Staff Picks / Sydney Writers’ Festival 2021


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


Jane McCredie, CEO

I’m looking forward to hearing Emily Maguire in conversation with Ceridwen Dovey. I’m a big admirer of Emily’s writing and the idea of a novel about hoarding disorder is intriguing. Emily always researches her work thoroughly and writes with sensitivity and nuance about complex topics, avoiding the stereotypes that too often appear in portrayals of mental illness. I’m also hoping to catch Rob Brooks talking about AI and intimacy. Rob is a professor of evolution at UNSW who studies sex for a living and always has interesting things to say about our most intimate relationships.


Rowena Tuziak, Membership and Operations Manager

Truth be told, my festival picks are satisfying a few of my brain crushes. First up, The Feminists are Coming. This would have lured me in on the title alone, but it also happens to have a brilliant panel line up: Two-time Walkley winner Virginia Trioli; award-winning author Laurie Penny; and hosted by author Sisonke Msimang. My next pick is Krissy Kneen & Rick Morton. Rick Morton will share thoughts on his memoir, My Year of Living Vulnerably, about the 12 months following his PTSD diagnosis, while Krissy Kneen will discuss her memoir, The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen: Travels with My Grandmother’s Ashes, and its reflections on identity and exile. Hosted by the ever-erudite Benjamin Law, my expectations are high! And lastly, if you’re looking for a laugh and a bedtime story, you can’t go past Story Club.


Julia Tsalis, Program Manager 

Within Reach Gala
How could I resist an event celebrating the power of writing to generate empathy, imagination and action with some of our best writers such as Tony Birch, Christos Tsiolkas, Ellen van Neervan, Alison Lester (I love Magic Beach), plus one of the very few sportsmen I would want to listen to, the remarkable Adam Goodes. 

Whose Country Is it Anyway
The opportunity to hear Melissa Lucashenko, Tara June Winch and Nardi Simpson discuss writing Country with Nayuka Gorrie is something not to be missed. 

I consider David Malouf to be one of our greatest writers. His books Ransom and An Imaginary Life are among my favourite books. I’m so grateful to have the chance to hear him give the Closing Address. 


Ashley Kalagian Blunt, Senior Program Officer 

Griffith Review 72: States of Mind
Griffith Review editor Ashley Hay, an essayist and novelist, asks how ‘different places and times in history influence the characters we create – in fiction and for ourselves?’ and GR contributors Lech Blaine, Kathryn Heyman and Masako Fukui discuss, exploring imagination, storytelling and memory. Blaine’s debut memoir Car Crash is out now, as is Heyman’s memoir Fury.

Ceridwen Dovey & Emily Maguire in Conversation
Two powerhouse Australian novelists discuss their latest works with Bridie Jabour, especially exciting as Emily Maguire teaches Writing NSW’s Year of the Novel course. Her latest novel, Love Objects, is an exploration of hoarding disorder, and how shame and loneliness impact our lives. This is sure to be an incisive conversation about the craft of writing and the triumphs and traumas of being human.


Martyn Reyes, Project and Communications Officer 

Literature and Racism: It’s not often we get to hear conversations around literature and race by those actually impacted, especially in Australia. Presented in partnership with Sweatshop, a literacy movement from Western Sydney, Writing and Racism will see Michael Mohammed Ahmad in discussion with a panel entirely made up of writers of colour. It’s bound to educate, confront and challenge audience members.

Guwayu – For All Times: Not many Australians know that there’s more than 250 indigenous languages in Australia. Guwayu – For All Times, is a poetry collection featuring 12 First Nations languages, from 36 First Nations poets. In this event, you’ll get to hear from contributors Ellen van Neerven, Nardi Simpson, Kirli Saunders and Joel Davison, in conversation with ABC Radio National’s Daniel Browning.


Claire Thompson, Program Officer

I’m so excited that Sydney Writers’ Festival is able to go ahead in person this year. I’m looking forward to so many different events including Sam van Zweden: On Working With the Dog You’ve Got. I love dogs, and I am very interested in writing which explores mental health, so I think it will be great to hear Sam van Zweden talk about the mental health lessons she has garnered from her dog. I’m also interested in hearing Bri Lee in conversation with Veronica Heritage-Gorrie and Kathryn Heyman, as they discuss their memoirs of adversity and perseverance.


Check out the events our staff mentioned for yourself!

Thursday 29 April

Griffith Review 72: States of Mind, Thursday 29 April, 10-11am

Veronica Heritage-Gorrie & Kathryn Heyman, Thursday 29 April, 2-3pm

Guwayu – For All Times, Thursday 29 April, 4-5pm

Rob Brooks: On AI and Intimacy, Thursday 29 April, 11:15-11:45am

Friday 30 April

Ceridwen Dovey & Emily Maguire in Conversation, Friday 30 April, 10-11am

Sam van Zweden: On Working With the Dog You’ve Got, Friday 30 April, 1:15-1:45pm

The Feminists Are Coming, Friday 30 April, 6-7pm

Within Reach Gala, Friday 30 April, 8:30-10pm

Saturday 1 May

Whose Country Is It Anyway?, Saturday 1 May, 12:30-1:30pm

Krissy Kneen & Rick Morton in Conversation, Saturday 1 May, 4:30-5:30pm

Sunday 2 May

Writing and Racism, Sunday 2 May, 10-11am

Closing Night Address: David Malouf, Sunday 2 May, 6-7pm

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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