands of them in the forests around here. Good manure, that’s what I say. And if you can be bothered digging them up, rich pickings.’ He holds his pudgy pink hand in front of my face. On his finger is a big gold ring with an eagle stamped on it. ‘You have to pull the gold out of their vermin teeth,’ says Cyryl. ‘But it’s worth it.’ All I can move is my neck. I lunge forward, clamp my teeth round Cyryl’s finger and bite with all my strength. For Zelda. For Mum and Dad. For Genia and Barney and all the others. The ring is inside my mouth. So is warm liquid, sticky and salty. My teeth grate against bone. Cyryl is screaming.
 The men holding me are shouting.


I keep biting. Until something hard smashes against my head. And again. Cyril drags his finger out of my mouth and I drop to the ground. Gabriek. Where’s Gabriek? 
Somebody starts kicking me.
 My eyes are shut but I know it’s Cyryl because his screaming gets shriller each time his foot thuds into my ribs and tummy. I hear my glasses being crushed against the cobblestones. Men are still yelling and big fingers are trying to push their way into my mouth. I realise the ring is still in there. They’re not having it. I keep my mouth closed. Hands go round my throat. ‘Get away from him,’ yells a voice. Even with all the pain in my head I know it’s Gabriek. I open my eyes. Gabriek is close enough for me to see him clearly. He pulls himself away from the hands holding him and grabs the man choking me and flings him aside. But another man raises a stick or a crowbar or something. ‘Gabriek,’ I croak. Too late. There’s a loud thud and Gabriek falls across me, heavy and limp. He doesn’t move. Then the choking man is back. It’s Mr Szynsky. He’s in a frenzy to get his son’s ring. I can tell he’ll remove part of my face if he has to. He can have the revolting ring. I just want him to leave me alone so I can look after Gabriek. Before I can get the ring out of my mouth, somebody else starts shouting. ‘Back away.’ Which the mob ignores. Until they hear a gunshot. Then everyone freezes. Another gunshot.
No, the voice is a man’s. 
I peer over Gabriek’s slumped shoulder. I can just make out a military officer at the edge of the crowd. He’s holding a pistol in the air. I can’t tell what his uniform is. I hope it’s not Russian or the Polish Secret Police or one of the other bad ones. ‘Back off,’ the officer yells again at the crowd. They do, slowly. 
 The officer comes over, grabs Gabriek and pulls him to his feet. I’m relieved to see that after a bit of wobbling, Gabriek stays upright. I get up too, wobbly as well.
 ‘Let’s get you out of here,’ mutters the officer. He speaks very bad Polish, but I understand him. As my dizziness goes, I also recognise him. He’s the man from the truck that stopped earlier out on the road. Mr Szynsky steps in front of the officer. ‘I’m the mayor,’ says Mr Szynsky in the voice people use when they want to sound important. He points at me. ‘This vermin assaulted my son and robbed him.’ I can hear Cyryl whimpering nearby. 
‘You’re the mayor?’ says the officer.
 Mr Szynsky nods, giving the officer a haughty look and me a look of hatred. Which changes to a look of surprise when the officer puts the barrel of his pistol against Mr Szynsky’s forehead.

‘Pleased to meet you, your worship,’ says the officer in English. ‘I was hoping I’d find the joker in authority who allowed this mob to get out of control. You’re under arrest.’ He says the last bit in Polish. Mr Szynsky stares at the officer, stunned and furious. He starts to say something about his brother-in-law being a government minister. But his voice is drowned out by the roar of an engine. A horn starts blaring. The officer’s truck is coming slowly towards us through the crowd. People scramble out of the way. When the truck gets close, I see that driving it is the woman who was travelling with the officer. ‘Get in,’ says the officer to me and Gabriek, his gun still pointing at Mr Szynsky’s head. Gabriek opens the back flap of the truck. All around us people are glaring and muttering. But they keep their distance. Except for one man, small and plump and red-faced, who steps out of the crowd. Even without my glasses I can see he’s got a rifle. I spit the ring into my hand. 
‘Gabriek,’ I yell. ‘Look out.’
 The man fires, turns, and disappears into the crowd.
 The officer is on the ground. 
‘Help me, Felix,’ yells Gabriek.
 He grabs the officer’s gun and points it at the mob, and tries to pick the officer up one-handed. 
I grab the officer’s other arm and we half lift and half drag him into the back of the truck. 
My head is spinning.
 For a crazy second I thought it was Zliv with the gun. Except the gunman didn’t look anything like a skinny version of Gogol. A small fat ex-Nazi more like. Plus Zliv never misses his target. If that was Zliv, I’d be the one lying here in the back of the truck with a bullet in me. ‘Drive,’ yells Gabriek to the woman. She doesn’t move. She’s sitting in the driver’s seat, staring at the half-unconscious officer, at the blood all over his legs. The crowd are shouting at us again and moving closer. ‘Drive,’ I yell at the woman in English, in case that’s all she understands. ‘Go,’ yells Gabriek, also in English, and his voice suddenly sounds strange and weak. I see why.
 The back of his shirt is sodden with blood. Which isn’t the officer’s blood. It’s coming from Gabriek’s head.
 The woman revs the engine.
 The truck lurches forward.
 There’s too much blood in here. I have to stop the bleeding.
 If only my head wasn’t throbbing so much. I try not to think about it. I wasn’t hit as hard as Gabriek. I’ll be fine. I have to be. We need to get away from here. Far away. Maybe by Morris Gleitzman is published by Penguin, $19.99.

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Small big worlds: Writing microlit From the inkstone to the smartphone, some writers will always be drawn to brevity. Whether labelled microlit, micro-fiction, micro-literature, flash fiction or anything else, the (very) short form is enjoying an upswing in popularity, as Mullumbimby author Emma Ashmere discovers as she casts an eye over the genre, and checks in with some local writers.

Microlit. Micro-fiction. Flash fiction. Micro nonfiction. Sudden memoir. What are they? And how do they differ from the good old short story? It must be about the word count, right? Yes. And no.

Word count is everything

Microlit is the umbrella term for very short pieces of writing – fiction, prose poems, non-fiction. The term was coined by the Australian publishers Spineless Wonders, although not everyone agrees on the word limit for each sub-species. As a rough guide, micro-fiction/non-fiction hovers around 200-500 words. Flash fiction/non-fiction is up to 750-1,000 words. Short stories range from 1,000 to 10,000 words before straying into novella territory. But one thing is certain: when you’re submitting to a microlit journal or competition, stay under their set word limit.

Word count isn’t everything: control, illusions of space, gaps

In short stories, every word must pull its weight. In microlit, every syllable counts. Control is paramount, as Cassandra Atherton emphasises in her introduction to the microlit anthology, Landmarks. But it’s not the kind of control that stifles or dulls a work. It’s a suppleness, exactitude, and restraint. Tim Hetherington refers to the ‘TARDIS’ qualities of microlit. They may look small and unassuming on the outside, but once inside, they defy the usual conventions of space. If every syllable counts, so do the gaps. As Spineless Wonders publisher Bronwyn Mehan says, ‘In the best flash fiction, there is no spoon feeding, the… writer trusts the reader to fill the gaps, to sit with unresolved endings and ambiguity.’ Karen Whitelaw puts it this way: ‘Things don’t have to be explained, merely implied. This is the beauty of the form, that behind the words a whole world is peeping through.’ Perhaps that’s why many poets have taken to the form. The boundaries between poetry and microlit seem intriguingly blurred, elastic, porous. Both experiment with rhythm, and seek to distil complexity. Anyone who’s tried their hand at haiku knows the challenge of creating something personal yet universal, regulated but surprising, tiny but expansive. 012 | northerly

A thimbleful of history

Like haiku, versions of microlit have been circulating for centuries as fables, pithy sayings, and commentaries. In the 1330s Japanese Buddhist priest Kenkō sat at his inkstone for several days, ‘feeling strangely demented’ as he jotted down ‘at random whatever nonsensical thoughts’ entered his head. His series of witty, precise, sorrowful snippets became Essays in Idleness. But perhaps the most notorious example of Western twentieth-century microfiction is Ernest Hemingway’s six-word haunter: ‘Baby shoes. For Sale. Never worn’. Then there’s the Man Booker-winning Lydia Davis who’s been publishing bracing short fictions for decades. Her 700-page Collected Stories reads like one drip-fed mini-drama at a time. Davis says she draws on ‘humour, language, and emotional difficulty’ rather than focusing on what her stories might be ‘about'. Joy Williams’ new book Ninety-nine Stories of God is a dazzling mosaic of funny, harsh, tragic shards of imagined and recorded lives. Some pieces seem beguilingly smooth. Others lacerate. The famously non-computer-owning Williams typed out a list entitled '8 Essential Attributes of the Short Story (and one way it differs from a novel)' for the aspiring microlit writer, the first being: 'a clean surface with much disturbance below'. So how to go about writing it?

Ask the locals

Several successful local microlit writers have shared their thoughts in a series of interviews on the Spineless Wonders blog, following publication in the publisher's anthologies. Moya Costello: ‘I draft and re-draft a lot. I also work by imitation (intertextually). I love working with language over narrative/plot… If you get the right first line, you are often away on a short piece.’ Nick Couldwell: ‘There are no rules. Unlike a novel or traditional short story where there are obvious points that need to be covered like plot, character building and the ending… micro-fiction has to drag the reader in only a couple of lines.’ Stevi-Lee Alver: ‘Short sentences must be carefully placed together to convey meaning and paint emotion, like pieces of a puzzle… I often spend a great deal of time exchanging words, with similar meanings, until the words right sound.’


Barnaby Smith: ‘I wrote mine in ten minutes whilst visiting my sister in Stockholm, after being reminded of an experience we shared as children, and very quickly jotting it down. It was a fairly spontaneous, impressionistic thing. I'm not one for 'stories', more imagistic fragments. I see them as prose poems more than flash fiction.’ Whatever a writer’s style, technique, ‘rules’, intent, or content, microlit in all its many guises continues to morph, sending out its tendrils, snaking into people’s lives via phones, audio, social media, 'zines, and film animations.


If you’re interested in writing microlit, read and listen to as much as possible. Australian journals include: Canary Press, Kill Your Darlings, Going Down Swinging, Mascara Literary Review, Pencilled in (young AustralianAsian writers), Peril (Asian writers), Seizure, Snap Journal (writers with disabilities), Spineless Wonders, The Lifted Brow, Suburban Review, Voiceworks (under twentyfives). Competitions include: Avid Reader Miniscule competition, Big Issue competition, Newcastle Writers Festival joanne burns Microlit Award, Odyssey House, Outstanding LGBTQI, Peter Cowan Writers Centre Competition, Wyndham Writers Competition.

Starting (and ending)

South Coast writer Susan McCreery set herself the challenge of creating one piece of microlit a day and ended up with her book, Loopholes. She says of course you must ‘work hard at whittling away unnecessary words, rearranging sentences, chucking out flabby bits…’ But other pressures are at play. ‘There’s not much time to set a scene, or introduce character… Implication is crucial. The title is vital. Endings shouldn’t be too neat.’ ‘Start big, end small,’ says David Gaffney in his sixpoint how-to list; he also advocates starting ‘in the middle’. As for endings – avoid cheap punchlines. The last line should ‘ring like a bell’.

Twists, changes, shifts

Hillary Simmons suggests that successful microlit ‘must combine efficiency of text with immediacy of imagery and neat narrative twists, all in a space small enough

for a single reading’. Emma Marie Jones says, ‘Microfictions are, after all, still fictions: they need, even in their brevity, character, setting, action, conflict, a shift.’ This ‘shift’ or ‘turn’ might be as imperceptible as a shadow creeping across a room, or a horizon-tilting quake. Sue of Whispering Gums took her first dive into reviewing microlit via Angela Meyer’s collection Captives, and noted a pattern: ‘The protagonists confront a challenge, a change, a decision, or they create worlds that suit themselves.’ The aim of the microlit writer then, is to construct convincing, compelling, contained worlds – or shards and slices of micro-worlds.

All writing is rewriting…

Even if your piece arrived fully formed in a burst of clarity (as suggested by the term ‘sudden fiction/memoir’) it still might need reworking. Identify loose threads and pull them out – if the piece still hangs together, you’ve cribbed another micro-inch to stitch in another sentence, idea, nuance, glimpse, or layer. If less really has become less, rethink. Editing microlit is not so much charging in with the pruning shears, but more your dexterous tweezer work.

…with one eye on the word count

If a story still can’t manage to limbo in under a 200-word count, perhaps set it aside for a 500-750-worder. A themed competition/journal might cast a new light, giving sharper focus or stronger direction to an earlier wandering draft.

Microlit becomes micro-listen

Before pressing send, consider reading your drafts aloud – a kind of micro-listen. This can detect any stumbles, unintended repetitions, slumps, clanging notes, and clumsy rhythms. Better to find those misbeats or hollow notes before your piece wings its way to a publisher – double-check you’ve paid attention to the small big things. The glimpses. The control. The tension. The rhythm. The precision. The twists. The gaps. The expansiveness. And of course, the word count. Emma Ashmere’s short stories have been published in The Age, Griffith Review and Review of Australian Fiction. Her most recent micro/flash fiction appears in Press: 100 Love Letters and Landmarks. She blogs about writing long and short fiction at

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Susie Warrick Young Writers Award

Byron Writers Festival's annual Susie Warrick Young Writers Award invited Northern Rivers writers aged between thirteen and twenty-one to submit their short stories to a competition that offers prize money of $1,000 to the winner. Congratulations to Tara Anne who was this year's winner with her story 'The Grey'. Tara was presented with the award at Byron Writers Festival 2017. The runner-up was Izabella Demkin whose story, 'How The Moon Met The Stars' will be published in the next issue of northerly.

The Grey Tara Anne

Henry O’Brian was a simple man. He lived in a loft apartment on the Lower East Side of Manhattan above a barbershop. Although his worldly possessions weren’t many he never seemed to go without a decent meal and was always finely dressed. He was a simple man with a routine to his life. However, there always seemed to be something missing, something he was searching for but couldn’t identify let alone find. On one such routine morning, Henry O’Brian awoke, stretched and walked across his little red brick bedroom to the bathroom on the opposite wall to wash his face. When he was done he looked up into his mirror, and stared in total confoundment into the face staring back at him. It was his own except it wasn’t. The brown mess of hair that fell into sideburns down both cheeks had turned grey, as had his normally startlingly blue eyes. His skin had taken on the same grey sheen; in fact his entire body seemed to have become shades of grey and white. How had this happened? He looked down and saw his bright red pajamas had suffered none of the pigmentation loss that he had, neither had anything else in his apartment. He stumbled around the small apartment in confusion; he examined the colours of all the furniture, clothing, walls and everything else. Outside on the streets men and women walked past in the newest fashions that New York had to offer and not a single one seemed to be grey. Dazed, Henry O’Brian made his way over to his closet and threw on the non-grey-and-still-beautifully-colouredcloths inside. After he had adjusted his top hat, the only dull-coloured thing there apart from himself, he walked out the door. In the streets no one seemed to notice him, he wasn’t even afforded a second glance. He made his way down forty-seventh and on to forty-eighth, where he knew a kindly doctor who would certainly tend to his condition. Up the many flights of stairs he went and finally came to the doctor's door, after three concise knocks he was ushered in. The interior smelled of sanitary treatment and something slightly less pleasant. 'Hello, Mr. O’Brian,' said the kindly older gentleman who Henry O’Brian had been coming to since he was just a boy. 'Good morning, Doctor George, how’s the missus and that brood of yours?' 'Very well, thank you for asking, Tom’s about to graduate from Columbia, we’re ever so proud of him.' 'Oh, congratulations, congratulations,' Henry said grinning, his condition all but forgotten. 'Now Henry, what seems to be the matter?' asked Doctor George who had turned away from him and was rummaging in his desk. Henry went on to tell him about his odd morning and the condition he seemed to have. Looking up, Henry gave him a peculiar frown and said, 014 | northerly

'You look perfectly fine to me.' 'I know I do, but when I look at myself, that’s when there’s a problem.' 'I don’t know what to tell you Henry, perhaps go see a ophthalmologist, or a psychiatrist?' Splendid, he thought, now people will think I’m mad. Bidding Doctor George good-bye he left the office. As he aimlessly wandered down town he stopped to watch a street performer who was playing the accordion and threw a coin into his hat. The music followed him down the street. The day was cold and crisp. Clear sunshine filtered down around him and somehow the polluted Manhattan air managed to feel less smog-filled than usual. Calmer now, he was beginning to enjoy the day, as he waded through the throngs of busy shoppers, once again his condition had slipped out of mind. Busy women crowded near the doors of a department store, they looked rather like livestock, being corralled through the big metal doors as the store opened. Little clusters of men sat inside dimly lit parlours just off the street, fat cigars in one hand, coffee in the other. There in a small space between the tides of people was a woman. Seated at a small table with black iron legs and a wooden circle for a top. Her legs were crossed and her nose buried in a book, a hot cup of something sitting on the table, waiting to touch her lips. It was then that she looked up and saw him. Their eyes met and he realised a most crucial aspect of her that he had not seen before, she was grey. Her beautiful shiny hair under her dainty hat was a rich dark grey and her eyes were the palest form of steel grey he had ever seen. She saw it too; he could see in her eyes that she knew he was as grey as she was. Stepping forward on legs that moved of their own accord he was standing before her, she too had risen from her seat. 'Hello,' she said in a clear, sweet voice, a smile playing faintly across her mouth. 'Hello,' he replied, perhaps somewhat less gracefully than she. She reached out a tentative hand to shake, just as his long fingers brushed her gloved ones, she vanished. He lay in his own bed in his own little red brick apartment in his red pajamas for he hadn’t woken at all, only from one dream into the next. He awoke, the second time that day, and was met with a feeling of profound loss and sadness, for he had met the one who had created the missing piece of his life that he had felt and yet never known. Tara Anne is a sixteen-year-old Australian writer who was born in Bali, grew up in India, and has returned to the Shire to study at Cape Byron Steiner School and pursue a career in writing. Until now, her writing has only ever been published in school magazines and on the family fridge.



the Festival: Mei Fong As a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Mei Fong has never shied away from difficult reporting. Her remarkable book One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment is a testament to her determined and compassionate approach, and is a nuanced and important investigation into the far-reaching consequences of China’s population control measures, examining the personal and philosophical implications of having children. She spoke to Katinka Smit at this year’s Byron Writers Festival. How did you choose and organise your material for the book? Some of it came from when I was a correspondent in China. I tried to assemble it as a series of big questions about consequences: What does it mean when you have so many men and so few women? What does it mean when you have so many old people and so few young people? How do you think the long-term effects of the one-child policy will influence politics in China? China’s economic growth is slowing for a whole variety of reasons, one of which is the demographic imbalances they have. That’s going to be a big issue. The Communist Party’s legitimacy has been tied to constant economic growth – ‘We give you growth, you don’t protest’. Whether or not the Communist Party of China survives – that’s a question. Is China’s transition to renewable energy and to renewable technology tied to that economic forecast? If China can take the lead as a major economic producer, they will be the number one global superpower and surpass the United States in power and influence. There are often opportunities for countries that strategically think ahead – America is partly where it is because of the information revolution that it had in the last twenty or thirty years. Every nation has a reason why it rises at a certain time. It jumps on the tide. China is also looking for new economies because previously it had an export-led economy, and that train has gone. What are the cultural roots of the way childless people are perceived and treated in China? The one-child policy abbreviated the family structure, but it’s still a very traditional family structure. You’re not considered an adult until you marry, or to have fulfilled your duty to your ancestors until you have a child. People who lose their only child have no base in this society. They are displaced. China’s social safety net is still developing, so for many it means losing their pension plan, especially in rural areas. No one will take care of you. It’s a strong fear. What kind of a message does the UN’s approval of China’s population control say about our collective values? It presupposes that population reduction is the same thing as the one-child policy, and it isn’t. There are many good things about reducing population growth, in giving

Photo: Andrew Lih

women contraceptive choices and the ability to have an abortion if they want one, in securing more resources for people, but it doesn’t mean that you go to the extremes of the one-child policy. I’ve encountered people who said, ‘There were some human rights abuses, but by and large the one-child policy was a good thing.’ There were other roads, alternatives. I think we will look back and say, ‘That wasn’t a cool thing.’ What was it like for you talking to women who’d had abortion forced upon them? I think having difficulties with fertility makes you realise how precious and difficult it is to bring a life to this world. Knowing it from the heart helped bring more emotional force to the subject, and hopefully will bring more power to the reader. How did you navigate the journalistic imperative to remain objective? I did wrestle with whether to put any of my own personal things in, especially given my background as a Wall Street journalist and a ‘serious’ reporter – I write on economics. There were some people who discouraged me, and I’d read books that were more about the person than the subject that they were covering, so I was wary of that. But given the subject matter I thought I could bring personal things to the table. The book asks important, universal questions. Why do we have a child? What’s the cost of having a child? Why do we want children? What happens when you lose a child? To me, one of the big successes is when I hear people in or out of China saying ‘You’ve told me a lot of things that I didn’t expect’. People who are not China-philes can still find something in it. One Child: The Story of China's Most Radical Experiment is published by OneWorld Publications.

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>> SCU

A showcase of SCU student work, compiled by Dr. Lynda Hawryluk

Gina Watkins is in her final year of a Bachelor of Arts degree at Southern Cross University, majoring in Writing and Media. She is an aspiring author who finds inspiration in her Northern Rivers home. Gina is a lover of books and pop culture, and is often found reading or watching her favourite shows.


Gina Watkins

We leave the house filled with ginger and curry in the fading afternoon light. Parker had suggested we walk off the feast we’d devoured. ‘Tofa soifua,’ Parker says goodbye to his Mum in Samoan. ‘Where are we going?’ I ask. The sky is pearly pink and soft yellow behind us, outlining the high-rises in the distance. I’d always recognise their shape; it meant I was home. But even at home I still had to face the unknown. Curiosity and fear battle inside my chest. ‘My place,’ Parker smiles. We walk along streets I never think twice about, that were once just a blur outside the car window. I notice hidden paths and secret shortcuts. Empty parks. Graffiti in side alleys. Turtle mosaics in the pavement. We stroll past a lone apartment block next to the harbour. Water ripples below, battering its foundations. One day it wouldn’t be standing anymore. ‘Feel like a detour?’ I nod. Things never go to plan with Parker, but it always ends up being okay. Sometimes, it’s even better than okay. We pass the newsagent full of koala keychains and tie-dye dresses. Parker tucks a strand of hair behind my ear. Garlic is engrained in his pores and now it was engrained in my pores too. ‘I think my cooking lesson went well.’ ‘Not bad for a palagi!’ Parker winks. I punch his arm at the use of the word for white person. ‘I’m learning you know! It’s scary cooking in front of you.’ ‘You’re doing well. Your scones were delicious.’ ‘It’s never too late to learn.’ We walk beside the break wall, watching the waves throw themselves violently against the black rocks. I can see Mermaid Rock ahead of us. Everyone calls it that because nestled among the Pandanus palms on the side of the steep headland is a huge painted rock. The mermaid has rainbow scales and sapphire hair. She’s always been here. Perhaps that was what attracted Parker, how he found what he called ‘his place'. A little bay separates us from the base of the headland. I look down at my favourite black sneakers. I hate the rough feeling of sand in my socks. It feels like an invasion of my comfort zone and the cleansing of my fears. Parker looks at my shoes, into my blue eyes. ‘Do you trust me?’ I met Parker when I was in grade nine. He was courageous. Spontaneous. Parker was determined for me to break free of my comfort zone. He loved the ocean while I kept my distance, ever since I choked on salty water when I was in Nippers. When he wanted to walk on the beach I said, ‘What if I get sand in my shoes?’ He’d smiled at me for a moment, a spark of mayhem catching alight in his brown eyes. Parker grabbed my hand and we ran all the way down the beach until we were laughing together. 016 | northerly

The sand was cool against my bare legs. The sun sat swollen orange on the horizon and white lights shone from apartment windows like beacons. My tranquillity abruptly shattered. I’d have to wash the sand off my skin and try to shake it from my shoes. I’d have sand in my pockets forever. ‘Half the things you worry about won’t matter in the end,’ Parker said, noticing my discomfort. ‘Enjoy this moment.’ Parker was mesmerised by the blue taking over the sky. It was endless. I lay back against the sand, ignoring the feel of it in my hair. ‘It’s small, but that’s a start,’ he smiled. I lace my fingers through Parker’s and follow him across the soft sand, up the rocky, overgrown path. There were probably snakes lurking in the bushes. I flick the thought away and look out over the break wall. A magnificent wave collides with rocks. White spray splashes high. Surfers bob like black buoys. And the little bay below grows further away. I smile. Two swallows dance and dive together, high above the ground. I could not be afraid for my whole life. ‘Here we are!’ Parker grins. Palms shelter a gentle slope on the side of the headland. There is a smooth flat patch of rock protruding from the earth, with another rock jutting forward above it. It looked like a chair belonging to a giant. If it weren’t for Parker, I would never have discovered what was at the end of this path. I would never have seen the world I inhabit in this way. I sit down next to Parker, my head against his shoulder. The curves of my body fit perfectly against his. I breathe in the scent of his deodorant and the briny sea-spray. I trace the scars and lines in his olive skin, noticing the lack of scars on my own hand. The palms in front of us part just enough to make a perfect lookout to the ocean, neither blue nor green. We let the silence draw out while we watch the water disappear into the horizon like it is the edge of the world. ‘Thanks for showing me your place.’ Parker touches my cheek, ‘It’s ours now.’ This place feels like a hideout, even though we aren’t children anymore. I sigh. Parker is not fearless; he is simply showing me how he numbs the fear. I hold out my hand. ‘Dance with me.’ Parker had tried to teach me to dance before, but it had ended in a fit of giggles or with me standing on his toes as we swung around. The waves crash below as our music. My body moves without my instruction and Parker spins me around. ‘This is the girl you are when you’re not over-thinking anything.’ ‘I like her,’ I say. We sway on our rock for hours that feel like minutes, until stars sparkle in the indigo sky.



Megan Wynne-Jones In this section northerly hears from a series of emerging writers who have had some publishing success but whose voices are still coming into being. Some will hail from the Northern Rivers, some from further afield – either way, each is an exciting nascent talent. Megan Wynne-Jones has been travelling since she was six weeks old and writing for as long as she can remember. With qualifications in art history and communications, she has produced social history documentaries for ABC Radio, written audio guides for the Art Gallery of NSW and co-authored the prize-winning book Marrickville Backyards. She is also a published writer of short fiction, poetry and performance. As the founder of Honour Your Life, Megan combines her training and experience as a counsellor with her passion for working with life stories. She has recently turned to her own life for inspiration to write a memoir about friendship. Megan participated in Byron Writers Festival's Residential Mentorship in 2017.

Can you describe your own work in terms of style, practice and form? I’m working on my first full-length book, a memoir about friendship. Writing a book is a different process entirely from poetry and short fiction and I’m learning as I go, with help from the mentorship and my writing friends. I would like to think my style is spare, direct and poetic. At least that’s what I aspire to! I’ve developed a new habit of waking early and writing for a few hours before I do anything else. Things definitely move along when you’re writing every day and when you’re making it a priority. When and how were you first drawn to literature and a desire to be an author? I’ve always loved stories. I had a teacher in my early years at school who read us the Greek myths and I was captivated by them. I always had my head in a book: Little Women, Little House on the Prairie, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Hobbit. My mother encouraged me to write when I was young. I remember sitting at the kitchen table while she fed me lines from poems she knew which I turned into stories. I still have that little blue notebook. So it goes back a long way, wanting to be an author. You work as a personal historian – what was your journey to that kind of writing and what does it entail? I’m fascinated by people’s lives and what we make of what we’re given, how we deal with challenges, how the themes of our lives can be similar but the way we live them out completely unique. Listening to people’s stories has been part of my work for many years – for radio documentaries, oral history projects and as a counsellor too. I realised that telling our stories has therapeutic power. It validates our experience and can bring acceptance and release. I listen, record, transcribe and then edit to produce a book or CD – the person’s life in their own words. A gift for them and their family, and it’s a gift for me too, doing this work.

Which writers have influenced you most? I’ve always loved women’s writing and I’m currently feasting on memoir. Patti Smith’s M Train is so fluid and dream-like, yet precise. Vivian Gornick’s The Odd Woman and the City is also beautifully crafted, both ambiguous and direct. For short stories it would have to be Alice Munro with her jewel-like endings. I admire Kate Grenville’s capacity to bring history to life so brilliantly, and Helen Garner’s strong, spare, honest writing. ‘Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened’ is one of my favourite opening lines, from Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. And the most beautifully romantic book I’ve ever read is Precious Bane by Mary Webb. What is the most important piece of writing advice you have been given? It was pretty humbling and inspiring to see the tiny little wooden table on which Jane Austen wrote four of her novels with a quill and ink. Most writers say the same thing: just write. That’s how you learn. That’s how you improve. One word after another, one sentence after another, that’s how books are written. Or as the comedian Catherine Deveny says ‘Actions speak louder than coffee chats’! Are there enough opportunities for aspiring authors like yourself in Australia? I’ve certainly appreciated the support and encouragement from the Residential Mentorship, and from a local writing group I’ve joined. I’m learning about other opportunities to develop my work – online groups, courses, writing residencies and grants. I’m not expecting to earn my fortune, and as for the publishing jungle, I know I’ll need resilience! As an older aspiring writer I’m encouraged by the stories of late bloomers – Annie Proulx was in her fifties when she was first published, and Mary Wesley was seventy-one. So I live in hope!

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What YA Reading? Reviews by Polly Jude



Set in 1950s Australia, My Lovely Frankie explores the brutal world of St Finbar’s, an institution training young boys to be priests. Life was hard, the boys were lonely, sad and hungry most of the time. But Tom believed he could feel God’s hand on his shoulder, guiding him towards a life of faith. And Frankie was sent to the seminary as punishment for earthly pleasures that he struggled to understand as sins. Tom is an only child of middle-class, loving parents. Frankie’s family are poor and fractured by violence and zealousness. When they meet, Tom discovers what love really means. Frankie has an inner light that shines through the unbearable conditions of the home. He sees beauty in the world around him and wants to share his joy. But Frankie doesn’t like to follow St Finbar’s rules when he knows they are wrong. His fondness and care towards the younger boys makes him a target for Etta, the cruel prefect. When Frankie disappears, everyone assumes he’s run away. Tom’s left with a lifetime to think about it. My Lovely Frankie is a beautifully written novel that is as moving as it is heartbreaking. This one will appeal to the mums as much as the young adults and will be one of those books that haunts you (in a good way) for years to come. Allen and Unwin / 224pp / RRP $19.99 018 | northerly

Set in a quaint, rural town that any country girl will identify with, Night Swimming tells the story of besties Kirby and Clancy. Tomboy Kirby lives on a goat farm with her mum and her grandfather who has dementia. Clancy is from the only Asian family in town; he works in the family restaurant and is obsessed with musical theatre. The two of them make up one hundred percent of the teen population in town until the new girl, Iris, arrives. Kirby and Clancy both fall in love with her and it tests their friendship in ways they never expected. Kirby seeks the father she’s never known while all Clancy really wants is to escape. Add a flood, alien life forms and crazy pets and you’ll find a fun and enjoyable read. Night Swimming explores the challenges of not fitting in and finding the people who actually get you. It’s a guide to outsiders and cool misfits. This charming coming-of-age story explores the difficult transition from teen to adult when Kirby, Clancy and Iris negotiate family, love, crop circles and goats with personality. Text / 336pp / RRP $19.99

Sticky wicket



Like many other women, I’m not a big cricket fan. Apologies to those that are, but I’ve just never got it – long days standing in the sun/rain, throw ball then hit ball then run to the other end. Then along comes Jock Serong, who shows that the game is both more magical and sometimes maniacal than it can first appear, in this part-crime novel, part-coming-of-age tale. We first meet the novel’s hero, former Australian cricket legend Darren, in the boot of a car being driven to meet his maker by a couple of thugs from the western suburbs of Melbourne. Darren muses that his impending death could have been slightly more tasteful than this, wishing instead for 'a sorbet after the greasy business of living'. Growing up, Darren and his older brother Wally were those kids who just couldn’t wait to get out into the backyard and play the game. Rubbish bins for slip catchers, an old apricot tree stump for wickets and a dog that always gets in the way. Their every waking hour is absorbed by the excitement and promises on offer from this international and highly competitive game of hard bat and even harder ball. Darren’s a brat of a younger brother, and their single mother works too hard bringing in a pay cheque to stop them from making eye gouging and wrestling a part of the backyard game. But it’s a family united by wanting to better themselves. After they’ve spent enough time honing their skills in the backyard, the boys get into a club team at a precociously young age. They soon realise that their dreams of one day playing for their country might not be dreams

after all, and quickly find the measure of their opponents: 'The kid bowling from the other end isn’t really up to it. His face is a tangle of reluctance. One look at him and I know what his schoolbag would smell like.' However, as they become teenage cricketing prodigies, Darren notices the differences with his brother are not just driven by a fierce competitiveness but by more fundamental flaws: 'At one in our willingness to crush our opponents, it’s only at the end of a day’s play that our lives diverge: his to puritanism, mine to the piss.' Serong takes us through more than thirty years of Darren and Wally’s lives, each of them reaching great heights but seemingly dealing with it in vastly different ways – one taking the low moral road, and the other a much higher path. But who really travels the lowest road? While the world of cricket provides the platform for this storyline, I found that even from the first page I didn’t have to like the game to love this book. In fact, I read it in one afternoon in less time than it would take to finish a game of Big Bash. Serong provides a highly entertaining yet confronting view of the challenges facing those in the modern world of cricket (and indeed many other international sporting codes), but ultimately this is a story of two brothers whose childhood dreams can end so badly when they make some questionable choices along the way. Not so much a ‘gentleman’s game’ after all. Text Publishing / 304pp / $22.99

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Two poems from Byron Writers Festival volunteers to celebrate another stellar year. The Story Bird Jenni Cargill-Strong Jump onto her muscular back grip hard with your thighs as she wheels you gracefully, thrillingly from here to there and through time She will carry you through the dark of death to the ancestors and the Good People* both feared and revered or fly you through black clouds to Iceland* where the northern lights were an omen blizzards rage for three days and nights and it is a struggle to close the opened door. Smell the stench of the prisoner, battered and unwashed Hear the crunch of the executioners boots upon the fresh snow Cling, cling to her muscular back as she weaves and swoops you through the Dark Emu* in the night sky to when stories began and ended with ‘We arise from the mother’s heartbeat’. See this landscape before the hooved animals transformed the soil of yam fields that stretched to the horizon soil so soft, so well tilled that horses would sink to their fetlocks when floods were rare and wild fires unknown. Ah take me ancient story bird take me to that vast forest in Ecuador where ‘the leaves of plants speak the rain’s language’ * and ‘mosses grow like filamentous seaweeds in the open ocean.’ Take me soaring to the crown of the giant Ceibo (SAYBO) tree so I can vibrate top to toe with the Songs of the Trees Fly me story bird on your elegant, eloquent wings woven with ancient words and visions to wherever I need to go I open the book you open your wings and we fly to where stories take you. *1. Hannah Kent ‘The Good People’ *2. Hannah Kent ‘Burial Rites’ *3. Bruce Pascoe ‘Dark Emu’ *4. David George Haskell ‘The Songs of the Trees’

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You are not stuck in traffic, you are the traffic! Louise Moriarty What a lark in the car park Especially if it's after dark and the Tetris game is still going on Trying to fit ten cars into one. Did anyone notice when they came in It’s one road in and one road out, as it's always been The volunteers are flummoxed by how people so very kind Can also very quickly become unpredictable and lose their minds. Like charging rhinoceros they want to change the rules they try and squeeze cars into each other like a bunch of Goddamn fools. They tell us what is obvious as if we could not see, have we not thought of the other ways this could be done more easily. All the qualities in others through the day they did lament very quickly leave them when they rush to leave the tents. Behind the wheel so many lose all of their charm and really couldn't give a shit if they did others harm. If we were all on bicycles so social we would be but our metal armour sets our worse qualities free. What can we do to change this there are so many other ways we could walk or catch the bus the children skip in as if to play Will we ever be the change we wish to see Even the cyclist can’t follow traffic signs It's not really like any of us want to be unkind So if the intellectuals creatives and those with needs met so very quickly, their manners do forget How can we remind ourselves We're in nature here to enjoy and treat each other kindly like our very own girl or boy

You say sociopath, I say psychopath


Most psychopaths are not serial killers, but most serial killers are psychopaths. Colleen O'Brien continues her column on crime writing with a dissection (pun intended) of psychopathy in the genre.

People often use the terms psychopath and sociopath interchangeably. I’ve heard a policeman use the term ‘sociopath’ to describe a gang member who will abide by the rules of the gang but not the rules of larger society. However, in the Macmillan Dictionary of Psychology, ‘sociopath’ is described as an outmoded synonym for ‘psychopath’. In the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM-5, a psychopath is in fact a person with borderline or antisocial personality disorder. If you want to test if someone you know is a psychopath try the following Hare psychopathy test (qualified by the warning that the test can’t be fully indicative unless carried out by a professional). Respondents should accumulate their answers as follows: 0 – item does not apply, 1 – item applies somewhat, 2 – item definitely applies. The scores create a rank of zero to forty. Anyone who scores thirty or above is probably a psychopath. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

Do you have 'excess glibness' or superficial charm? Do you have a grandiose sense of self-worth? Do you have an excessive need for stimulation or proneness to boredom? Are you a pathological liar? Are you conning or manipulative? Do you display a lack of remorse or guilt? Do you have 'shallow affect'? Do you have a 'parasitic lifestyle'? Do you have poor behavioural controls? Do you have a history of promiscuous sexual behaviour? Do you have a history of early behavioural problems? Do you lack realistic long-term goals? Do you have a high level of irresponsibility? Have you had many short-term 'marital' relationships? Do you have a history of juvenile delinquency? Do you display 'criminal versatility'? Do you display callousness, lack of empathy? Do you display impulsivity? Have you revoked conditional release (i.e. break your bond or bail)? Are you overly impulsive?

James Lee Burke in In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead provides a poetic description of a psychopath and the havoc he (most psychopaths are male) can cause in people’s lives: 'One of those pathological and malformed individuals who ferret their way among us, occasionally for a lifetime, and leave behind a trail of suffering whose severity can

only be appreciated by the survivors who futilely seek explanations for their loss the rest of their lives.' There are some well-known psychopathic killers depicted in novels and on the big screen. Some examples include: Tom Ripley in the Ripley series by Patricia Highsmith, Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, Lou Ford in The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson, Quentin P in Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates and Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Less well known are the psychopathic killers portrayed in The Torment of Others by Val McDermid, Lost and The Suspect by Michael Robotham, The Advent Killer by Alastair Gunn and All My Enemies by Barry Maitland. Arthur Gary Bishop, an American serial killer, said, 'For me, seeing pornography was lighting a fuse on a stick of dynamite. I became stimulated and had to gratify my urges or explode. All boys became mere sexual objects. My conscience was desensitized and my sexual appetite entirely controlled my actions.' The reasons why a person becomes a serial killer, and who their likely victims might be, are outlined in Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag: 'Prostitutes were high-risk victims. Easy pickings. Their killers tended to be socially inadequate, under-employed white males who had a history of humiliating experiences with women and sought to get back at the gender by punishing what they considered to be the worst of the lot.' Serial killers usually choose victims at random, but there’ll be a unifying thread. Most tend to have a specific focus or obsession and violence increases as they need more of a thrill. They want a more visceral experience. They often have an obsessive compulsive fear of what will happen if they don’t do the ‘thing’. Some reference books to help you when you are writing about your serial killer or psychopath are: Talking with Serial Killers by Christopher Berry-Dee The Gates of Janus: Serial Killing and its Analysis by Ian Brady The Milat Letters by Alistair Shipsey The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer by Philip Carlo The Anatomy of Evil by Michael H Stone Without Conscience by Robert D Hare A New Century of Sex Killers by Brian Marriner The Criminal Mind by Katherine Ramsland

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The Child Writes Competition is open to Australian primary schoolaged children. The winning writer will be paired with an illustrator to be mentored through a program that will result in a published book through Boogie Books. Submissions should be stories of no more than 800 words, and there is a fee of $10 per entry. There is no deadline, with entries closing when 500 entries have been received.


These awards have been designed to encourage Indigenous Australians from kindergarten to year 12, studying in NSW, to put their reading, writing and creative skills into action. There are three themes to write to: ‘The Wild’, ‘Then I heard the loudest noise…’ and ‘What Now’. There is also a group competition, in which Aboriginal students working together with classmates can develop a shared poem, story or play. The deadline for entries is 22 September, with a major prize and two encouragement awards on offer for each school year. For more information visit wordpress/patrick-white-award


The Heywire Competition is for Australian residents aged between sixteen and twenty-two who do not live in Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, Perth or Sydney. Submissions must be true stories of you and/or your community. Entries are not limited to text, with photo, audio and video categories

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also available. Text entries should be approximately 1,000 words. There is no entry fee. The prize is the opportunity for your story to be produced by the ABC and an all-expenses paid trip to the Heywire Youth Issues Forum in Canberra. Entries close 16 September. For more information visit au/heywire/competition


Opening on 1 August, this competition is seeking entries that are based on real life and experiences. Pieces should be between 1,000 and 2,000 words in length. The winner will receive $500, with the runner-up taking $125. There is an entry fee of $20 and a deadline for entries of 30 September. For further information visit


The Australian Book Review's Peter Porter Poetry Prize is open to original poems of no more than seventy-five lines, and to all poets around the world. First prize takes $5,000 and a print of Arthur Boyd's The Lady and the Unicorn. The second placed poet wins $2,000. Entry is $15 for Australian Book Review subscribers and $25 for nonsubscribers, with a deadline of 3 December. For full details visit www.


The theme for this year’s Wollongong Writers Festival Short Story Prize is ‘World Changing

Words’, with stories of up to 2,500 words invited. The winner receives $1,000 in cash and publication in the online literary journal Mascara Literary Review. There is a $12 entry fee, a deadline of 15 September. For further details go to www. competitions


Short stories of up to 2,000 words are invited for the Port Stephens Examiner Literature Award. First prize takes $500, second place $300 and third $150. There is an entry fee of $10 (and $5 for subsequent entries) and a closing date of September 30. For complete details visit


Organised by Dymocks and Pan Macmillan, this competition invites Australian kids to enter their stories for an award judged by much-loved children’s author Andy Griffiths. The theme is ‘living in a treehouse’ and the word limit for stories is 400 words. The competition closes on 2 October, with prizes including an exclusive illustration by Griffiths’ collaborator Terry Denton and sets of books. For full information on how to enter, visit www.dymocks.

THE 2018 SOMERSET NATIONAL NOVELLA WRITING COMPETITION The Somerset National Novella Writing Competition is open to all Australian high school students or home-schooled students aged under

nineteen, and is an opportunity for literary growth as well as a number of prizes. Supported by Bond University and Penguin Group, the competition is for novellas of between 8,000 and 20,000 words. An entry fee of $20 is payable, with the national winner awarded $2,500 and a full editorial report from Random House (Australia). Entries close on 1 December. For full details go to www.somerset.qld. competitions/novella-writing


The Somerset National Poetry Prize is designed to encourage a love of poetry among secondary school students and enrich youth literature. Entrants must be under nineteen years of age and be at high school or home-schooled. There is fee of $15 for each entry, while there are two categories: years seven to nine and years ten to twelve. Poems should be no more than fifty lines. The winner of each category wins $300 and flights to attend the Somerset Celebration of Literature. Deadline for entries is 8 December, with more information available at www.


The Noosa Arts Theatre Playwriting Competition aims to foster and encourage playwrights, both amateur and professional. A prize money pool of $8,000 is divided between the writers of the best three scripts, with $5,000 awarded to Best Play. Entries close on 1 October, while the stage presentation is in 2018. A number of terms and

conditions should be consulted, see playwriting-competition/entryform.html

full details head to ballaratwriters. com/competitions/southern-crossshort-story-competition-2017



Aesop and The Saturday Paper have combined for this new prize. The Horne Prize an essay prize that is seeking entries of up to 3,000 words on the theme ‘Australian life’. Entries close on 18 September, with a shortlist announced on 17 November. The winning essay will be published in The Saturday Paper on 23 December. For full details on this competition, named after Australian writer Donald Horne, visit


The Odyssey House Victoria Short Story Competition is open to writers of all ages for submissions of stories up to 1,500 words. Stories should be based around the theme of 'Courage' and must deal with alcohol or drugs in some way. First prize wins $1,000 plus membership of Writers Victoria. Deadline for entries is 3 November, with an entry fee of $10 per story. For more information go to au/courage2017


The Southern Cross Short Story Competition runs every second year in alternation with the Martha Richardson Memorial Poetry Prize. This competition invites entries of stories up to $3,000 words on an open theme. First prize wins $1,000 and there is an entry fee of $20. For

Open to authors living anywhere of any age, the Margaret River Short Story Competition welcomes short story submissions of a maximum of 3,000 words to an open theme. The first entry is $15 and $10 thereafter, with the winner taking $500 and a trip to the Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival. Deadline is 10 October, for full details go to submissions/margaret-river-shortstory-competition


The New England Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing is a national award for unpublished short-form crime writing. Categories include fiction, non-fiction and poetry and offers prize money of $500 for the winner in each. Entries close on 21 September, while there is an entry fee of $10 per submission ($5 for those under eighteen). For full entry details log on to thunderbolt-prize.html


This memoir competition is seeking entries of 1,000 words, to a deadline of 15 September. One story entered attracts a fee of $10, two for $15 and three for $20. First place wins $300. There is also a youth section open to residents of Western Australia only. For further information visit

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>> Alstonville Plateau Writers Group

Meets second Friday of each month, 10am - 12pm. All genres welcome, contact Kerry on (02) 6628 5662 or email

>> Ballina/Byron U3A Creative Writing

Meets every second Wednesday at 12pm, Fripp Oval, Ballina. Contact Ann Neal on (02) 6681 6612.

>> Bangalow Writers Group

Meets Thursdays at 9:15am at Bangalow Scout Hall. Contact Simone on 0407 749 288

>> Bellingen Writers Group

Meets at Bellingen Golf Club on the fourth Monday of the month at 2pm. All welcome, contact Joanne on (02) 6655 9246 or email

>> Byron Bay Memoir and Fiction Writing Group

>> Dunoon Writers Group

Writers on the Block. Meets second Tuesday of each month, 6:30pm – 8:30pm at Dunoon Sports Club. Contact Helga on (02) 6620 2994 (W), 0401 405 178 (M) or email

>> FAW Port Macquarie-Hastings Regional

Meets 1pm on last Saturday of each month, Maritime Museum, Port Macquarie. Contact Joie on (02) 6584 3520 or email Bessie on

>> Gold Coast Writers Association

Meets third Saturday of each month, 1:30pm for 2pm start, at Fradgley Hall, Burleigh Heads Library, Park Avenue, Burleigh Heads. Contact 0431 443 385 or email

>> Kyogle Writers

Meets monthly at Sunrise Beach, Byron Bay. Contact Diana on 0420 282 938 or

Meets first Tuesday of each month, 10:30am at Kyogle Bowling Club. Contact Brian on (02) 6624 2636 or email

>> Byron Writers

>> Lismore Writers Group

Every Tuesday 10am to 12pm, Byron Bay Library. Contact the library on (02) 6685 8540.

>> Casino Writers Group

Meets every third Thursday of the month at 4pm at Casino Library. Contact Brian on (02) 6628 2636 or email

>> Cloudcatchers

For Haiku enthusiasts. A ginko (haiku walk) is undertaken according to group agreement. Contact Quendryth on (02) 6653 3256 or email

>> Coffs Harbour Writers Group

Meets 1st Wednesday of the month 10.30am to 12.30pm. Contact Lorraine Penn on (02) 6653 3256 or 0404 163 136, email:

>> Coffs Harbour Memoir Writers Group

Share your memoir writing for critique. Monthly meetings, contact 0409 824 803 or email

>> Cru3a River Poets

Meets every Thursday at 10:30am, venue varies, mainly in Yamba. Contact Pauline on (02) 6645 8715 or email

>> Dorrigo Writers Group

Meets every second Wednesday from 10am-2pm. Contact Iris on (02) 6657 5274 or email an_lomall@ or contact Nell on (02) 6657 4089

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Meets second Tuesday of the month from 6pm to 8pm at Communities Hub Art Space on Keen Street. Cost is $5 for Hub members, $7.50 for non-members. For more details phone 0410 832 362.

>> Middle Grade / Young Adult Fiction Writers’ Group

Meets monthly at 2pm on Sundays in Bangalow. Contact Carolyn Bishop at or 0431 161 104

>> Nambucca Valley Writers Group

Meets fourth Saturday of each month, 1:30pm, Nambucca. Contact (02) 6568 9648 or

>> Taree-Manning River Scribblers

Meets second Wednesday of the month, 9am-11:30am, Taree. Call first to check venue. Contact Bob Winston on (02) 6553 2829 or email

>> Tweed Poets and Writers

Meets weekly at the Coolangatta Senior Citizens Centre on Tuesdays from 1:30 to 3:30pm, NSW time. Poets, novelists, playwrights, short story writers are all welcome. Phone Lorraine (07) 5524 8035 or Pauline (07) 5524 5062.

>> WordsFlow Writing

Group meets Fridays during school term, 12:30pm-3pm, Pottsville Beach Neighbourhood Centre, 12a Elizabeth St, Pottsville Beach. Contact Cheryl on 0412 455 707 or visit


northerly sep-oct 2017  

Bi-monthly magazine for members of the Byron Writers Festival

northerly sep-oct 2017  

Bi-monthly magazine for members of the Byron Writers Festival