It was believed a whale had gone mad… Pregnant with the thrill of storytelling, full of surprises, calm, jarring, momentous or direct, the first lines of a writer’s work take us to exactly where they want us to be. Whether this is at the beginning, the middle or the end of a story, a life, or an argument we are in their hands, and now have to trust them to take us on the journey. Come and meet our festival guests as they unfold their beginnings – five minutes of the stories, books, poetry and more that they are sharing at the Festival.

Supported by UNSW Sydney.

Robbie Arnott (Australian)

Robbie Arnott

Robbie Arnott is the author of Limberlost, The Rain Heron and Flames. He has won The Age Book of the Year, been named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novelist and been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. He lives in Hobart.

Shirley Le (Australian)

Shirley Le

Shirley Le is a Vietnamese-Australian writer from Yagoona and Creative Producer at Sweatshop Literacy Movement. Her writing has been published in Overland, The Guardian, SBS Voices, Meanjin and several Sweatshop anthologies. She also co-wrote the play Sex, Drugs and Pork Rolls, presented by UTP in partnership with Sweatshop. Funny Ethnics (Affirm Press, 2023) is her first novel.

Fiona McFarlane (Australian)

Fiona McFarlane

Fiona McFarlane is the author of The Night Guest, which was shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, and The High Places, which won the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her latest novel is The Sun Walks Down, and her short stories have been published in The New Yorker, Best Australian Short Stories, and Zoetrope: All-Story. She teaches fiction at the University of California, Berkeley.

James McKenzie Watson (Australian)

James McKenzie Watson

James McKenzie Watson writes fiction with a focus on health and rural Australia. His novel Denizen won the 2021 Penguin Literary Prize and was published by Penguin Random House in 2022. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, Meanjin, and the Newtown Review of Books. He co-hosts the writing and health podcast James and Ashley Stay at Home and works as a nurse.

Kate Scott (Australian)

Kate Scott

Kate Scott is the author of Compulsion, a novel animated by her early career as a music journalist and editor. She spent ten years with The Australian Ballet as their in-house writer and head of marketing, where she edited the award-winning photography book Luminous. Kate now lives in Thirroul on New South Wales's south coast, works as a freelance arts strategist, and has two rabbits, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed. Kate Scott acknowledges the Dharawal people, on whose lands she lives and works. Sovereignty was never ceded.