This year, the National Young Writers’ Festival is bursting out of awkward adolescence into adulthood. Going strong since 1998, the festival has been a rite of passage for many Australian writers, with Benjamin Law, Marieke Hardy, Clementine Ford and Lawrence Leung just a small sample of esteemed NYWF alumni. As with most 16-year-olds, the program's loaded with firsts and plenty of late-night experimentation.

Lorelei Vashti, Ellen van Neerven and Dan Ilic get nostalgic, sharing their very personal best and worst memories. Find out that you can judge a book by its cover, as multi-skilled editors show us how good design can enhance the written word. If you've ever been a little clouded as to how you can become emotionally attached to HBO and AMC's malevolent leading men – you’ll want to check out the panel, Tony Soprano is Dead.

Those looking for a more left-of-field experience may want to gain writing advice from Max Quinn, or take an insider’s look into the publishing industry with a crew of experienced editors. There'll also be workshops on pitching, short fiction, animation and much more.

Angela Bennetts, who shares the NYWF co-directorship with successful writer Antonia Hayes, says that because the festival takes place in sunny Newcastle every Labour Day long weekend, it has a unique holiday, school-camp vibe: "People bond, drink beer, think thoughts and leave changed forever."

Bennetts’ fond memories of NYWF include swapping a story for a banana ashtray and being inspired by panels that were so ahead of their time, she didn’t even really understand them. We’d take this talented lady’s advice and start organising a Newcastle road trip ASAP.

National Young Writers’ Festival runs from October 3 to 6. Take a look at the full program at 2013.youngwritersfestival.org.