Southern Highlands Writers’ Festival brings warmth to winter

With the average maximum temperature for July in Bowral sitting at 12C, you wouldn't be alone in thinking that a little winter hibernation might be in order. Not so for those in the community: July is when the town comes alive for the Southern Highlands Writers' Festival (SHWF), and they'd like you to join them!

With writing greats such as PJ Travers (Mary Poppins), Patrick White, Miles Franklin and screenwriter Terry Hayes (Mad Max) all hailing from the area, it's not surprising that the creative community is alive and well in the Southern Highlands. With many in the region isolated on farms out of the main city, the SHWF provides a great opportunity for everyone come together and share their love of writing.

Now in it's third year, the SHWF will take place 11-13 July 2014 at Bradman Museum in Bowral with over 700 people expected to attend.

Kylie MatthewsWe sat down with Associate Director Kylie Matthews to talk about her writing career and the festival.

How did you first get in to writing?
“I have always been a writer. As a little girl of six or seven I used fill entire exercise books with stories and give them to family and friends as gifts. I did an arts degree at Melbourne University way back in the day and knew, even then, that books were always going to be my first love.” Today, Kylie works as a full-time freelance journalist from her home office in the Southern Highlands and has a book concept in the works.

How did you become involved with the festival?
“I was just coming out of my second stint of maternity leave when I happened upon a small piece in our local glossy mag, Highlife, about a woman setting up a local writers' festival. Straight away I knew I wanted to be a part of it and I immediately contacted Michaela and voluntarily offered up my expertise.” After a successful first year, Michaela and Kylie hit it off, and have been working together since.

How do you determine the mix of writers to feature at the festival?
“We like to be able to offer a variety of different writers/speakers so there is something for everybody at the Festival. This year we are focusing on a wide range of genres, including (but certainly not limited to): fiction, history, politics, poetry, cricket writing, sociology and ethics.”

Which session are you most looking forward to, and why?
“I think the session I'm MOST looking forward to is In Conversation with Nikki Gemmell. I have always adored Nikki's writing. It is raw and earthy and honest and her words have always had an impact on me that often knocks me sideways.”

But the highlights don't end there. “I think Bob Carr's session will also be a good one – especially now his memoir, Diary of a Foreign Minister, has sparked such controversy! I want our audience to get in there and really ask him some tough questions.”

“Also an amazing coup is getting three amazingly talented women together to talk about book publishing. AWC's Valerie Khoo will be one of those women, alongside first-time author Laura Greaves and Penguin Books Commissioning Editor (and former Australian Women's Weekly literary editor) Carol George”

The Southern Highlands Writers' Festival will take place July 11-13 at Bradman Museum, Bowral. For tickets and further information visit

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