The ultimate celebration of truth

In a world of fake news, Australia's leading celebration of non-fiction, Word for Word Festival, shows us why free thinkers are more important than ever.
The ultimate celebration of truth

Image: Word for Word Festival, 2016. Photo credit: Alison Wynd.

In a society distorted by misinformation, one sided narratives, and unverified ‘facts’, we must ask ourselves daily when we consume such information, what is the real truth?

Luckily the Word for Word Non-Fiction Festival, Geelong’s weekend celebration of non-fiction writing and writers, is on hand to fact-check some of the issues that vex us in our daily lives.


Maryanne Vagg, Program Director, Word for Word Non-Fiction Festival said, ‘From the beginning we wanted to explore the stories behind the stories and this gives the program enormous scope and diversity.

‘Non-fiction writing covers such a broad range of topics, issues and experiences and can take so many forms. From journalism to science writing, political reporting to satire, blogging to social commentary it can provide a little of something for everyone,’ she said.

Concentrating so many free-thinkers in one place can help spark a thought revolution. Vagg explained, ‘Our aim has always been to create a forum where big ideas and concepts can be presented and discussed. Since the Festival’s beginning we have included academics and writers as session facilitators and this often brings a new perspective to the discussion which can take the conversation in a new direction.

‘Audiences are invited to participate in the conversation and we have found that the Festival’s new home at the Geelong Library and Heritage Centre has cemented that focus, as libraries are a place where ideas and innovation have long been fostered.’

Click here to book your tickets for Word for Word Festival

The impact of the dialogue, discussions and debate that take place over the festival’s three days is evident in the post-session conversations that happen between audience members in the signing queue or over a coffee.  

‘The Word for Word program doesn’t shy away from tackling issues that are rarely discussed in a public forum, and the opportunity to learn more about these topics and engage in respectful discussion and debate is particularly important for regional audiences,’ Vagg said.


The Festival opens with the New York-based celebrated Australian author Peter Carey and follows with a weekend of loaded topics such as climate change, death and dying, feminism and faith, Indigenous culture and connection to Country, and living an ethical life are included in this year's program. 'However we have given equal billing to topics that may not make the front page but in our opinion deserve further inquiry,’ Vagg said.

‘These include Kim McGrath’s investigation of Australia’s history in the Timor Sea, Marie Munkara’s incredible story of her personal experience as a child of the Stolen Generation, and the never-before-told story of the Vandemonian Wars by historian Nick Brodie.'

Word for Word is sure to include a topic you’ve been longing to discuss, whether that be human rights abuses, the rise of the far right, or the ideological firestorm around the Safe Schools campaign.

‘We have Anna Broinowski and John Safran sharing their experiences from within the ranks of the far-right outsiders. Tim Flannery and Anna Krien will look at where we are now with climate change and what the possibilities may be for the future of the planet. The feisty and fabulous Tracey Spicer will be speaking to her frank and funny memoir and we are delighted that one of Australia’s most celebrated literary figures, Frank Moorhouse will be joining his biographer Professor Catharine Lumby to discuss the pleasures and pitfalls of writing about a rich and colourful life.’

As the program came together, a theme began to emerge almost organically, Vagg continued. ‘This year the question of what is truth is more relevant than ever.’

Such truths will be teased out in many of the festival’s sessions, as well as in the array of masterclasses on offer, which cover a range of writing practices.

‘On Friday 17 November, we are pleased to be hosting nine Masterclasses in venues across Geelong and the region for writers of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  The Masterclasses are a chance for regional writers to take advantage of the expertise of our award winning and highly experienced writing tutors for half-day and full day sessions,’ she said.

‘And in a Word for Word first we are wrapping up Saturday’s program with a special acoustic salon session with songwriters and musicians Rob Snarski and Charles Jenkins in Word for Word Up Late.’

Vagg is very happy with the program and the way it interrogates a range of contemporary issues over the festival’s compact three days.

‘We are thrilled with the response so far to the program and we are looking forward to welcoming our audiences to Geelong for a wonderful festival in 2017,’ she concluded.

Word for Word Festival is kicking off on the Friday 17 November and running until Sunday 19 November. To see the full Word for Word program click here.

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Andrea Simpson

Friday 27 October, 2017

About the author

Andrea Simpson is ArtsHub's Feature Writer and Reviews Editor. Andrea is a Filipino-Australian writer with a love for diverse Australian stories. She is curious about all forms of art, though she has an especially keen interest in the publishing sector.

Andrea has had short stories published in various anthologies, and is currently working on her first novel.  

You can follow Andrea on Instagram @andi_jayyy