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Festival Guide: Traversing the Tomes

At the heart of Melbourne Writers Festival is a love of the written word – the power of literature to shape our understanding of the world around us. For Festival friends with books at their beating heart, we’ve curated our favourite sessions that put tomes, and the authors who pen them, front and centre.



Bodies for Sale
Saturday 31 August, 11.30am
Mexican author Emiliano Monge and American-Filipino novelist Joanne Ramosboth explore the concept of human trafficking and the body as a commodity. While Monge’s Among the Lost interrogates the terror and despair of the migrant border experience, Ramos’ The Farm explores the ‘fertility economy’ and the story of a young Filipino immigrant who agrees to rent out her womb. These esteemed authors explore the politics of the body. With Chandani Lokuge.


Claire G Coleman: The Old Lie
Saturday 31 August, 11.30am
The Old Lie is a story of an Australia ravaged by war and mired in glory. In this much anticipated follow up to her bestselling and prize-winning work Terra Nullius, Claire G Coleman weaves together a surprising and unforgettable narrative of family, trust, and what happens when we fail to learn lessons from the past. Coleman speaks for the first time about her new book with Bridget Caldwell.


Tony Birch: The White Girl
Saturday 31 August, 2.30pm
Tony Birch
discusses his new novel, The White Girl – the post-war story of an Aboriginal matriarch living under the Aborigines Act. He talks with Melissa Lucashenko about the emotional precariousness of Indigenous Australians at the time, and the lengths we go to protect our family.


PEN Lecture: Untying the Tongue
Saturday 31 August, 5.30pm
In this Year of Indigenous Languages, Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch (The Yield) shares how language has informed her writing, and looks forward to a future where Indigenous languages are centred as national imperatives.


The Child Within
Friday 6 September, 11.30am
Peggy Frew
’s Islands, Peter Fenton’s The Days of In Between, Carrie Tiffany’s Exploded View, and multiple works by author Alice Pung present characters written from a child’s viewpoint. They speak with Demet Divaroren about writing from a young perspective.


Boisbouvier Oration: Publishing from the Provinces
Wednesday 4 September, 6.30pm
Literary publishing in Australia is inherently provincial — it occupies an outlying territory, unknown to most readers, which is fiercely independent in its character and values. Ivor Indyk, Giramondo publisher and Whitlam Professor at Western Sydney University, explores its contours in this special event. Following the oration, he will be joined by award-winning author Alexis Wright, Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature, to discuss the current state of Australia’s literary landscape and how we can encourage new Australian voices to join the conversation.


Guardian Australia: The Unmissables
Saturday 7 September, 10am
We’ve all got favourite books over time that we’ll insist are unmissable. But what do some of your most beloved authors choose as their own personal must-reads? Join Australian greats Toni Jordan, Alice Pung, Carrie Tiffany and Corey White as they lay their literary souls bare and share their own unmissable classic novels. With Stephanie Convery.



Love Letter To A Book
Saturday 7 September, 10am
We’ve all felt passionately about a novel from our past, but have we ever taken the time to write a heartfelt note to it directly, thanking it for the way it shaped and moved us? Hear Amal Awad, Ruby Hamad, Sarah Krasnostein and Daniel Mallory Ortberg do just this.


Still need more for your reading list? Dive into our best book series:

Readings Recommends

Across the Festival, get the low down from the bookselling experts with this series of special conversations, Readings Recommends, featuring authors including Alice Bishop (A Constant Hum), Angela Meyer (A Superior Spectre), Bruce Pascoe (Dark Emu) and JP Pomare (Call Me Evie). 

Book Clubs

Our Book Clubs invite you to get up close and personal for your favourite authors and hotly debate their personal book club selections. With only twenty seats per session, enjoy an intimate evening with Festival authors and artists including Julian Burnside, Scott Ludlam, Brian Nankervis, Judith Lucy, Sloane Crosley, Nazeem Hussain and others.

Melbourne Masterclasses 

In our Melbourne Masterclasses, some of The University of Melbourne’s most celebrated literary alumni and academics come together for a special in-conversation. Featuring authors Alexis Wright, Maria Tumarkin, Emily Bitto and Arnold Zable.