Once upon a time, there were very few festivals about writing. And if they did exist, they were reserved for the large cities and the focus was very much on the guest speakers. However, in recent times a shift has taken place. There are now dozens of festivals dedicated to writing all across Australia – and they celebrate writers, readers, the writing process and much more.
Two of the big ones, Writers’ Week at the Adelaide Festival of Arts and Perth Writers Festival have just wrapped up – and will be back February/March 2016. As for the rest, here’s a list of some of the big and small ones happening around the country for the remainder of the year. (This list is by no means exhaustive, but it is exhausting imagining attending all of them!)
(Have we missed one near you? Let us know in the comments so we can update this post!)
Noted – Canberra’s independent writers’ festival
In 2015, Noted staged Canberra’s first writers’ festival in five years, claiming itself the first ever writers’ festival with an explicit commitment to emerging and experimental writing from diverse backgrounds.
Tamar Valley Writers Festival
It turns out that they do more than just yoghurt. And this spot near Launceston claims to be Tasmania’s biggest writers festival with a mix of free and ticketed events, with more than 50 guest writers.
Newcastle Writers Festival
First held in 2013, this annual event just keeps getting bigger. Newcastle is becoming known for its growing arts scene, and this celebration is another feather in its cap – a showcase for the Hunter region, with more than 100 guest writers.
Rock and Roll Writers Festival
Held in Brisbane QLD, this popular festival brings writing and music together, with discussions from authors, songwriters, lyricists and others.
Autumn Authors – The Dandenong Ranges Writers Festival
This month-long series of events for writers and readers takes place all around the Dandenong Ranges region, with authors including Cate Kennedy, David Astle, Andy Griffith and more.
Northern Territory Writers’ Festival
Also known as WORDSTORM, this Darwin event involves four days and nights of writing, culture and ideas. This year’s Festival theme is The Fabric of Family and will include actress and comedian Magda Szubanski discussing her own family memoir.
Sydney Writers’ Festival
This is a big week of events and speakers – with hundreds of conversations, workshops, author talks and more. The hub for the bulk of events is alongside stunning Sydney harbour. In November they also hosted another popular Children’s Festival.
Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival
Taking place over a long weekend, the theme for 2016 is HOME with many big names including Thomas Keneally, Sara Foster, Rosemary Sayer, Loretta Hill, Mark Dapin, Ann Turner, Natasha Lester and many many more. Includes popular free family days.
Henry Lawson Festival
This annual event takes place in the NSW town of Grenfell – birthplace of Lawson, known for his poetry and short stories. Incredibly, this will be the 59th year of the festival.
Bellingen Readers & Writers Festival
This NSW regional festival invites you to “be part of the story” and the theme this year is “PAGE, STAGE AND SCREEN” – inviting visitors to celebrate these areas in a beautiful setting.
Emerging Writers’ Festival
As their website states, they are “a place where creativity and innovation are celebrated, where new talent is nurtured and where diverse voices from across Australia are represented.
Willy Lit Fest
Also known as the Williamstown Literary Festival, it’s now in its 13th year and invites you to “stay curious” as it presents a long list of events on the shortest weekend of the year (sunlight-wise).
Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival
This popular Bowral festival attracts many exciting authors and an enthusiastic crowd. (If you’re local, the 2016 program is launching on 1 April at a free event at the Gibraltar Hotel, Bowral.)
Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature festival
This one is based in Mackay, Queensland and celebrates writers typically school aged (years 3-12) with a series of events, workshops and competitions. (Not to be confused with September’s festival in Airlie Beach.)
Mildura Writers Festival
Starting from humble beginnings in 1994, this intimate festival feels right at home in winter with its roaring fires and old buildings. It includes a program of workshops, lectures and discussion forums.
Noosa Long Weekend Festival
Ten days in fact – a celebration of many art forms, including literature. And of course, in a setting that people enjoy escaping to in the winter months.
National Play Festival
One for the playwrights, this festival happens at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne, just one of the big events of the year for Playwriting Australia.
Red Dirt Poetry Festival
Based in Alice Springs, this event first ran in 2014 (the website still has those details as of writing this) and seeks to celebrate the Alice’s “love affair with poetry”.
Byron Bay Writers Festival
Just another reason to visit Byron this year, with workshops kicking off from 1 August. This year includes an initiative to see an Australian author have their words converted to the screen.
Perth Poetry Festival
Another one for the poets, this WA festival currently has confirmed guest poets including Kevin Brophy, Matt Hetherington, Josephine Clarke and Maddie Godrey.
Bendigo Writers Festival
This one is now in its 5th year, taking place in the arty part of town, with all venues conveniently near each other. As they proudly proclaim, “…a city that has a thriving writers festival is a city that cares about the good life.”
Cairns Tropical Writers Festival
It’s a busy weekend this one, with this northern Queensland event celebrating the unique natural environment and the role it plays as “sensory muse” to stimulate creativity. This festival started in 2008, and is held every 2 years.
Mudgee Readers’ Festival
Mudgee likes to do things a little different, and it starts with the name – deciding to focus on the readers, rather than writers. But of course the same common ground still applies – and they’re ready to welcome many authors and readers to town.
This annual event has most probably been around since you were in school (it’s in its 71st year this year!) and will include activities throughout schools in Australia.
Canberra Writers Festival
The nation’s capital had endured somewhat of a writing festival drought up until last year’s Noted festival hit the scene. And now with the promise of this event on the calendar too, it’ll be well catered for.
August 26-September 4
Melbourne Writers Festival
Another biggie on the calendar, this is indeed for “everyone who reads”. A great way to farewell winter and put some spring in your literary step – in the self-proclaimed culture capital.
Whitsundays Writers Festival
Held in Airlie Beach, clearly this intimate festival looks after its guests. Last year, Peter Fitzsimons said he “felt like a rockstar” thanks to the warm welcome he received, while those in the audience were impressed with the views and venues.
Brisbane Writers Festival
It’s a little early for full details yet, but you can be sure that Australia’s third largest city will bring the goods when it rolls out its annual literary showcase later in the year.
Batemans Bay Writers Festival
If a NSW South Coast sojourn sounds like you, this festival promises a full program for readers, writers and book-lovers.
Ex Libris Festival of Words
Another delightful regional location sees Victoria’s Port Fairy hosting its annual festival – as it has done since the turn of the century. Events include a second hand book sale, and each year has a theme, guest authors, workshops and more.
St Albans Writers’ Festival
Described as “an idyllic setting for a weekend of words”, this Hawkesbury literary festival is based in the picturesque village of St Albans. It’s an intimate festival with places limited to about 350 guests. But it certainly punches above its weight with a slick website.
September 29–October 2
National Young Writers’ Festival
Held in Newcastle NSW, this one is for the young folk – writers aged 18-35. It also forms part of the This is Not Art Festival.
This year as part of the week-long Crush Festival, the Bundaberg Writers’ Club invites writers to “pat their cats goodbye, change out of winter-worn trackie-dax, and head to the Wide Bay.” Workshops and like-minded people everywhere you look.
Clare Readers and Writers Festival
Held in the picturesque Clare Valley, SA, this event includes a poetry and short story competition in its lead up. Last year’s authors included Michael Robotham, Fiona McIntosh, Rachel Johns and more – plus a Penguin Books commissioning editor.
(Have we missed one near you? Let us know in the comments so we can update this post!)