Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival to go ahead as highbrow, reimagined event

Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival to go ahead as highbrow, reimagined event

Mona Eltahawy, photo by Angel Garcia

Australia’s renowned national literary event is back for 2020.

Returning for its seventh year in the year of the impossible, Geelong’s Word for Word National Non-Fiction Festival has unveiled its 2020 program, promising a stacked festival of the very best non-fiction from Australia’s brightest writers and thinkers.

Hailed as the country’s only national literary event with a dedicated focus on non-fiction writing and ideas, this year will look a little different to what audiences are used to, moving to an online format over three days from November 20 to November 22.

Despite the move online, the Word for Word festival program stays true to its fundamentals, featuring a series of events encouraging connection interaction and participation, including live conversations, panel discussions, workshops, and special presentations from a host of well-known authors.

The engaging and intellectually stimulating sessions will explore a wide range of non-fiction topics on the theme of ‘Life, Changing’, including climate change, true crime, global politics, medicine, health, history and more. The program will explore non-fiction across a range of mediums, including memoir and biography, journalism, documentary making, playwriting and spoken word.

MC’s by Geelong-based star of stage and screen Bert LaBonté, big names from this year’s festival includes the likes of former Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove, editor Meg Keneally, actor John Wood, internationally bestselling author Heather Morris, ABC broadcaster Jacinta Parsons, doctor and writer Karen Hitchcock, writer and Director of the Wollongong Writers’ Festival Chloe Higgins, and academic and activist Dennis Altman.

Festival goers can also listen in on a discussion with Guardian Australia’s Melbourne bureau chief Melissa Davey, ABC television presenter Paul Kennedy and award-winning journalist Louise Milligan about investigative journalism and disgraced Cardinal George Pell; or join in on a fascinating exploration of what it means to be a feminist today with journalist and broadcaster Virginia Trioli, Egyptian-born feminist writer Mona Eltahawy, author Jenny Kennedy and journalist and filmmaker Santilla Chingaipe.

Alongside LaBonté, homegrown guests also include Geelong raised Walkley Award-winning journalist, broadcaster and author Garry Linnell who will discuss his new book Moonlite, and documentary makers Joel Carnegie and Caleb Plumridge (Three Metres) who joins author Tom Bamforth (The Rising Tide) for a discussion into climate change of the Pacific region.

For the first time and thanks to the online format, a handful of authors will also be joining the festival live from US, including aforementioned controversial feminist Mona Eltahawy who will speak about her latest book The Seven Necessary Sins of Women and Girls; and cultural anthropologist Eben Kirksey who took a deep dive into the gene editing revolution in his newly released book, The Mutant Project.

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//BOOK LAUNCH// 'THE MUTANT PROJECT' By Eben Kirksey ‘Kirksey provides a front-row seat to the riveting series of events that led to the world’s first genetically edited humans. It’s an absorbing tale of reckless ambition and breakneck technological advances that raises disturbing questions about the future of the human race.’ — Steve Heine Join American anthropologist and Deakin University Associate Professor Eben Kirksey live from the US for the exclusive Australian launch of his book 'The Mutant Project', which goes inside the global race to genetically modify humans. Live streamed online (or available on demand), Sat 21 Nov. #W4W2020 #LifeChanging @deakinartsed @sometimesalicia @blackincbooks

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This year will also see the inaugural Schools Program in partnership with Magabala Books – Australia’s leading Indigenous publisher; with free three sessions available for schools on Friday 20 November. There will be one dedicated to young children with Sue Lawson and Aunty Fay Muir (Our Place series), older primary/young secondary students with Bruce Pascoe (Young Dark Emu) and for young adults with Kirli Saunders (Kindred and Bindi).

“The online program boasts 20 live, online sessions including panels and in conversations sessions,” says Festival Director Rochelle Smith.

“We also explore forms of non-fiction writing and ideas beyond books, including a workshop on unconscious bias and cultural respect, a moving theatrical monologue performance, a debut screening of a short documentary, blogging and photography.”

Continuing to showcase the very best non-fiction from Australia’s brightest writers and thinkers, Word for Word Festival doesn’t shy away from big topics and debates – and never has. Instead, they tackle them head on, and invite guests to join in for these conversations. Life certainly is changing, and non-fiction has always provided analysis, research, ideas and reflection and that has never been more important than right now.

The festival will take place from 20-22 November with all of this year’s sessions live-streamed (or available on demand).

You can view the full program online and book your tickets here. If you’re wanting to engage in multiple sessions, Word for Word’s Festival Five Pass lets you book for any 5 Sessions (these are individually priced at $10) at the discounted price of $45.