THIS WRITING LIFE: The 2013 Newcastle Writers Festival


Miriam Margolyes in fine form

On the first weekend of April I took to the road and headed up to Newcastle – one of my favourite places – for its inaugural writers festival. What a great weekend! Massive kudos, congratulations and thanks to Newcastle Writers Festival manager Rosemarie Milsom and her team of helpers for hosting a truly wonderful event. I’ll be back next year for sure.

Opening night was a blast with acclaimed actor and Dickens devotee Miriam Margolyes expounding on Why Words Matter. Her speech was rambling, funny, poignant and everything in between, and it’s a great sign of her talent that she managed to convince the entire University of Newcastle Conservatorium to sing along with her to Daisy, Daisy. We all decamped across the road to the library for drinks, nibbles and mingling afterwards with huge smiles on our faces.

If you’d like to hear Miriam’s opening night address, The Herald has kindly made the audio available on their website.



Except for a few dark clouds out to sea, Saturday was a typical gorgeous Newcastle day. We spent the morning taking in some of the (very familiar) sights before wandering up Hunter Street to Newcastle beach for a gaze around. Then it was time to join my fellow Heart of the Matter panellists Kaz Delaney, Michelle Douglas, Deborah Challinor and moderator  Annie West for a spot of lunch at Raw Cafe, a rather inspirational place for a bunch of romance writers given the wait staff!

Inspirational also was the venue for our Heart of the Matter: Writing Romance panel. The session was held at the Newcastle City Business Centre, in an historic sandstone former bank, and the interior was sumptuous, with polished timber panelling, marble mountings and a beautiful chandelier. Although Kaz Delaney, bless her, managed to out-glitter even that with all her bling.

Heart of the Matter Paenl: Michelle Douglas, me, Kaz Delaney, Deborah Challinor and Annie West

Heart of the Matter Panel: Michelle Douglas, me, Kaz Delaney (note that glittery gold bag), Deborah Challinor and Annie West

We had a lovely, clever audience who had our brains working overtime with some astute questions. I think this was the first occasion I’d ever described the themes of my work in public. For me it’s forgiveness, especially self forgiveness, and it was fascinating to hear my fellow panellists’ thoughts on the subject. Kaz wrote similar themes to me, but Michelle’s and Deborah’s stories offered different messages. We were also asked what was the worst

Michelle's gorgeous tights!

Michelle’s gorgeous tights!

thing about being a romance author. I said structural edits, which had everyone nodding. Everyone except Deborah Challinor, who, for some odd reason, actually likes them. A sentiment also repeated on Sunday by Courtney Collins, author of the Stella Prize nominated and highly acclaimed novel The Burial, during our A Fine Debut session. This, dear readers, is not normal! I know structural edits are very, very good for us, vital in fact but, believe me, those babies hurt.

Speaking of A Fine Debut, Courtney and I were delighted to host a near-capacity crowd in the City Hall Banquet Room on Sunday afternoon. Rosemarie Milsom was our moderator and she took us through the massive learning curve and somewhat startling experience that was our first books’ birth. I was fascinated to hear Courtney speak about her experience with The Burial, in particular how long she worked on it and the way it seemed to explode into existence for her in the most thrilling way. We’re talking a feature film option, around the world sales, critical acclaim and major

Wondering how the hell to answer THAT curly question!

Wondering how the hell to answer THAT curly question!

literary prizes. And there I was yabbering about being thrown out to do radio interviews with no experience at all, which turned out to be great fun in the end, but nothing like the hoopla Courtney’s had and is still enjoying. Good on her, too. She was lovely and interesting and I’m very much looking forward to reading her book.

So all in all a joyous time, and another heartfelt round of applause must go to the organisers and to Newcastle itself for getting behind this excellent event. There were lines snaking into the street for some sessions and I just loved how there was a session to cater for every taste. No literary snobbery in Newie! I must also say a huge thanks to MacLean’s Booksellers who did a fine job of stocking and displaying everyone’s books. Special thanks to Kylie who had me signing store copies and is going to help me arrange some more talks in Newcastle later in the year. Stay tuned for details on that.

If you’d like to see more photos of the weekend check out the Newcastle Writers Festival Facebook page. And while you’re at it, mark your calendars for next year’s festival. I’ll be there with bells on!




0 thoughts on “THIS WRITING LIFE: The 2013 Newcastle Writers Festival

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      It was, Jennifer. Really switched-on, interested and enthusiastic crowds. Well worth attending. And great fun to catch up with my gorgeous romance writing buddies!

  1. Avatarmichelle douglas

    I thought the festival was fantastic too, Cathryn! It was fab to catch up with you and I had an absolute ball on our panel. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event. 🙂

  2. AvatarPaula Beavan

    I attended both Heart of the Matter and A find Debut and loved both. I took great encouragement from all the speakers. I was the pesky person who asked (at both sessions, yes, I am a bit thick LOL) about fitting writing into you life prior to publication. I have come home inspired to press on and learn my craft. Hearing you say, in both sessions, that you had written several novels before being published, made me realise something so important it has changed my outlook on this writing gig. I realised that if I were learning to paint, I wouldn’t expect to do one painting and with the Archibald Prize, so why do we learner writers expect to write one story, once, and have it become a best seller with movie options?? Ok, I know that Courtney Collins has, but it did take 7 years, so she practiced on the one book, but she still have to practice. So, I’m off to practice! Thanks and see you next year 🙂

    1. AvatarCathryn Hein

      Paula, thank you so much for saying that you enjoyed the sessions. It’s great to be able to get that feedback.
      I’m so pleased you got so much out of it and left with new motivation. Your analogy about the winning the Archibald is spot on. It’d be lovely if we all sat down to our first manuscript with everything in place but it doesn’t happen that way (except to perhaps a ridiculously talented few). It’s important to take the time to learn.
      All the best with all that practice and if you can, get yourself some good critique partners. They are worth their weight in gold! Oh, and join the Romance Writers of Australia. I can honestly say that without that organisation I would not be where I am today.

      1. AvatarPaula Beavan

        Thanks for your advice Cathryn, I have joined RWA and am working my way through potential crit partners as I write LOL
        I am also really enjoying reading your FB page 🙂

      2. AvatarCathryn Hein

        Paula, you won’t regret joining the RWA, Faaaaantastic organisation!

        Thanks for that about my FB page. No idea what I’m doing on the thing but that goes for most of what I do on the net. Complete techno-numpty. But I’m learning…slowly.

        Wishing you all the best with your crit partners. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right ones but once you do you’ll wonder how you ever got by without them.