GUEST WRITER: Best-selling author Joanna Nell.
GUEST WRITER: Best-selling author Joanna Nell.

Singles Ladies author to share the joy of ageing at festival

BYRON Writers Festival has "been on the agenda" for a while for author Joanna Nell, and with a best-selling book to her name she is finally on her way.

The author of The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village will be part of the well-known festival to be held from August 2-4 this year.

The festival is three days of storytelling literature and big ideas in the beautiful coastal setting of Byron.

Joanna is one of more than 140 guest writers and thinkers who will converge on Byron for the festival, which is now in its 23rd year and renowned for its relaxed, friendly vibe, beachside location and compelling conversations.

Genres are many and varied including environment, the arts, crime, social issues, poetry and politics as well as memoir and fiction.

This year's guests will include Kurdish-Iranian refugee and award-winning writer Behrouz Boochani who will appear via livestream from Manus Island, best-selling author Marcus Zusak (Bridge of Clay), New York-based author and journalist Min Jin Lee (Pachinko), health and environment advocate Damon Gameua (2040), ABC journalist Leigh Sales (Any Ordinary Day), Benjamin Law (Growing up Queer in Australia) and beloved children's author and illustrator Alison Lester (Magic Beach).

For Joanna Nell, the trip north from Sydney to appear at the festival is part of the whirlwind that has surrounded her since the success of her funny, moving, heart-warming tale of love and community spirit - The Single Ladies of Jacaranda Retirement Village.

She has had a roundabout journey to literary success - born in the UK, she studied medicine at Cambridge and Oxford universities and now in her 50s has lived in Australia for the past 15 years.

Her short fiction had won multiple awards and been published in various journals and literary anthologies.

But still the Sydney-based GP with a passion for women's health and care of the elderly admits she is still pinching herself at the success of her first novel.

And why not - there are certainly few novels like it revolving around the life, loves and self discovery of 79-year-old widowed pensioner Peggy Smart and the women of her coastal retirement village.

Living on Sydney's northern beaches, Joanna was ultimately inspired to write the story of an older protagonist after watching the older swimmers at Pittwater in Sydney and wondering about their lives.

She said she hoped the book dispelled some of the "misconceptions surrounding ageing" and gave an optimistic view.

Event details: Byron Writers Festival from August 2-4 at Elements of Byron.

Byron Writers Festival is a non-profit member organisation presenting workshops and events year-round, including the annual Festival.

For the full line-up of writers and program of sessions, go to byronwritersfestival.com.