At last year’s inaugural Newcastle Writers Festival, opening speaker Miriam Margolyes nicknamed Rosemarie Milsom the ‘Engine of Thrust’ – referring to the energy and passion Rosemarie brings to her role as festival organiser.
The Newcastle Herald journalist and University of Newcastle alum answers our questions this week:
Tell us about your background, including what drew you into journalism?
I was born in Bosnia in a town north-west of Sarajevo. My father’s family are Bosnian Muslims and my mother is Australian. I came to Australia when I was three months old and grew up in Sydney. My family moved to Newcastle when I was 17 and I completed my schooling, university studies and journalism cadetship here before returning to Sydney in 2000 to work at The Sun-Herald.
Family brought me back to Newcastle six years ago. I have been a feature writer at The Newcastle Herald for the past three years. I was attracted to journalism from the age of 15. I have always enjoyed writing and meeting people: journalism also struck me as an avenue for helping people and exploring important issues.
What are you passionate about? How can others in the community get involved?
I am passionate about reading and writing, promoting Australian authors and boosting literacy among children, which is why I started the Newcastle Writers Festival last year. In 2014, we have a three-day program for children in the lead-up to the main festival weekend on April 5 and 6. I welcome volunteers with open arms. Also, if local writers have books or projects they are working on, they can contact me and we can talk about how they can participate in the 2015 festival.
Do you draw on any people or resources for inspiration?
I admire fellow journalists who stick their necks out – sometimes putting their lives on the line – to expose wrong-doing and injustice. I have a deep respect for photographer James Nachtwey and journalists Janine di Giovanni, Antony Loewenstein, Wendy Bacon, Kate MyClymont and my Newcastle Herald colleague Joanne McCarthy.
What has been the most unexpected aspect of your work so far?
How endlessly interesting it is, and how you become better at it with age and experience.
This is your second year as organiser of the Newcastle Writers Festival. Can you tell us a little about how it all came about?
I am an avid reader and have been a long-time book reviewer. I edited a Sun-Herald section that included book reviews and was able to build great relationships with a number of publishers. I have also interviewed a variety of authors over the years – everyone from Jeanette Winterson to Tom Keneally – and attended writers festivals here and overseas. It struck me that Newcastle had the talent to sustain its own festival. Because of my contacts in publishing and my experience as a journalist and editor, I felt I could possibly get a festival off the ground – with a lot of support, of course.
What do you hope will be achieved by what you are doing, and what did you realise personally?
I hope a cross-section of Hunter residents, from five-year-olds to 85-year-olds, are inspired to attend the festival to listen to a lively exchange of ideas, to learn about a new book or author, and to be brave enough to write something of their own. I also hope that the festival flourishes and becomes a popular fixture in the city’s cultural calendar.
Personally, I have realised that if you are willing to put energy, time and ideas into a project, you can get it off the ground and like-minded people will join the ride.
What has been your proudest achievement to date?
I had my first son when I was an undergraduate student. I was determined to complete my studies and forge a career. Isaac is now 22 and is about to start a business degree at the University of Newcastle after dealing with a serious back injury that forced him to give up his dream of being a carpenter. When he received his university offer, I felt a tremendous sense of pride.
What would be your dream project?
Being a guest program director for the Ubud Writers Festival, or the Sydney Opera House’s annual Festival of Ideas.
What does the future hold?
More stories, fresh ideas and a much-needed holiday with the kids near a beach but a long way from a computer.
What’s your favourite Newcastle neighbourhood and why?
My old stomping ground – Newcastle East. I like the historical architecture, the spectacular location and the growing number of interesting eateries and bars cropping up.
Can you name a local hero?
Sisters Diane Santleban and Betty Brown who run Penola House and assist refugees who have been resettled in Newcastle. They are advocates, driving teachers and counsellors. Both women do an amazing job.
What do you look forward to doing most in Newcastle in summer?
Swimming at Mayfield Pool, hot chips with tomato sauce and early morning walks from Nobbys Beach up through King Edward Park.
Lingering in any of the great city cafes and visiting Newcastle Art Gallery and Newcastle Museum with my two youngest children.
Where and what was the last greatest meal you had in Newcastle?
Subo for my wedding anniversary. Their five-course set menu is restrained, yet sumptuous. It is an intimate setting and co-owner Suzie Vincent is a friendly, attentive host.
What is your favourite getaway destination?
Belongil Beach, Byron Bay.
Tell us your number one Newcastle insider’s tip?
Walk from Islington Park into Honeysuckle along the Throsby Creek and Newcastle Harbour waterfront. It’s urban but picturesque. I like watching silvery fish jump out of the water.
Do you know someone in our region making a difference? Let us know! email@example.com