Explore the 2024 Program

Take Me Away Q&A with Kate Mildenhall

As May rapidly approaches, we are so excited to welcome you to the Festival and to introduce you to the writers who make it all worthwhile. To awaken your Festival spirit, we're got a series of Q&As to introduce some of the 2024 participants. Get to know them as we discuss their reading, their writing practice and the Festival theme, Take Me Away.

Kate Mildenhall is co-host of The First Time podcast which speaks to writers about their debut experiences. She is the author of SkylarkingThe Mother Fault and The Hummingbird Effect. She is currently undertaking a PhD in creative process at RMIT University and working on her fourth novel.

What kind of books do you get lost in while reading?

Most books I love are the lose-yourself type! Most recently I was utterly transported by The Extinction of Irena Rey by Jennifer Croft – the kind of big concept plus visceral writing and setting that I adore. Hoping to catch Croft at Sydney Writers' Festival! Will also happily curl up for an afternoon with a gripping crime like Melanie Saward’s Burn or delicious romance like Claire Christian’s It’s Been a Pleasure, Noni Blake.

What inspired you to start The First Time podcast?

I was a very green debut writer, my friend and co-host, Katherine Collette was preparing to publish her debut novel, The Helpline, and we were both pretty clueless about a lot of the business and publicity side of the industry. We wanted to both ask other Australian writers about their own experiences so we could learn from them and also to try and chart what our own rollercoaster of writing and publishing was like. Over six years, we interviewed more than 250 Australian and international writers and went through our own failures, successes, wobbly moments and big wins on air. Not only has the experience been incredibly helpful for us, but along the way we’ve created a community of listeners and guests who continue to learn from and support each other. Also – we’ve had a lot of fun.

Do you remember what it felt like becoming a first-time novelist?

At my first writers' festival at Byron Bay, a week after my debut novel Skylarking came out in 2016, I sat next to Paul Keating at a signing table and waited, mortified, as his line stretched multiple times around the tent and the only person who approached me was someone who had Paul’s book and asked if I wanted to sign it because she felt sorry for me. So there was that particular humiliation but also the joy of finding my first ever festival wing-woman – the exceptional Briohny Doyle – who taught me some of the ropes, walked the beach and shared a jug of breakfast Bloody Mary with me – I remember her kindness every time I attend a writers' festival.

What events are looking forward to attending at the Festival?

Wish I could split myself in half (I’m on at the same time!) to attend Found in Translation with Jennifer Croft, Daniel Hahn and the wonderful Stephanie Smee who I’ve interviewed for the podcastCharlotte Wood and Emily Perkins together will be incredible. I’m a fan of both Shankari Chandran and Yumna Kussab and The Presence of the Past will be excellent.

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