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What is a writers’ festival and why should you care?

by Cecile Shanahan

Writers’ festivals are cropping up more and more across the country. Are they just for writers or is there something for everyone at these events?

To help answer these questions, we’ve enlisted the help of writer, blogger and Open Colleges’ student, Cecile Shanahan.

Sydney writers' festival

Image taken from Sydney Writers’ Festival website

Sports, cooking, war, cars, science, fashion, art, music, culture, philosophy, politics, gardening, comedy, fishing, law, environment, the list goes on and on…

It’s a pretty diverse list and you’re probably thinking what could all of these things possibly have in common?

The answer is simple. Somewhere across Australia on any given weekend you’ll find a writers’ festival where people from all walks of life come together to share their passions.

What? I hear you say… aren’t writers’ festivals just about books?

Well technically yes, but they are so much more than just a gathering of hardcore book lovers. Writers’ festivals bring together people who share common passions and who have ideas to discuss about them.

Image from Sydney Writers’ Festival website

You don’t have to be an author or even someone who reads a lot to attend a writers’ festival. If you have an interest that inspires you, chances are there’s a writers’ festival event somewhere that might just be perfect for you.

One writers’ festival director summed it up perfectly when she said, “Good talk about things that matter: that is what makes a writers festival so interesting and inspiring”.

Not the typical festival

Most people, when they think of festivals, envision rock festivals of summer days gone by, or perhaps even a market stall or farmers market type situation.

However, writers’ festivals are happening in towns and cities all over Australia.

Meet famous authors

There’s much more to be gained from attending a writers’ festival than just getting your favourite book signed by its author.

Writers’ festivals also offer a chance for readers and writers to connect. Writing is usually a very solitary profession and likewise, reading a personal and individual pursuit, so to put readers and writers together can make for compelling conversations.

More than just tips and tricks

You won’t just hear about how to write a book. Yes, there are the sessions where you might be able to learn tricks of the trade from professionals in the publishing industry, but what you’ll also get to hear is books being read by their creators. You can also hear discussions with authors about the issues raised in their books or debates between writers about conflicting opinions shared in their works.

You might be lucky enough to watch an illustrator explain their craft or to hear a biographers share the complexities of interpreting personal diaries. Perhaps you’ll see a celebrity chef cook up a storm while telling funny anecdotes about the making of their latest book.

Food, wine and coffee

Speaking of eating; usually good coffee (or wine/beer) and food can be found close by to any good literary festival. Organisers like to ensure patrons and participants alike, are well fuelled for their sessions.

food and drink at writers' festival

Find a festival

Visiting the various places which host writers festivals can be a little like embarking on a ‘hot spot’ tour of Australia. All the capital cities are represented, but so are many smaller regional towns with lots to see and do.

Festivals you’ve unfortunately missed for this year but can marked on the calendar for next year:

Still to come in 2016 (get in quick to secure seats for many of them):

Other festivals yet to publish 2016 details:

Many smaller regional towns and cities also have writers’ festivals or literary events which are definitely worth further investigation. Local libraries are always a great starting point to find out what’s happening in your part of the world.

Warning: Your wallet may empty a little as your bookshelf and ‘must read’ pile expand! Shopping at the festival bookshop is a highlight for many attendees.

Interested in event planning?

Open Colleges’ Diploma of Events will teach you how to plan and organise an event from concept through to execution. Study online, in your own time and get the skills you need to launch your new career.

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