Despite its name, the Melbourne Writers Festival isn’t just for wordsmiths. In fact, its appeal isn’t even limited to avid readers or lovers of highbrow literature or academic texts, likely to spend their days pouring over difficult prose, black coffee on hand.

Those whose bedtime ritual is more about the warm glow of a television screen than that of a night-light needn’t be perturbed. Whether you’re fond of football, Freud or food, the 2012 MWF harbours no pre-requisites other than a curious mind.

The extensive program may seem be a bit daunting at first glance, so we’ve selected a few of our favourite picks.

Simon Callow: Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
A testament to MWF director and CEO Steve Grimwade’s desire to broaden the scope and appeal of this year’s festival is the inclusion of Simon Callow as keynote speaker. A man best known for his acting prowess in films such as Shakespeare in Love, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Phantom of the Opera, what you might not know about Callow is that he is also an acclaimed writer with a soft spot for Oliver Twist. He will talk all things Dickens, theatre and bland porridge (we imagine) in his addresses to both Melbourne and Ballarat audiences.
Thursday August 23 at 7pm
Melbourne Town Hall

A Particular Eye
Illustrator Joanna Walsh has turned a love for “idle observation of everything with wonder and astonishment” and a penchant for being a “credulous and gossipy idler” into a bourgeoning career under the pseudonym Badaude (a word that fittingly describes someone who partakes in the aforementioned pastimes). She will discuss her process – transforming stories she borrows from passers by into art – with Penny Modra.
Saturday August 25 at 1pm
NGV Theatrette at The Ian Potter Centre, NGV

The New Yorker: Fine Lines
Native New Yorkers are a notoriously fast-talking, cutthroat bunch, with not enough hours in the day for a good, long read. The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast knows how to deliver the big issues in a powerful pictorial format to folks who know what they want. Dubbed the only “certifiable genius” at the publication by editor David Remnick, she will speak alongside The Age cartoonist Oslo Davis.
Saturday August 25 at 4pm (sold out)
NGV Theatrette at The Ian Potter Centre, NGV

Q&A, First Tuesday Book Club
Everybody likes a freebie, and a spot in the live audience for Q&A or First Tuesday Book Club is a more intellectual equivalent of appearing on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. You won’t walk away with a small fortune, but your mind will be exponentially richer. Priceless.
Monday August 17 at 8.30pm, Friday August 31 at 2.30pm
BMW Edge, Federation Square, ABC Elsternwick

The Radio Hour
Even though video may have killed the radio star, there’s no reason literature and the wireless can’t be friends. The live recording of ABC Radio National’s 360 Documentary that is The Radio Hour is at least one argument for love over sibling rivalry. Fairfax studio will play host to writers Pico Iyer, Chloe Hooper, Jon Tjhia and Jessie Borrelle (Paper Radio), Natalie Kestecher (ABC Radio National) and Rachel Maher alongside musicians James Cecil (Super Melody), Shane O'Mara and Dan Marsh as they wax lyrical on the topic ‘Do You Read Me?’
Sunday September 2 at 6pm
Fairfax Studio, The Arts Centre

The Melbourne Writers Festival runs from August 23 to September 2

mwf.com.au