Five highlights from the 2014 Sydney Writers’ Festival

It may be over for another year, but if you want to relive it or missed out on all the fun, we’ve collected some of the key sessions from this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival for your enjoyment – featuring entertainment, controversy and some writing tips, here’s your chance to enjoy our top five highlights.

May We Be Forgiven by A.M. HomesA.M. Homes on May We Be Forgiven

The ever fascinating A.M. Homes speaking with Linda Motram about her Women’s Prize for Fiction winning novel May We Be Forgiven, talking about how it came from a short story and took seven years to write. A.M. Homes also explains how she grew up fascinated with brains, studied medicine, and recently spent time watching brain surgery.

May We Be Forgiven explores contemporary orphans losing and finding themselves anew; and it speaks above all to the power of personal transformation – simultaneously terrifying and inspiring.

You can also hear her entire May We Be Forgiven SWF session here:

Jeremy Scahill on Dirty Wars

Scahill came to Sydney, having already caused controversy in New Zealand where he called out the Prime Minister’s knowledge of involvement in America’s Dirty Wars, and it didn’t stop there as he appeared on TV and at the Writers’ Festival discussing Australia’s part to play in them.

Hear his Radio National interview, or full Sydney Writers’ Festival session below:

Reza Aslan on Religion

More controversy is always expected when talking religion, but Reza Aslan wowed audiences and his book Zealot was one of the top sellers at the festival, find out why by listening to some of his talks below.


Here’s Reza on Radio National’s Late Night Live talking about Jesus the Zealot: Another popular event was this one, where Reza Aslan (a Muslim-Christian), Antony Loewenstein (a Jewish-Atheist) and  Jim Al-Khalili (a Scientist-Atheist-Humanist) walked into a room… for a conversation with John Cleary of Sunday Nights. They discuss their diverse range of views on faith in a modern context, and what it means to believe in something with or without religion.

Kathryn Heyman at Sydney Writers’ Festival, pic by @LisaFleetwood


Writers on Writing: On Craft and the Fear of the First Draft

Two of our authors hosted very popular sessions, with Faber Writing Academy director Kathryn Heyman talking On Craft: The Quest, while Charlotte Wood spoke of the Fear and Loathing of the First Draft. Tweets flew out of these sessions, with Kathryn and Charlotte’s great tips being shared by attendees, here’s a few of our favourites and a couple of longer blog posts about the sessions below.

Fear and Loathing of the First Draft







For more of Charlotte’s insights on writing, and editing, see her recent piece in the Sydney Review of Books, her Writers Room Interviews and podcasts (including one on the same topic as her SWF event).

On Craft: The Quest



Find out more on Kathryn’s sessions from these two blog posts, with Lisa Fleetwood calling it “enlightening, informative, and at times, very funny” while Catherine Lee also shared her takeaway points from Kathryn’s session including this gem:

Truth is integral to the craft of writing. How do you find the moment of authenticity? It is likely to be a little bit frightening. You need to tell yourself the truth, about yourself, about your writing. Get to the unknown, which almost always involves fear. Ask yourself “I’ve always wanted to write this novel, but…” Begin with external fears and problems, then dig deeper to find the truth. It will be something private and powerful.

Christos Tsiolkas on writing, and sex:

Another big draw at the Sydney Writers’ Festival was Christos Tsiolkas, never one to beat around the bush when writing about sex, and certainly not when talking about writing it:

Sometimes writing sex is more fun than some of the sex I’ve had.

And on writing sex Tsiolkas said that the best way to tackle it is to:

do the first draft, orgasm, and then start editing. You can be objective post-orgasm.

The Sydney Writers’ Festival blog has more great quotes from his session A Good Man while The Guardian published this article on his session. You can also watch the entire discussion with David Marr below or check out the audio or highlights on the ABC Big Ideas website.

So those were five (okay, a few more than five) of our highlights from this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival, what were yours? For more audio and video from the event, check out the SWF website and ABC’s collection.

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