Melbourne Writers Festival reveals 2019 program

SLV Reading RoomMelbourne Writers Festival (MWF19) has assembled a sublime collection of authors, journalists, playwrights, poets, songwriters and artists to contemplate love in all its raw, dizzying, ecstatic glory at its beautiful new home in and around State Library Victoria this August.

Taking its theme from Raymond Carver’s short story collection, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, MWF19 will interrogate our love for people, sex, politics and country through conversations, new writing, music and immersive events.

Artistic Director Marieke Hardy will take Melbourne on a journey from the first flush of new romance to last goodbyes, with events including a raucous hen’s night with comedy writers Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, a faux wedding reception for Yumi Stynes, and a place to honour past love at the Museum of Broken Relationships. This Australian exclusive exhibition will showcase pieces from the permanent collections in Zagreb and L.A. together with new contributions from heartbroken Melburnians.

“Love stirs our creative spirits, brings us to our knees, inspires songs and sonnets and paintings and volumes, and breaks us into tiny pieces and glues us back together again with gold adhesive,” said Ms Hardy. “When we talk about love at MWF19, there will be stories of resilience, of heartbreak and letting go, of family and bodies and home.”

The program features literary heavyweights including 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction winner Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), Australian literary giant and Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan and revered Canadian novelist Patrick deWitt (French Exit), with genre giants including Scottish crime queen Val McDermid and Ireland’s John Connolly.

Mexican author Emiliano Monge, who exposed migrant experiences on the border in Among The Lost, and American-Filipino novelist Joanne Ramos (author of fertility economy novel The Farm) will explore the concept of human trafficking and the body as a commodity.

In addition to experimental rock writer and co-founder of Sonic Youth Kim Gordon, Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt (Antisemitism: Here and Now) and Black Lives Matter activist and author DeRay Mckesson (On the Other Side of Freedom), international guests include:

  • Marvel comic author, academic and sociologist, Eve L. Ewing on writing Ironheart;
  • American online magazine columnist and host of Slate’s hugely popular podcast, Dear Prudence, Daniel Mallory Ortberg discussing the quandaries that hurt our hearts;
  • American young adult superstar, Becky Albertalli on her bestseller Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda – which was made into the critically acclaimed film Love, Simon;
  • Former New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark discussing equality and power with journalist and State Library Victoria CEO, Kate Torney;
  • New York Times essayist Sloane Crosley (I Was Told There’d Be Cake) on making profound art out of awkwardness; and
  • Award-winning Indian poet and author, Tishani Doshi on her novel, Small Days and Nights.

The festival will continue to consider the work of songwriters with an array of musical guests including:

  • American singer-songwriter, Ben Folds performing the songs that shaped him and discussing his extraordinary new memoir, A Dream About Lightning Bugs, with Charlie Pickering;
  • Cold Chisel’s Don Walker looking back on his legendary career, in conversation with Paul Kelly;
  • Iconic singer-songwriter, Tina Arena in conversation with Yorta Yorta soprano, composer and educator Deborah Cheetham as part of the Festival’s popular Duets series; and
  • New Zealand’s Shayne Carter, singer of trailblazing band Straightjacket Fits talking about his memoir, Dead People I Have Known with Peter Fenton.

Themes of love and loss will feature in a series of events at the Toff in Town as it is transformed into a wedding chapel and then a divorce court. Comedians Anne Edmonds and Nath Valvo will perform a selection of some of Melbourne’s worst ever, self-penned wedding vows.

The Book Club is back in 2019, with eight fascinating broadcasters, comedians, former politicians and authors hosting an intimate discussion on their favourite books. Highlights include Brian Nankervis on Trent Dalton’s acclaimed bestseller Boy Swallows Universe; Judith Lucy on Cormac McCarthy’s gruesome Blood Meridian; and Julian Burnside on Kurt Vonnegut’s darkly comic anti-war novel Slaughterhouse-Five.

On A Day of Romance, MWF19 will examine the romance genre and those who pen it in sessions including Unpicking Classic Romances, a look at the problematic nature of classics with Clare Connelly, Anne Gracie and Toni Jordan and a discussion of the real-time reaction of romance fiction to political and cultural shifts in Romance is Resistance with Anne Gracie, Melanie Milburne, and CS Pacat.

The 2019 Melbourne Writers Festival runs 30 August – 8 September in and around State Library Victoria. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: State Library Victoria (supplied)