Tuesday, August 28th, 2012


The Press Christchurch Writers Festival  has been a long time coming. I had tickets for the October 2010 festival and the May 2011 one but we all know what happened to disrupt those plans!

However, times have changed and it’s great to be able to celebrate the Christchurch festival in style. I have an interview with Joanne Harris and I’m very excited at the propect of meeting her. She is the author of  Chocolat in which chocolate maker extraordinaire, Vianne Rocher, meets her red headed gypsy, Roux. (Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp played the characters in the movie.)

I’m reading, or should I say indulging in, Peaches for Monsieur le Cure at present. It’s the third novel in the series and Joanne Harris explores issues of  faith, acceptance and love in the French village of Lansquenet-sous-Tannes. Her writing style is sensual and insightful. Armande’s peach tree is a central motif. Its fragrance is described as “a sleepy, end-of-summer scent that seemed to leave a glow in the air like a trace of sunset”. Wonderful stuff.

I shall also be speaking to Felicity Price, New Zealand’s own author of fast-paced, witty chick-lit with teeth. Felicity has written six novels and numerous nonfiction works, runs an award winning PR company and was awarded the ONZM in 2009 for her services to business and the arts. The three novels in her Penny Rushmore series reflect her own life to the extent that her character confronts the stresses and challenges faced by a modern day woman trying to juggle work, parenthood, marriage and friendship. The Dominion Post describes her work as “chick lit meets feminism”. Her writing style is fun and engaging, but there’s more than a grain of truth behind her words.

Only three more days until we can immerse ourselves in all-things-literary in Christchurch again. It’s great to see this cultural event back on the calendar and my heartfelt thanks goes out to the organisers and sponsors for making it happen. It’s going to make a big difference to me and many other book lovers and writers. It will lift our spirits and feed our souls. Bring it on!

Press writers' festival logoAlong with my fellow bloggers, I am off to The Press Christchurch Writers Festival this week.  If you’ve been following recently, you will know that many of us have spent heaps of time already preparing for the festival, by reading books, stalking authors, looking at interviews, and doing lots and lots of background research, and then writing about what we are looking forward to.

I too have done some of this, but I’ve also made a deliberate decision this year to NOT do research on some sessions.  There’s nothing like that moment of almost-terror that comes when you walk into a session and realise that you really have no idea what is approaching.  It does have its drawbacks sometimes (I don’t get to nod knowingly and make irritating “I knew that” noises), but it also has its moments of great reward.

In this spirit, here’s a couple of sessions I’m looking forward to that I know almost nothing about, YET.

  • PechaKucha Night - Thursday night in the Geo Dome.  Tagline – 20 images in 20 seconds.  What does this mean?  I’m not sure.  I could Google it and find out, but that would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it?
  • The Great Art War – Sunday afternoon at the Court Theatre.  A musical about the collision of politics and art.  Who’s in it?  Don’t know.  What style of music? No idea.  Who’s starring?  Not sure.  Will it be good?  Almost certainly!

If you can’t cope with this level of uncertainty in your life, here are some links to prepare you in the last few days before the Festival starts on Thursday:

But if you want to bravely step into the unknown, just turn up, grab whatever tickets you can on the day (cash or Eft-Pos only, at the GeoDome), and prepare to be amazed …

(PS.  I lied, just a little, about the PechaKucha night – I had no idea about how to even pronounce it, and in my head all I could hear was Pikachu, so I DID find a little bit of help online,  just for that bit).

In so many words is a panel discussion on social media and books at The Press Christchurch Writers Festival. It’s on Thursday 30 August 4.30pm at the Literary PleasureDome aka the Geo Dome in Hagley Park.

On the panel are bloggers (and tweeters) Lara Strongman, Moata Tamaira, Will Harvie and me. It’ll be chaired by Graham “Bookman” Beattie and promises to be informative, banterrific and hey it’s FREE!

Panellista Moata Tamaira is a Stuff blogger, librarian and web editor. We also proudly claim her as one of our own alumni (check out her posts on this here blog) .

1. What is the allure of Twitter for you?

Twitter is like somehow getting an invitation to a party filled with the sharpest, sexiest, edgiest people and being able to freely wander around picking up snippets of their conversations. And like any good party you can get pulled into the most extraordinary discussions. Pithiness is the order of the day AND you get all the news (and gossip) before anyone else. True there are some dullards on Twitter too, but it’s very easy to sidle away from them when you find one.

2. Who do you recommend following on Twitter (especially on the literary side)?

One of the first things I did when I joined Twitter was to search out the accounts of people whose work I’ve enjoyed, hence my timeline is a jumble of comedians, writers, journalists, bloggers, arts and culture mavens and naturally, librarians.

It’s hard to pick favourites because they’re all so different but I do have a soft spot for @johnjcampbell (he sometimes tweets in the ad breaks during his own show), Mike Dickison aka @adzebill is always good value, and though different timezones keep us apart, @simonpegg often makes me laugh out loud. One of my favourite science writers, @Bengoldacre never fails to bring the sarcasm.

@LeVostreGC You can’t get much more literary than pop culture references and song lyrics tweeted in the style of Chaucer (well, actually I suppose there are several things more literary than that). I like it because it makes me feel like that first year paper I did at Canterbury on Old and Middle English Literature wasn’t completely wasted.

And, just because I realise I haven’t mentioned any ladies. @Cateowen is funny in her own right but is also a good source for linked hilarity (and she knows a lot about the ins and outs of social media). Oh, and you wanted literary too? Jolisa Gracewood @nzdodo is my kind of literary – funny, smart, and approachable. And of course I’ve followed @christchurchlib from day one.

3. What are you looking forward to at the Festival?

Actually having one for a start. And having it be in a giant inflatable igloo in Hagley Park is also a highlight. I love how incongruous it seems.

I’ve never been to a Pechakucha event so I’m keen on checking that out.

I’m keen on both John Lanchester sessions. London is the only other city I’ve lived in, so the “London’s Burning” session he’s doing with Chris Cleave appeals as does “Whoops: Why everyone owes and no one can pay”. I’m a big fan of people who “translate” incomprehensible stuff, in this case the global financial crisis, for ordinary folks like me. It’s an honourable endeavour.

I’m also keen on checking out the exhibitions that form the festival, particularly “Ko taku kupu, ko tau / My word is yours”. I’ve enjoyed the pepeha that have been used in earlier festivals and the artworks that illustrate them. I also love that this exhibition will be in association with Gap Filler which is doing great work around the city, brightening up vacant corners.

An hour with Joanne Harris is also a must see. She’s a wonderful storyteller, and it’s always interesting hearing about how storytellers work their magic.

Can I say that I’m looking forward to the session that we’re doing? I am. That should be a good old chinwag and a good excuse to get me hair done!

You certainly can! See you there Ms M.

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