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Sydney Writer’s Festival

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It’s that glorious time of year again for bookworms and budding authors alike: the start of the Sydney Writer’s Festival.

The festival has big shoes to fill after last years effort, which blew box office records away by earning more than $700,000 through the duration of the event.

The event will open with an address from Fatima Bhutto, author of Songs of Blood and Sword, about the dangers and corruptions in her home country in Pakistan.

Another highlight of the festival is an exclusive book signing with former imate at Guantanamo Bay, David Hicks. The festival will be his first public appearence since the book, Guantanamo: My Journey was released late last year.

The festival also features an appearence from Ingrid Betancourt, who surived six years in the Columbian jungle as a hostage and Téa Obreht, a rising literary star who was recently named on the The New Yorkers ‘Top 20 Under 40’ list.

A panel discussion with Australian and International authors on the nature of the WikiLeaks controversy as both a media outlet and a political effort is also set to draw crowds to festival.

The annual event will run for a week, from May 16 -22, and takes place in Sydney CBD and it’s suburban surrounds.

For more information on the festival and other events, please visit the Sydney Writer’s Festival’s website 


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China Bans Writer From Traveling to Sydney

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Chinese writer Liao Yiwu has been forced to cancel his appearence at the Sydney Writer’s Festival after the Chinese Government banned him from traveling outside his home country.

The move comes after an earlier decision by Chinese officials to prevent Mr Liao attending to New York to speak at the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature.

Mr Liao, is a poet and author, who had been jailed for 4 years composing poetry on the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989.

He had been due to come to Sydney to discuss his new book The Corpse Walker and Other True Stories of Life in China and to peform some of his controversial poetry. He was also to speak on China’s increasingly political influence in Australia.

Liao told the New York Times that officials had invited him to a teahouse in his hometown of Chengdu and told him that he was not to travel internationally.

The ban comes after the Chinese government canceled several cultural forums planned by western embassies and intensified bans on social media use.

Artistic Director for the Sydney Writer’s Festival Chip Rolley has said, in a statement on the festival’s homepage that, the “Sydney Writers’ Festival is deeply disappointed by this decision… Our primary concern is for Liao Yiwu who has been denied the fundamental right to express his views freely. We are astonished by the Chinese government’s additional demand that he not publish his works internationally.”

The Sydney Writer’s Festival will be held from the 16-22 of May in locations around the CBD and surrounding suburbs.

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Free Comics in Sydney

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Comic book fans- you’re in luck this weekend, with the annual Free Comic Book Day being held this Saturday, May 7th.

Three Sydney locations will host the international event, which showcases free comic book giveaways from a list of featured titles.

Comic Kingdom on Liverpool St, Kings Comics on Pitt St and Kinokuniya Bookstore in the Galleries Victoria will be giving away comics for the event, which is aimed at promoting and celebrating the uniqueness of the comic book format.

Other stores throughout suburban Sydney and Australia will also be involved in the event.

Manager of Pulp Fiction Comics in Adelaide, Peter Moore, told the Adelaide City Messenger that the event is important in promoting this important creative medium.

“What better way to celebrate the comic book medium than to walk into a store and get comics for free,” Mr Moore says.

This  year, more than 40 titles have been produced by comic book publishers which will be avaliable for free including the Amazing Spiderman, Avatar the Last Airbender and the Green Latern Flashpoint.

The event began in 2002 in the US and has been running annually on the first saturday of May ever since. It has also been in Australia for several years.

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The Shortest List

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The Miles Franklin Award shortlist has been revealed and it seems that this year it is called a short list for a reason.

Only 3 of the 9 long listed nominees made the shortlist of the prestigious award, making it one of the shortest seen in many years.

Making the cut was The Age journalist, Chris Womersley (above) for his second novel Bereft.

The novel tells of an exiled son, during the 1919 plague of Spanish Influenza and has been described by the award’s judging panel as  “a beautifully written book, spare and compelling”.

Past winners, Kim Scott and Roger McDonald are the other nominees for 2011.

Scott, who previously won the award in 2006, has been nominated for his novel That Deadman’s Dance, about a young Aboriginal boy in the 19th Century during colonization.

Rodger McDonald’s first Miles Franklin win came in 2000, and this year his nomination has come for the novel When Colts Run, which chronicles the life of a boy in the Australian outback, and has met the acclaim of the judges.

The Miles Franklin award judges nominated all the novels for the next round of the award based on their ability to capture Australia- the core quality judged in the competition

“The shortlisted books this year are like barometers of the state of our culture: they take the readings, and give them back to us in fiction of extraordinary accomplishment” they said.

“They force us to look again at ourselves, and to think – hard.”

The winner of the award will be announced in Sydney, in June of this year.

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Bringing Writers to the Region

The finest writers in the country will now have the opportunity to be a part of the University of Wollongong after it’s writing school was awarded a residency grant.

The Cultural Fund of the Copyright Agency Limited awarded the Faculty of Creative Arts a $60,000 grant, to enable writers from across Australia to stay and work at the University.

Professor of Creative writing and Deputy Dean Catherine Cole said the grant would enhance the knowledge base for students and staff in the faculty.

“Students will have access to Australia’s leading writers who will provide a range of opportunities including mentoring, workshops, feedback on their work and discussions about heir own practices and books.”

The Creative writing program already attracts major writers including journalist and crime writer Shane Maloney who recently joined the university to complete his PhD.

Professor Cole hopes that the grant will continue this trend.

“We’d like writers from all forms and genres. Younger generation writers as well as more established ones. We also want to engage the new media writers and those working in non-traditional forms,” she said. “The more diverse the better.”

The faculty will also be holding a number of seminars and events through out the year to create a creative dialogue between the university and writers in the Illawarra.

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A Permanent Proposal

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Some do it by the foot of the Eiffel Tower, others hide it in a flute of champagne. But a Brisbane author as gained worldwide attention, when he proposed to his girlfriend in the acknowledgements of his debut novel.

Christopher Currie’s novel The Ottoman Hotel is not set to be released for several weeks, but already the book has made international headlines because of the cliffhanger on its final page.

The acknowledgement on the back page of the book reads: “[t]o my favourite, to the reason I live my life, Leesa Wockner who, if she reads this, I hope will agree to marry me, despite the number of commas in this sentence.”

Even though Wockner accepted the proposal, Currie told Crikey, that he took a gamble in declaring his love in a public format.

“A ring is one thing to hide, a book is quite another. And, I suppose, the really brave (or stupid) thing was knowing that my proposal would be in print forever, and I would look like a real idiot if it didn’t come off,” he said.

The Ottoman Hotel is about an Australian boy from New south Wales, who wakes up to find his parents missing. It will be released in Australian on 2nd March.

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Literary Night of Nights

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Australian literary favourite Melina Marchetta, will finally get her chance to gain the Miles Franklin crown, after her latest novel was announced on the award’s long list.

Her novel, The Piper’s Son, was released this year, and has already been well received, but Marchetta says she doesn’t write novels to gain critical acclaim.

“I try not to get caught up with the pressure because there is absolutely nothing I can do to change how people are going to react to my work or their expectations” she told blog Persnickety Snark, “the worst thing for me would be an indifference to it.”

Marchetta, best known for her acclaimed novel Looking For Alibrandi, is no stranger to awards, but 2011 marks her first Miles Franklin award nomination.

Her new novel is a companion piece to her other renowned novel Saving Francesca, picking up on the characters several years later.

Marchetta is not the only well-known author to receive a placement on the prestigious long list. Other authors include past Miles Franklin winners Rodger McDonald (2000) and Kim Scott (2006 as a joint win with Thea Astley).

Patrick Holland, proclaimed as the new big thing in Australian literature, also appears on the long list for his novel The Mary Smokes Boys, along with several newcomers.

The shortlist for the Miles Franklin award will appear in April and the winner will be announced in Sydney in June.

On the Long list:

John Bauer – Rocks in the Belly

Honey Brown- The Good Daughter

Patrick Holland – The Mary Smokes Boys

Melina Marchetta – The Piper’s Son

Roger McDonald – When Colts Ran Vintage

Stephen Orr – Time’s Long Ruin

Kim Scott – That Deadman Dance

Kirsten Tranter – The Legacy

Chris Womersley – Bereft

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