not a winner in these awards but the Commonwealth Writers Prize is probably a good consolation prize

Christos Tsiolkas - not a winner in these awards but he's probably not too bothered since the Commonwealth Writers Prize is quite good too.

Well, it was an intense period of listening and watching and reading and writing “up north” but we’ve come out the tail end of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival a little wiser, a lot tireder, and much the richer for the experience.

Joyce and I have been brainstorming a little on our respective festival experiences and feel that there are a few noteworthy folk who deserve some unofficial accolades from us, so here are our picks for festival faves…

Smartest, sexiest silver fox award – Marcus Chown.  Tintin hair, big brain and easy charm got him the gong.  A strong showing also from Todd Blackadder in this category but at the end of the day quantum physics was the winner.  David Geary also gets an honourable mention.

Best Chair – Voting was split in this category due to our attending different sessions.  I rate David Geary as chair in the Greg McGee and Sam Mahon session, with his ability to gently take the mickey without making it all about him.  Joyce awards this prestigious prize to the ubiquitous Paula Morris.  With the added bonus of not having a cold at this year’s festival Paula was as always knowledgeable, genuinely interested in her interviewees and terribly, terribly droll.

Best Dressed – Joyce’s best of the bunch was Bookman Beattie‘s charming and stylish wife Annie.  Second in a strongly competitive category is the gloriously titian-haired and vivacious Peta Mathias.  I would like to add an actual participant in the festival (pipe down Joyce), in the form of former Christchurch lad Stevan Eldred-Grigg whose violet/mauvey shirt was a blessed relief from all the wintery black garments.  It caught my attention and I couldn’t stop looking at it…in a good way.

Youngest, sexiest audience at a session – Joyce had the pleasure of almost rubbing thighs with a very pretty young man at the Richard Dawkins session.  So distracting was it in fact she apparently failed to follow the substance of the session.  Dawkins could certainly claim to have the youngest and most pierced audience of the festival.   I didn’t attend this lecture but would make a strong case for Sunday’s Songwriting session with Don McGlashan and Jason Kerrison as the winner in this category.  Rather more skinny jeans in that audience than there had been in any others I’d been to, that’s for sure.

Oldest, most experienced audience at a session – Richard Holloway, the ex-bishop of Edinburgh’s lecture almost demanded the presence of St John’s Ambulance and Joyce felt relieved to know that she had renewed her first aid certificate recently.  But loath though she is ever to make a serious point, Joyce is certain the young and pierced could have gleaned great wisdom from this humane and thoughtful man.  Again, having been to different sessions I couldn’t comment on the prudence of having medical staff on site but was surprised to find that there were many snowy heads present to see Greg McGee and Sam Mahon, and not nearly as many men as I thought might be interested in this superficially “blokey” session.

Biggest wind-bag – A controversial category but one which results in a unanimously decided winner.  George Friedman come on down and receive your “golden duct-tape” award.  You are a very smart man but sometimes other people need to talk.  That is all.  We’ve said enough.

Favourite exotic author name – Again another unanimous decision, though no prizes this time.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  A name like that demands to be published (and we found ourselves reciting it like a mantra again and again and again).  Try it.  It’s fun.

Wittiest and most self-effacing - Joyce’s winner by a nose is New Zealand’s own Sarah-Kate Lynch.  Joyce may even on the strength of her hilarious performance read some of her “popular women’s fiction”.  A hard act to follow though I’d like to suggest Mohammed Hanif for showing great forebearance in the face of the aforementioned Mr Friedman and after what had been a rather upsetting beginning to his New Zealand visit.

The mover and shaker award – This inaugural award has been instituted to celebrate outstanding achievement in the arena of door-stopping, button-holing and celebu-stalking (how do you think all those photos got on our Flickr?) and there is only one nominee (drum-roll and cue chorus of high-kicking Rockettes).  The prize goes to Sydenham boy and Christchurch City Libraries’ very own  Mr Richard Liddicoat.  He is as comfortable approaching a Grey Lynn matron as the All Black captain.  None are safe from this legendary schmoozer.

Congratulations to all our category winners.  Your prizes aren’t in the post.  Do you agree with our selections?  Would you care to offer your own suggestions?  Please submit a comment but be warned that the judges decision is final (but some correspondence may be entered into).