Student Sessions 2020

In light of the current Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, the Government’s directive to restrict public gatherings of more than 500 people, and in the interest of the health and safety of students, teachers, authors, volunteers and Festival staff, we regret to announce the cancellation Student Sessions 2020.

Read the full statement about the Sydney Writers' Festival 2020 cancellation here

 Join the 2020 Festival’s brightest minds for a thought-provoking program of talks, specially curated to complement the school curriculum in ways that inform, challenge and inspire.

With sessions led by world-renowned writers and respected social commentators across film, theatre, journalism, television, literature and more, our Student Sessions program is rich in opportunities for secondary school students. It builds on students’ classroom learning, extends their capacity for critical thinking, and engages them in thoughtful discussion and meaningful debate.

Each talk runs for 45 minutes and all sessions are stand-alone – we invite you to create your own schedule of sessions.

For information on our Student Sessions Livestream event, click here

10am Daniel Mendelsohn on the Classics

The master of popular criticism, Daniel Mendelsohn, uses the ancient past to reach into the very heart of modern culture. Described as “our most irresistible literary critic” (The New York Times), Daniel joins author and journalist Benjamin Law to discuss his latest collection of essays, covering how the automatons in Homer’s epics can help explain AI films Ex Machina and Her, how Virgil’s Aeneid foreshadows post–World War II history, why we are still obsessed with the Titanic, and the feminism that can be found in Game of Thrones.

10am Sharks, Whales and our Evolving Planet

What can the awe-inspiring lives of sharks and whales teach us about ourselves, our planet and our connections to other species? Journalist Callum Denness discusses Australia’s relationship with a creature that has long loomed large in our fears – the shark. And author Rebecca Giggs asks what observing whales can teach us about the complexity, splendour and fragility of life. Join this fascinating panel of marine experts in conversation with author Ashley Hay as they consider the challenges we face on an evolving planet.

10.45–11.15am Book signing

11.15am Paul Kelly on Poetry 

In a session that explores the transformative combination of poetry and music, hear acclaimed singer-songwriter Paul Kelly recite a selection of poems from his new anthology Love Is Strong as Death – a number of which he has set to music and will sing live. In conversation with ABC Radio National’s Kate Evans, Paul discusses a collection that spans the ancient and the modern and speaks to two of literature’s greatest themes: love and death – plus everything in between.

11.15am Bias in the Media: Reading Between the Lines

The role that the media plays in influencing public opinion has become a topic of intense debate. How do journalists present a balanced version of events? What is the power of persuasive language? And do Australia’s defamation laws support or suppress free speech? The Monthly’s Richard Cooke explores these issues with award-winning Night Games and Into the Woods author Anna Krien, editor of Schwartz Media’s 7am podcast, Osman Faruqi and The Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate McClymont

12–1pm Book signing and lunch break

1pm Centre Stage

Whether for film, television or the stage, a new generation of Australian scriptwriters are making their mark. Logie winner, actor and screenwriter of the AACTA-nominated Top End Wedding, Miranda Tapsell, and Michelle Law, whose work includes the hit play Single Asian Female and the award-winning SBS series Homecoming Queens, will be in conversation with writer and theatre-maker Maeve Marsden, discussing their craft, voice and artistic practice, as well as the importance of diversity on stage and screen.

1pm Bruce Pascoe: Writing Australia – SOLD OUT 

One of the country’s most beloved storytellers, Indigenous writer Bruce Pascoe, talks about his groundbreaking contributions to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storytelling in contemporary Australia. Bruce joins ABC Radio National’s Daniel Browning in conversation, reflecting on his enduring fascination with Australia’s landscape, culture and history; his widely popular Dark Emu, soon to be adapted as a television series; and his latest collection Salt.

1.45–2.15pm Book signing and finish


For more information about Student Sessions, please contact us:

(02) 9256 4200