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May 15, 2021

Emerging writers workshop ideas

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In the lead-up to Byron Bay Writers’ Festival, four emerging northern rivers writers were selected to spend an intensive week under the mentorship of acclaimed local novelist Marele Day.

The mentorship is one of the key programs of the Northern Rivers Writers’ Centre, and this is the eleventh year that Marele has been involved.

‘I genuinely love doing it. I just feel it’s a privilege to see manuscripts in progress and to be privy to people’s imaginations,’ Marele says.

‘It’s great to see the freshness of the writing in this area and the openness of the writers to bring their work to an even higher level.’

The competitive placement is considered a highlight of a writer’s early career, with many of the program’s past mentees going on to have their work published.

Willa Hogarth, whose work of fiction Room Without Windows reveals hidden family secrets, travelled from Coffs Harbour to take part.

‘When I heard I’d been chosen I imagined it would be a writers’ wonderland and it was: there was amazing connection with the other writers, and for me the highlight was getting feedback from Marele and the others.’

It was the second year that Lennox Head high-school teacher Ali Chigwidden was chosen for the program, this time working on her young adult manuscript The Blackbirds, a story about accidental revenge.

‘It was fantastic to spend a week focusing just on your writing in such a beautiful and creative setting,’ says Ali, referring to the retreat space at Byron Cove at Belongil Beach.

Not long emerged from the wild, Bellingen’s Claire Dunn is writing her memoir My Wild Heart about living for a year in the bush without matches.

‘I thought the hard work was living in the bush; writing about it is a whole other adventure. I’m leaving with renewed faith in my writing and inspiration to continue.’

Byron Bay freelance journalist Anneli Knight submitted her fiction manuscript, To The Bones, about finding home in a strange land, inspired from her time living in the Kimberley.

‘You spend so much time on your own with your characters when you’re writing, and this week it was like our characters were real people as we talked about them in workshops, over dinner, in the sauna and at the beach.’

As part of the mentorship all four writers are invited to submit their manuscripts to Allen & Unwin and will have a consultation with one of their publishers during the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival in August.

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