Words on the Waves Writers Festival is back & bigger than ever

Words on the Waves is back for a fourth year and, with an entire new program stream on offer, the festival will be bigger and better than ever.

Running from 29 May to 3 June, this year’s festival will feature nearly 100 authors, taking part in 70 sessions over five days. From memoirs to mental health myths, contemporary culture to cosy crime, cookbooks to kids books there is truly something for everyone! 

In addition to our main program, special events and literary cruise, 2024 will see the introduction of The Dip, a series of accessible, short-form author talks for curious humans that are low-cost or free. Running over two days, Saturday at The Dip focuses on engaging and fun sessions for adults and Sunday is a FREE Family Fun Day with kids authors and illustrators, face painting, craft and so much more.  

The Main Program

Exploring the theme past is present is future is always, the main program festival sessions will look at the importance of story and memory sharing for ourselves, our culture and our country, and the importance of the arts in facilitating those conversations.  

Describing the theme festival director, Angela Bennetts says, ‘By taking stock of what has come before, we can step more truthfully forward. ‘past is present is future is always’ points to the ever-cycling project of human history; a reckoning that is never finished and will constantly be rewritten. At this moment in time we pause, to gather our memories, consider our legacy and move from past to present to future. Our stories are being written. Always.’

Some sessions will address the theme directly; actress Pia Miranda and former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty will both talk about how the past has shaped their present and their futures. Likewise the panel session Back from the Abyss will chart how a wonderful future can rise from the ashes of a challenging past, and the session Trust Issues will look at how the lessons of the past shape us now.

Other sessions will allude to the theme more gently. Join Bruce Pascoe, Lun Harwood and Graham Creed as they talk about the challenges and rewards of Farm Life, and the challenges facing Australia’s farmers in the future. Or listen to Carla Wilshire and Toby Walsh discuss the past, present and future of AI in the session AI Think Therefore AI Am? Or relax and listen to some of Australia’s top cosy crime writers talk about how they plan a murder at the Saturday Murder Club.  

The Dip

This newly created program stream, funded by Create NSW, is all about entertaining, accessible, low-cost fun in the beautiful surrounds of the Peninsular Parklands.

Saturday 1 June is a day for the adults. Check out YouTube star and cookbook author Nat’s What I Reckon or perhaps you’d rather listen to rom-com superstar Rachael Johns talk about how she creates the perfect happy ending. And why not end the day with the Debut Crew Revue: six authors, one party!

One Sunday there’s excitement for everyone at our Free Family Fun Day. Join kids authors Matt Cosgrove, Nat Amoore, Eva Amores and Charmaine Ledden-Lewis. Make a mandala, boogie with books, join in the free craft activities and so much more. There will even be an illustrator ‘draw off’, a battle of pens, skills and speed.

Festival highlights

  • CHATTING BOOKS WITH BRI LEE (The Work), Wednesday 29 May, held at The Savoy, Long Jetty.
  • AN EVENING WITH INDIRA NAIDOO, Saturday June 1 from 8 – 9pm at the Naughty Noodle Fun Haus. 
  • STORY CLUB, Friday 31 May, 7.30pm, Ocean Beach SLSC. The hit storytelling sensation returns to the Central Coast with hosts Zoe Norton Lodge and Ben Jenkins.
  • DAY PASS & WEEKEND PASS. Two full days of author talks, combined with stunning coastal views, Saturday June 1 and Sunday June 2 from 10am – 4pm. Ocean Beach SLSC and Umina Beach SLSC.
  • LITERARY CRUISE: READING THE TIDE with James Bradley and Jeanine Leane. Monday June 3, 10am – 12 noon.  
  • WRITING UP STREAM, a Professional Development Day in partnership with Writing NSW and Faber Academy. Saturday June 1, all day.

Festival art

Our 2024 festival artwork ‘Cool Rivulets and the Whole Shebang’, Mandy Francis, oil on canvas (2024) comes courtesy of Ettalong artist, Mandy Francis.

Mandy Francis (b 1975, Ngunbay/Cairns QLD) lives and works on Darkinjung land/Ettalong Beach NSW. Through trial and error, experimenting with paint, colour, exaggerating movement, oscillating between figurative, abstraction, fantasy and naive mark making, Mandy composes paintings and sculptures that captures the play of art making and the play of nature. Mandy is represented by Studio Gallery Group Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane.

Festival theme

Our theme, past is present is future is always, comes from Wiradjuri poet Jeanine Leane’s poem, ‘Weaving Glass’ from the 2024 collection, Gawimarra. Jeanine Leane is speaking at the festival.

About Words on the Waves 

Words on the Waves Writers Festival is theCentral Coast’s first and only writers festival. An annual event, the festival will be held from 29 May to 3 June 2024 and celebrates stories and conversations in a stunning coastal setting.

The main program spans two days of author talks and panels. In addition the 2024 festival will play host to The Dip program stream, as well as special events including an evening conversation event, a literary cruise, family fun day, book launches and more.

Words on the Waves is a not-for-profit literary festival. Its mission is to deliver an immersive annual festival of stories, ideas and connection, set against the scenic Central Coast, and to enrich the cultural landscape of the region year-round. Its vision is to become one of Australia’s leading regional literary festivals, known for its vibrant and diverse program as well as its unique setting.

Dates & Details

When: Wednesday May 29 – Monday June 3, 2024

Where: Ocean Beach Surf Life Saving Club

176 The Esplanade 

Umina Beach NSW 2257


Umina Beach Surf Life Saving Club

509 Ocean Beach Rd

Umina Beach NSW 2257

As well as select venues around the Central Coast, NSW:

The Dip Festival Marquee, Peninsula Recreation Precinct, Umina Beach

Naughty Noodle Fun Haus, Ettalong Beach

The Savoy, Long Jetty

Bar Toto, Ettalong Beach

Erina Library, Erina

The Hive Erina Fair, Erina

Tuggerah Library, Tuggerah

Kincumber Library, Kincumber

University of Newcastle (Ourimbah Campus)

Tuggerah Library, Westfield Tuggerah, 50 Wyong Rd, Tuggerah

And more (check the website for more information)


Saturday pass (4 sessions across 2 venues) $89 + booking fee

Sunday pass  (4 sessions across 2 venues) $89 + booking fee

Weekend pass (8 sessions across 2 venues) $160 + booking fee

Chatting Books $30 + booking fee

Late Night Lit $15 + booking fee

Story Club $20 + booking fee

Evening Conversation $25 + booking fee

Literary Cruise $55 + booking fee

Writing Workshop $59 + booking fee (discount for multiple sessions)

Writing Up Stream Inside Publishing Panel $10 + booking fee

The Dip panel sessions $10 + booking fee

Debut Crew Review $10 + booking fee

Plus lots of free events

More information: https://wordsonthewaves.com.au/ 

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