Uncommonly good writers

At the upcoming 2011 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, three 2011 Commonwealth Writer’s prize regional winners speak  and read from their works, along with publisher and festival trustee Nicola Legat.

Craig Cliff – (Best First Book, South East Asia & South Pacific – A Man Melting) was born in Palmerston North, has lived in Australia and Scotland, and now resides in Wellington. He has had short stories published both here and in Australia.

Aminatta Forna – (Best  Book, Africa – The Memory Of Love) was born in Glasgow, raised in Sierra Leone and the United Kingdom, and lives in London. She is the author of a memoir and two novels, and her works have been translated into 10 languages.

David Mitchell (Best Book, South Asia & Europe – The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet) is an English novelist who has lived in Sicily and Japan and is currently living in Ireland.

The Commonwealth Writers’ prize is a leading award for fiction that was established in 1987 and covers the regions of Africa; Europe and South Asia; the Caribbean and Canada; and South East Asia and the South Pacific (that’s us folks).

It aims to recognise the best fiction by both established and new writers from these countries and ensure their works reach a wider audience, and almost 200 books have now been recognised with literary prizes since the scheme began. Each year prizes for Best Book and Best First Book are awarded in the four regions, then the eight winners compete for the overall pan-Commonwealth prizes.

New Zealanders have been well represented in the past, including: Lloyd Jones (Mister Pip); Janet Frame (The Carpathians); Witi Ihimaera (The Matriarch);  Mo Zhi Hong (the Year Of The Shanghai Shark);  Kapka Kassabova (Reconnaissance); Catherine Chidgey (In A Fishbone Church); Charlotte Randall (Dead Sea Fruit); Beryl Fletcher (The Word Burners); John Cranna (Visitors); and Craig Cliff (A Man Melting).

It gives hope to all writers beavering away on their magnum opus, that apart from waiting to hear back from publishers, there is another way of getting recognition for your toil . Everyone needs to start somewhere, and it is heartening to read the above list of New Zealander’s who weren’t above entering a competition or two.

All for one and one for all

coverNow that my fingernails have grown back to a reasonable length, after being bitten to the quick, I feel calm yet also excited about attending the 2011 Auckland Writers And Readers Festival.

The reason why my fingers have constantly been in my mouth lately is because I’m a complete newbie to blogging, podcasting, interviewing with a digital recorder, and uploading to flickr (the thought of finding my way round in the Big Smoke is a little daunting too).

I need these essential skills to be able to feed back information from the festival to our blog, so initially I foresaw a mountain of techie stuff ahead of me to learn, and only a tired little earthquake brain to pack it into.

Happily, it hasn’t proved as difficult to master as I thought, and I can now calm down and look forward to the action. Feel the fear and do it anyway!

I’ll be covering sessions with New Zealand and international authors, and have been determinedly working my way through a toppling pile of required reading, with Shostakovich playing in the background (Sarah Quigley’s new novel The Conductor, published this week, is about the Russian composer).

As the junior musketeer in the library team, I am very excited to be given this opportunity to listen to world-class authors amidst a vibrant festival vibe. Thank goodness the other two are old hands at this, and will ensure that you, dear reader, will be able to make sense of my missives.

So many writers, so little time

Book coverI’m supposed to be telling you about the sessions I’m most looking forward to at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.  You would not believe how difficult I am finding this.

Should I talk about the known?  AA Gill, my foodie hero from way back?  Or Sarah-Kate Lynch, writer of books that make me laugh and cry and laugh again, while also making me hungry and desperate to travel?  (And if you can’t wait to hear about Sarah-Kate at the festival, check out our recent interview with her here).  Cassandra Clare, Paula Morris and Garth Nix who redeem my faith in young adult fantasy fiction without any mention of sparkly emo vampires?  Or Karen Healey, who has so vividly described the Christchurch of my student days that I can actually see the story in my head as it’s happening?

Or should I be brave and step out into the unknown and those writers I’m just discovering, the subjects I know little about?  Barbara Strauch, whose Secrets of the Grown-up Brain is more than reassuring about my total inability to remember the shopping list or where the keys are; the Saturday night performance of poet and multimedia artist Rives, sure to be memorable; or Paul Gilding’s The Great Disruption, challenging us to think about the environmental and economic changes impacting on us all today?

Maybe the session I should be most looking forward to is this one – a gift to us Christchurch folk from the Auckland festival organisers, and chaired by our own Morrin and Ruth;  perhaps it might in some small way help to make up for losing our own festival this year, not once but twice, although I’m also a little scared that I will just pathetically weep all the way through it! 

Feel free to have a look at the programme, and tell us who you think we should be looking forward to!