Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

April 20, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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It’s time once again for the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. Originally I thought there was bugger all on, but then I looked at the programme properly, and found some stuff. And of course there are clashes, because why on earth wouldn’t there be when I only want to see a handful of things over three days.

So. These are the things I’ve highlighted as definitely or potentially interesting:

Friday, May 13

11:30am – 12:30pm
Climbing the Mango Trees
“Venison kebabs laden with cardamom, tiny quails with hints of cinnamon, chickpea shoots stir-fried with green chillies and ginger, and tiny new potatoes browned with flecks of cumin and mango powder”. Hungry for more? Madhur Jaffrey’s mouthwatering book, Climbing the Mango Trees, is one of the most loved food memoirs of all time. Hear her in person as she talks about her astonishing life, her family and the food with Ladies, A Plate writer Alexa Johnston.

I have not heard of this woman, but I love cooking so this is probably up my alley regardless. We’ll see about this one.

1:00 – 2:00pm
The Great Disruption
“Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger. The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences …We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now…”

Winston Churchill November 12, 1936

“The evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world. And . . . there will be much more, and much worse, to come.”

Paul Krugman, February 6, 2011

Six years ago Paul Gilding forecast an inevitable crash of the global ecosystem – his view in 2011 is that the global crisis is no longer just an environmental issue, and how we respond now will decide the future of human civilization. World food prices hit record highs in January 2011, driven by huge increases in the prices of wheat, corn, sugar and oils. Extreme floods, drought and temperatures are all clear signals that the ecological system is at its limit, strained by an economy which has grown too big. Paul believes we can come out the other side of this “Great Disruption” in better shape – and he’s here to tell us how. Chair: Grant Redvers.

I tend to like to chuck a bit of science into my literature. This session is either going to be really interesting or as boring as crap. I don’t think there will be any in between. My jury is out at the moment.

2:30 – 3:30pm
Short and Sweet
Claire Keegan (Antarctica, Walk the Blue Fields, Foster), Tina Makereti (Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa) and Sue Orr (Etiquette for a Dinner Party, From Under the Overcoat) will do a reading and discuss the joys and perils of writing short fiction with poet Paula Green.

I went to the short fiction session the year before last, and it was interesting, and I like to write short stories as well as read them. There’s an art to them that you don’t get in longer fiction. Definitely attending this one.

Saturday, May 14

10:00 – 11:00am
Publishing Panel
Publishing is adapting at a rapid rate to seismic shifts in the industry worldwide: panellists will discuss the unexpected bonuses, and casualties, of the last few years. What’s the best course of action for an aspiring writer in 2011? And what are the options for a New Zealand writer to get traction internationally? Neil Astley, Alvina Ling, Tom Mayer and Alexis Washam talk with publishing consultant Geoff Walker.

We gratefully acknowledge Creative New Zealand’s Te Manu Ka Tau, Flying Friends International Visitors Programme for hosting a stellar group of international publishers and agents, including:

Neil Astley* (Bloodaxe Books)
Nikki Christer (Random House Australia)
Alvina Ling (Little, Brown USA)
Steven Maat (Bruna Netherlands)
Tom Mayer (W.W. Norton USA)
Barbara Rozycki (Badcock & Rozycki Literary Scouts UK)
Kao Ming-Mei (Hsin Yi Publications)
Hal Wake (Vancouver International Writers’ Festival)
Alexis Washam (Random House USA)

Well, I can hardly fail to go to this one, really. Plus, it’s free. It’ll probably be packed.

10:00 – 11:00am
Cassandra Clare
Bestselling American author Cassandra Clare is famed for her urban fantasy series, The Mortal Instruments. Cassie talks with Paula Morris about City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass and City of Fallen Angels, her writing career, the new Infernal Devices series (Book One Clockwork Angel came out last year), and the movie in the pipeline . . .

I would go to this one just for shits and giggles, but the publishing panel wins, I’m afraid.

1:00 – 2:00pm
Karen Healey and David Hair
Karen Healey’s supernatural Māori mythology thriller Guardian of the Dead was one of only five books worldwide shortlisted for the prestigious 2011 William C. Morris award. Her new supernatural adventure, The Shattering is available by special arrangement at the festival (official publication date, July 2011). David Hair’s popular books The Bone Tiki (Winner of Best First Book at 2010 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards), The Taniwha’s Tear, and The Lost Tohunga have been labelled “Māori Gothic”, and he has a new series starting in March with Pyre of Queens, a fantasy set in ancient India, 769AD. They swap notes on their love of fantasy, mythology, writing, and, perhaps, invent a new genre . . .

I’m not familiar with David Hair, but I like the sound of “Maori gothic”. I have Karen Healey’s Guardian of the Dead sitting on my dining table as we speak. It’s my Easter reading. We’ll see if I like it. Definitely going to this one.

2:30 – 3:30pm
Paula Morris
Paula Morris is a New Zealand writer best known here for her “adult” fiction. But in the US, where she’s taught creative writing for eight years, she’s a rising star in YA urban fantasy. Her first YA novel was the supernatural murder-mystery Ruined, set in post-Katrina New Orleans and recently optioned for film. Dark Souls, a mystery exploring the haunted city of York, will follow later this year. How did she break into the highly competitive YA market in the US, and what inspired her to start chasing ghosts?

I saw Paula Morris speak during the 2009 AWRF. She was interesting, and this blurb makes it sound like she’ll be interesting again.

4:00 – 5:00pm
At the turn of the 20th century, Antarctica was the focus of one of the last great races of exploration and discovery. Men set off from their huts in search of adventure, science and glory, and some never returned. Wars intervened and the huts were left as time capsules of Edwardian life. In 2009, Jane Ussher and Steve Braunias travelled to Antarctica on assignment. Jane recorded “the unusual, the hidden and minutiae of these sites” in eerily beautiful photographs for Still Life: Inside the Antarctic Huts of Scott and Shackleton. Braunias took solace in a copy of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year which had been left in the hut at Cape Bird. Later, he devoted a section of Smoking in Antarctica to his “Cold Days in Hell”, and won the 2010 Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year. They talk with Finlay Macdonald about their experience – illustrated with Jane’s heartbreaking photographs.

This one looks interesting, but I may miss it just because of logistics, since the Paula Morris session is at a different venue, and I will be driving from one to the other. Half an hour’s probably not enough time to get from one to the other. Pity, but not devastating.

Sunday, May 15

11:15am – 12:30pm
Graphic Novels, Comics and Cartoons
Ant Sang is the creator of the celebrated Dharma Punks comic series, was one of the creators of “bro’Town”, and has a new graphic novel out, Shaolin Burning. Chris Slane is the award-winning cartoonist whose work regularly appears in our newspapers and magazines, and co-author of the recently published graphic novel Nice Day for a War. Dylan Horrocks is the author of seminal graphic novel Hicksville, comic books Pickle and Atlas, has written for DC Comics and publishes webcomics at Karen Healey is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Guardian of the Dead, co-founder of feminist comics website and is writing a PhD on superhero comics as fan-created text. Together they discuss the medium they love and its continued evolution with Adrian Kinnaird, cartoonist and writer of the award-winning New Zealand Comics blog, From Earth’s End. This illustrated event will give you an exclusive look behind the scenes of the storytelling process and artistic creation of a graphic novel, a must for all aspiring cartoonists!

I’m not massively interested in comics, but this could be a really lively and interesting discussion, so why the hell not.

1:00 – 2:00pm
Fantasy: Freedom All Round
Do writers like writing fantasy because they can tackle serious subject matter without having to make claims of relevance to the “real” world? Non-realist fiction is liberating for the writer, and also frees the reader from a pre-existing awareness of what they’re supposed to think, or how they’re meant to respond. Perhaps this is why fantasy is so popular with the young adult market – it doesn’t dictate what to think or how to feel. Fantasy writers Garth Nix, Cassandra Clare, Margo Lanagan and Elizabeth Knox tell Paula Morris what they love about the genre.

This should be a good one, hopefully.

So, that’s it. Not too shabby, and where I have to make a choice it’s not that wrenching, now that I lay it all out. Should be an interesting weekend.



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  1. And of course there are clashes, because why on earth wouldn’t there be when I only want to see a handful of things over three days.
    Murphy’s Law 🙂
    I hope you have a great time!

  2. And of course there are clashes, because why on earth wouldn’t there be when I only want to see a handful of things over three days.

    Murphy’s Law 🙂

    I hope you have a great time!

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