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2018 Newcastle Poetry Prize judges

By | Newcastle Poetry Prize, News

We are thrilled to have poet Nathan Curnow as one of our judges of the 2018 Newcastle Poetry Prize judges. Nathan is based in Ballarat, Victoria, and is a past editor of Going Down Swinging. He was published in the 2011 Newcastle Poetry Prize anthology and his published books include The Ghost Poetry Project (2009), RADAR (2012), The Right Wrong Notes (2015) and The Apocalypse Awards (2016). His work has featured in leading journals and been shortlisted for major prizes, receiving the Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize in 2010. As a peer assessor he has worked for the Literature Board of the Australia Council, Creative Victoria and Arts Queensland. He has recently taught Creative Writing at Federation University and continues to conduct school workshops across the country.

What a coup that Sarah Day agreed to judge the Newcastle Poetry Prize this year with Nathan Curnow. Sarah’s most recent book is Tempo (Puncher & Wattmann, 2013); it was shortlisted for the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and won the University of Melbourne Wesley Michelle Wright Prize. Awards for previous books include the Judith Wright Calanthe Queensland Premier’s Award, the Judith Wright ACT, the Wesley Michelle Wright Prize and the Anne Elder Award. She was poetry editor of Island Magazine for seven years. Her poems have been widely anthologized in Australia and overseas and have been set to music in Australia and Britain. She has written reviews and articles for magazines such as Island; The Monthly; Southerly; Cordite; Famous Reporter. In 2016 she was one of the judges of the National Wildcare Nature Writing Prize. Her next collection will be published early this year.

Newcastle Short Story Award 2018

By | Newcastle Short Story Award, News

Newcastle Short Story Award 2018

We are thrilled to announce the authors selected to be published in the 2018 Newcastle Short Story Award anthology


Ryan O'Neill, 2018 Newcastle Short Story Award judge

Ryan O’Neill, 2018 Newcastle Short Story Award judge

Join us at the prize ceremony to find out which of these authors (listed below) will win the prize pool valued at over $7000.

Hear the judge, author Ryan O’Neill, discuss short story writing and this competition.


On the eve of the Newcastle Writers Festival, at 5.30pm, 6th April, 2018 in City Hall, Newcastle.


In alphabetical order, the selected authors are:



Not for Me to Understand

Sophia Helen


Look Me In The Eye



We Caught Her in the Act















Suffering is Universal



Red Dust & Pearls



Sculptures by the Sea






Just One Night



Grey Gum



End of Lease






Blue Day


McKenzie Watson

Twin Suns



Fresh Dirt



A Belt for Buddha



Strands of Jupiter






Red Belly



Water the Colour of Clay



Dachshunds on Antidepressants



A Bad Friend



The Right Call?



Jupiter Rising









Excess Baggage



Arranged Marriage







Willy Wonka’s widow

By | Grieve, News
Our Grieve writing competition (open now) receives many stories and poems about dementia, Alzheimer’s and other memory loss conditions.  The fabulous actor, Gene Wilder, suffered Alzheimer’s and his widow wrote this very honest article in Rolling Stone magazine  about the toll this condition takes on carers. 40% of Alzheimer’s caregivers die before their patient. Our Grieve writing competition gives carers the opportunity to express their loss and sadness as Pam Miller did in her piece which was published in Grieve Volume 4 – purchase the anthology here:
No One There
by Pam Miller
He holds her hands and gazes at the wrinkled skin. So soft now. These hands haven’t seen work in a long time. They are smooth and soft. Not like a baby’s hand. All round and plump and strong and grasping and reaching out for new things . . . reaching out for life.
              These hands are still. They are lined and wasted and weak. There is no purpose in their life. They don’t cook or iron or clean or garden. They don’t hug or touch or comfort.
              That all stopped long ago.
              It stopped when her “confusions” started to appear, spreading its tentacles and stilling her hands. It forced the memories of her life into little recesses which could only be reached occasionally. In time, it pushed them further and further back. At first, it was every month when the memories couldn’t be found. Then, every week. And then, every day. It left a huge black hole, where once a life full of love and laughter had been.
               He turns her hand over. There is no resistance, no feeling, no recognition of his presence.
                 He strokes the hand that is so familiar and that he remembers so well. And he basks in the memories that these hands remind him of. His memories. Their shared memories. He visits this empty shell of a person every week. He listens to the silence. He doesn’t say much. She was always such a talker. “Have a chat” was her nick name.
                He grasps her hands and his memories of her. And he looks into the eyes of his mother. There is no one there.


Grief and Loss – ‘Tell it like it is’

By | Grieve, News

The Grieve writing competition accepts stories and poems on any topic related to loss. Loss of a job, loss of a home, mobility, a pet.

Yes, death is a common theme in the stories and poems that are selected for the anthology, but the judges are also looking for fresh approaches to loss because grief can accompany any significant change or shift in our lives.

Doris Zagdanksi has been one of the Grieve judges for 3 years. Doris believes the Grieve project allows people to “tell it like it is.” From Doris:

In my 20s, I lost an infant daughter to SIDS.  It was a terrible time in my life especially because I was so young. I knew nothing about grief. Nobody in my family had died, it was such a struggle to know how to cope, to know what to do. I worked it out after a few years searching for information. And I found it really helpful to start writing. I found the experience of writing to be cathartic, a way to express feelings that I couldn’t discuss with friends or family.

People need to know there is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel when coping with the death of someone they love. When people read somebody else’s story, they think ‘I’ve been there too’.  

Grieve Writing Competition Has Now Opened

By | Grieve, News

The Grieve writing competition is now open. Enter a short story or a poem on the Grieve Project page.

Grief is the human response to change and loss in our lives, such as the death of someone we love. It is a natural and normal response, which has a physical impact on our bodies as well affecting our emotions and our thinking.

This statement is from Good Grief, an Australian organisation that awards a $250 prize in the current Grieve writing competition.

One of the programs Good Grief delivers is the Seasons for Growth program to children and young people who experience significant life changes. The aim is to normalise the experience of grief like giving them clear, factual, age-appropriate information about the loss they have experienced; help build protective factors and minimise risk factors that affect mental health.

If you are interested in facilitating the Seasons for Growth program you must be an accredited companion which involves a 2 day training program – learn more about the training program on the Good Grief website.



HWC Poetry Group

By | Member News, News, Poetry, Writing Groups

Hunter Writers Centre funded the publication of the HWC poetry group’s series of poems that pay tribute to Margaret Olley. Olley was an iconic figure in Australian art whose main focus on landscapes and interiors turned everyday objects and scenes into bursts of colour. As the model for one of Australia’s most recognised Archibald Prize-winning portraits by William Dobell, she looks out towards the viewer, a serene presence with a hint of mischief in her eyes. The book can be purchased from the Newcastle Art Gallery for $15.

Member News – Graham Davidson

By | Member News, News, Writing Groups

Graham was shortlisted in the Writers Unleashed Picture Book writing competition and attended the one-day conference in Sydney to receive his award.

Launched in Christchurch on Sept 2nd, Wish Upon a Southern Star is an anthology of re-told fairy tales (up to 10000 words each) for a YA audience. The work of 21 authors from Australia and New Zealand was chosen, including Graham Davidson’s 10000 word story, The Tale of Krinkle-myst, Cinderella and the Prince: The True Cinderella Story. The re-telling is set in modern-day Sydney, with Cinderella and the Prince having failed to realise their destiny 1500 years in a row.


Newcastle Short Story Award Prize Night 6th April

By | Lit Resourses, News, Short Story Writing

Mark your diaries for Friday 6th April at 5.30pm – the eve of the Newcastle Writers Festival – to hear competition judge, Ryan O’Neill, discuss short story writing and his experience judging the competition. Following this live chat, we will announce the prizes: $3000 – first prize (University of Newcastle); $1700 – second prize (Newcastle Law Society); $1000 – third prize (Westfield) plus 2 highly commended awards, 2 commended and several local awards and we will launch the 2018 anthology.

Short story writing is a demanding craft. There are several key aspects you must focus on due to the restricted length. For example, the opening line must grab the reader’s attention and this is a consistent feature of the finalists’ works that have been selected over the past years of the Newcastle Short Story Award. The opening line does not need to be comedic and entertaining, although that is one way to engage, but it should arrest the reader’s attention and pull them in. Starting with a description of the weather, or a similar scene setting that plods towards the action of the story can disengage the reader before he/she has read very far. Here we have assembled a collection of Newcastle Short Story finalists’ opening lines that make the reader ‘sit up’ and want to read on:

You can drive a pretty hard bargain with a socket wrench. – from ‘Wrench’ by Rafael S.W

Jeff spent sixty years trying to kill me. – from ‘Heart Murmurs’ by Joanna Nell

 She truly thought she was better, but after she decided to rescue that stupid dog she realised she wasn’t. – from ‘Mad Dog Woman’ by Marcelle McDonald

It makes one feel differently about the beginning when one already knows the end to be a failure.  – from ‘The Red Wallpaper’ Elianna Han

‘You know, I was an immortal once,’ said Grandfather. – from ‘The Land of Always Living’ Claire Bradshaw

“You shouldn’t name something you’re intending to eat.” – from The Names of Things Angus Gaunt

The house should be empty. – from ‘The Remains’ Karen Whitelaw

When the taxi arrived, Eileen was grumbling to her mute budgerigar. – from ‘A Silver House’ Joseph Sexton

My neighbour is sick. I hear him coughing at all hours, especially in the middle of the night. I am not sure if he sleeps. He must, I suppose, or he would be dead. I have heard you die faster from not sleeping than from not eating. Thirst will always get you before hunger or tiredness, but lack of air will kill you before anything. – from ‘The Man Next Door’ by Johnathon Hadwen

Dream Trip

By | Read, Write, Love

By Megan Buxton

Tess hopes she has packed everything they’ll need in the new caravan. Bob was at the club last night, saying goodbye to his mates. By the time he came home he could hardly stand let alone make decisions about packing.
    Now he’s hitching the van to the new four-wheel drive. Tess looks at the car, squat and pugnacious, and misses her little hatch-back.
    ‘Silly to keep it love,’ Bob said. ‘It’ll be sitting in the garage for six months doing nothing. May as well sell it and use the money on the trip. And we’ll only need one car when we get back – now we’re retired.’
    Tess shudders at the thought. Bob looks up from the couplings and glares.
    ‘Nice for some,’ he says. ‘Started the holiday already I see.
    She climbs into the car, lips thinned. The door slams and the seatbelt is yanked across, the tongue jammed into the buckle.
    ‘Steady on Tess, old girl. Treat the car with a bit of respect, eh, love.’
    Tess takes a deep breath.
    ‘Well. Here we go, eh love. Trip of a life time. All our dreams coming true.
    Tess thinks of Paris, Rome, the wonders of Europe. Someone’s dreams are coming true at any rate.
    An hour later they slow down, along with all the other northbound traffic. Tess looks ahead and sees dozens of vans in the line, inching along like giant silver snails.
    ‘A caravan of caravans,’ she mutters.
    ‘Eh, what, love?’ says Bob. ‘I thought this new bypass was supposed to speed things up. By the way, did you pack my hand surfer?’
    ‘Jesus, Tess. I’ve been looking forward to using it. I love that thing.’
    Yep, thinks Tess. He loves it so much he hasn’t touched it for five years.
    Silence in the cabin. Tess gazes ahead at the white lines dissolving in the liquid shimmer of the road.
    She thinks of the aluminium siding of the van, sucking in the heat, storing it up to torment her throughout the long night. They didn’t get the air-conditioning.
    ‘No need for that, love. We’ll be sitting in the annexe, enjoying the sea breeze.’
    Bob begins to whistle. He calls it whistling anyway; forcing air between the gaps in his teeth, the tunes unrecognisable. The sound slices through her like a paper cut.
    ‘What are we having for tea, love?’
    Tess groans at the thought of cooking in the hot box on wheels.
    ‘I thought we might go out,’ she says. ‘By the time we arrive and set up it’ll be late.’
    He looks crestfallen. ‘Oh, no love. First night in the new van. We’ve got to christen the new equipment.’
    What’s with the ‘we’ she thinks. You’ll pour a beer and relax while I cook. Same shit as home, just a different location – and more difficult.
    They pull into a petrol station.
    ‘Stop, revive, survive,’ parrots Bob, returning to the car with an ice-cream and a packet of chips. ‘Didn’t get you anything, love. I know you’ve gotta watch your weight,’ he beams at her as the fast-melting ice-cream drips onto his paunch.
    He crunches on the chips as they drive, slurping the salt off his fingers after each one.
    Tess thinks about the journey ahead.
    Six months of caravanning. Six months of caravan parks. Six months of amenities blocks with tinea –infested shower stalls and using toilets after someone with terminal digestive problems. Six months of Bob at close quarters.
    In a couple of hours they’ll be in Port Macquarie. Tess gets out her phone. Google tells her there’s an airport there. With a few clicks she could book a flight home and another to France. She’d be packed and on her way before Bob gets back from fishing. She hopes her passport is still valid.
    Bob reaches across and pats her knee.
    ‘This is going to be so good,’ he says. ‘And there’s no-one I’d rather be travelling with. You know that, love?’
    Tess sighs, puts away her phone and stares through the windscreen at the long road ahead.

In life, As in Death

By | Read, Write, Love

By Robert Edmonds

Behind the crematorium
they toss unwanted wreaths.
As local kids we piled them up,
and liked to play beneath.

In Loving Memory became
a place where girls would hide,
hanging their hair with flowers
that had only just arrived.

In Peace became a fortress
that I once attacked
with Always tied around my neck,
Forever on my back.

I like to think God Broke My Heart
was the scene of my first kiss.
But it might have been Remembered,
or even Deeply Missed.

We dug a pit and covered it
with Waiting For Me There.
We waited there to ambush those
In His Eternal Care.
Gone But Not Forgotten
was a cubby at the rear.
But they were close to compared to So
Far Away and Yet So Near.

The toughest kids I ever fought
were from Cherished and Adored.
They were bold and fearless and
Forever In Our Thoughts.

Our allies used to run away.
They fancied they were clever.
They’d go and hide in Sadly Missed
or in With Us Forever.

Sleeping Now were all defeated.
Those playing dead did not survive.
And so I swore I’d never
Stay At Rest while still alive.

And when I find I’m Free Now,
I’m In Heaven drawing breath.
Make me a part of everything
In Life (yes) As In Death.