New England Writers' Centre receives $22,000 from government to fund workshops and prizes

BOOK IN!: Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and Armidale author and event organiser Beattie Alvarez read a locally produced book.  Photo: Supplied.
BOOK IN!: Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and Armidale author and event organiser Beattie Alvarez read a locally produced book. Photo: Supplied.

The New England Writers’ Centre, based in Armidale, offers regional authors and illustrators a chance to launch their career, thanks to a year of workshops, prizes, and festivals supported by the state government.

The centre received $22,000 in funding from the state government.

“Few national cities could boast as vibrant a community of artists and creatives as Armidale,” Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall said, “and the 2018 Writers’ Centre program will help market our local talent to the world.”

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Sophie Masson, Chair of the NEWC, was delighted. 

“We're extremely grateful, very appreciative for the support,” Ms Masson said. “Create NSW, which is the NSW government's funding body for the arts generally, has been a great supporter of ours over the years, and so we were really delighted to be funded again by them this year, because we've got a very big program, and it wouldn't be possible without them.”

Sophie Masson

Sophie Masson

The NEWC has been going for more than two decades. 

“It’s been extremely supportive of writers at different stages of their careers,” Ms Masson said, “because it encourages new writers and aspiring writers to get better. It helps them to find opportunities to be published, to increase their chances, their professional development, etc. It also showcases more established writers, because we often try to use presenters from the region, because we have a lot of very good, professional writers living in our area, and so it focuses attention them as well.”

The centre runs two major prizes. The New England Thunderbolt Prize for Crime Writing is a national award for unpublished short-form crime writing. 

“That's launched quite a few careers, which is very nice, and that's got a really big reputation now." 

Now in its sixth year, it opens in June and closes in September. The New England Illustration Prize is in its third year.  “This is very exciting because this year it's gone national.  The first two years we just restricted it to the region, but we've decided to open it up to illustrators around Australia.”  

Illustrators across the country can create a colour illustration suitable for a children’s picture book, on the theme “A fun day out”.  Entries opened on Monday, March 5, and close on June 4. 

“The New England Illustration Prize we hope will become as big [as the Thunderbolt Prize], but for illustrators.”

The first prize is a one-day course on creating picture books with award-winning, internationally-published picture-book creator Glenda Millard and award-winning publisher Margaret Hamilton.

The Centre also has an exciting line-up of award-winning, internationally-published writers and illustrators coming to town.

“The grant means that we are able to run a large program, bringing well-known authors, publishers, literary agents, and illustrators to the area,” event organizer Beattie Alvarez said.

Michelle Worthington, two-time winner of the International Book Award for Children's Hardcover Fiction and finalist in the US Best Book Awards and Book Excellence Awards, will run a one-day picture book workshop with illustrator Trish Donald and publishers Peter and Kathy Creamer.

Local author Helena Pastor will be one of the teachers at the workshop.

Local author Helena Pastor will be one of the teachers at the workshop.

Author-illustrator Judith Rossell will visit schools, and teach a workshop about writing for children.  Bronwyn Parry, winner of the Romance Writers of America’s Golden Hearts Award, will share the secrets of writing romantic suspense. Urban fantasy writer Angela Slatter and international best-seller Ian Irvine will lead a course on speculative fiction. And Armidale locals Helena Pastor and John Charles Ryan will teach about memoir writing and poetry.

Aspiring writers and illustrators will also be able to pitch their ideas to independent book publishers and literary magazines.

“We want to give regional writers the opportunities that are not easily available outside of metropolitan areas,” Ms Alvarez said.  “We are here to help them achieve their literary goals, whatever they may be.”

The Centre also runs a monthly writing hub.The Centre also links remote schools to children’s authors and illustrators via video link and smartboards.  “By going into schools,” Ms Masson said, “we foster a love of reading, of the fun of writing, for kids.”

“Whether you’re a wannabe writer or accomplished author; penning murder mysteries or children’s books,” Mr Marshall said, “these events will help develop authorial talents and build up to a unique opportunity to pitch stories to actual publishers.”

More information about membership, events, and prizes is available at the New England Writers’ Centre’s website