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All About Ambition

A message from MWF Artistic Director, Michaela McGuire

Explore the MWF 2022 program


Let’s talk about dreams.

Specifically, one I’ve had for a while now. Back in 2020, I set my sights on returning to my adopted hometown to direct the Melbourne Writers Festival. We all know how that story ended. A few years later, that same dreamer would like to invite you to a celebration of all things ambitious and aspirational, across one literary long weekend.

Reading is the ultimate act of ambition; the boundless ambition of the curious mind. Ambition to learn, to inhabit another person’s life and experience the world from their point of view. To grasp the limitless possibilities that literature affords us, the solace it has given, the joy it still has to offer.

For our community of readers and writers, our shared ambition to come together and revel in books, stories and ideas is finally here.

This year, we’re celebrating the wild ambition of more than 250 of the world’s most exciting storytellers; from the ones we’ve admired forever to the next favourite you’re about to discover. Our festival theme of ‘ambition’ is a testament to their creativity, discipline, camaraderie and sheer hard work as well as the unwavering commitment of readers to exclaim, argue, discuss and praise their work.

To be ambitious, after all, is a choice. It is a resolution to be optimistic and believe there’s something  worth working towards. And worth discovering.

To open the Festival, three revered writers – Jennifer Down, Mohsin Hamid and Aileen Moreton-Robinson – deliver unforgettable addresses on what ambition means to them.

This year’s Festival has been enlivened with events from First Nations Curators, acclaimed writers Jazz Money and Chelsea Watego, that speak to the complexities, joys and challenges of being a First Nations creative in so-called Australia.

A 24-hour flight to Australia was always an ambitious undertaking, even in the best of times (remember those?). Five writers with wildly different careers are gamely making the trip to join us. We are so excited to welcome Succession’s Brian Cox, Booker Prize finalist Mohsin Hamid, lauded English author Sarah Moss, creative marvel Jenny Slate and beloved author Sarah Winman to Melbourne. Abbas Nazari also joins from New Zealand – a shorter flight that feels no less momentous.

Our new series, The Feeling is Mutual, brings together writers and storytellers who share a mutual admiration for each other’s work. Ali Cobby Eckermann and Evelyn Araluen, Helen Garner and Chloe Hooper, and Fran Kelly and Patricia Karvelas discuss how they’ve drawn creatively from the other, and the challenges and inspirations central to their careers.

Our brightest and most enquiring minds join forces to assess this country’s social, cultural and political ambitions. David Marr, Cameron Stewart and Laura Tingle discuss the year that political ambitions were both thwarted and realised on our national stage, with Fran Kelly. And as the Queen enters the twilight of her reign, Dennis Altman, Julia Baird, Peter FitzSimons and Teela Reid discuss the nation’s path towards becoming a republic.

Vladimir Putin’s imperial ambitions have changed the world. Anthony Galloway, Carrie McDougall, Suzie Sheehy, Andrew Walter and Ukrainian ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its repercussions. And live via video, former Moscow correspondent for The New Yorker, Joshua Yaffa, discusses truth, ambition and compromise in Russia.

What is success for an author? Is it an attainable form of creative contentment, or a maddening ambition for artistic perfection never quite realised, no matter the accolades? Evelyn Araluen, Laura Jean McKay, Sarah Moss and Omar Sakr consider literary measures of success.

In unendingly unprecedented times, what hope can be found in art? Sophie Cunningham and Christos Tsiolkas shed light on their latest novels that ask big questions of creativity, love and the lessons of our past. While some of our most voracious lovers of words, Maya Hodge, Sarah Holland-Batt, Chloe Hooper, Sarah Moss and Abbas Nazari, share the books they hold closest to their hearts.

Beaming in live from overseas, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Jarvis Cocker, Anita Hill, Ottessa Moshfegh, Sheila Heti and Joshua Yaffa share insights into their essays, memoirs, novels and award-winning nonfiction.

We also hope you’ll join us for an unforgettable night of storytelling from a stellar line-up of writers, and watch some of our wittiest word-wielders go head-to-head in our big debate.

MWF Digital is back. Tune in anywhere, at any time, to hear conversations with 10 thrilling writers, from Pulitzer Prize winners to fan favourites. Best of all, just pay what you can.

For the little readers in your life, we’ve gathered some of the most loved children’s writers and illustrators in Australia, including Gabrielle Wang, Teeny Tiny Stevies, Corey Tutt and more. While a selection of extraordinary YA authors, including Sarah AyoubTobias Madden and CS Pacat, share their wildly popular stories of teenagers navigating this mad world.

To see out this dream-laden literary long weekend, one of Australia’s most ambitious writers, Robert Dessaix, brings his trademark wit to the Festival’s Closing Night Address, reflecting on a lifetime of manifold ambitions, and how his desires and aspirations have ebbed, flowed and changed course.

We can’t wait to welcome you in September.