Festival panelist Tim Costello.
Festival panelist Tim Costello.

Rack of strange book-fellows

AN evangelical American preacher, a rock star and an Australian Idol winner are just some of the personalities who will feature at this year's Byron Bay Writers Festival.

Festival Director Jeni Caffin confirmed Jim Wallis, an evangelical preacher from America, will team up with World Vision CEO Tim Costello on a couple of panels.

A liberal Christian writer and political activist in the US, Reverend Wallis has been a vocal opponent of President George W. Bush.

Ms Caffin described him as 'one of the most charismatic speakers I have ever heard.'

In 2008 the festival celebrates the diversity of Australian publishing by inviting many of the newest voices to centre stage.

Ms Caffin it was one of the strongest years she could remember for fiction publishing in Australia.

"Even though many of the names would be unfamiliar to people now, these really are names you're going to be reading now and in 10 years time," she said.

But there will also be a drawcard cast of big names. Celebrity chef Kylie Kwong will join the line-up, as will Australian Idol winner Damien Leith.

"He wrote a book last year One More Time and I have to tell you this is one of the better books of 2007," Ms Caffin said. "It's part thriller, part boy's own adventure.

"I don't know if he's going to be singing but he'll certainly be talking about his writing."

He might be able to host a panel on the rock n' roll lifestyle with former Hunters and Collectors front man Mark Seymour, whose memoir about life on the road has also impressed Ms Caffin.

"He really spells out what it's like touring with the band for all those years."

Rounding out the star power will be Lonely Planet founders Maureen and Tony Wheeler and comedian Judith Lucy.

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