Image: Melbourne Writers Festival

It’s deep into 2020 and we all need a little distraction. Thankfully, Melbourne Writers Festival has put together a fascinating digital program that is sure to give us all plenty to think about. With a pay-what-you-can ticketing system, the festival kicks off on Friday 7 August. In keeping with this year’s theme of ‘attention’, the Affirm Press team shares some of the sessions that have caught our eye.


I will be tuning into Kevin Kwan’s session on his new book Sex and Vanity. I was smitten with the obscene opulence and high-society drama of Crazy Rich Asians, so this racy new title has absolutely grabbed my attention. I’m also looking forward to hearing Julia Gillard discuss her book Women and Leadership – a fascinating dynamic that I don’t think received enough attention when she was PM.


Anne Enright grabs my attention instantly and I’m delighted she’s ‘coming to Melbourne’ this year, but the session I’m most compelled by is Sophie McNeil’s We Can’t Say We Didn’t Know. She’s the journalist I dreamed I might become before I got cynical and side-tracked.


Jamila Rizvi, Clare Bowditch and Miranda Tapsell together in Bubbly with Jam & Clare would be pretty fascinating. All very smart women who I imagine have interesting and differing life stories.


It’s always exciting when one of your favourite authors is programmed in conversation with one of your other favourite authors. I’m looking forward to the launch of Victoria Hannan’s debut Kokomo because a) it’s a wonderful novel, and b) she’ll be chatting with Ronnie Scott. I loved both Kokomo and Ronnie’s The Adversary so with their powers combined, it’s sure to be a great discussion.


My attention was immediately grabbed by the session with Casey McQuiston. I adored her novel Red, White & Royal Blue and will probably just take this as excuse to re-read it before attending!


There are so many excellent sessions this year, but the one that really grabbed my attention was Science Vs Romance. I’m always interested in the intersection of art and science and I love the idea of seeing romance and art collide in a session, particularly given the current backdrop of COVID-19.


At the start of the year it felt like we had finally gained some momentum in taking action on climate change, but the pandemic stalled that somewhat. I’m looking forward to kicking back into gear with A Matter of Fact and Australia’s Response to Climate Change.


I am intrigued by the premise of Charlotte McConaghy’s forthcoming novel, The Last Migration, and the synopsis of her related MWF talk has me hooked already! I’m looking for an epic journey that can take me far away from locked down Melbourne for a brief time, and I think this will be it.


I found it hard to narrow down my choices this year, but I’m most looking forward to listening to author and journalist Patrick Radden Keefe. I’m currently reading Say Nothing, his incredible account of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. It’s the kind of book that grabs your attention and won’t let it go – I’m sure this session will be no different.

Don’t miss the session on After Australia with Claire G. Coleman, Omar Sakr and Michael Mohammed Ahmad on Saturday 8 August – and keep an eye out for Sarah Bailey’s interview with The Safe Place author Anna Downes on the MWF blog.