Sydney Writers’ Festival

This Friday just gone I attended the Sydney Writers’ Festival for the first time.

It was tiring, Newcastle-Sydney trains SUCK, I got a blister, I near passed out from hunger at 2pm then again at 7pm, and I forgot to use my KeepCup for the one and only coffee I bought.

BUT….it was the highlight of my year so far 😀

Through some planning, some ticket purchasing and some sheer stubbornness I made it into each and every event I wanted to as a first choice. This was not easy since some of the lines were 200 people long for a 100 person room. But I did it and EVERY event was informative and inspiring. Here’s the rundown of what I attended:

  • Writing Across Forms. A panel discussing the creative challenges, rewards and freedoms that come with writing across different forms and genres.
  • Why Criticism Matters. What is the state of literary criticism today and why is it so important to have a robust culture of criticism?
  • Literary Buzz. What it is that makes particular books worldwide phenomenons?
  • On Craft: Monkeys with typewriters. Advice on how to write good characters and how to appreciate them when reading.
  • Fiction on the Edge of Reality. 

    On novels that draw from life and are compelling and unnervingly real.

  • Crafting the Message. Joe Rospars, Neil Lawrence and Grahame Morris discuss with Leigh Sales how they mould political messages and reputations.

I have to say that three of these really stood out for me, even though they were all great.

Writing Across Forms introduced me to the works of Lauren Beukes and Robert Drewe, two of the panel members. I have already churned through one of Lauren’s books since then and I am stunned. She is a great writer. I have also picked up one of Robert’s books and it already reads as promising. Both have also worked in journalism, which I am more and more seeing  as a career I should have tried. However the flip side to that lost opportunity is where I gained value from this session. Even if I can’t just go off an be a journalist now without being broke, I think I could bring more writing skill and enjoyment into my current work, and perhaps look towards expanding such opportunities for the future.

Literary Buzz was just a thrill. I had the joy of sitting in a small room listening to four international publishers talk about books that create ‘buzz’. How cool is that?? Grazia Rusticali (Italy), Kirsty Dunseath (UK) and Michael Zöllner (Germany) were quizzed by Hachette’s Matt Richell (Australia), asked for their thoughts on buzz books, starting with Harry Potter and looking through to 50 Shades of Grey and Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. It was really quite fascinating, My favorite story from this session was from Matt Richell. He was working in London, just starting his career, when Harry Potter was first released by the publisher he worked for. He is sure to say that he had no part in the book being published, but did have the experience of watching J.K. Rowling, before he even knew what she wrote, enter a tepee with 10 students at a book event at a school. 40 minutes later every single student charged out of that tepee and chased down their parents to demand they buy the books. How amazing is that, to have watched the Harry Potter phenomenon coming to life? I think we all remember how we started our Harry Potter journey but how many can say they were actually there for the beginning?

Finally, I really loved Fiction on the Edge of Reality. My novel in waiting will be almost completely reality/present time based, teetering just slightly off the realms of what we know is possible. The writers in the session talked of their books, gripping and compelling thrillers and dramas which are based entirely in the realities we are currently living in, and yet just as thrilling as any out of this world conception.

Over all the Sydney Writers’ Festival was amazing and extremely valuable. Next year I will hopefully get a hotel and stay for 3 days…and pack ALOT of snacks to ward off starvation. There was plenty of food there, but no time to get it if you wanted to secure a place in line at your chosen event!

Reading list from the festival:

  • Monkeys with Typewriters: How to Write Fiction and Unlock the Secret Power of Stories by Scarlett Thomas
  • The Shark Net by Robert Drewe
  • The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (Already read it the very next day, super fast, and highly recommend it!)
  • Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
  • The Trusted by John M. Green
  • Fractured by Dawn Barker

5 thoughts on “Sydney Writers’ Festival

  1. Glad you had a good time. I told my husband I wanted to go to a festival which focuses on writing next year as opposed to something that just has a writer’s track. I did though have fun at the festival I went to this past weekend. (sci-fi/fantasy/comic book festival with a writer’s track)

  2. Hi Dani,
    I just stumbled across your blog, and read that you came along to the ‘Fiction on the edge of reality’ panel that I was in – so glad you enjoyed it! Do come and say hello if our paths ever cross again at another festival – and good luck with your writing!


    • Hi Dawn,

      Thanks for stopping by the blog! This year was my first festival and I am so glad I went to ‘Fiction on the Edge of Reality’. You spoke very well and your book is on my ‘to read’ list as a result. I love anything that explores the extremes of the human psyche. I’ll be sure to say hello next time!

      • Aww, thanks! That’s nice to hear as I head off to Brisbane for the festival there this weekend. As a debut author, it’s all very new to me and I must say I felt a little out of place on that panel as the other two writers have very different books! I’d love to hear your thoughts if you ever do read Fractured but please don’t feel obliged. Hopefully one day it’ll be you up there on stage!
        Dawn 🙂

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