Ideas, storytelling and conversations will unfold at the Byron Bay Writers Festival from August 3 to 5.
Ideas, storytelling and conversations will unfold at the Byron Bay Writers Festival from August 3 to 5.

Writers the drawcard at Byron Bay festival

THREE days of ideas, storytelling and conversations will unfold across six stages at the beachside site during the Byron Bay Writers Festival from August 3 to 5.

These events will be complemented by diverse writers' workshops and evening feature events in Byron Bay and the wider Northern Rivers region.

Organisers are buzzing with excitement, revealing this year's line-up of 140 writers and thinkers for the 22nd annual festival.

Volunteer and festival stalwart Shirley Nelson was an early convert 20 years ago to the popular event.

The Ewingsdale resident was a marquee supervisor for years and, now at the age of 83 and unable to stand for long periods, she devotes her time to sending out the festival's monthly magazine, the northerly.

"The last two festivals, I found the standing was getting too much, but I'm still volunteering," Shirley said.

"We just stuff magazines in envelopes every two months, for about a couple of hours.

"It's great fun. My friend and I had been volunteering for the whole of the three days.

"We find it so stimulating and have the opportunity to sit among an interesting and engaged audience. I love to hear the journalists and the news correspondents.

"I do think that there are a lot of readers out there. People love books and there are a lot of book clubs, and people love to go and see the authors and hear them speak.

"The festival is an enormous tourist attraction and I do think it provides the opportunity for people to come and hear authors in a wonderful environment. It's got sort of a harmony about it."

When Shirley first moved to Byron Bay in 1971, as director of nursing at the hospital, she could find "no culture" to speak of. How things change!

She was one of the founders of Feros Care for the aged, an organisation which now sponsors a marquee at the festival.

Shirley has seen the festival grow bigger and bigger over the two decades, and aims to attend several events in 2018.

"It's going to be very difficult this year - there's so many interesting things on at the same time," she said.

"I don't think I need to go and hear the politicians. Jane Harper, she's written two books - one was The Dry, she's coming again this year.

"Liane Moriarty is a writer I really do want to hear, (journalist) Peter Greste who was imprisoned, I'm very interested to hear him, and (broadcaster) Margaret Throsby is coming.

"She's marvellous, I'll certainly go and listen to her.

"We just love to go and we've made so many friends and people recognise you.

"We've got friends coming up for the second or third time from Tasmania to attend the festival."

Acclaimed writers coming to the festival include Robert Drewe, Tom Keneally, Michelle de Kretser and Saudi activist Manal al-Sharif who challenged a kingdom of men by Daring to Drive.

Also on the program are Norwegian investigative journalists Eskil Engdal and Kjetil Saeter whose book Catching Thunder tells the true story of the world's longest sea chase.

Festival director Edwina Johnson says: "I am thrilled to introduce such diverse, talented writers and influential thinkers, and know they will spark fascinating and inspiring conversations. There will truly be something for everyone this year.

"The stories in our program will take us from the wilds of New Zealand to North Korea, Tuscany and back home to near-by Goonengerry. We traverse much territory including anxiety, crime, the Frontier Wars, the Anthropocene, science, comedy, immigration, the wellness industry and poetry.

"We explore music, whales, romance and debate whether reading can make you happier. Writers will nominate the books that changed them, and will explore how to shape life into story."

Workshops run from July 30 to August 2. For event details and tickets, go to: byronwritersfestival.com.


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