EVENT: Brisbane Writers Festival 2021
DATE: Fri 7 May – Sun 9 May
VENUE: State Library of Queensland and various venues around Brisbane
INFO: 07 3216 0694 /

Brisbane Writers Festival begins a new chapter of engaging storytelling with a hybrid program of more than 100 live and virtual events across three days from 7 to 9 May 2021.
One of Queensland’s longest-running festivals, Brisbane Writers Festival (BWF) bookmarks its 59th year with a celebration of the written and spoken word, showcasing local literary luminaries, including many with a stellar international profile.
In the lead-up to BWF’s 60th anniversary in 2022, this year’s program of free and ticketed events debuts new initiatives the First Word and Last Word events, which invite a notable Indigenous artist to deliver the opening and closing words of the festival; and the Author/Editor Showcase about the professional relationship from ideation to publication.
More than 100 renowned writers, thinkers, artists and opinion-makers will share their diverse views and unique voices across myriad topics, exploring emergent themes of survival, mortality, climate change and diversity prompted by current events.
Delivering a fully digital program in her inaugural year as Brisbane Writers Festival CEO in 2020, Sarah Runcie is looking forward to connecting word lovers and wordsmiths through in-person and online sessions.
“Brisbane Writers Festival has an amazing lineup of extraordinary national authors and wonderful local talent participating this year. We are welcoming new initiatives in 2021, such as the First Word and Last Word events that celebrate and elevate First Nations’ voices and their rich history of storytelling, as well as extending our program to provide online events that offer people across the state the opportunity and flexibility to engage with authors, thinkers, artists and writers from their living rooms,” Ms Runcie said.

BWF 2021 kicks off with the First Word delivered by Indigenous writer Ellen van Neerven, followed by the Marion Taylor Opening Night Gala and Dinner at Queensland Art Gallery with an opening address by renowned author Robert Dessaix.
Other special events include the Mother’s Day High Tea with bestselling author Kate Morton at Customs House, All I Have is a Voice Showcase of poetry and spoken word performances, a 2040 film screening and Q&A session with documentary filmmaker Damon Gameau and a powerful guided session with psychologist and founder of The Indigo Project Mary Hoang in Darkness is Golden: Death Meditation.

Rounding out the BWF 2021 program, investigative journalist and author Christine Jackman (Turning Down the Noise) will provide the Closing Address, bookended by Ellen van Neerven with the Last Word.
Addressing current global challenges, BWF Guest Curator Benjamin Law has curated five sessions centring on the theme of survival and the sharing of knowledge for a better future together.

Festival highlights include 2007 Australian of the Year and author Tim Flannery on The Climate Cure, while First Nations knowledge is examined through the lens of climate change and survival with Victor Steffensen in his ground-breaking book, Fire Country, and The World’s Biggest Survival Story panel discussion, featuring Indigenous authors Lisa Fuller, Thomas Mayor and Bruce Pascoe.

Themes of ageing and changing family dynamics are explored by two of Australia’s most respected writers, Robert Dessaix (The Time of Our Lives) and Charlotte Wood (The Weekend), as well as Aussie comedians Jean Kittson (We Need to Talk About Mum & Dad) and Matt Okine (Being Black ‘n Chicken, and Chips) in conversation about their respective books that also touch on personal poignant issues of family.
BWF audience favourites Trent Dalton (All Our Shimmering Skies) and Richard Fidler (The Golden Maze) also discuss their latest works as part of the festival program.

The lineup of more than 40 online events is similarly rich and engaging, providing an opportunity for more Queenslanders to be involved in the diverse BWF program with sessions available to view on demand from 7 May 2021 for a month.
Tune in to view digital discussions that provoke discourse on wide-ranging topics such as fiction and literature, environment and nature, feminism, society and culture and First Nations issues.
Virtual event highlights include the Climate: A New Story panel discussion, seasoned war reporter Christina Lamb on Our Bodies, Their Battlefield and Indigenous authors Thomas Mayor and Megan Davis in conversation about community and activism. Author and advocate Carly Findlay leads a panel discussion about Growing Up Disabled, Julia Baird talks about the themes in her book, Phosphorescence, and Avni Doshi talks about the mother-daughter dynamic in her novel, Burnt Sugar.
For established and aspiring writers, there are also plenty of events on offer. Wannabe writers won’t want to miss the opportunity to submit a manuscript and have it read by an editor, literary agent or publisher in the 20 Pages in 20 Minutes workshop. At other writers workshops, learn about the art of queer memoir with Eddie Ayres, create complex and flawed protagonists with Liam Pieper and discover how to craft stories for children with Zanni Louise and bring compelling characters to life in YA writing with Lisa Fuller.

Love YA also returns in 2021 with a full day of free programming geared for fans of young adult fiction. Join a stellar lineup of stars in the YA universe such as David Burton, Richard Yaxley, Lisa Fuller, Frances Chapman and many more as they discuss how to write about difficult and sensitive themes, love and gender identity and growing up. With limited in- person tickets available, these popular YA sessions will also be live-streamed.
Queensland students can also engage with the Word Play Schools literature program, an online hub with more than 20 events, videos, activities and games available for children of all ages and stages to access state-wide.

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