Maria Lewis is a journalist, presenter and author, whose YA novels Who's Afraid? and Who's Afraid Too? put a new spin on the werewolf genre. As well as having some of the best hair in the biz, Maria has great taste in pop culture (which she previously put to good use as host of the Eff Yeah Film & Feminism podcast and previously in her work on SBS's The Feed).
Here, she gives us her picks of what to see at this year's Sydney Writers' Festival.
Elaine Welteroth: On Editing Teen Vogue
As Frankenstein taught us nearly 200 years ago, anything men can do teenage girls can do better. Nowhere has that been more evident recently than with the stellar staff at Teen Vogue, who are pushing boundaries and bucking stereotypes under the leadership of young, scrappy and hungry editor Elaine Welteroth. The youngest person ever appointed to the role, she will talk about expanding the magazine's coverage in the face of the 2016 US Presidential election and demanding the world take young, female voices seriously as they tackle everything from race and politics, to feminism and hair trends (because hey, we can have diverse interests, darn it). Elaine is a personal inspiration and the kind of woman I would happily pay money to see talk about bathroom tiles, let alone her life and work.
When the 2017 program dropped, this was the event that had me receiving excited texts from friends non-stop for at least a solid 15 minutes. And if my phone had paused pinging for two seconds, then I would have been the one texting ‘OMFG THIS PANEL’ with several emojis for added emphasis. Blerd queen herself Roxane Gay heads this discussion with some of the Festival’s most knowledgeable and skilled-up black nerds (blerds, as it were), including Cleverman creator Ryan Griffen, who is the mastermind behind the modern Aboriginal superhero, everyone’s imaginary BFF Miranda Tapsell, The Underground Railroad author Colson Whitehead and Aussie activist Nayuka Gorrie. For those who have been waiting forever for pop culture to catch up to the realities of a diverse world, having all these incredible voices in the one room talking about kicking down the gatekeepers of nerd culture is a super awesome, super geeky and super empowering thing.
Undoubtedly the most influential Maori writer of all time, Witi Ihimaera’s work has spanned decades with novels like Whale Rider, The Matriarch and King Of The Gypsies (to name a few). For me personally, growing up as a kid from a Maori background in New Zealand to an adult woman in Australia, his stories – both long form and short form – have been incredibly influential and effecting as he examines family legacy, Indigenous identity and the boldness of marching to the beat of your own drum. It’s a rare opportunity you get to see a legend talk about his own work and inspirations, so this ‘in conversation’ with him is a must-see.
Mariko Tamaki Talks The Talk
It’s kinda hard to pick just one thing from the All Day YA program that’s happening out at Parramatta, but the inclusion of international bestselling and celebrated author Mariko Tamaki is a highlight. As a raging comic book nerd myself, her extensive work across Supergirl and Tomb Raider is enough to get enthused about. Yet Mariko did something truly beautiful, powerful and timeless with her graphic novel This One Summer, which explored queer coming of age. She’s someone with such an important voice and who isn’t afraid to use it, so this is a thrilling opportunity to pick the brains of someone who is telling deeply personal stories that are connecting with readers across the world.
Hera Lindsay Bird: On Metaphor
Every now and then, a voice comes along that’s so unique and so refreshing it slaps you in the face. Kiwi poet Hera Lindsay Bird is that voice, with her work on everything from love and sex, to life and expectation managing to be simultaneously hilarious, interesting and a little bit sad. Her poem 'Keats Is Dead So Fuck Me From Behind' is a cult gem for a reason and I’m really looking forward to hearing her share perspectives on writing and capturing that very singular thing she manages to do so seamlessly.
— Maria Lewis, author and presenter