February 2016 Festival News
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Hello everyone,

A belated happy new year. I hope you have had a wonderful start to 2016. I've been busy finalising this year’s program, which will be released on Saturday, 20 February via the festival website. Hard copies can also be requested via the website and they will also be available at Hunter Region libraries.

I refer to the program as “The Jigsaw” and after months of planning all the pieces are finally in place. This year, 140 writers are participating in almost 70 sessions across five main venues, including the city’s historic and much-loved Civic Theatre. We have already announced that Tim Flannery, Charlotte Wood and Rosie Waterland are included in the line-up.There are so many other wonderful writers joining them to discuss a range of topics - from memoir and climate change to writing for children and Paul Keating.

Tickets go on on sale from Monday, 22 February via Ticketek. I urge you not to wait until the last minute as I am confident some sessions will sell out. Free sessions are offered on a "first in, first served" basis.

If you would like to be part of our ever-expanding team of volunteers this year, I have included details about how to register below. The success of the festival is built on a foundation of good will and enthusiastic generosity. 

A special program preview newsletter will be issued on Friday, 19 February, which will include program highlights. Thank you so much for your support and I look forward to seeing you at the festival in eight weeks.

Until next month,

Festival Director

Lunch with Olympian Leisel Jones

The festival is thrilled to announce a special event with Olympic gold medallist Leisel Jones on the opening day of the festival, Friday 1 April. From the gold medal dais at the Beijing Olympic Games to the depths of depression, Leisel will talk to Newcastle sport identity Brett Keeble about the highs and lows of life in the fast lane, as well as finding her feet after competitive swimming. She will also sign copies of her memoir Body Lengths.

The lunch will be held from 12pm to 2pm at Crowne Plaza Newcastle and the $55 ticket includes a welcome glass of bubbly and two-course meal. Thank you to genXwomen and MacLean’s Booksellers for supporting this event.

Click here for tickets and if you have special dietary requirements email by Wednesday, 23 March. Please note that door sales will not be available. 

The Festival Needs Your Help

In 2015, we had a team of 80 volunteers who helped make the event a huge success. This year, we have more sessions across more venues and your assistance is needed more than ever. The festival is known for its smooth running and friendly atmosphere, which can be attributed to our fantastic volunteers.

The festival would not happen without volunteers and our marvellous coordinator Sheree Kable, who organises briefing sessions and arranges the roster. The half-day shifts free you up to attend sessions for the rest of the day - on us. If you are keen to help, please register here. Returning volunteers – and we have many – are also required to register this year.

Inaugural NWF Microlit Competition Winners

The festival launched its inaugural Hunter Region Microlit Competition late last year in partnership with Spineless Wonders. The four finalists are Amanda Berry, Kelli Hawkins, Jodi Vial and Karen Whitelaw. The winner will be announced during a session at this year's festival and will receive $250. Short and Sweet: The Art of Microlit will be held on Saturday, 2 April, from 4.30pm in the Hunter Room in Newcastle City Hall and will feature the competition judges Bronwyn Mehan, Richard Holt and Joanna Atherfold Finn. 

All four entries have been read by actor Eleni Schumacher and recorded for a special visual presentation by Richard Holt, a visual artist, who manages Big Story Small

Finalist Kelli Hawkins, of Merewether, has also just been announced as the recipient of the 2016 Writing a Novel: First Draft Scholarship offered by Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin in Sydney. Congratulations Kelli.
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