Last year's Melbourne Writers Festival opened with a talk by Miles Franklin-winning novelist Kim Scott. This year things will be very different.

American musician, singer-songwriter and existentialist self-help guide Andrew WK will set the festival on its course under new artistic director Marieke Hardy, who says the program will expand "our concept of the way words are traditionally interrogated at a literary festival". Andrew WK will deliver a toast to survival, joy, resilience and existence.

American musician and existentialist Andrew WK will toast survival, joy, resilience and existence to open the Melbourne Writers Festival.

Photo: Peter Stoop

Other names featuring in an early announcement of some international guests at Hardy's first festival include the acclaimed American journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, the Black Panther comics, and most recently We Were Eight Years in Power; David Neiwert, author of Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Age of Trump; Ed Husain, author of The Islamist, a memoir of his time involved with radical Islamism, and The House of Islam: A Global History; Marwa al-Sabouni, the Syrian architect and author of The Battle for Home; and American young-adult writer Juno Dawson, whose work explores gender, sexuality and mental health.

Previously announced names include New Yorker writers Ronan Farrow and Emily Nussbaum.

The full program will be launched on July 17 and feature in The Age on July 21. The box office opens on July 20 and the festival runs August 24-September 2.

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