Listen to new episodes of the Melbourne Writers Festival podcast!


A Message from Artistic Director Michaela McGuire

Throughout the last few discomfiting years, many of us have felt far away from who we once were. Our circumstances, behaviours, even our personalities, have changed, possibly forever. For a while, physical travel was impossible, and we relied solely on reading (and, ok, on streaming services) as a way of being transported to other worlds, perspectives and states of mind. Reading is inherently connected with daydreaming and imagination. We ‘get lost’ in books, the rest of the world falling away until someone interrupts to ask ‘where we went’.

This year’s theme, I’ve Been Away for a While, is an invitation to find our way back to each other, to ourselves, and to the very world we all inhabit. But as who we are now. Perhaps changed, perhaps the same, perhaps still unknowable and unsure. We welcome you to return to Melbourne Writers Festival, to beloved books and writers, to what’s familiar and what’s new.

We welcome you to return to Melbourne Writers Festival, to beloved books and writers, to what’s familiar and what’s new.

This year, we’re welcoming pop culture icons from food, music and film, Booker Prize winners and shortlistees, local writers of sparkling debut and sophisticated sophomore novels, leading public intellectuals, beloved broadcasters and Twitter’s most erudite and witty language guru.

It’s been a while since Melbourne Writers Festival has staged events at Melbourne Town Hall, and this year we’re delighted to present a phenomenal line-up of artists across two nights in this iconic venue. An all-star line-up of local and international writers reflect on the festival theme for our Opening Night: Benjamin Dreyer, Bill Hayes, Sarah Krasnostein, Jazz Money and Warwick Thornton. Alison Roman has been a mainstay of Melbourne home kitchens since the publications of Dining In and Nothing Fancy, and this May, we’re welcoming her to Australia for the first time to celebrate the launch of Sweet Enough. Treasured singer-songwriter Paul Kelly celebrates other people’s words with Alice Keath. Winner of the 2022 Booker Prize Shehan Karunatilaka discusses his dazzling magic-realist novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida that casts light on politics, history, religion and mythology.

Joining us on the weekend of King Charles’ coronation, Stan Grant discusses his timely new book  The Queen is Dead and considers how, in the wake of her passing, we might more fully reckon with our colonial past and redefine our future.

Professor Marcia Langton and Professor Aaron Corn, co-authors of Law: The Way of the Ancestors, discuss how Indigenous law, cultivated over millennia, is inspiring new paths forward amidst global crises.

Claire Keegan has earned a reputation as one of Ireland’s most canonical writers for a body of short fiction that has drawn comparison to the likes of Alice Munro and Anton Chekhov. She joins us in person to discuss her most recent novella, Small Things Like These, which was shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize.

The authors of two of the buzziest novels of the year, Emma Straub (This Time Tomorrow) and Gabrielle Zevin (Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow) discuss their wildly popular new books.

This year’s program has been enlivened by the work of acclaimed writers and First Nations Curators Tony Birch and Ellen van Neerven.

This year’s program has been enlivened by the work of acclaimed writers and First Nations Curators Tony Birch and Ellen van Neerven. Birch invites Paul Daley and Fiona McFarlane to consider frontier fictions, and interviews van Neerven about Personal Score, their groundbreaking examination of sport from a First Nations and queer perspective. van Neerven has curated what promises to be a comic and competitive MWF Big Debate: Sports Versus Literature. They also invite Charmaine Papertalk Green, Dianne Jones, Jeanine Leane and Yhonnie Scarce to discuss how the interplay of art and writing by First Nations creatives can reshape how we see ourselves as a nation, and ask Tony Birch, Bill Hayes and Chelsea Watego to reflect on the relationship between the body, mind and creativity.

Beloved actor Sam Neill takes to the stage to discuss his unexpected and wicked memoir Did I Ever Tell You This?, which was written in a creative burst of just a few months last year.

In 2019, Bernardine Evaristo won the Booker Prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other, becoming the first Black woman to do so and achieving what she jokes was an ‘overnight success’ some four decades in the making. In the final event of the Festival, she discusses her new memoir Manifesto: On Never Giving Up.

We hope you’ll join us for this singular moment in Melbourne; where readers and writers gather after being away for a while. What has changed? What remains the same? And while we were away, what stories did we carry with us?

We can’t wait to welcome you in May.