Preparation well underway for New Zealand Young Writers Fest 2023
by Vanessa Elley (she/her)
The programme for the 2023 New Zealand Young Writers Fest (NZYWF) is now live, as organisers prepare for the festival’s opening on September 21st.
The Ōtepoti Dunedin-based festival is dedicated to celebrating writers aged 15 to 35 from across New Zealand, and this will be its ninth year running.
Co-director / development and strategic relationships manager for the festival, Ruth Harvey, says NZYWF is something special.
“It’s the only literary festival in the country that’s specifically to support young writers… We have a kaupapa where it’s ‘by the young writers for the young writers’, so they decide what the topics are, what’s really meaningful to them, what really resonates in this moment.
“There’s a really strong theme throughout the festival of identity and uplifting marginalised or historically excluded voices… it's one of the things that’s most top-of-mind, as it were, in their work at the moment.
“The way in which the festival gets put together really allows what’s ultra-contemporary as issues in our communities to bubble to the surface, I think.”
Festival guest curator and editor-in-chief of Rat World Magazine, Jennifer Cheuk, says that her focus this year has been on underrepresented forms of writing like graphic novels, visual narrative, podcasting, and postering.
“We have quite a narrow perspective of what writing is sometimes, and I think while I really love short stories and poetry and novels, I think a lot of people think that that’s all that writing is.”
“At its core writing is storytelling for me, so I think broadening that sense means that we can maybe have it less as an exclusive industry,” Cheuk says.
“I think writing and arts has always been a little bit of a gatekept, quite exclusive space so it’s like how can we broaden that conversation.”
Harvey says that NZYWF organisers aim to create a space for writers to connect with each other, and benefit from the peer-to-peer support of the wider writing community.
“I think there is something pretty magical about bringing creative people together into a forum and just letting them make organic connections with each other, and you just don’t know how that will evolve over the years to come."
“A lot of them will go on to collaborate in other ways in the future, and that’s a beautiful thing, to be able to create the space for that to happen.”
Cheuk also says that the festival is a way for writers who are just starting out to connect to other creatives.
“I think it’s really hard to get started as an emerging writer, and it's quite hard to break that glass ceiling, especially if you don’t know anyone in the industry.
“There’s so much amazing music and arts and writing coming out of New Zealand and I’m like ah- more people need to know how awesome New Zealand is, right?”
NZYWF has seventeen events running from September 21st to 24th on everything from songwriting to zinemaking to comics, all completely free to attend.
For those unable to travel to Dunedin, certain events will be available as podcasts on the NZYWF website.
Check youngwritersfest.nz for more information.