Some of Australia's most popular authors, broadcasters and performers are travelling to the Hunter Valley in September for the inaugural Hunter Valley Writing and Wine Weekend.
The event is the brainchild of award-winning author and presenter Tracey Spicer AM.
"I reckon at this time in history we're all seeking three things: words of wisdom, a feeling of comfort, and a bloody good laugh," she tells Weekender.
"Writing, reading, meditation, walks, comedy performances - what's not to love?"
The idea was born "during the depths of the pandemic last year" when Spicer created an online book show called Wednesday Night Book Club.
"It provided a platform for thought-provoking conversations, support for struggling authors, and much-needed company for people in lockdown. One night, a viewer asked whether we'd ever do a book show face-to-face."
It got Spicer thinking. She had already spoken at length to her friend of 35 years and general manager of Wandin Valley Estate, Manda Duffy, about the challenges faced by the tourism and hospitality sector.
"We discussed our post-pandemic dreams, including going to a writing retreat with delicious food, lovely wine, bushwalks, meditations and lots of laughs. And so the Hunter Valley Writing and Wine Weekend was born," Spicer says.
"What a wonderful way to shake off the past year, which has been incredibly challenging due to the pandemic. We can't wait to entertain, nurture, and create special memories with everyone who comes along."
Spicer has carefully curated a line-up of speakers that she hopes will make the festival a "fun, entertaining, thought-provoking and life-affirming event".
"Several are hilariously funny; others are wonderfully wise. With so many household names, there's a feeling of comfort: you know you're going to have a good time."
Here are some of the highlights:
- Wendy Harmer will perform her first comedy gig in years at the Gala Dinner on the Saturday night. The ABC Radio broadcaster has written seven adult books, plus the best-selling Pearlie series.
- Australia's home cook hero, Lyndey Milan OAM, will be talking all things food, travel and lifestyle. She has nine best-selling cookbooks and eight TV series to her name.
- The author of dozens of best-selling books, columnist and broadcaster Peter FitzSimons, will share the secrets to his publishing success. He is a Member of the Order of Australia for services to literature.
- Blue Mountains artist and Bundjalung woman, Charmaine Ledden-Lewis, will run an illustration workshop.
- Known as Mother Zen, broadcaster and columnist Jacinta Tynan will run a meditation workshop and talk about her new book, The Single Mother's Social Club.
- Journalist and academic, Sarah Ayoub, works with Sweatshop Women, a movement to improve diversity in Australian literature. The author of Hate Is Such a Strong Word will share her top tips for writing.
- Kayte Murphy, best known for her breakthrough site Woogsworld, will discuss how to make money from blogging.
- Author Wendy James will be running a writing workshop. Her novels include the award-winning Out of the Silence, The Golden Child and The Mistake, and A Little Bird.
- Cognitive scientist Paula Dunn will talk about overcoming bullying and building resilience. Her first book is The Limited Edition Leader: Create Confidence to Conquer Life.
- Wandin Estate will treat guests to delicious regional produce and wonderful wines through the entire weekend.
And then there's the emcee herself, Spicer, who is chair of BraveHer and author of The Good Girl Stripped Bare and whose accolades includeAgenda Setter of the Year 2018, Sydney Peace Prize for the Me Too Movement, and the 100 Women of Influence list in 2018.
For those who can't make it to Wandin Valley Estate on September 11 and 12, the event will be live-streamed via the Wednesday Night Book Club Facebook page. Ticket details to come.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: