TiNA starts early for me this year. On Wednesday night, I play Settlers of Catan with my boyfriend, an old friend from school and someone I know from the internet. I invited Twitter to our house for dinner and Kaitlyn answered the call. Sitting around my kitchen table we laugh and make puns. It should be more awkward, this strange collection of people but it isn’t, of course it isn’t, because this is TiNA. One of the advantages of living in Newcastle during TiNA is being able to do things like this, to invite people you barely know into your home to eat curry.
The strange thing about living in Newcastle though is that TiNA never really feels like it happens here; it occurs in some mythical parallel dimension beyond the reach of real life. This Newcastle doesn’t feel like the city that I live in for the rest of the year. That same newness, the possibility that invades people during that weekend imposes itself on the city as well. Buildings that, for the rest of the year, are just boarded up windows and dusty rooms become filled with people and chatter and thoughts. The trickle of pedestrians that usually flow through the Hunter Street Mall becomes a steady stream of excited visitors.
That first day, the Thursday, is always filled with moments that encompass that optimism. My Twitter feed is overwhelmed by tweets about packing, airports and train stations. There’s this feeling that everyone I know is converging, as they do every year on this place.
Sitting on the floor in a blacked-out bar, crammed together with people I know and people I kind of know and people I haven’t met yet, I find myself getting all dewy eyed. The launch of NYWF isn’t really when the whole thing starts but there’s still a sense of occasion to the official ribbon cutting. There aren’t many moments during the festival when everyone (or most of everyone) comes together in a single room.
I’m an NYWF veteran now (this is my fifth year) and I do envy those who are here for the first time. I know a lot of the people at the festival now which is lovely but there was a magic to walking into the meet and greet alone and unattached. I miss that a little. This year, when Voiceworks asks us to talk to someone we don’t know, I turn around and have trouble finding an unfamiliar face. Hanging in the air now there are the ghosts of TiNA’s past. 
Later on Thursday evening we sit in Hamburger Haven eating chips and talking about previous festivals. It’s so hard not comparing every moment to another moment, wondering where it might fit in our lists of all time NYWF moments. It shouldn’t be about the past, even though it’s ready to fall into those memories, lovely as they are. There are days ahead of us, new friends to meet and new experiences to have. That is, after all, what the festival is all about.  
I’m going to find new moments this year. 
This weekend I’m blogging during National Young Writer’s Festival as a part of The Press Room. For more great content from the festival, head over to the site.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year