12 Australian literary festivals for your 2019 diary

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It’s the time of the year where you look at that ambitious list of resolutions from January and wonder – where on earth have the days gone? Why haven’t I achieved anything? The good news is, there are still plenty of opportunities to get started on your writing and improve your craft! It’s never too late. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and get along to some literary events.

Attending writers and readers festivals is a great way to find inspiration, hear from established authors, find great advice, and connect with other readers and writers. If you go in with the mentality of “I must make the most out of this!” then yes, it will be daunting. Take the pressure off yourself. Go with a relaxed attitude and just enjoy the events for what they are, and you’ll find that you learn a lot and hopefully make some new friends.

To that end, here’s a list of the best literary and writers festivals to look forward to for the rest of the year.

Newcastle Writers Festival – 5-7 April 2019 – Newcastle, NSW
Offering workshops, masterclasses, seminars, book launches, concerts, and a tour of the regional library archives, the Newcastle Writers Festival really does have something for everyone. And there’s even a 1920s themed party in the museum on the Saturday night. There’s also a dedicated program for kids with authors presenting workshops for K-2, Years 3-4, and Years 5-6, so it really is a festival for the whole family.

Some of the confirmed guests include Chloe Hooper, Christian White, Clementine Ford, Gillian Triggs, Holly Throsby, Kerry O’Brien, Michael Robotham, Oliver Phommavanh, Serena Geddes, Zanni Louise, and many, many more. Topics cover everything from queer and feminist representation to artificial intelligence, the lure of small towns and writing plot twists. Best of all, many of the sessions are free!

Fitzroy Writers Festival – 6 April 2019 – Fitzroy, Vic
Launching this year, the Fitzroy Writers Festival is promising a jam-packed line-up of authors, artists, booksellers, musicians and writers. Workshops and panels are free – but you need to register – and there will be plenty of activities for kids, too. Confirmed speakers include Catherine Deveny, Maxine Beneba Clarke, and Justin Heazlewood.

Australian Storytellers Festival – 7 April 2019 – Fremantle, WA
This one is for lovers of children’s and YA stories. The free Australian Storytellers Festival offers a smorgasbord of Australian authors and illustrators with insightful talks, illustration demonstrations, hands-on activities, readings, book signings and music. The Festival is designed with kids in mind but sessions are suitable for adults as well.

Sydney Writers’ Festival – 29 April-5 May 2019 – Sydney, NSW
The Sydney Writers’ Festival bills itself as Australia’s biggest celebration of writing and ideas, and it’s hard to disagree. During the week, more than 300 events will be held across Sydney, featuring both local and international writers.

Gusts include Man Booker Prize winner George Saunders, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Fatima Bhutto, Antony Beevor and Susan Orlean. Topics cover children’s literature, sport, multiculturalism, astrology, history and more. Most conversations and panels are ticketed at around $35, but there are also several free events, including Family Day which features a mobile reading bus and activities for littlies.

Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival – 3-5 May 2019 – Margaret River, WA
The Margaret River Readers & Writers Festival is the biggest regional literary event in Western Australia, with local and international writers (and readers!) converging on Voyager Estate for a celebration of storytelling. A free shuttle bus runs between Margaret River Town to the estate twice each day.

This year’s guests include Anna Funder, Germaine Greer, Chris Hammer, Kylie Howarth, Michael Leunig, Kim Scott, and Holden Sheppard. As well as the usual vast array of discussions, there will also be workshops with handy topics such as “Write drunk, edit sober” and “Creating art with heart”.

Most talks are $10 each while workshops are either free, $25 or $50 per participant. There are also day passes available, however, Saturday is already sold out as is the three-day festival pass!

NT Writers’ Festival – 16-19 May 2019 – Alice Springs, NT
The NT Writers’ Festival alternates each year between Darwin and Alice Springs and the changing landscapes each year lend a unique flavour to the festival. The full program will be released in April, but confirmed speakers so far include Morris Gleitzman, Patti Miller and Violet Wadrill. Previous festivals have focused on Indigenous and South-East Asian voices and this year’s theme is lyapirtneme/returning.

The four-day festival features ideas, culture, conversation, story walks, book launches, talks and more.

Penola Coonawarra Arts Festival – 16-19 May 2019 – Penola, SA
Now in its 28th year, the Penola Coonawarra Festival covers all the arts but has a few events dedicated to readers and writers. Situated halfway between Adelaide and Melbourne, the region is renowned for its great food and wine – integral parts of the festival!

Willy Lit Fest – 15-16 June 2019 – Williamstown, VIC
Williamstown Literary Festival – known affectionately as Willy Lit Fest – will be headlined this year by Kerry O’Brien and Andy Griffiths. Last year’s event featured every genre conceivable, with talks by picture book writer Jacqueline Harvey, and crime writers Sarah Bailey and James Phelan, as well as romance authors, sci-fi writers and everything in between. There are also practical workshops and kids events.

Sessions cost between $7.50 and $40 although early bird and concession rates are available. The full program will be released in early April.

Outback Writers’ Festival – 25-27 June 2019 – Winton, Qld
For a truly unique setting, head along to the Outback Writers’ Festival in Winton, in the central west outback of Queensland. The draft program for this year includes popular romance authors Fiona McArthur and Janette Paul (aka Jaye Ford).

One of the aims of the festival is to encourage children of isolated and rural families and indigenous children to engage in more reading and writing of stories that they can associate with – so it’s well worth your support!

Canberra Writers Festival – 22-25 August 2019 – Canberra, ACT
This year’s three-day celebration of literature, reading, writing and writers will be held all across Canberra, with most events costing around $35 (concessions available). Last year’s guests included Maggie Beer, Jack Heath, Karen Viggers, and Kathy Lette. The Canberra Writers Festival has a rich schedule of talks, events, and book launches, as well as workshops and family-friendly activities.

Brisbane Writers Festival – 5-8 September 2019 – Brisbane, Qld
The Brisbane Writers Festival has a sterling pedigree, going now for 57 years! The event is held over four days at the State Library of Queensland and QAGOMA and features a dazzling array of events, talks and workshops. Last year’s event had a stellar lineup of special guests including Veronica Roth, Lauren Weisberger, Tim Rogers, Dr Karl, and Irvine Welsh.

Each year, a whole day is dedicated to YA literature and there’s also an education program for young readers, storytellers and illustrators.

Terror Australis – 31 Oct-3 Nov 2019 – Huon Valley, Tas
And now one especially for crime and thriller writers! This year, the focus is on women writers, with the theme Murder She Wrote. Featuring Tara Moss, Kerry Greenwood and Sulari Gentill, the line up is definitely to die for.

According to the website, this will be “your chance to explore dangerous stories, expand your nefarious knowledge and connect through wicked words” over the course of one spooky Halloween weekend.

And if the idea of connecting with other readers and writers fills you with dread – check out our course How to Build Your Author Platform for advice on building your brand, creating an engaged community of followers, and figuring out which platforms are right for you. Writers at any stage of their career can benefit from building their network. Remember, networking is just communication! And if you’re a writer, you’re already a communicator. Find out more here.     

By Nat Newman
Nat Newman is a freelance writer.


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