Where do I start?

Whether you’re a literature lover, a news junkie or a YA, science-fiction or crime thriller fan, Sydney Writers’ Festival has an event for you. But amid the 300 plus events on the bill, you might not know where to start. We’ve put together a guide to help you navigate the 2019 Festival program.

A Message from our Artistic Director

If you’re after some guidance, why not take it from the person who knows the Festival program best. Read Michaela McGuire’s Artistic Director's message, here.

2019 Podcast

For further insight into the 2019 Festival, listen to Artistic Director Michaela McGuire's chat about the program with Annabel Crabb on our podcast channel.

2019 Guest Curators: Melanie Cheng & Lisa Lucas  

This year’s program is enriched by two special guests who have brought their unique creative vision to the Festival. You can read more about our Guest Curators on our blog.

Melanie Cheng (Australia Day and Room for a Stranger) has framed events that contemplate reflections. She’ll examine how we derive our sense of self in an increasingly fragmented and digitalised world, and whether it’s truly possible to start afresh in a new land, or whether the past follows us wherever we go. 


National Book Foundation’s Executive Director Lisa Lucas considers all kinds of lies: the lies writers are told (and tell themselves) about their careers; the lie that women’s stories, friendships and fury shouldn’t enjoy as much prominence as those of men; and she looks at turning hard truths about inequality, racism and justice into fiction.

Festival highlights

For this year’s biggest names and not-to-be-missed events, check out our Festival highlights.


Find more program highlights, here.

Thinking Globally

It has been said, we’re in the grip of an anxiety epidemic. Pundits point to all manner of causes – inequality, social media, the gig economy, populist politics – but what are the true origins of this angst and what can be done to allay our malaise? International journalists are under greater threat than at any point in the last decade – what is the cost of reporting the truth and exposing lies under corrupt and oppressive governments? Thinking Globally takes a fresh look at some of the most pressing issues facing the world today. Featuring Turkish journalist Ece Temelkuran, Mexican reporter Anabel Hernández, Iraqi–American writer Dunya Mikhail, British author of Nervous States William Davies and Archibald Prize–winning artist Ben Quilty.

Curiosity Lecture Series

Some of the Festival’s most inquiring minds present talks on an eclectic range of subjects, covering witches through history; Haruki Murakami; Kate Bush; ‘Token Ethnic Friends in Pop Culture’; Princess Diana; the subculture of ‘Chilli-Heads’; and the Bloomsbury Set.

Find more Curiosity Lectures, here.

Family Program

Our Family Program is back with a bang on Saturday 4 May, with bestselling author Aaron Blabey offering a sneak peek of his newest characters and drawings in a rare live appearance at Sydney Town Hall.

On Sunday 5 May, come along to Family Day at Carriageworks for a fun-filled celebration of storytelling and creativity for kids of all ages. Don’t miss never-before-seen stage events with international guests including the creator of precocious third-grader Judy Moody, Megan McDonald; winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and the Costa Children’s Book Award, Katherine Rundell; and local favourites Sally Rippin; Maxine Beneba Clarke; Dr Karl Kruszelnicki; and Matt Cosgrove. The Big Backyard is as buzzy as ever with free activities to delight young booklovers and creative kids, running from 10am–4pm.

Find more Family Program highlights, here.

All-Day YA

On Saturday 4 May, we'll be taking over Riverside Theatres in Parramatta for All-Day YA, speakers including bestselling authors Dhonielle Clayton, Mackenzi Lee and Neal Shusterman take to the stage alongside local literati Alison Evans, Lili Wilkinson, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Jenna Guillaume.

With sessions specially programmed by the Sydney Writers’ Festival Youth Curators, All-Day YA dives deep into themes of identity, politics, deceit and problematic love interests. Witness blistering new poetry and hear love letters to authors’ most beloved fandoms. The ever-popular TeenCon returns once again for the inside word on what’s coming up this year, hosted by Will Kostakis and Gabrielle Tozer.

Find more All-Day YA sessions here.