Romancing the Sydney Writers Festival

Last Saturday, I set off with a jaunty step and a light heart for the Sydney Writers Festival. It’s one of my favourite events of the year because I love the vibe of being surrounded by thousands of fellow bookworms. There was chatter and the aroma of good coffee in the air. The sun was shining. The sky was blue. The harbour sparkled. And this year and this particular day were extra special. When I arrived forty minutes early at Sydney Dance 1 to line up for the Beyond Dukes and  Damsels romance panel, there was already a queue a mile long! My heart swelled with pride and happiness.  Here we all were. The closet and the not-so-closet romance fans ready to engage in robust conversation with the I-am-so-out! fans.

Avril Tremayne,  author of Escaping Mr  Right and other sexy modern romances with a twist, was one of the speakers, and she had a similar reaction.

Avril said, ‘I was at first shocked, and then just plain thrilled, at how popular the session was – basically a full and very interested house. In fact, the feedback was so good, I’m sure we’ve made a few reading converts.

Joining Avril on the panel were fellow writer Victoria Purman (Someone Like You), managing editor of Escape Publishing Kate Cuthbert and literary historian Jodi McAlister.

Romance discussion at Sydney Writers Festival 2015‘I felt like I was part of something very special, talking romance alongside some of the best in the business at one of the most prestigious writers’ events in the country. What I hoped to do more than anything was articulate the excitement and diversity to be found in the world of romance fiction today,’ continued Avril.

It was a lively and entertaining panel covering everthing from how attitudes to (and expectations) of heroines have changed, proper use of the ‘c’ word and why you will never find a MPDG (manic pixie dream girl) in a romance.

The SWF is going to podcast the discussion, and we’ll post the link here so everyone not lucky enough to attend in person, can listen in, learn and enjoy. To quote Avril again, ‘It was romance’s first outing at the Sydney Writers’ Festival but I’m confident we’ll see some of our wonderful writers flying the romance flag there again next year.’


James Patterson, best-selling thriller writer extraordinaire, on keeping fans engaged: keep the plot rolling  with lots of twists and turns and surprises.

Husband and wife writing team Graeme  Simsion and Annie Buist  on collaboration:  it’s the norm in many forms of writing. You definitely need  a trusted critique partner if not a collaborator.

And on professionalism: treat your writing like a job. Put in your 10,000 hours of training (based on the theory that you need 10,000 hours of practice before you become  really good at something).

Steve Carroll on history: don’t patronise the past. It’s a form of contempt.

Amy Bloom on research: immerse yourself in your time period so that  you don’t have to think about it when you write.



The Sydney Writers Festival (SWF) launched its 2015 program on Thursday, and we are thrilled to see that it features several panels of interest to romance readers and writers and some of our very own stars – catch Avril Tremayne and Victoria Purman in debate during BEYOND DUKES AND DAMSELS on Saturday 23 May. See list below (#8) for details.

Avril Tremayne and Victoria Purman

Talks of interest in date order include (please note: there are some scheduling conflicts if you were interested in all talks below):

  1. Gender, genre and literary prestige (21 May, 10:00 – 11:00, Roslyn Packer Theatre, $14pp) starring Aviva Tuffield, Kate Grenville, Ceridwen Dovey and the 2015 Stella Prize Winner.
  2. The Body, Sin, Sex, Denial (21 May, 11:30 – 12:30, Sydney Dance 1, Free, no bookings) starring Ashley Hay, Robyn Cadwallader, James Boyce, and mortician and memoirist Caitlin Doughty. Really, who can resist a mortician, especially one who is fabulous and funny?
  3. Marie le Moel, The Truth about French Women (21 May, 11:30 – 12:30, Richard Wherret Studio, $14). In conversation with Kirstie Clements
  4. Liane Moriarty: Big Little Lies (21 May, 1:30 – 2:30, Pier 2/3 The Loft, $14). In conversation with Meredith Jaffe. Liane Moriarty is also participating in two other panels, On Deception (21 May) and The Books That Exploded and Why We Fell in Love (24 May), and in another feature talk in Parramatta on 20 May.
  5. Quickies and Corsets: There’s more to the story of women and sex (21 May, 3:00 – 4:00, Sydney Dance 2, Free, no bookings) featuring Lee Kofman, Marie Le Moel, Krissy Kneen and Jane Caro.
  6. Co-Conspirators: Anne Buist and Graham Simsion (22 May, 10:00 – 11:00, Pier 2/3 The Loft, $14)
  7. Robert Dessaix: On How Enid Blyton Changed My Life (23 May, 11 – 11:40, Pier 2/3 Curiosity Stage, Free, no bookings). Okay, this has nothing to do with romance (probably) but how can you resist a literary writer who will stand up and admit to a love of Enid Blyton?
  8. Beyond Dukes and Damsels (23 May, 1:30 – 2:30, Sydney Dance 1, Free, no bookings), starring Jodi McAlister, the indomitable Kate Cuthbert from Escape Publishing, and RWA’s very own Victoria Purman and Avril Tremayne. Not to be missed!!
  9. The Rise and Rise of YA: A look at the fastest growing category in fiction (23 May, 1:30 – 2:30pm, Sydney Dance 2, Free, no bookings) featuring Laurie Halse Anderson, Sally Gardnery, Margo Lanagan and Garth Nix
  10. Keeping it Real: Realistic Issues in Teen Fiction (24 May, 1:30 – 2:30, Sydney Dance 2, Free, no bookings)
  11. Teencon 2015 (24 May, 4:00 – 5:30, Pier 2/3 Club Stage, Free but Bookings Essential Ph 02 9250 1988)

Of course, there are a multitude of other interesting authors and talks on offer including (but definitely not limited to) Julia Gillard, James Patterson, Kate Grenville, Richard Flanagan, Helen Garner, Evie Wyld, Jonathan Lethem and Michael Connolly as well as some powerhouse intellectuals such as Zia Haider Rahman, Norman Doidge, Atul Gawande and Mosin Hamad. Andy Griffiths and David Walliams head up a star children’s program. Explore the full program at There are booking links from each individual talk. Hint: it is often easier to search by writer than date.

There is also a workshop program running from 16 – 23 May. If you live in Sydney, programs will be available in this weekend’s Sydney Morning Herald.

* Comments in italics reflect blogger’s personal enthusiasms.

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