The inaugural Manly Writers’ Festival was held in Manly from 14 to 16 March at the Darley Smith Centre on The Corso.

The festival included one-on-one conversations, Q&A panel discussions, presentations and book launches across many genres. It was officially opened by Booker Prize winner Tom Keneally.

The festival was organised by publisher Bonita Mersiades. All went well, despite someone coming down with COVID and one presenter not turning up for a session, with Bonita stepping in at the 11th hour.

The mixed program had something for everyone, from Catherine Fox, who spoke about gender equality in the auditorium, to Sarah McKay, who talked about brain health.

Legendary Midnight Oil musician Jim Moginie was a last-minute addition to the program and chatted about his memoir The Silver River along with treating the room full of Midnight Oil music fans to an intimate rendition of Home and US Forces.

Craig Foster, an ex-Socceroo player, was part of a panel discussing writing as a form of activism with Antony Loewenstein and Sara M Saleh.

Some up-and-coming authors, new to the publishing industry, had excellent advice for wannabe writers about the process of writing their first book and the publishing journey.

All About Women featured a panel of three women, experts in their fields, talking about how hormones affect the maturing female brain, older women doing amazing things and anxiety in girls.

Other sessions at the festival included a discussion on Australia’s Matildas, romance novel writing, acclaimed journalist Nick McKenzie on the Ben Roberts-Smith investigation and some school events.

The festival was well-attended overall, and the on-site book shop was busy with book signings.