Monday musings on Australian literature: New England Writers’ Centre

I thought I had finished my round-up of Australia’s writers’ centres with my post on the Australian Writers Centre, but then I came across a rather interesting – and active – regional one, and would like to share it with you (as well as document it here). It is the Armidale-based New England Writers Centre (NEWC).

Like most writers’ centres, the NEWC is a membership service, and has been running for over 20 years. It describes its activities very simply, as

delivering writing and illustrating workshops, professional opportunities, fabulous  literary events, showcasing of local talent, and more, to its members. (About Page)

Like the other membership-based centres it:

  • runs a variety of writing and outreach programs, in Armidale and throughout New England, as well as via online technologies
  • offers and/or supports various writing (and associated) awards and fellowships
  • communicates with members via newsletters, emails and social media.
  • provides resources (primarily prepared by Sophie Masson) to all sorts of sites of relevance to writers and illustrators. Check the link to see what I mean.
Arielle Van Luyn, Treading air

The Centre’s current Board includes, among others, published writers, Sophie Masson (who has more than 50 books to her name) and Ariella van Luyn (whose Treading air I’ve reviewed), professional editor Linda Nix, and local publisher (and, love this, “Rolls Royce trained, professionally qualified mechanical engineer”) Peter Creamer.

You may wonder how I came across this regional centre? Interestingly, it was via the new ARA Historical Fiction Prize which I wrote about recently. The prize was established by the ARA Group and HNSA (The Historical Novel Society Australasia), but this Centre was actively involved, by being part of the Prize sub-committee and administering the submissions.

Anyhow, as I’ve done with most of the other centres, I’ll share some of their main programs … but I must say that, as with most organisations this year, it looks like there’s been a bit of rejigging of programs and activities, and a willingness to turn to new forms of communicating and reaching out.

New England Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing

This prize seems to be one of their most significant ongoing programs. It has been running for eight years, and is a multi-prize award with the following categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Youth Award, Emerging Author and the New England Award. The prizes are relatively small – $250 to $500 – but, a prize is a prize, and must help the cv.

Aussies will know of course, but for others, this prize was named for the infamous bushranger, Captain Thunderbolt.

They also offer an Illustration Prize, which is interesting, as I haven’t seen this aspect of writing/publishing supported quite so obviously in the other centres is it seems to be in this one.

Varuna/New England Writers Centre Fellowship

Regular readers here will have heard of Varuna Writers Retreat before, but in 2019 the NEWC established, in partnership with Varuna, a new annual fellowship. The prize is

a week’s inspirational writing residency in the beautiful surroundings of Varuna, in the Blue Mountains, and include full board and accommodation at Varuna, funds towards travel, a one-on-one consultation with a Varuna expert and more. 

Shortlistees receive two free workshops of their choice from NEWC’s program. 

By the Book video series

This is a new program, just launched this month, comprising YouTube videos featuring “local professional writers, illustrators, editors and publishers offering tips and advice on all kinds of aspects relating to book creation and production”. They range from a couple of minutes to six or so minutes. Here is Sophie Masson introducing the series:

Finally …

For a (not so little) region, the NEWC sounds like an impressively active writers’ centre, which supports a wide range of writing activities in the New England area. It’s exciting seeing such energy coming from regional towns and cities, particularly now when regions seem to be coming into their own, with city-dwellers, post-COVID, starting to see the very real benefits of regional living.

Writers Centres posts: ACT, Australian Writers Centre, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, and Western Australia.

9 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: New England Writers’ Centre

  1. WG: Some of us would omit the word “infamous” in relation to Frederick Ward (buried in Uralla) – aka – the bushranger – Thunderbolt. Just a small point – but I grew up in the New England region – we visited the clump of rocks just north of Uralla where it is said he sometimes hid out. We read Judith Wright’s “South of My Days” with its reference to him for my Leaving Certificate English paper in 1965 – and one of my English subject students 45 years ago at Macintyre HS in Inverell – Darryl Monckton – spoke of his grand-father (or was it his grand-father’s father) having as a boy attended to Thunderbolt’s horse… As a decade ago a distant kinswoman in Perth spoke of her husband – a descendant of Henry “Harry” Readford (famous cattle duffer – born near Mudgee in 1841) – a part model for the Captain Starlight (“an honourable bushranger”) character in Rolf Boldrewood’s Robbery Under Arms (1880s).

  2. Hi Sue, a very industrious and productive group. Either through you in the past or something I have read, I have heard of this group. I think regional groups work well because they are working for their community. They are not overly dependent or influenced by outsiders.

  3. Re ‘By the Book’: One of the good things that’s come out of C-19 is that writers are taking the initiative in doing their own publicity and in so doing, embracing the screen which is where young readers are.

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