Melbourne Writers Festival

MELBOURNE WRITERS FESTIVAL From 22 August to 1 September, Melbourne, one of five UNESCO Cities of Literature, will host 300 sessions of story telling, conversation and discussion, intellectual debate, educational programs, live performance, music and art events. This year’s Festival features the ‘Bookwallah’ mini festival and contemporary Indian writers Annie Zaidi and Chandrahas Choudhury. 

In November 2012 the ‘Bookwallah’ festival took five writers across India by train, touring the cities and towns of Southern India on the hunt for stories, conversations and connections. The tour began on stage at the Mumbai LitFest, paused for events in Goa, Bangalore and Chennai, and finished in Pondicherry on the South-East coast. The writers stopped to discuss their latest books and meet readers. They shared ideas with local writers, artists and fellow travellers, and walked each city on foot. The writers were accompanied by unique luggage: a portable, pop-up library, filled with hundreds of Australian books. The hand-made library packs away in minutes into six kangaroo-leather bound travelling cases, ready for transporting on the trains. There is more about the tour here:

In August 2013, the Bookwallah writers Benjamin Law and Kirsty Murray from Australia and Annie Zaidi and Chandrahas Choudhury from India will tour the East Coast of Australia taking in the Melbourne Writers Festival, Sydney and the Brisbane Writers Festival. Last month, the exhibition of the pop up library suitcases opened at the State Library of Victoria.

At Melbourne Writers Festival there will be 4 Bookwallah events:

Friday 30 August 10am – Bookwallah: Good Girls, Bad Girls and Terrible Truths

The plight of women in India has drawn international attention in recent times. Bookwallah participant Annie Zaidi and Norwegian author and women’s rights advocate Anne Ostby join Kirsty Murray to share the powerful stories of women in modern India.


Friday 30 August 6pm – Bookwallah: Meet the Bookwallahs

Welcome roving writers Annie Zaidi and Chandrahas Choudhury from India and Australians Benjamin Law and Kirsty Murray as Bookwallah arrives down under. Join us for a glass of chai, travel stories from the tour of India and some amazing tales from this travelling celebration of India’s contemporary literary culture.


Saturday 31 August 2pm – Bookwallah: Contemporary India – an insiders perspective

India today is a place of overwhelming contradictions with many of its political, social and cultural challenges being played out on an international stage. Annie Zaidi and Chandrahas Choudhury share with Nic Low an insider’s view of this eastern powerhouse, as seen though the eyes of its writers.


Saturday 31 August 4pm – Bookwallah: Encountering India – an outsiders perspective

Australian writers Sushi DasBenjamin Law and Claire Scobie share their diverse encounters with India – as a place, culture and concept. They reflect on the valuable lessons and memorable experiences of visiting India, arranged marriages, growing up in an Indian family and writing about the country. Chaired by Kabita Dhara.

Free events include  National Reading Hour; the City of Literature Forum; daily readings from Festival artists in The Morning Read; and Illustrator in Residence, three-hour sessions daily where leading illustrators work live in the Atrium. Illustrators in residence include  Lucy Knisley, Oslo Davis and Marc Martin, Read with Raf, 774 ABC’s live book club and intrepid traveller and founder of Lonely Planet  Tony Wheeler talking about the perils and pitfalls of travelling in the world’s dangerous places.

The Festival continues its encouragement of reading and writing through its  Schools Program, which will attract more than 13,000 primary and secondary school students and teachers. Aspiring and established writers will benefit from  Professional Development masterclasses and seminars that cover writing and editing in the digital realm as well as the art of writing crime, memoir, travel and literary criticism among other genres. Digital Drive morning sessions will feature online writers showing how writers connect and create in the online space.

Annie Zaidi is the author of Love Stories # 1 to 14, co-author of The Bad Boy’s Guide to the Good Indian Girl, a series of inter-linked coming-of-age narratives about young middle-class girls in India. Her first collection of essays, Known Turf: Bantering with Bandits and Other True Tales was short-listed for one of India’s best-known literary award, the Crossword (non-fiction) Book Prize. Zaidi also writes poetry and scripts. Crush, a series of illustrated poems was made in collaboration with artist Gynelle Alves. Her plays Jaal (Hindi) and So Many Socks (English) were staged in 2012, and the latter script was nominated for the prestigious Mahindra Excellence in Theatre Awards. Her short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in anthologies like Mumbai NoirDharavi: The City WithinWomen Changing IndiaJourneys Through Rajasthan21 Under 40India Shining, India Changing; and in literary journals likeThe Little MagazinePratilipiOut of Print; and Desilit.
Chandrahas Choudhury is an Indian novelist based in Delhi. His first novel, Arzee the Dwarf, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth First Book Award and will be published in America this autumn. He also reviews books for the New York Times, the Washington Post and theWall Street Journal. He is the editor of a short introduction to Indian literature, India: A Traveller’s Literary Companion, and writes a weekly column on India for Bloomberg World View.

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