UEA’s Spring Literary Festival 2017 kicks off this week in conversation with prolific journalist and writer Lionel Shriver, who published an opinion piece in The Guardian yesterday on the effects of sense, censors and ‘sensitivity readers’ on creativity in 2017.

‘Good fiction is daring – it takes risks’, she says. ‘The publishing industry doesn’t need more gatekeepers to make it blander yet and still more timid.’

Whether you agree or disagree, Shriver’s article introduces an overarching theme for this Spring’s festival programme – in strange times such as these, with so much agitation and confusion, what is the role of the writer, the politician, the actor? How can the act of writing and reading help us to see the world in new and different ways? And is there still space for hope?

For those who haven’t already jumped on a season ticket, our hand-pick of the most anticipated events from this semester’s lineup are below.

Elif Shafak – Wednesday 1 March 2017

Elif Shafak is one of today’s most influential international writers and intellectuals who straddles East and West. She is the acclaimed author of ten novels including The Architect’s Apprentice and The Bastard of Istanbul, and is the most widely read female writer in Turkey. Her work has been translated into over forty languages and she has been awarded the prestigious Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. She is also a public speaker, a women’s and LGBT rights activist and a commentator who regularly contributes to world publications including The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and La Repubblica. Elif has been longlisted for the Orange Prize, the Baileys Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Award, and shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the Ondaatje Prize. Website

‘One of the most important writers at work today,’ – The Independent

Elif was a guest speaker at our 2015 Worlds Literature Symposium, where she gave a provocation on the theme of ‘Reputation’ and the role of the writer in a globalised world.

TED Talks

Elif’s writing for The Guardian


George Saunders – Thursday 16 March 2017

George Saunders is the author of eight books, including the story collections Pastoralia and Tenth of December, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2006 he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. In 2013 he was awarded the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction and was included in Time‘s list of the one hundred most influential people in the world. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University. Website

‘Unlike anything you’ve ever read’ – The National

Tenth of December was selected as one of our Summer Reads (now Brave New Reads) in 2014

The 7-hour, 166-person audiobook that feels like a movie (Wired, Feb 2017)

George Saunders gets inside Lincoln’s head (The New Yorker, Feb 2017)

The 100 most influential people in the world (TIME, 2013)

UEA Spring Literary Festival 2017

22 February 2017 – Lionel Shriver

1 March 2017 – Elif Shafak

8 March 2017 – Louise Doughty

16 March 2017 – George Saunders

22 March 2017 – Michael Pennington

3 May 2017 – Ali Smith

17 May 2017 – Ed Balls