Sydney Writers' Festival Live & Local

Sydney Writers’ Festival will live-stream its headline events from Sydney to Wagga Library on Thursday 23, Friday 24, Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 May.

Prepare to be invigorated and engaged by conversations, debates and discussions featuring some of the world’s finest writers and thinkers. Audiences can also participate in live Q&A sessions at each event, sending questions straight to the Sydney stage.

Your ticket (only $5/day) gives you access to any and all sessions on that day.
Light refreshments will be available, thanks to the Friends of the Library.

Thursday 23 May:

10 - 11am Julia Baird: Bright Shining
Nurturing grace, even in the darkest of times
Following broadcaster and author Julia Baird’s multi-award-winning international bestseller, Phosphorescence, comes a beautiful and timely exploration of that most mysterious but necessary human quality: grace. Bright Shining: how grace changes everything asks what grace looks like today, how we recognise it, nurture it within ourselves and express it. For Julia, grace can be found by being kinder, bigger and better with each other. Sit down with Julia to discuss this luminous work, which The Guardian described as “a book the world needs now”. In conversation with journalist Jacqueline Maley.

12 - 1pm Viet Thanh Nguyen: A Man of Two Faces
Tragicomic memoir from Pulitzer Prize– winning author of The Sympathizer
“I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces”, begins Viet Thanh Nguyen’s debut novel, The Sympathizer, the internationally acclaimed bestseller that was recently adapted into an HBO series starring Sandra Oh and Robert Downey Jr. This duality is also at the heart of Viet’s highly original memoir, A Man of Two Faces, which details with sardonic wit and incisive analysis the double consciousness of a Vietnamese refugee growing up in North America. Listen to the celebrated author, hailed as “a conscience of American literature” (The New Yorker), in conversation with Benjamin Law. Viet Thanh Nguyen appears thanks to the support of Fiona and Matthew Playfair.

2 - 3pm Suzie Miller: Prima Facie
Suzie Miller’s disturbingly prescient play, Prima Facie, dramatises the price sexual assault victims pay for speaking out.

This blistering one-woman show wowed audiences on Broadway and the West End, winning Suzie an Olivier Award and Killing Eve favourite Jodie Comer a Tony for her performance as the brilliant young barrister who, one sickening night, finds herself thrust into the flawed justice system. Put the courts on trial with Suzie and writer and podcaster Nicole Abadee, as they discuss Prima Facie’s adaptation into a gripping novel and screenplay set to star Cynthia Erivo. Supported by UNSW Sydney.

4 - 5pm Julian Borger: I Seek a Kind Person
An enthralling memoir of family history and the Holocaust’s resonance through generations.

“I seek a kind person who will educate my intelligent boy, aged 11.” This extraordinary 1938 personal advertisement is the starting point for Julian Borger’s’ quest to understand his father’s past. An enthralling memoir, family history and detective story all in one, Borger brings to life in vivid detail the Holocaust escape stories of a handful of children and families, and traces the resonance of these events through generations. Supported by ARA.

Book for Thursday May 23

Friday 24 May:

10 - 11am A.C. Grayling: The Meaning of Life in a Technological Age
Finding answers in changing times.

“It shouldn’t be the business of a philosopher today to tell people what to think”, says A. C. Grayling, but rather “how to think”. The quest for a life worth living has been the business of philosophers for millennia. How can we pursue answers to life’s big questions in a world that feels increasingly dangerous and unstable thanks to big tech and AI? Unpack the ‘how’ in this unmissable talk from the pre-eminent philosopher, who returns to Australia following his sell-out public lectures last year.

12 - 1pm The War on Journalists
News from the frontlines.

War correspondent Marie Colvin stated: “It has always seemed to me that what I write about is humanity in extremis, pushed to the unendurable, and that it is important to tell people what really happens in wars.” With conflict continuing in Ukraine, and the death toll of journalists in the Gaza conflict reaching alarming proportions, we look at the role of journalists in war – on and off the frontlines – and how vital the protection of journalists is to news we can trust about the realities of war. Join us to hear from those with firsthand experience from the most conflict-ridden parts of the world: Global Affairs Editor for the ABC, John Lyons, The Guardian World Affairs Editor, Julian Borger and Ukrainian journalist Alisa Sopova of the 5km From the Frontline project. In conversation with journalist and broadcaster Hamish Macdonald.

2 - 3pm Abdulrazak Gurnah: Afterlives
Nobel Prize winner’s saga of colonialism in Africa.

At 18, Abdulrazak Gurnah arrived in England as a refugee from the Zanzibar Revolution. Receiving the Nobel Prize more than 50 years later, he reflected that the “prolonged period of poverty and alienation” he experienced made him a writer. From the contemporary immigrant experience in his debut, Memory of Departure, to colonial wartime conscription in Booker Prize shortlisted Paradise, Abdulrazak’s unflinching yet humane oeuvre interrogates the legacies of empire, centring that which is often too marginalised. Listen as he and writer Sisonke Msimang discuss his tenth novel, Afterlives – an intergenerational portrait of love and loss under German occupation in East Africa.

4 - 5pm Feminist Firebrands
Plot the pathways forward with these incendiary feminist voices.

Four waves in, the feminist fight for gender equality is far from over. This panel brings together the powerful and incendiary feminist voices of Hannah Ferguson, Sisonke Msimang and Jennifer Robinson. Hear from these leading writers and activists who between them offer daring feminist opinions on topics ranging from freedom of speech, right-wing politics, racism, xenophobia, belonging and identity, taboos around sex and pleasure, as well as the legal judgements that continue to silence and disadvantage women. Be inspired by the feminist firebrands who are fighting for meaningful social change. Hosted by the inimitable Jo Dyer, this is an important examination of the most pressing issues facing women today. Supported by UNSW Sydney.

Book for Friday May 24

Saturday 25 May:

10 - 11am Celeste Ng: Our Missing Hearts
The gripping, heart-rending follow-up to Little Fires Everywhere.

Banning books, waving flags and persecuting racial minorities. Sound familiar? Celeste Ng’s third novel, Our Missing Hearts, is set in a marginally more dystopian version of Trump’s America as a patriotic new law removes children from dissident parents. After New York Times–bestselling novel Little Fires Everywhere – which was adapted into a popular miniseries starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon – comes a similarly moving tale about the unbreakable bond between a mother and son. Sit down with Celeste and host Claire Nichols to discuss hope, hero librarians and the power of art to create change. Celeste Ng appears thanks to the support of Sam Meers AO.

12 - 1pm Trent Dalton: From Eli to Lola
Beloved author returns to SWF in this career-spanning conversation.

Trent Dalton has captured readers with books like Boy Swallows Universe and All Our Shimmering Skies. His storytelling voice and compelling characters cement him as a mainstay of Australian literature. His new novel, Lola in the Mirror is a darkly funny, and beautiful story of life, death and a country neck-deep in a national housing crisis. Join Trent as he discusses his process of writing the intricacies of the real world, and real people, onto the page. A supremely compelling and entertaining speaker, Trent will be in conversation with Cassie McCullagh. Supported by ARA.

2 - 3pm Storytellers: Leigh Sales and Lisa Millar
Veteran journalists shine a spotlight on the craft of non-fiction.

ABC legend Leigh Sales turns the spotlight on the best in the business in Storytellers; Questions, Answers and the Craft of Journalism, revealing coveted trade secrets in the process. Leigh is joined in conversation by fellow legend Lisa Millar, whose own book Muster Dogs, provides an insight into the craft of non-fiction writing. With a combined 65 years in journalism, the co-hosts of last year’s hit Newsreader companion podcast, unpack the craft of non-fiction writing and discuss the fine art of turning real life events into a compelling narrative. This session is for anyone who’s ever wanted to be a journalist or even just wondered how the news gets made. Supported by ARA.

4 - 5pm Bringing the Past to Life
Take a step back in time.

“The past is a foreign country”, L.P. Hartley famously wrote. It is also a place readers can visit via masterful historical fiction. Be transported by esteemed panellists Francesca de Tores (Saltblood), Mirandi Riwoe (Sunbirds) and Abraham Verghese (The Covenant of Water) as they discuss the magic of bringing history to life for contemporary audiences. Learn how these authors conjure the past to make sense of the present and convincingly intertwine fact and fiction in their prose. Hosted by Kate Evans (ABC RN’s The Bookshelf). Supported by ARA.

Book for Saturday May 25

Sunday 26 May:

10 - 11am Barrie Cassidy and Friends: State of the Nation
Review the year in AusPol at this Festival favourite.

Relive all the thrills and spills of the year in Australian politics with veteran journo Barrie Cassidy and his hand-picked squad of the country’s sharpest pundits. From the supermarket wars and cost of living crisis to the hottest year on record and unexpected (or expected) resignations, it’s all up for dissection as they take the pulse of the nation. Barrie shares the stage with political journalists Bridget Brennan, Amy Remeikis, Niki Savva and Laura Tingle.

11:30am - 12:30pm Play Like a Girl
Keep Tillies fever burning in this celebration of women’s sports.

Matildas fever swept across Australia during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, taking hold of new soccer fans and diehards alike. But where do we go next to tap into the potential of women’s sport? Hosted by The Ticket podcast’s Tracey Holmes, this elite panel features Olympic rugby gold medalist Chloe Dalton (Girls Don’t Play Sport), Australia’s most decorated cycling Olympian Anna Meares, and world champion pro-athlete Jana Pittman (Enough). Cheer on the sportswomen kicking goals for female athletes everywhere.

1:30 - 2:30pm David Wengrow: The Dawn of Everything
Change the course of history, starting with the past.
Transform your understanding of human evolution with professor of archaeology David Wengrow, whose groundbreaking work with the late David Graeber overturns theories on the origins of farming, cities, democracy, slavery and civilisation itself. In conversation with ABC RN’s Richard Fidler.

3:30 - 4:30pm Dark Technologies: Exposing the Technology of Modern Warfare
Machines lead the charge on today’s battlefields, but what does this mean for the people caught in the crossfire?
Hear about the role of emerging technologies in conflict and occupation with Walkley Award–winning journalist Antony Loewenstein (The Palestine Laboratory), artificial intelligence expert Toby Walsh (Faking It) and host Michael Richardson.

Book for Sunday 26 May