MWF 2015 will kick off with an opening address by beloved novelist Louis de Bernières (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Red Dog). There’s a long list of local talent, from international successes (Graeme Simsion, The Rosie Project, Liane Moriarty, Big Little Lies) to Nobel and Man Booker Prize-winners we like to call our own (J.M Coetzee, Eleanor Catton). Novelists such as Sarah Waters and Kate Grenville share the program with activists and commentators, most notably Naomi Klein, also here for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas.

The startlingly pink program announces that this year's festival is “for everyone who reads”. More than 150 of the events are free, and the line-up this year is more accessible culturally as well as cost-wise. Live storytelling returns with The Moth, and digital advice will be dished by bloggers Leo Babauta, Sarah Wilson and Lucy Feagins. Veronica Mars fans, this one’s for you – Rob Thomas, writer of the cult show and best ever crowdfunding guy is here to talk TV, as is Homeland screenwriter Gideon Raff.

British iconoclast Will Self will close the festival and put us back in our box with reflections on the repression and denial he sees at the heart of Australian culture.

We live in one of the world’s 7 UNESCO Cities of Literature, but writers festivals are never just about books. Director Lisa Dempster’s mission is “to get Melbourne thinking and discussing”, and events focus on key issues such as gender equality, immigration and climate change.

Phrases such as “there’s something for everyone” get bandied around a bit. Instead, for a taste of just how diverse this year’s MWF program is, take a line from the bio of festival guest and Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt: “I work in several areas of astronomy, most notably with exploding stars called supernovae. But I also chase after Gamma-ray bursts.”

The Melbourne Writer’s Festival runs from August 20-30 2015. Tickets go on sale at midday today.