FESTIVALS ARE YOUNG AND YOUNGER On a wet night in Sydney a cool crowd gathered in the Kings Cross underground carpark to launch the National Young Writers' Festival program. Hosted by Alaska Projects, the evening had wine, music and an inspiring conversation between two smart women, the Zimbabwean author NoViolet Bulawayo (pictured) and Zoya Patel, editor of the new Australian online journal Feminartsy. "Reading should be an open country where you don't need a freaking visa," Bulawayo said. Asked about the message of her Booker-shortlisted novel We Need New Names, she said wryly, "The key message is that our world is messed up". There was laughter too, as when she said she once stole a book by Enid Blyton. The festival in Newcastle (October 2-5) will also be cool, with more than 80 events: discussions include "Free speech or hate speech?", "Slacktivism v street protests", "Is Jurassic Park a thing that should really happen?", late-night crime, romance and dystopian readings, a cooking event, and workshops such as "Perform like a pro" and "Editorial safe space", and a "younger" program for teenagers. See youngwritersfestival.org. RETURN OF A CLASSIC The challenge was how to produce a 40th-anniversary edition of the longest Australian novel ever published, too big for a flimsy paperback. Xavier Herbert's 1400-page epic novel Poor Fellow My Country won the Miles Franklin in 1975 and was decribed as "perhaps THE Australian classic" by a British reviewer, but has been out of print for 25 years. HarperCollins decided to bring it back in the A&amp;R Australian Classics series, which was launched last year and stretches to more than 30 works by authors such as Henry Lawson, Miles Franklin, Kenneth Slessor, Ruth Park, and contemporaries Geraldine Brooks, Drusilla Modjeska and Peter Goldsworthy. The solution from James Kellow, HarperCollins' chief executive, was to do it as a beautiful hardcover, which will be out in October. The hefty book (there's also an e-version) has a delicate cover painting of lotus pods by Gracie Kumbi and an introduction by Professor Russell McDougall, who tells how Herbert struggled to write Poor Fellow after his 1938 success Capricornia, which has never been out of print. Both novels inspired Baz Lurhmann's wartime film Australia but the later book, set in Northern Australia in the late 1930s and '40s, also reflects Aboriginal activism and other political issues of the '70s. Dedicated to "my poor destructed country", Poor Fellow is still important and vivid reading. DESIGN WINNERS I picked a few winners in the Australian Book Design Awards (Undercover, July 25) - for example, Jenny Grigg won best-designed literary fiction for The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton and W.H. Chong won best commercial fiction book for The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. But others are (pleasant) surprises: Allison Colpoys designed the best non-fiction book, Madness: A Memoir by Kate Richards; Nicole Stofberg did the best children's fiction book, WeirDo by Ahn Do; best cover of the year was by W.H. Chong for A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, and book of the year was shared by Daniel New for Love Italy by Guy Grossi and David Pidgeon for Decade by Rennie Ellis. Young designer of the year is Kirby Armstrong. See all winners at abda.com.au. CORRECTION I made a mistake in Undercover last week, unaware that two of Liane Moriarty's novels are being adapted for the screen. I should have said Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon have optioned the rights to Big Little Lies and CBS has rights to The Husband's Secret.