Editor Group is proud to support the Sydney Writers’ Festival again in 2021. As part of this support, we edit and proofread the program, and we are also enthusiastic attendees!

True to its theme of ‘Within Reach’, many of the Festival’s events urge us to look forward to what could be within our grasp after a year of extraordinary upheaval. The program touches on everything from the pandemic and our current political landscape to the ethics of technology, the ongoing battle against climate change and the works of some of the greatest writers of our time.

Here are our top 20 picks for Sydney Writers’ Festival 2021. Whether you’re interested in news, politics or fiction, you’re sure to find something that appeals.

  1. Uncomfortably Close

Since its rise in popularity in the 19th century, crime fiction has remained a literary staple. But why are we so obsessed with gruesome tales and spine-chilling characters? Join renowned Australian crime writers Chris Hammer (Scrublands), Candice Fox (Gathering Dark), Sulari Gentill (A Few Right Thinking Men) and host Tim Ayliffe as they attempt to unravel this mystery.

April 29, 10–11am, Carriageworks, Track 12.

  1. The Other C-Word

Political editor Paddy Manning (Body Count), documentarian Craig Reucassel (Fight for Planet A) and Walkley Award–winning journalist Marian Wilkinson (The Carbon Club) bring the conversation back to climate change after a year overshadowed by the pandemic palaver.

April 29, 12–1pm, Carriageworks, Bay 22.

  1. Journalism: A Voice for the Vulnerable

We know journalism can be a powerful tool in effecting change, holding people to account and giving a voice to the most vulnerable among us. This event brings together Walkley Award–winning journalist Lorena Allam, Jessica Halloran, Jacqueline Maley and Kate McClymont to discuss just how influential quality journalism can be.

April 29, 2–3pm, Carriageworks, Bay 22.

  1. Thomas Keneally and Stan Grant

Thomas Keneally is the author of more than 50 books, including 1982 Booker Prize–winner Schindler’s Arkand 1972 Booker Prize–nominated The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith. In this event he reflects on his career with friend Stan Grant, who wrote the latest instalment of the Writers on Writers series about Thomas and his works.

April 29, 2.30–3.30pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20.

  1. The Art of the Interview

Dubbed a member of Australian television royalty, Andrew Denton knows exactly what makes a great interview and how to get the best out of a subject. Join Michael Robotham as he interviews the interviewee.

April 29, 6–7pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17.

  1. Kazuo Ishiguro: Klara and the Sun

Returning with his first novel since being awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize in literature, Kazuo Ishiguro appears live on screen to discuss Klara and the Sun. Praised as a hauntingly tender and genre-bending novel, Kazuo’s latest work transports readers to a futuristic world where the rich are privileged and the children have artificial friends.

April 29, 6–7pm, City Recital Hall.

  1. Who’s Afraid of Big Tech?

From ethics and ownership on the internet to the Australian Government’s face-off with Google and free speech on social media, there appears to be nothing beyond technology’s influence, online or offline. This event brings together ABC tech reporter Angharad Yeo, cyber policy analyst Ariel Bogle and Reset Australia Executive Director Chris Cooper to discuss tech’s role in shaping the future.

April 29, 8–9pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17.

  1. The Full Catastrophe

Sad Mum Lady’s Ashe Davenport, former senator Scott Ludlam, memoirist Rick Morton and Emotional Female’s Yumiko Kadota all have something in common: they know how to find humour in the most tragic circumstances. Together with hosts Rebecca Huntley and ABC Radio Sydney’s Sarah Macdonald, they show you how they laugh through life’s pain.

April 29, 8.30–9.30pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20.

  1. Are You There, Sydney? It’s Me, Judy Blume

If you’re familiar with the irreverent, relatable and celebrated works of American writer Judy Blume, you won’t want to miss this event. Appearing live via video, Judy joins Sophie Black to discuss her prolific and storied career.

April 30, 12–1pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17.

  1. The Beijing Bureau

From Gough Whitlam shaking hands with Mao Zedong to the welcome mat for reporters in China being withdrawn last year, The Beijing Bureau catalogues the stories and knowledge of Australia’s foreign correspondents in China. Hear from contributors Sue-Lin Wong (appearing live via video), Hamish McDonald and Jane Hutcheon as they share their hard-won insights with the anthology’s editors, Melissa Roberts and Trevor Watson.

April 30, 2.30–3.30pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20.

  1. The Larrikin Lie

We like to think of ourselves as a happy-go-lucky, larrikin-loving country, but is that just a lie? Journalist David Marr, professor of law Rosalind Dixon and Australian social researcher Rebecca Huntley unpack the truth behind our compliant, obedient and authority-loving ways.

April 30, 4–5pm, Carriageworks, Elston Room.

  1. Trent Dalton: All Our Shimmering Skies

Bestselling Australian author Trent Dalton returns to the Festival to discuss his latest novel, All Our Shimmering Skies, which follows the adventures of a gravedigger’s daughter across the Top End during World War II.

April 30, 6–7pm, The Concourse Concert Hall, Chatswood.

  1. Why We Love a TV Villain

No show is complete without the ever-pestering presence of a character the audience loves to hate. But what is it about vilifying villains that we enjoy so much? Join a panel of Australian TV writers and critics, including Benjamin Law and Mithila Gupta, as they examine some of their favourite small-screen scoundrels.

April 30, 6.30–7.30pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20.

  1. ‘Within Reach’ Gala

Join an all-star line-up of guests including Geraldine Brooks (via video), Tony Birch, Trent Dalton, Maria Tumarkin, Nakkiah Lui, Christos Tsiolkas and Richard Flanagan as they speak on this year’s theme: Within Reach. Speakers look ahead with hope and humour to what could be just within our reach with the right focus, ideas and words.

April 30, 8.30–9.30pm, Sydney Town Hall.

  1. Gary Lonesborough: The Boy from the Mish

Meet Yuin writer Gary Lonesborough as he discusses his debut novel, The Boy from the Mish. As a beautifully written and big-hearted queer Indigenous story, Gary’s first literary offering is a hopeful tale of exploring, accepting and loving who you are as a young adult.

May 1, 12–1pm, Carriageworks, Elston Room.

  1. The Climate Cure: A Global Perspective

In the face of an undeniable and growing climate crisis, Tim Flannery (The Climate Cure: Solving the Climate Emergency in the Era of COVID-19) brings together climate diplomat Christiana Figueres, energy expert Prasad Menon and climate researcher Will Steffen to discuss the battle ahead.

May 1, 2–3pm, Carriageworks, Bay 22.

  1. Queerstories

Come together for an evening of surprising, heartwarming and side-splitting LGBTQI+ storytelling with raconteurs Gary Lonesborough, Oliver Reeson, Alistair Baldwin and Rebecca Starford.

May 1, 8–9pm, Carriageworks, Bay 17. 

  1. Land of Plenty

Australia is the land of plenty, but when it comes to managing our land, water and wildlife we have a long way to go. Join Richard Beasley (Dead in the Water), Bruce Pascoe (Dark Emu and Loving County), Rebecca Giggs (Fathoms) and Victor Steffenson (Fire Country) as they discuss their hopes for change.

May 2, 10.30–11.30am, Carriageworks, Bay 20.

  1. Women in Politics

Labor MP Kate Ellis (Sex, Lies and Question Time: The Successes and Struggles of Women in Australia’s Parliament), Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi and former independent MP Cathy McGowan (Cathy Goes to Canberra: Doing Politics Differently) join forces to unpack why – even in 2021 – the gender divide runs so deep in Australian politics.

May 2, 12.30–1.30pm, Carriageworks, Bay 20.

  1. Voices of Our Future

Youth activists Jean Hinchliffe (Lead the Way: How to change the world, from a teen activist and school striker), Lille Madden (Sydney coordinator for Seed Mob), Thea Perkins, Daisy Jeffrey (On Hope) and Varsha Yajman team up to take climate action into their own hands.

May 2, 4–5pm, Carriageworks, Track 8.


Sydney Writers’ Festival tickets are available now! To make sure you don’t miss out, visit swf.org.au.

In the meantime, if you have some time on your hands, check out our book club for our most recent book recommendations.

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