| 17 Oct 2017

This week, a poem from acclaimed writer Ellen van Neerven’s collection, Comfort Food (UQP 2016) appeared on the NSW HSC English exam. Ms van Neerven is a valued member of First Nations Australia Writers Network (FNAWN), and one of our youngest. As a member-based network we support First Nations poets, writers, and storytellers, and we collaborate with writing, publishing, and education sectors to promote First Nations literature.

FNAWN commends NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) for the inclusion of First Nations literature in the 2017 NSW Higher School Certificate English Paper 1. Embedding the works of writers and storytellers who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander within school curriculum promotes Australian literature, and provides students with an opportunity to develop a greater awareness of First Nations histories, cultures, and stories.

In this instance, we are aware that some 2017 NSW HSC students read the inclusion of Ms van Neerven’s poem as a red flag to target, troll, and abuse her online. FNAWN strongly condemns this online abuse, and recognises those students who attempted to combat this abuse from their peers.

The Daily Mail UK reports that “After the exam finished many students descended on the author with vile taunts”. FNAWN knows that NSW HSC students sent messages, many of which were of an abusive nature, to the author via Facebook personal messaging, Twitter direct messages, E-mails, and other forms of personal communication. Students also maliciously altered Ms van Neerven’s Wikipedia page, centring themselves into the content.

Some students also attacked other Australian writers and supporters who felt compelled to reject the online abuse. Hundreds of accounts engaged in this online abuse towards Ms van Neerven, abuse came from apparently fake profiles, and some abusers hastily deleted their disgraceful content. We know that at least one young writer who stood up against the trolling was subjected to abuse that contained sexual harassment.

At a time when students are finishing their high school education, ready to venture out to achieve their aspirations, this online abuse sours a milestone for many. FNAWN acknowledges that not all the students commenting on the poem were aware of the extent and nature of the online bullying. We also think it’s possible that not all of the account-holders who abused Ms van Neerven and supporters were NSW HSC students.

Ms van Neerven is an acclaimed young writer, she generously mentors other young writers, and is widely invited to speak at mainstream Australian writers festivals. According to the NESA, exam questions for Ms van Neerven’s poem from her collection, Comfort Food (UQP 2016), were set by experienced English teachers.

FNAWN is committed to supporting writers who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and to promoting their works to trade and education markets. This shocking online abuse of one of our youngest members deeply hurts our membership and our community. We open our door to NSW and other educational jurisdictions who seek to understand and to mitigate against such vile response to First Nations literature finding its rightful home in our curricula.

First Nations Australia Writers Network

FNAWN Chair dons wings

| 18 Sep 2017

Dr Sandra Phillips, FNAWN Chairperson, has been busy promoting FNAWN and its membership, as well as other Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander writers. Below is just some of the activities that Dr Phillips has participated, or led, in the past few months.

Tiddas Tour Tokyo

In July, Dr Phillips flew to Tokyo with fellow FNAWN member Dr Anita Heiss, where they presented workshops and a lecture at Musashino University (MU).

Dr Sandra Phillips and Dr Anita Heiss at MU, Tokyo July 2017

At the invitation of MU and Professor of Political Science, Sensei Professor Donna Weeks, Dr Phillips and Dr Heiss delivered Writing and Reading Aboriginal Australia workshops with MU Global Business Students, and presented a public lecture to the MU and wider community of scholars and writers.

The workshop and lecture were well received, with a strong interest shown in First Nations writers and their works. Dr Phillips and Dr Heiss’ appearances topped MU Social for the time that they were at the university.

Angel’s Palace

Dr Phillips made many appearances at the recent Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF), including in the beautiful Angel’s Palace. This large dome was inspired by Alexis Wright’s Miles Franklin award-winning novel Carpentaria.

Angel’s Palace. Artwork by Gordon Hookey. Image by Mick Richards

“She thought the dump was magnificent, as anyone dirt poor would. The way she talked you would have thought she was a very rich woman, and it was nothing for her to walk back and forth to the dump two dozen times a day to cart back pieces of sheet iron, jerry cans, bits of car bodies, pieces of rope, logs, plastic, discarded curtain and old clothing … until she ended up with an igloo made of rubbish.” Alexis Wright, ‘Carpentaria’

In collaboration with Aboriginal artist Gordon Hookey, this unique venue space was created. It was the home of many First Nations performances, panels and speakers throughout the Festival. This venue was commissioned by first-time UPLIT Ceo and BWF Artistic Director Zoe Pollock. Within Angel’s Palace, a 26-minute performance of Carpentaria took place, scripted by Alethea Beetson (Artistic Direcor of DigiYouthArts) and performed by Paula Nazarski, Tibian Wyles and Lenny Donahue.

Dr Phillips chaired the advisory panel for Angel’s Palace at BWF. She presented and/or hosted a few sessions in this special space, including a conversation with Alexis Wright, one of FNAWN’s most established writers.

The Building Angel’s Palace session at the festival, featuring Alexis Wright and Gordon Hookey, included another FNAWN member – Rhianna Patrick.

Dr Phillips hosted and/or contributed to many panels and sessions at other locations during BWF. Including at Kuril Dhagun, State Library of Queensland (SLQ), which presented sessions with First Nations speakers during BWF.

Onwards and Upwards

After Angel’s Palace, Dr Phillips came back down to earth for the 8th Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) National Editors Conference. There she provided a presentation with Grace Lucas-Pennington, which included a discussion on editing literature with First Nations cultural content, and the invaluable the black&write! program of the State Library of Queensland.

And with the flurry of the last few months coming to a end, FNAWN Chair and Board will be looking at further opportunities to promote members and First Nations literature. As well as strategic planning for FNAWNs future, which includes securing funding. So, as always, its onwards and upwards.

Joy Harjo’s Australian workshop of First Nations writers

| 18 Sep 2017
FNAWN Board member Sharon Mununggurr recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Joy Harjo, at the Henderson Gallery in Brisbane.
Sharon has provided this summary of the workshop:

Joy Harjo

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Joy Harjo is an internationally known poet, writer, performer and saxophone player of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation. Harjo is often cited as playing a formidable role in the second wave of the Native American Renaissance of the late 20th century.

Harjo’s eight books of poetry include such well-known titles as How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems and She Had Some Horses. Her newest collection, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (2015), short-listed for the 2016 Griffin Poetry Prize, is hailed by Yusef Komunyakaa as ‘a marvelous instrument that veins through a dark lode of American history’.

Her memoir Crazy Brave (2012) won several awards, including the PEN USA Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the American Book Award. Recently, Harjo was awarded the prestigious Ruth Lilley Prize, bestowed on a living American poet for outstanding lifetime accomplishments.

I attended the Indigenous Writers Workshop on August 12th . There was a small group of Indigenous Writers, and we were really fortunate as with the smaller group Joy shared not only her poetry and musical skills but also shared some personal stories that she said she had never shared before. All workshop participants wrote a piece and then shared with the intimate group, and received feedback from Joy – which was an honour.

We were also honoured to have Dawn Daylight play guitar and sing as a gift to the group and Joy. It was an emotional workshop and I was really humbled to participate and represent FNAWN.

Participants of the Indigenous writers workshop with Joy Harjo, Brisbane, Augusts 2017


FNAWN members hit the stage

| 19 Jul 2017

members at Melbourne  2017 Writers Festival

The Melbourne Writers Festival program was launched last night, and created so much interest that their website appeared to crash!

And there’s lots to be excited to about. For starters, for the first time an Aboriginal writer will be giving the keynote speech at the Melbourne Writers Festival opening night gala. Kim Scott, a Noongar man and FNAWN member from WA, was the first Aboriginal writer to win the Miles Franklin Award (Benang, 1999).

I’m sure many of you have been eagerly awaiting Kim’s next book. The wait is almost over! Taboo, published by Picador, will be released on 25 July 2017.

Kim will be sharing the stage with another Aboriginal writer from WA on 26 August. Claire G Coleman, co-winner of  2016 black&write fellowship, will be releasing her debut book, Terra Nullius  (Hachette, Aug 2017). Kim and Claire will be joined by Jane Harrison, Muruwari woman, who was the 2104 blak&write recipient.

Other FNAWN members speaking at the festival are Melissa Lucashenko, Ellen van Neerven and Bruce Pascoe.

Indigenous Writing Now will also feature FNAWN members, Tony Birch and John Harding (ex-director of inaugural FNAWN Board). And don’t miss FNAWN member Carissa Lee Godwin‘s festival picks, as she roams around MWF as a digital reporter.


For more updates and news, see the latest FNAWN newsletter – First Word, July 2017

Chairperson Update

| 14 Jul 2017

July 2017


Dear Members,

FNAWN has just released the July 2017 Newsletter. While this is the first eNewsletter for a while, I hope you’ve all been enjoying the Facebook joy and information disseminated by inaugural Chair and continuing Director, (Aunty) Kerry Reed-Gilbert. FNAWN has also reactivated its Twitter account @FNAWN  Thanks to our (very) part-time project officer Karen Wyld for keeping the Twittersphere up-to-date on activities and associated comment.

With the 2016 budget cuts at the Australia Council for the Arts, FNAWN was unsuccessful in both grants applied for before I took up as Chairperson in late April that same year. As a volunteer Board we have been diligent in our efforts to ensure FNAWN stabilised its presence in the light of funding challenges. While competitive grant funding success has been a challenge, we are hopeful our application in the current round of project funding at the Australia Council might provide much-needed funds to support project activity around the expressed need for industry cultural competency to ensure better future service to Member and First Nation Australian writers.

Thanks for your continued support and know that the current Board is as determined as ever to contribute to the continued success of First Nations Australia writers and writing.


Dr Sandra R. Phillips
Chairperson (April, 2016, re-elected May, 2017)


First Nations Australia Writers Network held its Annual General Meeting on 27 May 2017, for the financial year-ending June 2016.

Dr Sandra R Phillips was re-elected Chair. There were a few changes to the FNAWN Board but we are pleased to welcome back (Aunty) Kerry Reed-Gilbert, Charmaine Papertalk-Green, and Sharon Mununggurr. Darren Parker is a new addition to the Board. And Dr Jeanine Leane has resigned.

The Board would like to acknowledge outgoing Board member Dr Jeanine Leane, and wish her all the best.

Recent Activities

Dr Sandra Phillips is pictured with the other judges, and this year’s prize winner Heather Rose.

Dr Sandra Phillips was recently one of the 2017 judges for the illustrious Stella Prize.

The Australia Council invited FNAWN Chair Dr Sandra Phillips to facilitate an industry session during the Sydney Writers Festival. This session was held on 23 May, and attended by publishers and others key persons in the literature sector.

Titled First Nations Publishing, the purpose of the event was to deliver industry development skills and market awareness to publishers in the context of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts production. It also provided an opportunity for the sector to engage with and discuss First Nations publishing and cultural protocol.


For more updates from FNAWN, please see the Newsletter – First Word, July 2017





2015 SA People’s Choice Award

| 18 Dec 2015

Ending off a great year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers, two FNAWN members were shortlisted for the 2015 South Australian People’s Choice Award: acclaimed writer and artist Ali Cobby Eckermann, and new writer and FNAWN Board member Karen Wyld.

This literary award acknowledges new and emerging writers who have a connection to South Australia. In addition to submissions from publishers, nominations come from booksellers, librarians, book clubs and other people who like to read.

The short-listed books are then distributed to book clubs in rural and urban SA, who vote at the end of a twelve month process. Over 300 people voted this year, with the winner announced at a writer’s panel earlier in December.

This year, the short-listed books were:

  • Ruby Moonlight by Ali Cobby Eckermann (2012, Magabala Books)
  • The First Week by Margaret Merrilees (2013, Wakefield Press)
  • Snowblind by Andrew T Shapter (2012, self-published)
  • When Rosa Came Home by Karen Wyld (2013, self-published).

Three of these books had Aboriginal characters and/or plots; more evidence that Australian readers do like diverse books.

The 2015 People’s Choice was awarded to Ali Cobby Eckermann. Congratulations from the FNAWN Board, Ali!

Australian Literary Events – Key Dates for 2016

| 23 Nov 2015

Leonardo da vinciKnowing what’s on throughout 2016 will help you plan your writing and promotions year. We’re going to keep this list open so that we can add new dates as they become available. If you hear of new dates, contact us so we can add them in.

Festivals to attend

Blak & Bright, Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival (19 – 21 February 2016)
More than 60 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander novelists, storytellers, poets, songwriters, playwrights, academics, comedians, raconteurs and rabble-rousers over three days in Melbourne. Keynotes, performances, workshops, panels and more.
Click here for more information about Blak & Bright Festival.

Festivals to submit

Emerging Writers FestivalOpen Artist Callout
The Emerging Writers’ Festival (14 June–24 June 2016) prides itself on being inclusive to everyone in the writing community, of all ages and at all stages of their career. They’re running an open artist call out for writers who’d like to be involved in the sure-to-be-incredible 2016 program. They are looking for interesting ideas about publications, performances, dialogues, panels, debates and workshops. This is open to individual writers, but also writer collectives, emerging publications and performance groups. Projects that consider the public presentation of writing in new ways are of extra interest to them. Whether you see yourself as an artist or audience member, they’d love to hear from you. If you’re successful, they’ll help you refine your idea and pair you with other writers.

Click here for more information about the Emerging Writers Festival.
Next Wave Writers in Residence Program – Call for Applications
Writers in Residence is Next Wave’s learning and development program for emerging critical and creative writers who identify as having disability. This program provides outstanding mentoring, learning opportunities and practical experience for writers who want to receive feedback and develop new skills through workshops and engagement with a variety of art forms in Next Wave Festival 2016. In partnership with Writers Victoria, Next Wave’s ‘Writers in Residence’ program offers five workshops (one per month from January to May 2016) with guest speakers from the writing and arts industry, and one-on-one mentoring from a Critical Peer. The participant will also attend Next Wave Festival events as well as studio visits and work-in-progress showings by Festival artists.
Click here for more information about the Next Wave Writers-in-Residence Program.

Noted FestivalCall for Artists, Curators and Indie Publishers
In March 2015, Noted staged Canberra’s first writers’ festival in five years. Over five days, at almost thirty free events spanning live, digital and professional development formats, Noted welcomed and paid over sixty emerging and experimental writers, editors, publishers and artists for the benefit of over 1,000 attendees. Applications to feature as a festival artist have officially opened, and Noted is actively seeking locals, interstaters, internationals, fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, editors, publishers, culturally and linguistically diverse creators, illustrators, and performers. If you want to run a workshop, conduct an online narrative experiment, collaborate in an art exhibition, or simply step forward and put your hand up because you just plain done write good, Noted welcomes your application. This year, Noted Festival is excited to also offer a professional development opportunity for an innovative and reliable exhibition curator. Additionally, Noted are seeking independent publishers who wish to hold a stall at their Independent Publishing Fair, to be held at Gorman Arts Centre during the festival.
Click here for more information about Noted Festival.


Nita B Kibble Literary Awards for Women Writers(Entries NOW open)
Amongst some of Australia’s most prestigious awards for women writers, the Nita B Kibble Literary Awards (the Kibble Awards) aim to encourage Australian women writers to improve and advance literature for the benefit of our community. The Awards recognise the works of women writers of fiction or non-fiction classified as ‘life writing’. This includes novels, autobiographies, biographies, literature and any writing with a strong personal element.The Kibble Literary Award recognises the work of an established Australian woman writer while the Dobbie Literary Award recognises a first published work from an Australian woman writer.
Click here for more information about the Nita B Kibble Literary Award.

Rhonda Jankovic Literary Awards
Entries may be poems or short stories on the theme of social justice. Poems to be no more than 50 lines; stories no more than 2,500 words. A fee of AUD$5.00 is applied to each item entered. First prize for each section is $600.
Click here for more information about the Rhonda Jankovic Literary Award.

Field of Words Spring Writing Competition
Flash fiction and short story entries welcome. Field of Words is dedicated to helping emerging writers grow. All entrants must be aged 18 and over. Both categories offer cash prizes for the winner and runner-up. Monthly finalists posted on the FoW website.
Click here for more information about the Field of Words Spring Writing Competition.

Narrative Magazine’s Fall Contest
The Narrative Magazine Fall Contest is open to both fiction and nonfiction pieces. Entries may be up to 15,000 in length and must be previously unpublished. First prize is $2,500, second prize is $1,000, third prize is $500, and up to ten finalists will receive $100 each. All entries will be considered for publication.
Click here for more information about the Narrative Magazine’s Fall Contest.

Fish Publishing International Short Story Prize
Fish Publishing International Short Story Prize is for stories up to 5,000 words. First prize is €3,000 (€1,000 of which is for travel expenses to the launch of the anthology). Second prize is a week at the Anam Cara Writers’ & Artists’ Retreat. Ten short stories will be published in the 2016 Fish Anthology.
Click here for more information about the Fish Publishing International Short Story Prize.

Story Wine Prize (2016 Dates TBC)
This competition aims to discover the finest in original short fiction up to 800 words in length.
Click here for more information about Overland’s Story Wine Prize.

National Indigenous Arts Awards (2016 Dates TBC)
The National Indigenous Arts Awards were established in 2007 to recognise and celebrate the outstanding work and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. These prestigious national awards consist of the Red Ochre and the Dreaming Award.
Click here for more information about the Australia Council’s National Indigenous Arts Awards.

Queensland Literary Awards (2016 Dates TBC)
The Queensland Literary Awards celebrate and promote outstanding Australian writers.
Click here for more information about the Queensland Literary Awards.

V.S Pritchett Memorial Prize (2016 Dates TBC)
This prize was founded by the RSL at the beginning of the new millennium to commemorate the centenary of an author widely regarded as the finest English short-story writer of the 20th century, and to preserve a tradition encompassing Pritchett’s mastery of narrative.
Click here for more information about the V.S Pritchett Memorial Prize.

Approaching Indigenous characters and culture

| 23 Nov 2015

Interview with Tony Birch and Michelle McLaren

Learn how to write about Indigenous stories, issues and landscapes in a culturally-sensitive way. Author and academic, Tony Birch is leading a day of workshops at Writers Victoria as a part of our two-day Indigenous Places Intensive program (SOLD OUT). Intern Michelle McLaren asked Tony about some of the issues surrounding writing about Indigenous culture.

Should non-Indigenous fiction writers avoid writing about Indigenous culture and characters? What protocols should they follow if they do write Indigenous characters?

I’m not the person to ask on this issue, as surprising as it may seem. I would never give advice to another writer on this issue, except to pass on how I approach such issues. I couldn’t say that I would avoid writing characters from other cultures, as I have done it. If I don’t feel that I can create a character with authenticity, a character plausible for the reader, I back away. There is though something particular at play here. First Nations people and communities have not only had history denied to us, OUR stories have been both destroyed and misappropriated. I like the comment of the German writer, Bernhard Schlink, that those who have their history denied to them, are entitled to the dignity of telling and controlling their own narrative.

How can non-Indigenous writers create more authentic Indigenous characters?

The same question can be asked of any writer, Indigenous or non-Indigenous. Authentic characters are drawn from the development of craft, not identity. Having said that, my experience is that the majority of non-Indigenous writers produce Indigenous characters who are “stock”, limited in so many ways. Experience is not everything, but it does help to create nuanced and more rounded characters

What changes need to be made to Australian literary culture to allow Indigenous writing to further flourish?

Indigenous writers are out there, but they need more support – financial, development, mentoring, publishing advice to get the work to a wider readership. And, naturally, we also need an education system that fully values both Indigenous cultural intellectual knowledge, and provides the resources – health, welfare, economic – to keep Indigenous kids in school, and on to higher education. University itself is not a pathway to writing, but it does provide a beneficial and enriching experience.

How can non-Indigenous people become more engaged with Indigenous issues? Where’s the best place to start?

There’s no starting place, and no end. Just read, watch, look and listen to everything you can

Can you recommend a few Indigenous authors everyone should be reading right now?

Ellen van Neerven, Kim Scott, Alexis Wright, Melissa Lucashenko, Jared Thomas, Bruce Pascoe – and many, many more.

About Tony Birch

Tony Birch is the author of ‘Ghost River’ (2015), ‘Shadowboxing’ (2006), ‘Father’s Day’ (2009) and ‘Blood’ (2011), which was shortlisted for the 2012 Miles Franklin award. His collection of stories, ‘The Promise’ was released by UQP in 2014. Tony also writes essays and reviews, and teaches at a community level. He recently joined Victoria University as a research fellow.

About Michelle McLaren

Michelle McLaren is a Program Intern at Writers Victoria. She works as a freelance copywriter and blogs about all things literary at Book to the Future.

This post was originally published in Writer’s Victoria. It is re-posted here with permission.

FNAWN representation at the 2015 ASA National Writers Congress

| 26 Oct 2015


FNAWN was recently invited to send representation to the 2015 ASA National Writers Congress. Held at Luna Park in Sydney on 11 and 12 September, the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) Congress theme was Reclaim, Reboot, Renew.

Karen Wyld, one of FNAWN’s new Board Directors, attended the ASA Congress alongside 200 other authors, as well as illustrators and industry professionals. Karen has provided us with a summary:

ASA’s Congress was held two weeks after FANWN’s Workshop, so I was still feeling the euphoria of having been in the company of so many fantastic writers. As you all know, writing is a solitary occupation and, unless you belong to a writers group, opportunities to network with other writers are rare. So I was very privileged to have been given the chance to attend two in a row.
The line-up of guest speakers and panel topics were mostly engaging and of interest. And lunch breaks provided plenty of time to network with writers, publishers, book reviewers and other industry representatives. I had a few opportunities to promote FNAWN and talk about the works of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers. I also avidly live-tweeted over the 2 days; which I find is a good way to put forward alternative views from speakers and engage with other attendees.

Both the Hon Mark Dreyfus, Shadow Minister for the Arts (ALP) and Adam Brandt MP (Greens) presented an exciting vision for the arts, and demonstrated respect for writers and a desire to support creative industries. In comparison the Coalition’s arts plan, as presented by Minister for the Arts Senator George Brandis, was sadly lacking. The Government’s plan to redirect $104.8 million from the Arts Council to the newly created National Centre for Excellence in Arts, which has no reference to literature, was not well received by the audience.

Moving on from the disappointment, on the second day there were a few panels of authors and illustrators that were using technology and new mediums to create innovative works. After some negative reactions to digital in previous discussions, it was refreshing to see some of the advantages.
However, the most engaging session was on the first day; during a panel featuring Aboriginal illustrator Bronwyn Bancroft. She was joined by other speakers, including writer Michael Mohammed Ahmed, who raised the ongoing lack of diversity in Australian literature. He, rightly so, named the gatekeepers as being publishers, editors and judging panels.

Sadly, this gatekeeping was demonstrated in a later panel session when a representative from a global publisher pointed out their need to operate commercially; and she believed that books by diverse authors don’t sell. Thank goodness we have networks like FNAWN, because it’s time to open some gates.
I wasn’t able to stay for all of the last session, which was an audience discussion of the key issues for ASA to address. Before I left, there was a robust conversation on the importance of supporting authors from diverse backgrounds. This was a clear call for ASA to direct some energy into advocating for more diversity in Australian literacy. On that note, I left for the airport with a sense of renewed hope.

Jared Thomas writes about the FNAWN Delegation to the United States 2015

| 21 Oct 2015

U.S. National Book Festival, book sales

The FNAWN delegation consisted of writers who have established careers or are highly regarded as evidenced through recent winning and shortlisting of major Australian and international literary awards. The delegation included FNAWN Executive Director Cathy Craigie, Tony Birch, Jeanine Leane, Dub Leffler, Bruce Pascoe, Ellen van Neerven and myself, Jared Thomas.

Each writer is experienced in presenting at Australia’s premier writers festivals but we didn’t anticipate the scale and grandeur of the U.S. National Book Festival. Our introduction to the Festival commenced with a reception hosted by Caroline Millar, Deputy Chief of Mission, Australian Embassy, Washington, where we were introduced to National Library of Congress, U.S. National Book Festival staff and first nations literary figures. The hospitality was incredibly warm and it was evident that there is great interest and support for FNAWN activities.


Our introduction to the Library of Congress was also auspicious as upon arrival at the gala event we had opportunity to meet with American Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, America’s first Mexican-American Poet Laureate.

Kluge-Ruhe, Charlotsville, Virginia
Not one of us had much sleep following the festival Gala dinner. Our adrenalin pumped from visiting the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution, the largest library in the world, and rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s most highly regarded writers. Adrenalin continued to race through our veins when encountering the reality of the reality of the U.S. National Book Festival.
At least a thousand of people filled one of the seven salons during the first session of the day where first nations writer Louise Erdrich was awarded the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction. The salons remained continuously full throughout the day. To further provide a sense of the scale of the festival, it took fifteen minutes, to walk from the green room to the book sales point in a space resembling an airplane hangar at least twice the length of the MCG.
FNAWN delegates presented three panels at the U.S. National Book Festival, expertly facilitated by FNAWN Executive Director Cathy Craigie and very well received by readers, students and academics interested in our people, culture and works.
Time in Washington around the U.S. National Book festival was spent meeting with First Nations people and organisations including the National Congress of American Indians, Embassy of Tribal Nations, Lee Francis, National Director of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers and the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. Each of these experiences provided the opportunity to advocate for further collaborations between FNAWN members and American First Nations communities and to reflect upon Australian politics and our position within it.
Time on the road provided opportunity to get to better know each of the writers and learn from their incredible experiences and knowledge. There was plenty of time for this as we drove to Charlottesville Virginia with raptors soaring above and cornfields and churches whizzing by.
Charlottesville Virginia presented opportunity to meet with and present with remarkable First Nation American writers Deborah Miranda and Karenne Wood at the University of Virginia and to visit the remarkable Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection of the University of Virginia which houses one of the finest Indigenous Australian art collections in the world, rivaling many of the collections held in Australia.
We spent an amazing afternoon with the Authors Guild in New York on September 11, learning about each other’s businesses and having a great lunch in an Arabic restaurant complete with a belly dancer. The lunch ended with FNAWN delegates and Authors Guild staff taking to the floor, our dance symbolic of the comfort in each other’s company.
Time in New York provided me the opportunity to meet with one of the big mainstream U.S. publishers. They had been in touch independent of FNAWN but standing on the street, alongside their iconic office building, looking down Fifth Avenue toward the Empire State Building, I asked myself, ‘how in the hell did I get here?’ There’s a whole lot of factors in that equation but it’s clear that FNAWN Executive Director Cathy Craigie and Chairperson Kerry Reed-Gilbert have played a large role in my writing journey.

FNAWN is the consolidation of their vision and participation at the 2015 U.S. National Book Festival part of the broader vision for Aboriginal writers and literature. It is very difficult for international writers, especially Australian writers to break into the U.S. market but experiencing the literary offerings and opportunities of America with my esteemed colleagues, it is clear that FNAWN is set to open up the world to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers in ways beyond what any of us have imagined.

I anticipate that maybe one of the members from the 2015 delegation, or perhaps it will be the 2017 delegation, will make a splash in the U.S. and their success will benefit us all.