Sydney Writers' Festival

Sydney Writers' Festival


#SydneyWritersFestival is Australia's largest celebration of literature, stories and ideas. Every year, we bring together the world's best authors, leading public intellectuals, scientists, journalists and more. Subscribe to this channel for exclusive talks from some of our biggest events.


Simon Winchester: The Pacific  

Join bestselling author Simon Winchester in his only Sydney appearance to speak about his new biography of the Pacific Ocean, a paean to this magnificent sea of beauty, myth, and imagination. From silicon chips and surfboards, coral reefs and atom bombs to brutal dictators, fading empires and the coming collision of the world’s superpowers, The Pacific not only tells the story of an ocean but of humanity’s attempts to harness its power. Facilitated by Ross Coulthart. #SydneyWritersFestival |

Andrew O'Hagan: The Illuminations  

A few years ago Andrew O’Hagan gave one of the most memorable talks in the history of Sydney Writers’ Festival. Don’t miss Andrew in conversation with Kate Evans about his new novel, The Illuminations, long-listed for the 2015 Man Booker Prize. Andrew described meeting jihadi children in Afghanistan and ended with a beautiful anecdote about dancing cheek to cheek with an elderly woman with Alzheimers. #SydneyWritersFestival |

Roland Fletcher: On Past Futures (Curiosity Lecture Series)  

We need to understand our past to know who we are now. To deny, neglect or invent that past is risky. But in an age where presentism and instant gratification is rampant, the experience of the past is often neglected. Roland Fletcher makes the case for the past as the only reliable guide to our future.

James Boyce: How Original Sin Made the West (Curiosity Lecture Series)  

In the dying days of the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church adopted a dogma that became a foundation stone of post-imperial culture. The doctrine of original sin saw every human being as an innate sinner in need of salvation. The idea that there is something wrong with us, not because of what we do but who we are, survived the end of Christendom to become one of the more surprising pillars of the secular world.

Elizabeth Gilbert: Unearthing Creativity  

With Annie Proulx and Oprah numbered among more than 10 million fans, Elizabeth Gilbert has been a voice of inspiration for over a decade, and has enchanted readers with essays, novels, stories and memoir. At Elizabeth's sold-out talk at the Seymour Centre, she spoke with Rebecca Huntley about one of the great human questions – how to live a creative life.

Amy Bloom: Lucky Us  

Amy Bloom’s Lucky Us is brilliant, deeply moving and fantastically funny, from its first opening hook to its exquisite resolution. Lucky Us follows half-sisters Eva and Iris as they leave behind their rag-tag family and embark on a journey full of unexpected turns, taking them from Brooklyn to London. Picked as a top book of the year by the Washington Post, Lucky Us cements Amy’s reputation as one of the most gifted literary voices of our time.

Christine Keneally: What Do Genes Have to Do With It?  

What really makes us human? And how can we learn from the past if we don’t understand the forces that shape us? In her highly entertaining book The Invisible History of the Human Race, Christine Kenneally brings together biology, psychology and history to examine the role genetics and culture play in developing identity. Does DNA tell the whole story? Is race really so clear cut? In this podcast Christine talks to presenter of ABC RN’s Life Matters Natasha Mitchell about her surprising – and sometimes unsettling – discoveries.

Claire Tomalin: On Charles Dickens The Inimitable  

Charles Dickens was the most famous novelist in the world in his lifetime, making readers laugh, cry and rise up indignantly against wrongdoing. He was adored and revered for his goodness. England’s pre-eminent literary biographer, Claire Tomalin, has devoted two books to Dickens. In this podcast Claire explores Dickens’ writing and life in a special talk, followed by a conversation with Susan Wyndham.

Hugh Mackay: The Art of Belonging  

Do we need communities? Or do communities need us? In The Art of Belonging Hugh Mackay argues that the answer to both questions is yes. This is the beautiful symmetry of the human condition. One of the country’s most trusted social researchers, Hugh delves into the antisocial behaviours enabled and encouraged by technology, and wonders whether there’s a better way to live our modern lives. Can we learn how to nurture our communities again?

Steve Toltz: Quicksand  

Australian Steve Toltz burst onto the international scene in 2008 with his acclaimed A Fraction of the Whole, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. He followed with Quicksand, a novel about risks that takes risks. It’s funny, dark, affirming and compelling on every page, and confirms Steve as one of our most original and insightful novelists. In this podcast, Steve talks about finding inspiration in all the wrong places with Caroline Baum.

5 x 15: Adam Liaw, Michael Connelly, Kate McClymont, Omar Musa and Richard Tognetti  

Sydney Writers' Festival live storytelling smash hit, 5 x 15, featured another dazzling line up in 2015. Hosted by Diana Jenkins, 5 x 15 features five speakers without scripts and just 15 minutes apiece. Richard Tognetti AO, the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s celebrated lead violinist, ignites the lawless soul of the del Gesù; internationally bestselling author Michael Connelly reveals how witnessing a crime in his youth became his creative life sentence; investigative journalist Kate McClymont (He Who Must Be Obeid) practises the art of lie detection; poet and rap sensation Omar Musa talks rivers, history and place; while Australia’s favourite chef, Adam Liaw explores the importance of food stories.

Harrison Young: On Being Surprised (Curiosity Lecture Series)  

Investment banker Harrison Young has done business in twenty countries and helped found firms in Bahrain and Beijing. So much airplane time has allowed him to write Partners and Submission, which he describes as “love stories with the sex left in.” In this podcast, Harrison discusses his colourful process for creating characters and getting words down on the page in just the right style and order. If you lose your path, the rhythm of your prose will let you know the way back.

Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman in conversation  

In November 2015, the power couple of American literature, Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, interviewed each other on family and creativity at Sydney's Seymour Centre. In this extract of that conversation, they talk about how their partnership extends across various aspects of their lives, from raising children, to making marriage work and balancing their literary endeavours.

Geraldine Brooks: The Secret Chord  

In this special event for Sydney Writers' Festival Geraldine Brooks, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of People of the Book, Year of Wonders and March, spoke with Kate Evans about her latest novel. The Secret Chord reimagines the story of King David's extraordinary rise to power and fall from grace. In a life that arcs from obscurity to fame, David is by turns hero and traitor, glamorous young tyrant and beloved king, murderous despot and remorseful, diminished patriarch. Filled with both violence and tenderness, The Secret Chord is a compelling portrait of a morally complex hero by one of Australia’s most celebrated literary icons.

Andrew Ford: On Elvis's Hips (Curiosity Lecture Series)  

Musicians are always hoping to make their music authentic. Sometimes in pursuit of this they rough it up; perhaps they draw on folk music, maybe they shout more. But they also start to dwell on first and last things, on birth and death – and on sex. This is where Elvis's hips come in. Explore our musical fundamentals with presenter of ABC RN’s The Music Show Andrew Ford, composer, broadcaster and author of Earth Dances: Music in Search of the Primitive.

Rebecca Sheehan: On Pop (Curiosity Lecture Series)  

Popular music is an arena of play—with identity, with power and resistance, and with despair and joy. Debates on pop often come down to a division between authenticity and artifice: the most authentic musician is idealised as a heterosexual white male rocker and the most artificial musician is a female or a queer male pop artist. Taking the recent Beyoncé versus Beck Grammy controversy as an illustration of this conflict, Rebecca Sheehan talks about how pop’s stakes, far from trivial, are personal, social and political.

The Golden Age of Television  

Long gone are the days when you could write off television as an artless laugh-tracked distraction. The halcyon years are now, and if you’re not critiquing the sex scenes on Girls or mapping the machinations of Frank Underwood, where have you been? Is serialised cable drama threatening to usurp the novel’s place as the most sophisticated storytelling platform? Has the fine art of binge-watching changed everything? Debra Oswald, Daniel Mendelsohn and Shaun Micallef spent a commercial-free hour with Benjamin Law at the 2015 Sydney Writers' Festival, discussing whether television is now mandatory for our cultural education.

Alan Cumming: Not My Father's Son  

You may know him as an actor, but Alan Cumming is also a singer, producer, director and author. His New York Times bestselling memoir Not My Father’s Son is the gripping story of his complicated relationship with his father, and the mystery of his grandfather’s untimely death. Suspenseful, moving, brave and honest, it’s a book about finding good through bad and light beyond darkness. Alan is interviewed by David Marr.

Caitlin Doughty: Smoke Gets In Your Eyes  

As a death professional and star of the cult hit YouTube series, Ask a Mortician Caitlin Doughty is a skilled practitioner in flouting taboos. Her New York Times bestselling memoir Smoke Gets In Your Eyes chronicles her fixation with mortality and the highs and lows of working at a crematorium. It’s a coming-of-age story, with a dash of eventual oblivion thrown in. Caitlin speaks to Linda Jaivin about turning a morbid curiosity into her life’s work, and why it’s so important to face fear with frankness.

Daniel Mendelsohn: A Personal Odyssey  

Celebrated critic and classicist Daniel Mendelsohn’s upcoming book, An Odyssey: a Father, a Son and an Epic, is a potent mixture of memoir, literary criticism and travelogue. It is a moving account of Daniel’s reading of The Odyssey with his ailing father, first in the classroom, then on their travels around the Mediterranean in the footsteps of Odysseus. Daniel reads from the book and speaks to Susan Wyndham about fathers, forefathers, literature and travel.

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