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Sydney Writers' Festival 2023

Close to 300 writers and thinkers will take to the stage across 226 events, exploring this year's theme 'Stories for the Future'.
By Sarah Ward
May 09, 2023
By Sarah Ward
May 09, 2023

If you've spent the past year with your nose buried in a book, that's about to pay off beyond the everyday joys and thrills of reading. Sydney Writers' Festival returns for 2023 with another hefty catalogue of thought-provoking events — 226 of them, with almost 300 writers and thinkers involved.

Every writers' festival converges around an annual theme, with Sydney's focusing on 'Stories for the Future' for its 2023 iteration from Monday, May 22–Sunday, May 28 at various venues around the city — and also beamed digitally.

Today's most current Booker Prize-winner, plus three from past years as well, top the lineup: Shehan Karunatilaka, who won in 2022 for The Seven Moons of Maali AlmeidaThe Luminaries' Eleanor Catton; The Narrow Road to The Deep North's Richard Flanagan and Girl Woman Other's Bernardine Evaristo. Still on highly applauded attendees, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist Colson Whitehead — for The Underground Railroad, which was then adapted into a TV series, and for The Nickel Boys — also leads the bill, arriving between Harlem Shuffle's 2021 publication and sequel Crook Manifesto's arrival this July.

Among the international names at the Sydney Writers' Festival, the above headliners have ample company. When Trinidad-born UK musician Anthony Joseph isn't talking poetry — he is 2022's TS Eliot Prize for Poetry winner — London restauranteur Asma Khan from Darjeeling Express, and also seen on Chef's Table, will chat about comfort food; Daniel Lavery from Slate, who penned the Dear Prudence column from 2016–21, will run through his best advice; and Vietnamese author Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai will introduce her new novel Dust Child.

On the local front, get ready for two iconic pairings: former Prime Minister Julia Gillard being interviewed by Indira Naidoo, plus Jurassic Park favourite Sam Neill discussing work, life and writing with his Sweet CountryDean SpanleyDirty Deeds and Palm Beach co-star Bryan Brown. Also on the must-attend list: Grace Tame chatting about The Ninth Life of a Diamond Miner: A MemoirHeartbreak High's Chloé Hayden doing the same with Different, Not Less: A neurodivergent's guide to embracing your true self and finding your happily ever after, and Stan Grant on The Queen Is Dead. Also, on Monday, May 15 before the main festival, Tim Winton will discuss writing the ABC TV documentary Love Letter to Ningaloo.

And, if your main relationship with the printed word is through recipe books, the 2023 festival is going all in on the topic for one day at Carriageworks Farmers Market. Stephanie Alexander and Maggie Beer will talk with Adam Liaw, while fixing the food system and family recipes will also nab chats by culinary talent. Capping off the bill will be foodie gala The Dinner That Changed My Life, with everyone from Nat's What I Reckon and Jennifer Wong to Alice Zaslavsky and Colombo Social's Shaun Christie-David involved.

As always, free events are a big part of the program as well, with more than 80 on this year. And, also in the same category, the spread of venues is hefty — including Carriageworks, Town Hall, and 25 suburban venues and libraries across Sydney.

Grace Tame by Kishka Jensen

Images: Prudence Upton.

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