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Calling All Readers and Writers – Sydney Writers’ Festival 2014

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Is North Korea what we think it is? Is taking offence a right? Was Jesus a pacifist? These are just some of the questions that will get asked at the 2014 Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Over a week from Monday, May 19 to Sunday, May 25 at locations around Sydney  from the Blue Mountains to Bondi and everywhere in between, this year’s Festival is a chance to challenge our ideas of culture, identity, and history.

The Sydney Writer’s Festival has become a favourite in the Australian events calendar among writers, artists and thinkers, and it draws on no fewer than 400 participants across 300 lively events.

Writers get up close and personal in The Literary Friendship series – in one session, for example, Stephanie Dowrick and Walter Mason discuss how their quest for spirituality and self-growth through their love of literature brought them together as friends.

Truth meets fiction when North Korea’s Jang Jin-sung speaks with Pulitzer Prize-winner Adam Johnson, whose The Orphan Master’s Son imagines that country.

Whether Jesus was the peace-lover he seems is examined in the controversial Zealot by religious scholar, Reza Aslan. Reza also speaks about Israel and Iran with Ari Shavit, whose My Promised Land explores Zionism.

Aussie newspaper columnist and author Peter FitzSimons is part of a panel that asks whether the right to offence trumps free argument in ‘The Art of Indignation’  at the Sydney Theatre, Walsh Bay.

Two Aussie greats make an appearance – David Malouf celebrates his 80th year with books of poetry and essays, while Thomas Keneally marks 50 years of writing with sessions on his many popular works.

International greats are on the calendar, too. The Color Purple’s Alice Walker joins her favourite muso, Archie Roach, on stage at the Sydney Opera House to explore her work and her activism.

Furthermore, A.M. Homes’ satirical view of modern American life, May We Be Forgiven,  won her the 2013 International Women’s Prize for Fiction and she talks about it on Monday, May 24. The youngest ever Man Booker prize-winner, 28-year-old Eleanor Catton, appears as does Lucy Hughes-Hallett who took the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction with her biography of Italian war-monger and poet, Gabriele d’Annunzio.

Amy Tan brings a new tale of family life in The Valley of Amazement. Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh discusses his new story, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins; and  Russian immigrant to the US, Gary Shteyngart recalls his life in Little Failure.

The Writers’ Festival is for readers, but it is also for writers, with a vast choice of daily writing craft workshops. Words can never be contained, and quotes from Festival authors will spread out into the city on City of Sydney trucks and billboards.

Words are for kids, too! Captain Underpants himself, Dav Pilkey, will give shows at Chatswood’s Concourse Theatre and Parramatta’s Riverside Centre, and kids can revel in poems, laughs, storytelling, art and more at the Big Top for Little People at Walsh Bay.

Whoever you are, come on down to an event and broaden your mind with free or ticketed events. The Sydney Writers’ Festival. It’s Thinking Season!

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