Arts & Culture

Byron Writers Festival announces new Restart Writing Workshop for Writers with Disability + d/Deaf Writers

‘The lived experience of people with disability is funny, rich, smart and provocative – a web of stories too integral to our understanding of what it is to be alive right now to ignore…’ – Kerri Shying, mentor and teacher.
Byron Writers Festival is excited to announce another initiative funded by the Create NSW Arts Restart program. Writers with disability and d/Deaf writers are invited to apply for a two-day writing workshop, convened by four inspiring writer/teacher mentors: Kerri Shying, Gaele Sobott, Asphyxia and Alan Close. Each mentor/teacher will offer a two or three-hour workshop on various aspects of writing.
Additional support will be offered to assist writers with disability and d/Deaf writers attending the face-to-face and zoom workshop, including costs for Auslan interpreters, transport and other contingencies.
This new workshop is part of a wider Byron Writers Festival Restart program dispersing funds to NSW writers and illustrators of all description through free workshops, funded by Create NSW.
‘The arts community has been hit hard by the Covid pandemic,’ said Byron Writers Festival Director, Edwina Johnson. ‘Our Restart program is a way to offer a broad-reaching rescue package that will help create new works and valuable professional experiences.’
The application process for the Writers with Disability + d/Deaf Writers Workshop is available on the Byron Writers Festival website at The program is overseen by experienced publishing industry professionals drawn from across the state. 
Byron Writers Festival Writers with Disability + d/Deaf Writers Workshop
Applications now open 
Applications close 5.00pm Friday 30 April 2021
Applicants must be over 18 years of age.
For Information and applications visit
‘One of the more well-known slogans of the disability rights movement is “Nothing About Us Without Us” … there are very few of ‘Us’ in the Australian media, literature and writing sector.’ – Gaele Sobott, mentor and teacher.
Gaele Sobott is a disabled writer living in Sydney, Australia. Her published works include Colour Me Blue (Heinemann), My Longest Round (Magabala Books) and recent short stories in Hecate, Verity La, Meanjin, Prometheus Dreaming, New Contrast and the anthologies, Botswana Women Write (University of Kwazulu-Natal Press) and Not Quite Right For Us (Speaking Volumes UK). Her poetry is published in Disability Arts Online and Verity La. She currently serves on the Accessibility Committee of the State Library of NSW and the Blacktown City Council Arts Committee. She is the founding director of Outlandish Arts; a disabled-led, not-for-profit arts organisation. Gaele has a PhD in literature from the University of Hull, UK.
Kerri Shying is a poet of Wiradjuri and Chinese family, publishing across many journals and anthologies. She is the author of a bilingual pocketbook of poems sing out when you want me, 2017, Flying Island Press; Elevensies, 2018 Puncher and Wattman; and Knitting Mangrove Roots 2019, Flying Island Press. Kerri held the Varuna Dr Eric Dark Flagship Fellowship for 2019 for her current collection Know Your Country 2020, Puncher and Wattman, and was shortlisted in 2017 for both the Helen Ann Bell Prize and the Noel Rowe Award. Kerri has been convenor of Write Up for five years, a free arts/writing group for people living with disability. She lives with disability in Newcastle, NSW with her famous dog Max Spangly. Kerri is a nominee in The Aspire Awards 2020, an activity of the Human Rights Commission, for disability activism in the arts, and has an art practice in fibre arts.
Asphyxia is an artist, writer and public speaker. Author of the much loved junior fiction series, The Grimstones, Asphyxia has also been a circus performer and puppeteer. An avid art-journaler, she who loves to share her process to help others benefit from this amazing tool for self-expression, problem-solving, planning, goal-tracking and self-esteem. Deaf since the age of three, Asphyxia learnt to sign when she was eighteen, which changed her life. She is now a Deaf activist, sharing details of Deaf experience and raising awareness of oppression of Deaf people and what we can do to change this. Her free online Auslan course ( has over 15,000 students. Asphyxia is kept busy with her small farm where she combines food growing with art – creating a magical aesthetic with plants and natural elements. Her new book, Future Girl, combines these passions.
Over a thirty-year career, Alan Close has published fiction, memoir and poetry and been a freelance feature writer for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Australian. He has published a collection of linked short stories: The Romance Of The Season, a ‘dramatised biography’: The Australian Love Letters of Raymond Chandler and his most recent book is Before You Met Me: A Memoir Of One Man’s Troubled Search For Love. He also edited the anthology Men Love Sex, a collection of stories and essays by men about love, sex and relationships. He has written widely on men and relationships in the national print media and was a columnist on men’s issues in Good Weekend magazine. He has a MA in Creative Writing from QUT and has been a tutor in Creative Writing at QUT and Southern Cross University. When not writing, he works editing and assessing manuscripts and as a writing mentor and teacher, both face to face and online. He lives in Mullumbimby with the writer Sarah Armstrong and their young daughter.