YA Ambassador Catriona Feeney, also known as Little Book Owl, has pored over the program and come back with her top nine events to see at Sydney Writers' Festival 2017. Read on to discover her picks.
2017 Opening Night: Brit Bennet, Anne Enright and George Saunders
This is an absolute must! The opening event kicks off the main Festival and sets the tone for what’s to come. This year Brit Bennett, Anne Enright and George Saunders will be opening the Festival, each delivering an address on the 2017 theme: refuge.
Love Oz YA Anthology: Begin, End, Begin
Begin, End, Being: A #LoveOzYA Anthology is one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so of course this is one of my most anticipated events! The incredibly talented Australian writers on the panel are speaking about #LoveOzYA – a movement that began on social media, encouraging fans of youth-lit to read and support Australian YA authors and books. There is so much talent in this country, and alongside all of the international successes in our stores, sometimes we need a little reminder to look closer to home and celebrate incredible Australian literature.
Paul Beatty: The Sellout
I’ve been hearing a lot about Beatty’s novel, The Sellout, winner of the 2016 Man Booker Prize, due to its satire of US race relations. It’s a sensitive but imperative topic and I look forward to hearing about the writing process behind a book that is at times hilarious, while also dealing with slavery, segregation and violence.
The Singular George Saunders
George Saunders has a long list of works under his belt, but this year he published his first novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, which has been receiving a mass of rave reviews! I think it will be really fascinating to hear about this new venture, especially since the book draws on the life of President Lincoln and the tragic death of his son, Willie Lincoln. I’m curious about what inspired him to write this particular story.
'…being able to find books with characters you identify with can be a source of great comfort and a chance to learn more about yourself. '
Gay For Page
Highlighting how much of an influence books and reading can have on our lives is such an important topic. When it comes to identity, and for this panel, specifically sexual identity, being able to find books with characters you identify with can be a source of great comfort and a chance to learn more about yourself. I’m looking forward to hearing about the books that the authors have connected with (and getting some great recommendations in the process!).
More Than Meets the Eye: Diversity in YA Fiction
This has the same appeal to me as the Gay For Page panel, though in this event there will be an emphasis on Young Adult literature. I’m excited to hear authors Will Kostakis, Erin Gough and Randa Abdel-Fattah talk about writing diverse characters. There has been so much discussion about diversity recently and we are seeing more diverse books entering the YA scene (which makes me so happy!). It’s a great way for more readers to either find themselves in fiction or to better understand the diversity of the human experiences. That is what I love about reading: being able to empathise with others whilst learning about the world around us.
SWF Gala: Origin Story
This discussion sounds like it will be particularly interesting for aspiring writers, and although I don’t quite fit into that category, I always enjoy hearing about what inspires authors. Hannah Kent, Ian Rankin, Hisham Matar, Joy Williams and Robert Dessaix will talk about the books and other influences that played a part in inspiring them to become writers. I’m looking forward to hearing about the books that resonated with them.
Defying Expectations: How Do Female Writers Defy Stereotypes
This is such a relevant discussion, which is also touched on in other events this year like Strong Female Characters, Clementine Ford: Fight Like a Girl and Roxane Gay: Difficult Women. Stereotypes can be tricky to navigate so this sounds like an informative discussion on the difficulties female writers face and how they work around or overcome them.
Professor Frankie's Harry Potter
This will definitely have a strong appeal to younger readers, but honestly, any chance to interact with the wizarding world is exciting to me. Professor Frankie Falconette brings magic and the world of Harry Potter to life in a fun and interactive way. Plus, she has a stamp for your Harry Potter books for that extra special touch!