Three years ago, we set out to bring a whole world of writing to our little village. Now for 2017 our program includes Tom Keneally, Stan Grant, Caroline Baum, David Hill, Fiona McFarlane, Hugh Mackay, Tony Jones, as well as director George Miller and food expert Simmone Logue. And we reaffirm our commitment to emerging writers. All together it adds up to an exciting program that encompasses fiction, crime, history, art, social commentary, politics, food and travel writing. And there will be unique opportunities to share a table with your favourite writers and chat over a coffee in The Saturday Paper Marquee. Rubbing shoulders with writers is just one of the advantages of being part of this intimate festival.
There are three main venues for our writers’ sessions: St Albans Church at the top of the hill, and two marquees in the gardens of the Settlers Arms Inn, the ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee and the ‘Ian’ Marquee named after the inn’s wonderful owners and loyal festival sponsors.
Led by Kathryn Heyman for a maximum of 16 participants, an inspiring workshop for writers at all stages. If you have an idea for a novel, this half-day workshop will stop you procrastinating and help you to dive into writing. Led by Kathryn Heyman, the session will give you the essentials of structure and storytelling, as well help you create scenes and flesh out characters. Using carefully developed exercises and discussions, you’ll surprise yourself with new words and scenes, and leave knowing what is at the heart of your story, as well as how to bring it to fruition. Crucially, you’ll discover (or rediscover) the pure joy of writing. Kathryn Heyman’s latest novel is Storm and Grace. She will refer to it during the workshop so it would be helpful to read it first.
‘The structure of The Curious Incident owes a great deal to Kathryn Heyman, with whom I was teaching… she was talking to students about structure, and as she spoke, the heavens opened, angels sang…’ Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
‘I would not have published my story story collection, nor won my BAFTA, without her help.’ Raymond Solysek, BAFTA winning award of Magnolia.
Kathryn Heyman is the author of six novels and several dramatic works for the stage and for BBC Radio. The Fiction Program Director for Faber Writing Academy, Kathryn has taught writing for many years. She was the Writing Fellow for Westminster College, Oxford and helped developed the first M.Phil in Writing for the University of Oxford. She’s mentored many writers from draft to publication and is the director of the Australian Writers Mentoring Program.
Friday 3.00-6.00 | St Albans Courthouse | Introduced by Catherine du Peloux Menagé | Book Now
Start the festival in style at our Opening Night Party. Hear our opening address by Tony Jones who will speak around the theme of this year’s Festival Escape and Explore. We look forward to hearing more about his role in exploring the heart of Australia and Australians in Q&A. Simmone Logue will give us dips, olives and crudites to nibble on, then feed us Slow braised beef, spinach and eggplant curry with jasmine rice, and chilli jam. (She won’t forget the vegetarians). Join us to have a drink, meet the writers, then take a seat on a hay bale around the fire and start the first of many festival conversations. See you there.
Local Aboriginal representative Col Lyons will welcome visitors to the valley on behalf of the Dharug and Darkinjung peoples with a smoking ceremony which takes place in the bed of the Macdonald River.
This session is sponsored by Tony Simpson.
Saturday 9.00-9.30 | Festival Centre (in the river bed) | Thanks from the SAWF Committee | FREE EVENT
Pushing himself beyond what seems possible is familiar to Huw, whether it’s making his home town the world’s first bottled water free town or going City-to-City, between all of Australia’s capital cities by the wildest terrain between them – desert, mountain, river and ocean. In this session he will talk about his most recent adventure, a 13,000 km, 12 month circumnavigation of the Mediterranean by sea kayak, mountain bike, rowing boat and on foot. Along the way Huw became Save the Children Australia’s largest ever individual fundraiser for children in conflict zones. Listen to his conversation with Julie Gibbs to find out what drives him to these physical challenges and discover the equally important human stories in conversation about his book Mediterranean: A year around a charmed and troubled sea.
Saturday 10.00-11.00 | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: Julie Gibbs | Book Now
Helen Garner is one of Australia’s most admired and controversial writers. Bernadette Brennan was given access to previously unavailable papers and has written the first full-length work on Garner’s whole career to date, interweaving Garner’s life with her work in a fascinating book. Just as Garner crosses genres in her work, so does Brennan with this hybrid literary portrait and literary study.
Saturday 10.00-11.00 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Session Facilitator: Nicole Abadee | Book Now
Conspiracy of Silence is an essay within Bulga, Bala, Boree, a review of the prehistory and dispossession of the Darkinyung people on whose land St Albans stands. Conspiracy of Silence reviews the story of John Fleming, ringleader of the notorious Myall Creek Massacre. Fleming lived on the Hawkesbury and Macdonald rivers where he is remembered as an upright citizen and benefactor. Yet he was never brought to justice for his role in the cold-blooded killing of Aboriginal people, thanks to a ‘settler’ conspiracy of silence. Gil Jones will begin with a presentation of his work on John Fleming, then discuss it with Geoffrey Hawker.
This session is sponsored by the Dragsunds from Cosynook.
Saturday 10.00-11.00 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Geoffrey Hawker | Book Now
Join these three writers to travel through Australian history. David Hunt has entertained us in ways some thought impossible by making history fun in his laugh-aloud Girt and True Girt. In Rachel Landers’ Who bombed the Hilton? she explores an unsolved mystery of the relatively recent past, while Tom Griffiths’ The Art of Time Travel tells us about some of the most celebrated guides who have told us about us our own past, how they work and how they have influenced how we see the history of Australia.. Join them to explore how we learn about ourselves from our past.
Saturday 11.30-12.30 | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: Anna Clark | Book Now
In a wonderfully funny biting satire on the world of advertising, Hugh Mackay’s latest novel shows us how far advertisers will go to sell the dream. Hugh was an advertising insider so he speaks from experience. After a very successful talk at the Sydney Writers’ Festival, Ailsa Piper will be joining Hugh again to pull apart the characters from the KK&C agency and their latest campaign challenge. Expect a couple of surprises!
This session is sponsored by John Vallance.
Saturday 11.30-12.30 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Ailsa Piper | Book Now
Tom Keneally’s latest books are Crimes of the Father, a thoughtful novel about child abuse within the Catholic Church and The Unmourned, the second book in the Monsarrat crime series he co-authors with his daughter Meg. Susan Wyndham will take these as a starting point for a conversation with Tom about his prolific writing career which dates back to 1964 and includes the Booker Prize winner Schindler’s Ark, Three Cheers For The Paraclete and Bring Larks and Heroes, winners of the Miles Franklin Award in consecutive years, amongst many other well-loved novels.
Saturday 11.30-12.30 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Susan Wyndham | Book Now
David has kindly agreed to do extra special sessions for kids at the year’s festival – readings from their children’s books in a yurt! Grab something to eat and join the kids in the yurt for some fun and hilarity.
Saturday 1.00-1.45 | The Yurt | Free session
Everyone at the Festival is invited to the launch of new writer Rachel Leary’s first novel over a glass of wine. Tom Keneally who has published more than a few books himself will launch ‘Bridget Crack’, the moving story of a woman’s struggle for survival in the beautiful and brutal landscape of Tasmania in 1827. Eat first or pick up your lunch from Simmone Logue and join us to celebrate Rachel.
Saturday 1.00-1.45 | Festival Centre | Launched by: Tom Keneally
The last year has seen a widespread resurgence in populism in politics throughout the world. The Griffith Review’s latest issue examines this phenomenon through the eyes of different writers and three of the contributors will discuss the different aspects of populism. Rodney Tiffen gives an overview of the many facets of populist feeling, Justin Gleeson speaks about the dangers of eroding free speech and freedom of expression, and David Ritter advocates outsider environmentalism as a reaction to the recent downgrading of concern about climate change and the environment.
Saturday 2.00-3.00 | St Albans Church | Session Facilitator: Geoffrey Hawker | Book Now
As has become a tradition at St Albans, we introduce you to new and emerging novelists. Jenny Crocker is one of the collaborative writing team with the pen name Alice Campion, whose second novel The Shifting Light was published this year. Meredith Jaffé’s first novel The Fence featured at the Festival last year, and this year sees the publication of her second novel The Making of Christina, a much darker story. Following the success of The Berlin Syndrome, now a film directed by Cate Shortland, Melanie Joosten’s second novel is Gravity Well, a story of star gazing, family and friendship. Bridget Crack is Rachel Leary’s first novel, the gripping and moving story of a woman’s struggle for survival in the beautiful and brutal landscape of Tasmania in 1827. Hear them discuss their books and their experience of writing.
This session has been sponsored by Berkelouw and Harry Hartog.
Saturday 2.00-3.00 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Session facilitator: To be confirmed | Book Now
Two of Australia’s best-known journalists have written thrillers in 2016. Tony Jones is the author of The Twentieth Man and Michael Brissenden has written The List. What is going on? Why are they both moving from the facts that they deal with on a daily basis into a fictional world? What else do they take from their day jobs into these works of the imagination aside from terrorism which features in both books? Come and find out more when they speak to John M. Green who is a thriller writer himself.
This session has been sponsored by Virginia and Simon Swanson.
Saturday 2.00-3.00 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: John M. Green | Book Now
Known as a writer of young-adult fiction and fantasy, best known for Looking for Alibrandi, what drove Melina Marchetta to crime fiction? Why does short story writer Baz Radburn turn to crime as a genre? In settings as disparate as an isolated Tasmanian village about to be flooded to make a dam (The Crossing), or the bottom of a gorge ravaged by a bushfire (The Falls), to a bomb attack on a busload of British students in Europe, and its aftermath (Tell the truth, Shame the devil), Baz and Melina create gripping novels of crime but also of families, friends and everyday life, with the death of a child and the impact on parent’s lives featuring in the work of both writers. Baz and Melina join writer Nigel Bartlett to talk crime.
Saturday 3.30-4.30pm | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: Nigel Bartlett | Book Now
The correspondence between a Sydney priest to a Melbourne author sounds an unlikely candidate for a book which charms, delights and inspires. But that’s exactly what The Attachment does. Starting with an email saying how much Tony Doherty enjoyed Ailsa Piper’s book, this unclassifiable collection of letters is a testament to the blessings which come with openness and listening – not the least being the possibility of a new friendship. Ailsa and Tony will talk together about their joint creation.
Saturday 3.30-4.30 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Book Now
Imagine having to identify your mother’s body in a morgue. How would you deal with the aftermath and finding out that she has ended her own life? Nikki Gemmell has faced this. After is her honest and courageous attempt to face the death of her mother and examine the complexities of their relationship, as well as examining the situation of many elderly and chronically ill people.
This session is sponsored by Carole Maher from the Sydney Millinery Company.
Saturday 3.30-4.30pm | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Suzanne Leal | Book Now
The history of art has never been told like this. In his gripping book The Art of Rivalry, Pulitzer Prize-winning art critic for the Boston Globe, Sebastian Smee takes us into the heart of complex and often tense friendships and rivalries between four pairs of artists who are all household names: Matisse and Picasso, Manet and Degas, Bacon and Freud, and de Kooning and Pollock. In accessible and engrossing narrative, the book examines the artists, their sometimes fraught and difficult relationships, and how how they contributed to the breakthroughs in their work. Sebastian will be talking to John Vallance about the creative tensions between these artists.
This session is sponsored by Richard Funston and Kiong Lee.
Saturday 5.00-6.00pm | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: John Vallance | Book Now
The relationship between mothers and daughters is notoriously complex, and often fraught, especially when daughters don’t want to be good girls but need to rebel to find their place in the world. Fathers and daughters have different but no less complex relationship dynamics. In Rebellious Daughters seventeen Australian women writers talk about their rebellions. Four of them will join Nicole Abadee to share their stories.
Saturday 5.00- 6.00 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Facilitator: Nicole Abadee | Book Now
Short stories can offer a tightly crafted glimpse into lives as opposed to the fuller narrative of a novel. A snapshot rather than a movie. Here is the opportunity to hear three writers talking about their short stories . Isabelle Li’s A Chinese Affair is a delicately-drawn yet powerful series of interconnected tales of Chinese migrants in Australia. The people in Roanna Gonsalves’ stories in The Permanent Resident are part of of the last wave of Indian migrants who have been arriving in Australia in the last 25 years drawn with punch and humour. Fiona McFarlane’s collection The High Places has been described as ‘dazzling’. It won the Dylan Thomas Prize earlier this year and in the words of one of the judges ‘This felt like a writer who was pitch perfect and just hit it on the nail with this book. We were all really impressed by, bluntly, a genius.”
Hear these three writers in conversation with Meredith Jaffé and listen to them read by the fire at 9.00pm on Saturday night.
Saturday 5.00-6.00 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Meredith Jaffé | Book Now
What would have been eaten in the Settlers Arms Inn when it was opened in 1836? Jacqui Newling, Gastronomer at the Sydney Living Museums, has recreated an authentic 1836 menu cooked in the Inn kitchens by chef Tilly Burns-Woods. Jacqui will speak before dinner and during the evening.
Saturday 6.30-9.00 | Settlers Arms Inn | Introduced by Jacqui Newling | Book Now
Screening of Mad Max Fury Road with an introduction by director George Miller, a picnic dinner from Simmone Logue followed by a Q&A session with George. Never will this film have been shown in such unusual surroundings.
This session is sponsored by Ruth and Jamie Green.
Saturday 6.30-9.00 | School of the Arts | Book Now
If you heard Isabelle Li, Roanna Gonsalves and prize-winning writer Fiona McFarlane in conversation with Meredith Jaffé earlier about their work, you’ll jump at the chance to hear them read around the fire. And if you missed that session, here is the opportunity to sit with a glass of wine and listen to short stories read by the authors themselves.
Saturday 9.00 approx. | St Albans Park (outside the Festival Centre) | Introduced by Meredith Jaffé
In Mark Tedeschi’s latest book, he tells the story of the trials in 1838 for the murder of 28 Aboriginal men, women and children and of George Plunkett, the prosecutor at these trials. Who is this now little-known figure who was important in early colonial history? How did he succeed in the face of controversy and personal criticism to bring the murders to trial and how did he finally secure convictions? Mark Tedeschi will be talking to John Vallance about of one the worst known atrocities against Aboriginal people at the time and about the man who ensured that this crime did not go unpunished.
Sunday 9.00-10.00 | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: John Vallance | Book Now
Being an only child in a family with parents damaged by personal tragedy at an early stage of their lives does not make for happiness, even when provided with every material comfort. In this moving memoir Caroline Baum describes growing up as the main focus of two people’s lives and the difficulty of becoming a person in her own right. Caroline talks to Ailsa Piper about being an ‘only’.
Sunday 9.30-10.00 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Ailsa Piper | Book Now
In Stan Grant’s latest book he talks about the success of the emerging indigenous middle-class in Australia and argues that this part of the indigenous community should also be acknowledged. Are we seeing the slow appearance of a broader Australian dream with a place for all? “Let’s focus acutely on the areas of disadvantage and suffering, let’s look at ways that we can free people from that, and let’s also look at those people who have managed to emerge from it and see if there are lessons we can draw.”
Sunday 9.00-10.00 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session Facilitator: TBA | Book Now
In the post-apocalypse dystopian world of Watershed the effects of climate change been uncontrollable, rain only falls over the ocean sand, the land is dry and barren. Survivors cluster in violent groups with totalitarian power structures, trying to survive. Jane Abott’s book is the starting point for a discussion on climate change and its impacts on every aspect of society between an Arek Sinanian, an environmentalist, the novelist Jane Abbott and Jane Holloway, a specialist in the security aspects of climate change.
Sunday 10.30-11.30 | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: Jane McCredie | Book Now
What has really been taking place on on Manus Island and Nauru since offshore processing began and what is life truly like for the asylum seekers in these offshore detention centres? Madeline Gleeson’s book is comprehensive and uncompromising. Well-researched and documented (with nearly 100 pages of footnotes detailing sources), she gives us the answers – if we really want them. Madeline Gleeson speaks to Michael Brissenden about her book and her research.
Sunday 10.30-11.30 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Michael Brissenden | Book Now
Storm and Grace tells the story of Grace, a marine biology student and Storm, ‘the deepest man in the world’, an international free diving legend. Described by The Saturday Paper, as “at once romance and anti-romance, a story that seduces you, and a story that shocks you into critical thinking,” Storm and Grace is simultaneously the story of a love affair, of sexual and emotional obsession, and of abuse which has fatal outcomes within a coercive relationship. Kathryn Heyman talks to Suzanne Leal about the seductively dazzling sport of freedving, and about dazzling, dangerous relationships.
The session is sponsored by the Faber Academy.
Sunday 10.30-11.30 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Suzanne Leal | Book Now
George Gittoes has led an extraordinary life. Blood Mystic tells that story from his childhood in Sydney to his travels to New York where he works with Andy Warhol, his return to Sydney where he creates The Yellow House with Martin Sharp and his gradual transformation into an artist working who bears witness to war and horror, be it in Nicaragua, Somalia, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Palestine or Afghanistan. George will be talking to Catherine du Peloux Menagé about his life, his work and being a blood mystic.
Sunday 12.00-1.00 | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: Catherine du Peloux Menagé | Book Now
This session looks at growing old from different standpoints. The Night Guest is the story of an ageing woman who lives alone on the coast of New Zealand by Fiona McFarlane. A Long Time Coming by Melanie Joosten is a collection of essays which examines what it means to grow old. They talk to Caroline Baum who has herself written on this subject.
Sunday 12.00-1.00 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Jane McCredie | Book Now
What was your favourite bedtime story and how old were you when you became too old to be read to? When downloading an audio book or putting a CD into a car radio, do you ever think of those childhood days of safety? When did audio books start to be produced and who were they for? How many newbooks now have an audio component? Jane McCredie talks to an audio book producer, and two actors who record them about the blossoming world of the audiobook.
This session is presented with the support of the NSW Writers’ Centre.
Sunday 12.00-1.00 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Jane McCredie | Book Now
Nikki and David have kindly agreed to do extra special sessions for kids at the year’s festival – readings from their children’s books in a yurt! Grab something to eat and join the kids in the yurt for some fun and hilarity.
Sunday 1.30-2.15 | The Yurt | Free session
Join us at 1.30 in The Saturday Paper Marquee for hear Suzanne Leal interview last year’s winners Rachel Landers and Melanie Joosten, and for a special announcement.
Sunday 1.30 – 2.15 | The Saturday Paper Marquee | Session facilitator: Suzanne Leal | Free Event
Sunday 2.30-3.30 | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: Julie Gibbs | Book Now
Nikki Gemmell is a daughter whose mother euthanased herself because of her constant pain, with devastating results for the family she left behind. Leah Kaminsky is a GP who believes Australians need to have a public discussion about euthanasia and to talk about the role of doctors. Mark Tedeschi is a lawyer and the Senior Crown Prosecutor in NSW so brings a legal perspective to this important conversation about the end of life.
The session is sponsored by the Susan Templeman, Federal MP for Macquarie .
Sunday 2.30-3.30 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Jane McCredie | Book Now
In this book, David Hill opens up Australia’s national obsession with sport. He looks at the history of how this alternative religion developed and gives a personal account of his own involvement both playing at working in the sporting world. This session will attract both sports lovers and those puzzled by sports appeal. And who better to speak to David about all aspects of this subject than noted sports journalist Tracey Holmes.
Sunday 2.30-3.30 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Tracey Holmes | Book Now
Accepted history suggests that local Aboriginal people died out within a few years of the establishment of Sydney in 1788 only to reappear in the early twentieth century. Paul Irish’s book reveals that this is far from the truth, and shows how and where Aboriginal people continued to live in the Sydney area, creating relationships and economic links with Europeans. You will not be able to look at Sydney in the same way again.
Sunday 4.00-5.00 | St Albans Church | Session facilitator: Stan Grant | Book Now
The once hidden stories of what goes on behind closed doors are now beginning to be told. These three novels tell different tales of abuse within a relationship and there are disturbing similarities between them. Melanie Joosten, Meredith Jaffé and Kathryn Heyman talk about their three novels.
Sunday 4.00-5.00 | The ‘Gabrielle’ Marquee | Session facilitator: Margot Saville
| Book Now
As in previous years, we close the Festival with three of our writers talking about what the next year may bring. Since 2017, there has been plenty to shock and shake us – increased terrorist activity, the election of Donald Trump, Brexit and the UK election surprises. How will these play out and what else can we expect?
Sunday 4.00-5.00 | The ‘Ian’ Marquee | Session facilitator: TBA
| Book Now