Past Speakers

First Friday Club is a monthly event at the NSW Writers’ Centre, free and exclusive to Centre members. The Club takes place on the first Friday of every month (March-November) from 10am-11.30am. Each month a new guest speaker from the writing industry, be they author, editor, publisher, journalist, joins the club for a group conversation about writing. This session is then followed by a delicious morning tea.

In the past few years, we’ve heard from experts who’ve provided advice on everything from applying for grants to becoming a literary citizen. We’ve listed some of these fabulous speakers below.

For information about our current First Friday Club program, click here.


Speakers in 2018


April: Freelance Book Designer, Astred Hicks

Astred Hicks is a freelance book designer who has worked with most of the publishers in Australia – and a few internationally – at some point in her 12-year career as a book designer. Astred prides herself on designing beautiful books that answer her client’s briefs and the needs of their audience in creative, thoughtful and conceptual ways. Currently, she is particularly fond of hand-drawn typography and scribble illustration. Astred is a published author and the former art director of McGraw-Hill Australia and has won a number of awards. In short, Astred is a type nerd, illustrator, designer, author, craft person, former lecturer, friend, mum, daughter, vintage hoarder, and snappy dresser.


March: Head of Sales at Hachette Australia, Daniel Pilkington

Daniel merged is his life-long love of books and his extensive track-record in retail management in the Westfarmers Group into a flourishing career in the publishing industry. As Head of Sales for Hachette Australia, he has a deep understanding of the discovery process for aspiring writers and how to match published books with the most fruitful retail channels. Daniel has a particular passion for Australian fiction and is confident this field will continue to grow considering the depth of emerging talent in this genre. He is a strategic, open and motivated member of the Australian publishing community.


Speakers in 2017


November: Events Coordinator at Woollahra Libraries, Jenn Martin

Jenn Martin is a librarian and reading specialist. Jenn loves encouraging reading culture and helping people work out what to read next. She is the Events Coordinator at Woollahra Libraries and regularly works with authors and publishers to deliver public author events. She also shares reading ideas at



October: Commissioning Editor at Giramondo Publishing, Nick Tapper

Nick Tapper is Commissioning Editor at Giramondo Publishing, where he works on literary titles in fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He has a particular interest in formally challenging and genre-crossing works, and writing in translation. Outside Giramondo, he has recently edited and written introductions to the artist monographs Ngarra: The Texta Drawings and Shane Pickett: Meeyakba. Nick was previously editor of screen culture magazines Metro and Screen Education, and manager of the art book distributor Books at Manic. Outside publishing he has undertaken a wide range of work in the arts, in theatre, festivals, galleries and cinemas. His education, in literature and history, was at the University of Melbourne, University of Western Australia and University of Hong Kong.


September: Director of Literature at Australia Council for the Arts, Wenona Byrne

Wenona Byrne has worked in publishing for 11 years, the past 9 years as Rights Manager with Allen & Unwin. While at A&U Wenona worked closely with Australian authors, pitching titles to international publishers in North America, UK, Europe and Asia. Wenona worked on a number of industry and Australia Council initiatives including as a committee member for the Visiting International Publishers Program.



July: General Manager of Mudgee Readers’ Festival, Portia Lindsay

Portia Lindsay is an ex-bookseller and NSW Writers’ Centre Program Officer who now manages the Mudgee Readers’ Festival, runs communications for Orana Arts and collaborates on various other regional arts projects.



May: Sydney Review of Books editor, Catriona Menzies-Pike

Catriona Menzies-Pike is the editor of the Sydney Review of Books. She was arts editor at The Conversation website and managing editor of pioneering news and current affairs site New Matilda. Her book The Long Run is published in Australia by Affirm and in the US by Crown.



April: Publisher, editor and consultant, Joel Naoum

Joel currently runs Critical Mass, a consultancy for authors and publishers, and previously ran Pan Macmillan, Australia’s digital-first imprint Momentum. He is on the board of the NSW Writers’ Centre and in 2011 he completed the Unwin Fellowship researching digital publishing experimentation in the United Kingdom.



March: Book designer, art director and artist, Evi O

Evi O is a book designer, art director and artist. She has worked in publishing for a decade, creating award-winning books for chefs, brands and creatives internationally. Her design studio OetomoNew is based in Sydney, Australia.




Speakers in 2016


November: Lou Johnson, Co-founder of The Author People

Lou Johnson is the Co-Founder of The Author People, which launched in 2015 and is pioneering a new approach to publishing, dedicated to “Bringing Authors and People Together”. Lou’s extensive book publishing experience includes senior roles at Random House, Allen & Unwin and Simon & Schuster, where she was Managing Director 2010 – 2014. She also served as Vice-President of the Australian Publishers Association from 2012 – 2014 and was a member of the Book Industry Collaborative Council in 2013. She is currently on the board of The Stella Prize.

October: Matthew Gain, Head of Operations at Audible Australia & New Zealand

Matthew Gain is responsible for Audible’s operations across Australia and New Zealand. Matthew has worked in PR and Marketing roles for brands like Nivea, Samsung, Fitbit, Telstra and Microsoft, and has vast experience creating powerful branded content, which has been underpinned by a healthy passion for technology and storytelling. With a firm belief in the power of the voice to bring stories, ideas and characters to life, Matthew’s favourite audiobook is MATILDA by Roald Dahl, narrated by Kate Winslet.


September: Jill Eddington and lina Kastoumis from Australia Council for the Arts

Jill Eddington is Director of Literature at the Australia Council for the Arts. In this role she is responsible for providing knowledge and strategic leadership to the Australia Council on the Literature sector. Previously Jill has worked widely in the arts. During this time Jill was at the forefront of the development of a thriving Australian writers festival scene, including seven years as the Director of the Byron Bay Writers Festival and the Northern Rivers Writers’ Centre.


lina Kastoumis has worked collaboratively as a writer across screen, digital and live mediums. Over 20 years of practice lina has also directed/devised performance, programs and workshops for young and emerging artists at companies such as ICE,  Powerhouse Youth Theatre and Urban Theatre Projects. lina currently works in the Artists Services section of  the Australia Council for the Arts.


August: Author and Travel Writer Walter Mason

Walter Mason is a travel writer and blogger, and the author of Destination Saigon (2010) and Destination Cambodia (2013).  He has trained in meditation traditions in Thailand, Taiwan, Cambodia and Vietnam, and teaches courses in Buddhist cultural history and the spiritual traditions of Vietnam. You can find Walter’s blog here.


July: Publicist and Author Manager, Brendan Fredericks

Brendan Fredericks has championed authors and their books to media, festival directors, booksellers and readers since 2006. After studying English Literature and Creative Writing at The University of Sydney, he got a job as a bookseller with Angus & Robertson, then landed a role as publicist with Hachette. He then headed over to Bloomsbury for the Publicity Manager gig. Brendan has worked with many high profile authors, toured around Australia and internationally. His former in-house authors include, Elizabeth Gilbert, Germaine Greer, Robyn Davidson, Richard Ford, Tim Cope, Paul West and Jeff Lindsay. He now runs his own freelance publicist and literary agency, BFredericksPR. Find out more about him here:


June: Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA), Juliet Rogers

Juliet Rogers has had a career in the book publishing industry in both New Zealand and Australia. She was Managing Director of Random House NZ, a position she held for some nine years before migrating across the Tasman and becoming Managing Director of Random House Australia. From 2002 to 2011, Juliet was CEO of Murdoch Books and since leaving that role has been running her own business, The Wild Colonial Company, publishing books, high end gift stationery and mentoring and consulting within the wider book industry. Julie chaired Booksellers New Zealand for a number of years and was President of the Australian Publishers Association for three years until 2009. She has also been Chair of the book industry charity, The Indigenous Literacy Foundation for the past 5 years.


May: Bookseller Amelia Lush

Amelia Lush is the Manager of Better Read than Dead in Newtown, Sydney, and the specialist children’s bookseller and buyer for Better Read Kids. She has worked in independent bookstores in Sydney for over eight years and has a great love of Australian authors and children’s literature.


April: Author and digital marketing professional Patrick Lenton

Patrick Lenton is an author and a digital marketing professional. His book of short stories is called A Man Made Entirely of Bats. He currently works at Momentum Books, and has a digital marketing consultancy for authors called Town Crier. You can find him on Twitter @PatrickLenton


March: Deputy Managing Editor of Penguin Random House, Catherine Hill

Catherine Hill has been an editor for more than 15 years. She started her career as an editorial assistant at Weidenfeld & Nicolson in London, then moved to Little, Brown as an editor, before leaving for Australia and Random House in 2004. She is now Deputy Managing Editor of Penguin Random House in Sydney.


Speakers in 2015

March: Hachette publisher Robert Watkins

Robert Watkins is commissioning editor for adult fiction and non-fiction at Hachette Australia, and has been working in the Australian book industry for 18 years. Throughout his career he’s worked across sales, marketing and publicity – which has given him a wide perspective on what books have big commercial appeal. He’s primarily interested in publishing non-fiction with a leaning towards young, contemporary voices – but is also a big fan of contemporary fiction with a real Australian edge.

May: Book designer Zoe Sadokierski

Zoë Sadokierski has designed more than 250 books for various Australian publishers and has been awarded six times at the Australian Book Design Awards. Zoë lectures in the School of Design at the University of Technology Sydney where she runs a research studio investigating the evolution of books in the digital age. She writes a column on book culture and reading for The Conversation, and is Vice President of the Australian Book Designers Association (ABDA). In 2015 Zoë established Bookwork Press , a niche publisher of illustrated essays and artist’s books.  You can find out more about Zoe at her website.

June: NewSouth Executive Publisher and author Phillipa McGuiness

Phillipa McGuinness has been grappling with copyright issues as a publisher for twenty years, at both Cambridge University Press and NewSouth Publishing, and has published a number of awardwinning trade and academic books.

July: Freelance and ghostwriter Adeline Teoh

Adeline Teoh is a freelance ghostwriter, journalist and content developer by day and a blogger, novelist and zinester by night - though not in chronological order. She knows an awful lot about project management, surveillance and tea.  She is also media professional who specialises in turning business, project management and education insight into clear, concise and engaging articles. She has more than 12 years experience writing about business, with particular focus on small to medium enterprises and international business issues, and has had an affinity with the project management sector since 2007. Her special interest is in how education can shape society, from policy to implementation.

August: Children’s book publisher at Lothian (Hachette), Suzanne O’Sullivan

Suzanne, O’Sullivan is the commissioning editor for Lothian Children’s books, the children’s imprint of Hachette Australia. She has worked in the book industry for over a decade, and has spent most of that time in children’s books, editing everything from board books to YA/crossover fiction. At Lothian she publishes authors and illustrators including Lachlan Creagh, Mandy Foot, Ursula Dubosarsky, Annie White, Mark Wilson, Peter Gouldthorpe, Cheryl Orsini, Eleanor Coombe, and Felicity Gardner.

September: Book editor and publishing consultant Alexandra Nahlous

Alexandra Nahlous has eighteen years’ editorial and publishing experience. She began her editing career at Lansdowne Publishing, then moved to Allen & Unwin, where she remained for the next nine years. In 2009 Alex won the 2009/2010 Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship and she spent three months in New York working with publishers and exploring the world of women’s fiction, which is her passion. On her return she moved to Pan Macmillan, where she published commercial fiction. Alex is now a freelance editor and publishing consultant working with a variety of Australian publishers and agents, including Penguin Random House, Allen & Unwin, HarperCollins Publishers, ABC Books, Harlequin Enterprises, Hardie Grant Books, Simon & Schuster and Melbourne University Press.

November: Literary Agent Gaby Naher

Prior to establishing The Naher Agency in May 2008, director, Gaby Naher, worked as a literary agent, publicist and bookseller in Sydney, London and New York. She is the author of four books and has a Doctorate of Creative Arts.



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