Staff Picks / Sydney Writers’ Festival


With the Sydney Writers’ Festival just one week away, the Writing NSW staff share the events they’re most looking forward to. Have a read to discover what to keep an eye out for!


Jane McCredie, CEO

I can’t resist a literary hoax so I can’t wait to hear New Yorker writer Ian Parker talking about his expose of best-selling thriller writer Dan Mallory. As Parker revealed earlier this year, Mallory took a creative approach, not just to his fiction, but also to his own biography, allegedly faking aspects of his work history, academic qualifications, mental illness and family tragedy. I’m also looking forward to hearing American journalist Beth Macy talk about her book, Dopesick, about the wave of prescription opioid addiction that is sweeping the Western world. And, last but definitely not least, I’m expecting to be shocked and moved by Iranian-Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani speaking live from the immigration detention camp on Manus Island about the prize-winning book he somehow managed to write on his mobile phone, No Friend but the Mountains.


Lucie Towers, acting Membership and Development Officer

As always, I’m ☆ star-jumping for joy ☆ in anticipation of SWF Family Day. Held annually, this day of the Sydney Writers’ Festival celebrates all things ‘kids’, picture books, middle-grade and more… so you can get your silly on, your stories on, and slip on your writing cap for a full arvo of creativity. I can’t wait to climb aboard SWF’s incredibly inventive Russ the Story Bus, get excited for Rainbow Story Time, watch authors and illustrators duke it out at the Storyteller’s Battle Ground, learn to draw Macca the Alpaca with Matt Cosgrove and go Badge Making with illustrator Cheryl Orsini (pssst, I’m still sporting my sugary sweet Orsini swag from last year’s festival and I still get complimented on them). Sher Rill Ng’s painterly epic, Our Little Inventor, is in my opinion one of the most gorgeous Aussie picture books released this year, so I personally can’t wait to see her scribbling away at The Illustration Space. Best of all… all of these events are completely free! For nicks! Zilcho! Nada! Ka-zam!


Julia Tsalis, Program Manager 

Writing Blak: This discussion led by the powerful Melissa Lucashenko will examine the ways in which indigenous writers are wresting back control of their narrative through storytelling. She will be joined by poet Evelyn Araluen, political commentator Nayuka Gorrie, and Tasmanian author Adam Thompson.

An Irrevocable Condition: Christos Tsiolkas joins Moreno Giovannoni, Melina Marchetta, and Melanie Cheng to consider the notion of home from the perspective of James Baldwin’s quote “perhaps home is not a place, but an irrevocable condition.” I haven’t had the chance to hear Christos Tsiolkas on a panel for some time and I’m looking forward to hearing him in discussion with this interesting collection of writers.

I’ve just finished reading Max Porter’s beautiful and magical book Lanny. I highly recommend reading the book and going to see the sessions he is appearing on at the festival.


Kate Prendergast, acting Program Officer 

I am looking forward to seeing Get Lit on the Sunday of SWF. There are many pleasant, marketable things about the talk, which copywriters have done well to appeal to a general audience – the insight it promises into the mysteries of Australian small publishing; the panellist Sam Cooney, publisher of Brow Books and sporter of great eyeware; the fact it is free. But my reason for going is displayed on the talk’s shareable thumbnail, which bears the gentle, dreamy-eyed visage of commissioning editor at Giramondo Publishing, Nick Tapper. Nick saved me from a horrible stint in content marketing back in 2015 when he and publisher Ivor Indyk offered me a (paid!!!) internship with Giramondo. He is an all-round pleasant individual, whom I enjoy teasing.

I first saw hip-hop artist and author Akala on Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, a UK panel show in which the shaggy, surreal, champion of a Scotsman puts an over-the-top controversial statement up for debate. In this episode, the statement was: “Britain is entering a golden age of racism” – addressing a new policy which threatened to deny healthcare to and deport a generation of citizenship-carrying Caribbeans who were invited to the UK decades ago. Akala’s eloquent, laid-back and sincere probing of the issue was memorable. When I saw his name on the SWF program, for Akala Natives – Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire in discussion with Sweatshop’s Michael Mohammed Ahmad no less, my attention was got.


Annie Zhang, acting Project and Communications Officer 

I am looking forward to An Irrevocable Condition because diaspora identity is a subject that is close to my heart. Home and heritage are such difficult questions and I never get tired of seeing people get up on stage and discuss their identity crises. These stories are always very complex, moving and relatable. Melina Marchetta has been a favourite writer of mine since childhood as well, so I’m very eager to hear her speak.

I happen to be in the anthology, Sweatshop Women, so I am very keen for this launch event! Winnie Dunn has edited a very powerful collection of work by women of colour writers from Western Sydney. I am full of admiration for all of the contributors and their short stories, essays and poems. There are going to be some great readings and performances on the day as well.


Claire Thompson, Communications Intern

I am looking forward to hearing Leigh Sales speak about her book, Any Ordinary Day. The book itself explores something which is innately human, overcoming hardship and finding hope and strength in the face of trials. I have so much admiration for Leigh Sales as she has had such an impressive career as a journalist and it is interesting to have an insight through Any Ordinary Day into her personal life, how she herself has found light in the dark so to speak and grown through her struggles.


Check out the events our staff mentioned for yourself!

Friday 3 May

Leigh Sales: Any Ordinary Day, Friday 3 May, 10 – 11am

An Irrevocable Condition, Friday 3 May, 11.30am – 12.30pm

Sweatshop Women, Friday 3 May, 3 – 4pm

Beth Macy: Dopesick, Friday 3 May, 3 – 4pm.

Writing Blak, Friday 3 May, 4.30 – 5.30pm

No Friend but the Mountains, Friday 3 May, 6 – 7pm.

Saturday 4 May

Ian Parker: The Talented Dan Mallory, Saturday 4 May, 10 – 11am

Akala: Natives – Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, Saturday 4 May, 11.30am – 12.30pm

Sunday 5 May

Get Lit, Sunday 5 May, 10 – 11am

Russ the Story Bus, Sunday 5 May, 10am – 4pm

Rainbow Storytime, Sunday 5 May, 10am – 4pm

Badge Making with Cheryl Orsini, Sunday 5 May, 10am – 4pm

The Illustration Space, Sunday 5 May 10am – 4pm

Storytellers’ Battle Ground! Sunday 5 May, 2.15 – 3pm

Macca the Alpaca with Matt Cosgrove, Sunday 5 May, 3.30 – 4.15pm

Please note some of these events are ticketed and could sell out, click the above links to find out more information. To see the full Sydney Writers’ Festival program head here.


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