A class act for schools line-up

AFTER years of waiting for an invitation to the Byron Bay Writers Festival, Australian novelist Phillip Gwynne is ‘very excited’ about finally attending the prestigious literary event this weekend.

Mr Gwynne is one of many writers gearing up for the local festival, which kicks off tomorrow with the schools program.

“Everybody thinks this is the best festival in Australia, and I am not just saying that,” he said.

“There are other ones, but they focus mainly on the international stars and this is the home-grown one. I have wanted to come to this for ages.”

The writer’s first novel, Deadly Unna? – part biographical and part fiction – is used by many high schools as part of their English curriculum, so it only seems fit Mr Gwynne was invited to partake in the secondary schools program at the festival.

The book was also made into a feature film, Australian Rules.

“I will just be talking about writing and the writing life, as I think Deadly Unna? is quite popular in high schools,” he said.

“I think it’s great them using my book and I get kids writing to me on Facebook sometimes asking me about their essay questions which are usually quite complex.

“It was my first book and it has a strong biographical element to it and my experience of growing up with indigenous kids in a country town. I get asked by kids how I experienced that and how I know about it.”

More recently, one of the author’s other young adult novels, Swerve, was nominated for the 2010 Prime Minister’s Literary Award.

“Kids are fascinated about where ideas come from, whereas a lot of adults at the Byron festival will want to be writers and want to know how to get published,” he said.

Mr Gwynne is a former AFL player and admits he is ‘mad about AFL’, which is why he will be also participating in a sports lunch program as part of the festival at the Bangalow Hotel tomorrow.

He will also feature at the festival on Friday at 11.45am in Crime Writers Confess; at 2.45pm in Writing Indigenous Characters; and on Saturday at midday with Matthew Reilly.

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