Throughout history, writers have used storytelling to shine a spotlight on issues that would have otherwise remained in the dark. They have used these stories to illuminate topics that have been silenced, have stigma attached to them, or need to be spoken about in new and more complex ways. They have taken risks, and in doing so helped us make better sense of the world and of ourselves. This year, our program of events has been built around the theme ‘All lit up’, which is to say: things we do not speak about.

This is my first year back as Festival Director after a two year hiatus, and I’m so excited to again be supporting Wollongong’s literary community. Since its launch in 2013, Wollongong Writers Festival has become an essential regional festival for writers, readers and thinkers and I am determined to build on that this year with bigger author names and a selection of innovative, boundary-pushing events alongside our traditional literary talks, panels and workshops. We’re flying in more artists from around the country than ever before and are excited to bring you a line-up of artists who would otherwise not be in Wollongong.

Gala Vanting will speak with Bri Lee, Tony Birch and Jess Hill about systems and structures of crime, punishment and power (event no. 3). We’ve got discussions covering ‘Navigating Inherited Christianity’ (event no. 8), ‘Sex is Weird for Everyone’ (event no. 9), ‘Gendered Violence, Media and the Law’ (event no. 12), and many more.

We are very pleased to be Skyping in Behrouz Boochani, whose book No Friend But the Mountains won a slew of awards including the Victorian Prize for Literature, the Victorian Premier's Prize for Nonfiction and the 2019 National Biography Award (event no. 10).

We’re also doing something a little different this year and inviting you to attend three catered events. One will see Benjamin Law and his mother talk all things love, sex and dating in the modern world (event no. 13). Another will ask: Must the writer write politically? (event no. 6). And finally, also in our restaurant event series, we’ll be bringing Melanie Knight’s‘Dead Letters Club’ (event no. 18) to Wollongong.

After receiving many requests for an event focused on Y.A. literature, we’re very excited to have Lorin Elizabeth speaking with Helena Fox and Erin Gough (event no. 2). If you’d prefer to zoom in on a particular book, Jackie Bailey will speak with Charlotte Wood about her new novel, The Weekend (event no. 4); and Luke Carman will speak with Tony Birch about his latest work, The White Girl (event no. 11).

Set to be a festival highlight, Benjamin Law will tackle the big topics of sex, death, money, religion and politics with Clementine Ford, Stephanie Wood and Jess Hill by asking them to roll a dice on stage (event no. 21).

This year, we’re moving our Kids Program into the main festival weekend. Parents are invited to drop their children off for an array of entertaining and educational sessions—think comic making, drag story time, zine-making and much more—while they head off to the main program sessions themselves.

Whether you have been with us since the beginning, or are joining us for the first time this spring, the 2019 festival will seek to inspire, entertain and, at times, challenge you—just like good writing does.