We’re deep into literary festival time of year and coming up fast, from the 24th August to 2nd September, is the Melbourne Writers Festival with new artistic director Marieke Hardy at the helm. Its theme is ‘a matter of life and death’ and there is a lot to go see, spread over a number of new venues. As I read the program, I tried to narrow my picks down to ten and I just couldn’t – so thirteen it is! The following session blurbs in italics are taken from the MWF website.
Speculative Futures: Writing Tactics for Survival
Join scriptwriter Michele Lee, epidemiologist Jodie McVernon and writer Ellen van Neerven, all involved in the Arts House Refuge project, looking at the ways in which writing will inform our approach to future disasters and frame artistic responses to climate change. With Emily Sexton.
Note: As I’ve said before, I’m enjoying Australian speculative fiction a lot at the moment. The subjects authors disseminate through it aren’t ‘easy’, but they are important. Our planet – our lives – are at stake.
The Personal is Political: Bri Lee & Zoya Patel
Authors of two astonishing and raw debut memoirs, Bri Lee and Zoya Patel, discuss the implications of writing on a subject close to your heart, and the way that the personal can be used as a framework to explore systemic issues. With Shu-Ling Chua.
Note: Bri and Zoya are two exciting emerging authors and this is a great opportunity to hear them talk about their new books.
How I Survived: Anna Krien & Benjamin Law
Authors and journalists Anna Krien and Benjamin Law are not only two of Australia’s most acclaimed young writers, they’re also long-time BFFs. They’ll discuss how they survived Krien’s motherhood challenges, and their ongoing commitment to support one another through creative darkness.
Note: As this very blog was born from a post-partum mental health crisis and my attempt to work through that, you can understand me when I say this topic is close to my heart.
Ideas Hospital: Anatomy of a Short Story
Join creative ‘doctor’ Cate Kennedy (The Taste of River Water, The World Beneath) in the Ideas Hospital installation space for a workshop on the anatomy and inner workings of a short story.
Note: What writer would pass up the chance to join short story master Cate Kennedy? Oh – and it is FREE. I can’t go as I’ve got something else that day – the agonies of choice!
Staged: Surviving the Apocalypse
Are you prepared for the looming collapse of civilisation? Join national treasure First Dog on the Moon for this one-dog live performance, answering all your tactical questions about what to do in a dystopian hellscape. Warning: contains singing and dancing.
Note: I’ve seen Andrew Marlton – aka First Dog on the Moon – before and his performances are wonderfully entertaining, clever and funny. The blurb does advise the performance is for mature audiences. Like above, I can’t make this either. Make sure you do!
Co-author of Game Changers, Leena van Deventer is an award-winning game developer and writer. In this interactive workshop, she will help you to collectively write a story to turn into a brand new game.
Note: This is a kids & teens session and I know of at least one child in this household who’ll be first in line at the door for this.
Liner Notes Live: Nevermind
The iconic, raucous, spoken word cabaret is back at MWF – this time adapting seminal album Nevermind by Nirvana. Featuring a line-up including writers, comedians, spoken-word artists, live performers and a band, this eclectic group gather to breathe oxygen into Cobain’s masterwork.
Note: I still can’t get over how Nirvana is now played on the classics FM 104.3 station. Wasn’t I just a teenager, wearing my flannels, watching them on Rage? Oh, I wasn’t? That was 25 years ago? Yikes. Anyway, this session includes a favourite of mine: Chris Fleming.
Emily Nussbaum: Culture, Criticism & TV Today
Emily Nussbaum has won a large and devoted international readership by giving contemporary television the incisive, sophisticated and entertaining criticism it deserves. Join The New Yorker’s brilliant TV critic for a conversation about art, culture and storytelling and screen. With Bhakthi Puvanenthiran.
Note: Nussbaum is one of the best critics in the world. Full stop. The end.
Celebrated science-lovers look heavenwards for answers and creative inspiration. Join Upulie Divisekera and Amie Kaufman for a night of cerebral celebration and answers to the ethereal conundrums that keep us all awake at night. With Leena van Deventer.
Note: That first sentence was enough of a hook, but when I saw Upulie, Amie and Leena’s names? Sold.
In Praise of the Feline
‘There are two means of refuge from the misery of life – music and cats.’ So wrote Albert Schweitzer, and these passionate feline advocates agree. Join Helen Brown, Maria Dahvana Headley, Myles Loughran and Racerage for a literary purr. With Helen Brown.
Note: All it takes is a quick look at my Instagram feed and you’ll see we’re a cat family. Team cats! All the way! I hope they talk about how Charles Dickens turned his dead cat’s paw into a letter opener.
Book Club: John Safran
Join documentary-maker John Safran for a deeper look at cult horror classic The Exorcist by American writer William Peter Blatty, and its longstanding legacy through being adapted into one of the greatest supernatural films of all time. Ticket price includes refreshments.
Note: I’ve been thinking it’s high time I pulled out my copy of The Exorcist again and here’s as good a reason as any. It’s one of the most profoundly affecting books (and movies) I’ve ever read/seen and I’ve love to be a part of a 90-min long discussion about it.
Sacred Texts: The Book That Made Me a Feminist
The path to feminism often begins with the powerful act of discovering the right text at the right time. Feminist writers Neko Case, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Michelle Law, Hollie McNish and Emily Nussbaum nominate the novel that set them alight.
Note: I can’t wait to get more reading recommendations!
Commit to your literary passions and ink a book to your skin. Twice-winner of the Doug Moran portrait prize Leslie Rice and his team of experienced tattoo artists from LDF Tattoos provide literary-themed ink for Festival-goers.
Note: Okay, this one? THIS ONE got me excited. Here’s a chance to complete one of my Living List goals – ‘Get a literary tattoo’. OMG. I might have to make some enquiries…
Ticket Sales are available now. There are 5 and 10 passes available which give savings on individually-ticketed standard events, although those are also available. There are also plenty of free events. Bring it on!
What are you excited to see?