Top of my list to see at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival (tickets for the May 14 to 20 event are on sale now) are former head of MI5 and now novelist and Man Booker Prize judge Stella Rimington and former CIA interrogator Glenn Carle.
I could never be a spy, but can’t get enough of insights into their professions (Spooks, anyone?).
Among the big events I’m saving up to attend is the lunch marking the presentation of the inaugural Stella Prize for the best book of any genre by an Australian woman writer (May 18, 12pm). Wendy Harmer is hosting, and will be joined by Tara Moss, Di Morrissey, Anne Summers, Anita Heiss, Anna Krien and Sophie Cunningham.
Heiss’s session the day before, Am I Black Enough For You, looks a cracker too. She’ll be talking about her new book, written in response to Andrew Bolt’s infamous “White is the new black” column.
Cunningham will be talking about her writing life to open a day long session on Thursday, May 17, entitled The Forest for the Trees: Writing and Publishing in 2012. She’ll then chair a panel on what it takes to get published. In the first afternoon session, Australian publishers Margaret Seale (Random House), Sue Hines (Allen & Unwin) and Alison Green (Pantera Press) will discuss 2012’s challenges and opportunities with Picador UK publisher Paul Baggaley.
That’ll be followed by a session on the importance of literary journals, which leads into the ebookish session of the festival, “Off the Beaten Track: Digital and Other Ways Forward”. Former Booku.com blogger Joel Naoum, of Pan Macmillan digital imprint Momentum, will discuss recent industry developments with digital publishing consultant Anna Maguire, of Digireado, Elizabeth Weiss, of Allen & Unwin, and David Henley, of Xou Creative.
The day wraps up with a session on the year ahead with HarperCollins publisher Shona Martyn, literary agent Sophie Hamley, Shearers proprietor Barbara Horgan (who appears to be the only bookseller on the festival program) and Cunningham.
All this for $35. OK, so maybe I won’t have to save up for that one. The Australian Book Industry Awards dinner is a little more expensive at $220 a ticket, but you won’t find a better way to gain insight into what (and who) makes the industry tick than attending this joint publishing and bookselling industry event. It’s on the Friday night, from 7pm.
Many of the same bookish types will be at the 60th Book Design Awards on the Thursday evening. Tickets are $77.
There are several events related to journalism and social media I’d like to attend, but I’m locking myself away at the State Library for some workshops instead this year. The first, on the Friday morning, looks at Short Fiction in the Age of e-Publication. Author Rodney Hall will be looking at tailoring writing for e-delivery. No doubt there will be some tips and tricks to help me with my research on and publishing of longform journalism and short non-fiction in ebook form. You never know, I might pull a couple of old short stories out of the bottom drawer too.
That afternoon, Toni Jordan will be exploring the essentials of cool chick lit. And yes, there is such a thing, and the writing of it is not as easy as you’d imagine (otherwise we’d all have written several bestselling works of commercial fiction already).
When I was a twentysomething Sydney-sider, I used to dream of landing a spot on the list of The Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelists, and attended the presentation to the winners at the festival each year. Given absolutely zero novel-writing went on between festivals, it was never going to happen. The closest I got was joining the judging panel for the award a few years back. SMH literary editor and founder of the event Susan Wyndham will be on hand to announce this year’s winners on Sunday, May 20, at 2.30pm.
It’s the ability to commit to creating a long piece of writing, and to seeing the project through, that I admire most about young writers. If you’ve ever written a novel, or a novella, or a memoir, or a thesis, give yourself a pat on the back even if you haven’t been published. Just getting on and doing it is a huge achievement.
Check out the full festival program at www.swf.org.au. You can save your chosen events into a personal schedule to print out or save for later smartphone/tablet reference (there is a download to calendar option but I couldn’t get it to work on my iPad).
Many of the events are unticketed, so you could just turn up, admire the Harbour views, grab a bite at Fratelli Fresh across the road, then drop in on a random session for some serendipitous literary magic.
See you there!