Some festivals are easy to plan – there’s often only one thing you want to see at any given time, sometimes there’s even gaps in your timetable. But the Melbourne Writers Festival makes planning hard. There are things I want to do from morning to night. There are things I want to sell my belongings to attend. There are things I want to kidnap participants of in order to create a free seat because tickets have sold out (looking at you, Lee Gutkind workshop!).

It’s taken me a long time of staring at the program, writing notes and planning before I’ve been able to come up with a longlist of events I’d like to attend. And this program’s some kind of hidden-gem receptacle; I keep missing things and discovering more later. Admittedly, the MWF website is a little hard to navigate. They seem to have tried to cover every possible browsing style, and have ended up with something not super user-friendly. In order to plan your weeks at the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, your best bet is to browse events by date, with pen and paper at the ready.

For this post, I’m only going to cover the first week of the Melbourne Writers Festival: the program is just too huge, and what I’m interested in just too numerous for me to cover it all adequately.

The festival kicks off this Thursday night with Simon Callow’s keynote address at the Melbourne Town Hall. This starts at 7pm, and tickets are still available. I love opening nights for the way they really get people excited about the festival to come. Come along, soak up the vibe. Whet your appetite.

I don’t want to talk about Friday the 24th. I have to work, and my heart breaks a little when I look at the program and see what I can’t attend, so let’s not even have that conversation.

At 10am on Saturday the 25th, the Morning Read series begins – this series of events is really cool. Angela Meyer kicks off the day with writers reading and talking about their work. Just to get you curious before the day begins…

At the same time, (TIMETABLING GODS, WHY DO YOU MOCK ME?!) Alison Croggon and David Marr are doing an “illustrated lecture” about Patrick White’s face, and I want to attend precisely because I don’t get it. It sounds like a fantastic story-telling exercise – can all our faces tell our entire story? Looking at White’s face here (pictured), it certainly is expressive. Is his face being read from one picture? Professional photographs, happy snaps, or a combination? How many different mediums? My curiosity is in overdrive on this one.

If neither of these events is to your taste, perhaps you could drop in to hear the lovely Francesca Rendle-Short, Paddy O’Reilly and others covering just about everything about “the writer’s journey”.

Some events are accidentally awesome, as I suspect “A Particular Eye” might be. Penny Modra (hosting this event) spoke at the Emerging Writers’ Festival as part of one of the Industry Insider events – she was so utterly endearing that I’m now going to make an effort to go to her events. She’ll be talking to illustrator Badaude, about using overheard snippets and borrowed characters in her work. I don’t know Badaude’s work yet, but Penny Modra’s got me there, so I’ll be looking into it before the event.

I do love to hear about why and what writers read, so “Why I Read” is another must.

The New Yorker series has been a big talking point of this festival, and one event I’d love to get to is the “Critic As Artist” one. Blogging and reviewing are strange beasts, as they’re seen as “on-the-side” type of work. Similarly, critics seem to be viewed as lower on the ladder than writers and creators of the primary works. I’m a firm believer that the best critics are the ones you’ll read even without an entry point to the work they’re analyzing, so hopefully this event will give some food for thought.

Particularly relevant to my WIP, and for anyone writing non-fiction, is the event (at the same time as above, again) “Friendly Fire”, which brings Marieke Hardy, Benjamin Law and Sloane Crosley together to talk about using material from their own life as writing fodder.

On Saturday night I have a family function to attend, but in my absence you should all head along to the launch of The Big Issue‘s fiction edition. I know the good people at The Big Issue have been working really hard on this, and am super proud of my schoolmate and friend Rafael S.W for getting his work in there among so many other amazing names. And yay, Big Issue, for representing emerging writers so proudly!

Also on Saturday night is Liner Notes, where writers will be interpreting David Bowie’s Ziggy StardustDoesn’t get much better than that.

On Sunday morning, I’ll be running my first 5km for charity. But I’ll be at the festival (exhausted and glowing) afterwards. Someone needs to go see David Carlin talking to Robin Hemley for me, as I think I’ll be a bit late. Events I’ll be getting to on Sunday the 26th:

Verandah 27 is launching in the Yarra Room at 11.30. Go, get some amaze-works!

Drusilla Modjeska and Andrea Goldsmith pair up to talk about Modjeska’s latest work, The Mountain. It will be interesting to hear from someone who’s moved between fiction and non-fiction the way that she has.

To be absolutely honest, the rest of Sunday will be taken at my leisure. I plan to wander in and out of sessions as my energy allows, before coming home for a nap and then back into Richmond to see Pennywise. What a day!

Most weekday sessions are part of the school program – if you’re a teacher or student, go check out the program. There’s a heap of amazing stuff, including workshops with Alice PungMorris Gleitzman talking about his change-of-pace books about the holocaust (the latest of which, After has just been released), and Melina Marchetta introducing a screening of the brilliant film adaptation of Looking for Alibrandi, and talking about the process of adaptation.

This is it for the first week for me. I’ll bring you my picks from the other half of the program next week. If you see me at the festival (small girl, large pen), come say hi!