Opening Night Address: How the Past Shapes the Future
Jane McCredie, CEO
I’m really looking forward to the opening night event, featuring Alexis Wright, Bernadine Evaristo and Benjamin Law. My favourite events are those that bring together brilliant people who you might not expect to see sharing a stage, and this looks like being one of them.
It’s always a privilege to hear from Alexis Wright, whose sweeping saga, Carpentaria, gave us a new vision of what Australian stories could be. The book is a linguistic triumph, weaving together vernacular speech with passages of poetic lyricism to paint a complex picture of the Gulf region. The violent history of dispossession shadows, but never eclipses, the vigorous culture of the area’s First Peoples.
I’ve just finished Bernadine Evaristo’s Booker-winning novel, Girl, Woman, Other. Each of the 12 interlinked chapters in the book features a different character, most of them black British women, all of them captivating in their own way. The stories are smart, nuanced, sad and funny, and I can’t wait to hear Evaristo tell us more about the writing of them.
And then there’s Benjamin Law, who can be relied on to bring wit, insight and humanity to any conversation.
I can’t wait to see what the three of them create together and, as a bonus, the event will end with a performance from West Australian poet Madison Godfrey.
Opening Night Address: How the Past Shapes the Future – Tuesday 23 May
Amy Lovat, Program Manager
From Mudgee to Newcastle to Brisbane, I sometimes feel like I’ve followed Maeve Marsden’s Queerstories event series throughout the country. It never fails to be a fantastic evening balancing stories of both joy and vulnerability, and there’s always at least one speaker I haven’t heard of before.
The concept of Queerstories began as ‘There’s more to being queer than coming out and getting married’, and that’s certainly true in my experience of attending these events. Each speaker shares unique stories — sometimes of their favourite item of clothing, other times of their parents’ divorce or their transition — with laughs and tears aplenty.
I’m excited to attend Queerstories as part of the 2023 festival. This year, Australian performer Courtney Act (Shane Jenek) will share their story, as well as US writer Daniel Lavery (author of one of my fave books Something That May Shock and Discredit You), Leanne Yong, Sophie Cunningham and Canadian First Nations poet Joshua Whitehead.
Queerstories – Thursday 25 May
Markus Zusak and Great Adaptations
Rowena Tuziak, Membership and Operations Manager
Markus Zusak: Bringing The Messenger to the Screen – Thursday 25 May
Great Adaptations – Saturday 27 May
Adara Enthaler, Project & Communications Officer
André Dao and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai
Rochelle Pickles, Professional Development Officer
What I love most about the Sydney Writers’ Festival is the opportunity to discover and hear from debut authors as their first book baby is released into the world. While André Dao is an experienced writer with previously published work in Meanjin, Sydney Review of Books, Griffith Review, The Monthly and more — Anam is his debut novel, released earlier this month after winning the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2021.
Anam is described as a unique blend of literary fiction and memoir, telling the story of a grandson learning his family’s history, from 1930s Hanoi, through war and displacements to Saigon, Paris, Melbourne and Cambridge.
André is joined by Vietnamese best-selling author, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, who has published twelve books in Vietnamese and English, the most recent of which is Dust Child, released in March this year. Dust Child is a contemporary fiction novel braiding together three distinct stories of inherited trauma, set during the war and in present-day Vietnam.
I’m looking forward to the authors’ discussion on the shared themes of their new books, moderated by our Boundless 2023 mentor Sheila Ngoc Pham. Both books are already receiving some fantastic reviews and I’m looking forward to picking up my copies at the festival—I might even line up for a cheeky signing.
André Dao and Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai – Friday 26 May
The Rhythm of the Word
Elliot Cameron, Membership & Administration Officer
Among the many impacts the arts has faced these past few years due to COVID, one of the biggest for me was the ramifications for Australia’s diverse and passionate spoken word scene. Truly an artform of the people, it seemed poetry slams and readings were among the quickest artforms to pivot – and indeed flourish – in the move to online performances. However, as excellent as those digital divulgences were, I have always felt the inherently autobiographical nature of spoken word demands a live audience in a way that is harder to substitute than many other artforms. There’s an immediacy at play there that is only truly communicated if the writer and the audience are in the same room.
I have been fortunate enough to experience Madison Godfrey’s work in the same room as them on several occasions, including at National Young Writers’ Festival and Bankstown Poetry Slam. I’m very much looking forward to doing so again at The Rhythm of the Word, and hearing work from their new poetry collection Dress Rehearsals, published by Allen & Unwin in March 2023.
I’ve also been fortunate enough to experience Omar Sakr’s work in person, and was thoroughly impressed by his 2019 collection The Lost Arab (UQP), which won the 2020 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Poetry. Omar has since released a debut novel, Son of Sin (Affirm Press), published in 2022, and I’m curious to see if and how this experience of publishing a novel has informed his writing for spoken word.
Madison and Omar are joined by award-winning international writers Dr Anthony Joseph, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai, and Joshua Whitehead as they share insight into the art form and perform live readings of their work.
The Rhythm of the Word – Friday 26 May
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