The Age backs Melbourne Writers Festival and revives book of the year award

In a double boost for writers, readers and the book industry The Age is sponsoring the Melbourne Writers Festival and reviving the Age Book of the Year award, which was last presented in 2012.

The agreement with MWF, which is back with a physical festival after last year’s was forced to migrate online, has the newspaper committed to a major partnership deal and it will present its prestigious award on opening night, September 3.

Artistic director of Melbourne Writers Festival Michaela McGuire says the festival’s partnership with The Age makes complete sense.Credit:Joe Armao

The Age editor Gay Alcorn said she had been dismayed when she joined the paper last year that it was no longer a partner with the festival. “I am thrilled that that has been rectified. The festival is about books and writing, ideas and debate in this city – exactly what The Age champions.”

MWF artistic director Michaela McGuire, who ran Sydney Writers’ Festival for four years until joining MWF late last year, welcomed the move.

“Melbourne Writers Festival is incredibly proud to partner with The Age. This partnership makes perfect sense; two iconic Melbourne institutions coming together to celebrate and honour our city’s extraordinary engagement with literature. We’re so excited that the Age Book of the Year will be announced on the opening night. We’ve got something really special in store for September, and this announcement will mark the beginning of an astonishing 10 days of literary programming.“

The award returns with a slight difference from nine years ago. This year there will be only one award, for fiction, with the intention being to bring back awards for non-fiction and poetry and an overall book of the year in the future. It will be the 40th year of the awards.

“It seemed the right moment to celebrate the return of the Book of the Year award,” Alcorn said. “Our last book of the year was awarded in 2012 when it was won by James Boyce’s 1835: The Founding of Melbourne and the Conquest of Australia about the white settlement of Melbourne and its impact on Indigenous people. I read it last year and it remains a stunning and important book. The Age Book of the Year was – and will again be – one of the most prestigious literary prizes in Australia.”

The Age presented its literary awards for the first time in 1974 when David Foster won the fiction prize for The Pure Land and Manning Clark the non-fiction for the third volume of his A History of Australia. A poetry prize was introduced in 1993. Over the years, the overall title has been won by writers such as Peter Carey, Don Watson, Amy Witting, Fiona McGregor, Elizabeth Jolley, David Malouf, Sonya Hartnett and Luke Davies.

The festival has already announced three of its major international guests – Emma Dabiri, Jhumpa Lahiri and Maggie Nelson – who will be appearing via videolink, and its popular schools program, which runs September 6-9 and this year focuses on consent, disability, relationships, First Nations cultures, the value of reading, and the power of stories.

Writers featuring in the latter include Amie Kaufman, co-author of the Illuminae Files series, Yumi Stynes and Dr Melissa Kang, authors of Welcome to Consent, and Gary Lonesborough, Carly Findlay, Ursula Dubosarsky, Kirli Saunders, R.A. Spratt and Peter Carnavas.

“Festivalgoers can expect a huge program of live, in-person events at venues across the CBD, showcasing the staggering talent of Australian writers,” McGuire said. “We’re also bringing leading international authors to our audience, both online as part of MWF Digital, as well as a handful of live-crosses to venues in Melbourne.”

She will announce the full program for the festival on July 28 and a special liftout will run in The Age on July 31. The festival runs September 3-12. mwf.com.au

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