Our top picks for Melbourne Writers Festival 2019

Staff share their top picks from this year’s Melbourne Writers (MWF) Festival program.

We’ve compiled a list of 10 of the international guests we’re really excited to see here, and you can browse the full 2019 program here.

Ellen Cregan recommends…

Kim Gordon in Conversation

Like any die-hard fan of new wave and grunge, I am a lover of Kim Gordon. I definitely want to make it to her session at The Capitol to hear about her time in Sonic Youth, and her experiences working in the music industry more generally.

Daniel Mallory Ortberg: everything

Daniel Mallory Ortberg has been one of my favourite writers for years and years, and I am so excited that he’s going to be a guest of the festival. I’m honestly going to try and go to every event he’s in, because he is a legend and a superstar.

Nocturnal: Blak & Bright x MWF

I’m very excited about Blak & Bright’s series of events featuring First Nations authors and artists. This year, they’re also partnering with Melbourne Museum to put on a Nocturnal event featuring a lineup of First Nations talent, which will undoubtedly be a very fun time.

Dating in the Digital Age

Sam George-Allen’s book Witches: What Women Do Together is one of my favourite books of 2019 so far, so I’m stoked that she’ll be coming up to Melbourne for MWF. I’m looking forward to seeing her talk about love in the digital age with several other exciting young writers.

Chris Gordon recommends…

Is it too much to say I love the theme of love for this year’s MWF? I’m keen to hear the panel of terrific authors in the wonderfully titled and programmed A Day of Romance, in particular Unpicking Classic Romances. To counterbalance that I’m looking forward to viewing the Museum of Broken Relationships with that type of voyeuristic curiosity that one has when you see people arguing in a café, or in the street. Or when your friend calls you with a secret.

I’m also interested politically and emotionally to hear Helen Clark and her perspective on change.

And of course marked in my calendar is our very own Readings Recommends series. In particular, Marie Matteson with Tyson Yunkaporta and Bruce Pascoe (also good news; it’s free!)

Georgia Brough recommends…

I’m very keen to see Tayari Jones speak about An American Marriage in her event with Eve L Ewing. Jones won the Women’s Prize for Fiction this year for An American Marriage, so I’ll be interested to hear if a big prize like that has changed her perspective on her work.

I’m also interested to see Love Letter to a Book, where authors like Sarah Krasnostein, Amal Awad and Daniel Mallory Ortberg will all pen a love letter to a book from their past that has shaped them. Haven’t we all wanted to do that, after all? Cold Mountain, I’m looking at you…

DeRay Mckesson’s event, On the Other Side of Freedom, will be fascinating, and probably required viewing. Mckesson is a notable figure in the Black Lives Matter movement, and his book (also titled On the Other Side of Freedom) is an honest, hopeful account of his experiences with activism. In this MWF event, he’ll be speaking with Benjamin Law about activism, the power of politics as it works through social media, and the power of hope.

I reckon I’ll also try and get to see Shaun Tan in his talk about belonging. Tan’s illustrations and work have a special place in my heart, and his latest, Cicada, is a powerful meditation on bullying and belonging (both ongoing motifs in his work). I’m really excited to see him speak in person.

Jackie Tang recommends…

I’m a total sap and this year’s ‘When We Talk About Love’ theme is definitely appealing to my emotional side. As a sucker for a complex and well-written weepie, Tayari Jones Women’s Prize-winning novel, An American Marriage, really hit that mark for me. I’m keen to hear her speak about this complex portrayal of love, race, and justice at Tayari Jones: An American Marriage.

It’s exciting to see such a diverse offering in the festival this year, both in terms of the artists but also the renewed focus on genres and storytelling outside of the ‘literary’ stereotype people might think of when they imagine a typical writer’s festival. MWF has programmed some really interesting full-day line ups, including YA Day, which will feature rockstars Becky Albertalli, Amie Kaufman, Melina Marchetta and our own Readings YA Prize winner (revealed in less than two weeks); Graphic Art Day with luminaries such as Shaun Tan, Mandy Ord and Melbourne comics collective Squishface Studio (including one of our amazing booksellers Ele!); and A Day of Romance, which will be centred on this widely read but heavily underrepresented genre. Though I’m not a voracious romance reader, I’ve always found every romance writer on writers panels hugely engaging. They’re always funny, unpretentious and insightful, and with authors such as Toni Jordan, Anne Gracie, Maria Lewis and C S Pacat on the billing, I don’t think my feelings in that regard will change any time soon.

Melissa Lucashenko wrote one of my favourite books of last year (Too Much Lip) and to be able to listen to her and Tony Birch at the same event seems like a dream. She and Birch will be discussing his new novel The White Girl.

Finally, one of the best parts of a writer’s festival is getting to chat books with all your fellow writing nerds. The Book Club series invites you to get up close and personal with authors such as Daniel Mallory Ortberg, Sloane Crossley and Sami Shah to discuss a book of their choosing. I find this idea both ingenious and exciting – who doesn’t want to talk books with a favourite author? – but also possibly anxiety inducing.

You can find the full MWF program here.

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Shaun Tan

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