Journalist, author and screenwriter Benjamin Law has more than a few turns at the Sydney Writers' Festivals under his belt. He's been both side of the fence, attending as both presenter and as guest, so he's got a pretty good idea of what makes for a stimulating panel.

Here, Ben shares his five must-see events...

American Carnage

You might’ve noticed a big emphasis on American writers this year — appropriate, now we’ve arrived in the age of Trump. This session showcases the voices best equipped to critique that country’s state of play: a Pulitzer Pize-winning novelist (Colson Whitehead), the best short story writer of his generation (George Saunders), one of the most elegant and innovative explainers around (Mona Chalabi) and the editor of one and only Slate (Julia Turner). Unmissable.

Not to Scale: Numbers and the Immigration Debate
My boyfriend introduced me to Mona Chalabi’s Instagram account a few months ago, and I stand in utter awe of her work. I’ve always loved the elegance of good data journalism, but throw in her brilliant illustrative chops and mathematical and journalistic rigour, and Mona somehow transforms it into art. I can’t wait to hear her talk, and this will be her only solo appearance at SWF.

Gay for Page
Ever since I moved to Sydney, I’ve stood in awe of my mate Eamon Flack. Not only is he the artistic director of Belvoir — the most consistently thrilling, innovative and big-hearted theatre company in Australia — but he’s also one of the most articulate and curious people I know. (Very handsome too.) And here he is, hosting and interviewing some of the best queer writers from Australia and beyond. This is going to be terrific.

Blerd Culture
I’ll admit it: I almost got a nosebleed from excitement when this session was announced. This is a must-see for any self-declared nerd, and anyone interested in how minorities — specifically black people — are represented in art. And Christ, what a line up: Cleverman creator Ryan Griffen; powerhouse author and essayist Roxane Gay; activist and writer Nayuka Gorrie; actor and Logie-winner Miranda Tapsell; and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead.

SWF Gala: Advice from Nasty Women
One of my favourite people on the planet — Sophie Black — interviews the spikiest, funniest and smartest women on stage at the same time. And when those women are Brit Bennett, Durga Chew-Bose, Viola Di Grado, Anita Heiss, Chris Kraus and Nadja Spiegelman, you just know this is going to be one of those festival sessions people talk about for years. I’ll be there wearing a knitted pussy hat in solidarity.

— Benjamin Law, author of Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East


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