(Don’t) Stop tweeting

Are writers dilly dallying round on Twitter when they should be writing and submitting their work for publication? Simon Wilson, editor of Metro, posited this and got some writerly hackles up. Hence this session Stop tweeting … Commit! A Twitter Odyssey at the Auckland Writers Festival, and on Twitter, starring Russell Brown aka @publicaddress, Jolisa Gracewood @nzdodo, Simon Wilson @metromagnz and chaired by Janet Wilson @bespokemedia – and featuring The Real People in the audience, and on Twitter.


This session was crackling with intelligence, but I wanted to hear more from the Yays …

David Walliams for breakfast, Haruki Murakami for dessert. And a lot of delicious munchies in between.

Do you ever find yourself wondering how would your daily menu look like if it would consist of books and authors. Who or what would you have for breakfast? Something light and fresh like contemporary flash fiction? Uplifting and witty like a book for kids? Or bitter-sweet like contemporary Japanese fiction to accompany your coffee?

Awful Auntie The Violinist in Spring Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

If you do have daydreams like that, you are not alone. I have them all the time. They turned into reality yesterday at the Auckland Writers Festival. My menu was packed with delicious, fragrant, crunchy, invigorating goodies, boosting with nutritious antioxidants for mind and soul.

This is how I spoiled myself:

David Walliams successfully fulfilled the inevitable craving for caffeine first thing in the morning. Not only that: his serving of salty English humour satisfied children as well as their parents. He amused the crowd with full-bodied readings from his latest children’s novel Awful Auntie and also Gangsta Granny. For full list of ingredients and nutritional value, read Zac’s blog post.

Child Poverty in New Zealand Tangata Whenua

To balance the amount of adrenaline and sugar in my blood and to extinguish my guilty pleasure feeling, I decided to devote myself to something more weighty (and potentially choke-risky). After quoting Nelson Mandela (“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.“) professor Jonathan Boston, co-author of Child poverty in New Zealand, spooned out worrying and icy-cold facts. In 2014 24% of children in NZ lived in poverty! For more about this shameful, damaging and morally unacceptable E ingredient of modern society, check out Ben’s blog post.

Before I knew it, it was time for lunch: filling and abundant feast of inspirations, catered by Tangata Whenua session. Co-authors of this 543-page Maori history Aroha Harris and Atholl Anderson, took us on a seven-year journey from the day the seed of the book was planted by Judith Binney (who unfortunately passed away before the publication of book) till the harvest was hand-picked, cooked and served. It did not need a karakia as its level of tapu is without a measure.

Encompassing a mix of scientific approaches in the book (which by the way won the 2015 Royal Society of New Zealand Science Book Prize a night before), it was put together to tell a tangata whenua history from origins to today, avoiding the contamination with political aspects and staying faithful to its encyclopedic and social purposes.

“I like the audience to have their view of the song”

Afternoon tea was served by Hollie Fulbrook, singer, songwriter and initiator of the band Tiny Ruins (if you haven’t listen to them yet, you are missing out big time! Their album Brightly Painted One was named Best Alternative Album at the 2014 NZ Music Awards). Hollie took us on her musical sailings: from early beginnings (if you ever wondered, Billy is a love song dedicated to her goldfish), through her travels on the road (spiced up by the influence of Beat poets and Chekhov) – to her student years, when her melancholy sweet voice and stroking words found their form. Her vocal tenderness coupled into harmony with two other scrumptious layers of this irresistible piece of cake: Cass Basil (bass) and Alexander Freer (drums).

August The Chimes

Intellectual evening dinning followed, featuring brilliant word-connoisseur Anna Smaill and metaphysical thriller chef Bernard Beckett. Intriguing, mind provoking ideas about memory, identity, death, apocalypse, language and the trend of an orphaned male hero were addressed. The entrées were served as readings from authors recent YA dystopian novels Chimes and Lullaby.

1Q84 What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Kafka on the Shore Norwegian Wood

And finally – my favourite. Green tea in a fragile japanese porcelain. Haruki Murakami: subtle, clear, witty, wise, mysterious. Almost dreamlike. The air among the crowd was charged with deep mindful attentiveness. I had a feeling the whole world would end by a wave of a hand. Life very rarely blesses us with such experiences – thanks to Donna, we have it truthfully captured in her brilliant blog post. Haruki left a big question mark at the bottom of my tea cup. But also an ever-growing warmth of content in my heart.

The action-packed life of Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz is a multi-talented writer. Not only has he written books for children and teens, but he has also written for TV (Foyle’s War, Poirot and Midsomer Murders) and delved into the world of James Bond and Sherlock Holmes. Today, he lives a very comfortable life thanks to the millions of sales of his books worldwide, but his life didn’t start off so great. Anthony had an unhappy childhood but he found himself in books. Stories helped him to escape. In his dormitory, which he describes as a horrible place, he told stories to the other children to cheer them up. He created Jimmy and Edward who had Willard Price-type adventures. The books that Anthony has written for children are his attempt to relive his childhood and be the child he wanted to be. Anthony commented on how his childhood has affected his writing saying:

You either have 19 million sales or a happy childhood.

The Alex Rider books were the books that put Anthony on the map. The creation of Alex Rider came out of the Iraq war and the lies that the Secret Service were telling. He has spent “15 years being the biographer of a 14 year old boy”,’ but he hinted that he may eventually write a book about a 28-year-old Alex Rider whose life is messed up after all his missions. Such a book hasn’t been written about a children’s character before, and Anthony seems intrigued by the idea. Anthony says that he tries to write books that have a seriousness of intent. He believes that children’s books need to have good language and he tries to write well.

In the past few years Anthony Horowitz has redefined himself as an adult writer. He wants to step back and let someone else take his place as a writer for children. Robert Muchamore has been doing this with his Cherub series and Anthony has welcomed this series as it keeps encouraging his own fans to read. He has gone on to write two Sherlock Holmes novels, House of Silk and Moriarty, and is working on his untitled James Bond novel.

Anthony Horowitz has this advice for young writers:

  • The more you read, the more you will write.
  • Get outside, have adventures, do something illegal
  • You have to believe in yourself!

I’ve read some of Anthony Horowitz’s books for children and teens but I’m certainly going to add his Sherlock Holmes books to my to-be-read list.

Very very sleazy tabloid hacks. Hack Attack – Nick Davies at the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

This is the first booky session I’ve been to with both my Mum and Dad. And a friend. Both had heard about Nick Davies, and didn’t know he was coming to Christchurch for the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. So we were a keen crew, as were the rest of the crowd. Joanna Norris, editor of The Press, was in the chair – she’s great – en pointe at all times, and with rich journalistic knowledge.

Nick is a Guardian journalist. He investigated the phone hacking that was rife in British newspapers:

The story began in 2007 when the Royal Editor of The News of the World was imprisoned for hacking into voicemail messages of staff at Buckingham Palace.

Nick Davies

He was contacted by a insider who had all the information. Once the stories started coming out it grew massive – 200 people were complicit and  5500 victims affected in phone hacking scandal. It went straight into the world of power, but the difficulty was to prove it. The Guardian posted stories, and may have left it there – but it became locked into the story by the aggressive responses of people like Rebekah Brooks, then CEO of News International:

Our credibility was at stake.

Nick gave us a great insight into the murky world of the tabloid hacks – phone tapping, corruption, prostitutes, cocaine, the lot. The bad guy tabloid hacks are “very very sleazy”. Nothing is off limits.  He sees the hounding of Princess Diana by the newspapers as a turning point.

The wall of deference was broken down & everyone was now fair game … Diana’s life was ransacked for stories.

Tabloid newspapers are “peculiarly ruthless” and riddled with “cruelty and hypocrisy”:

What they do is reputational violence.

This works most effectively against the power elite. The rich and powerful see their fellows brought down by scandal, and don’t want it to happen to them.

Nick had quite a good theory as to why it is that our newspapers are relatively “gentlemanly” as opposed to the UK tabloids. New Zealand ‘s difficult geography and sparse population means that we haven’t developed a national newspaper. Our papers are provincial.  But in the UK, 12 to 15 newspapers were all competing in a rich market.

Discussion moved to the recent UK election and the role of the newspapers.

Since 1979 noone has been elected without Rupert Murdoch’s support.

Some newspapers “pumped the electorate full of misinformation”.  Ed Milliband was portrayed as an “unreliable, untrustworthy nutcase”.  Every party “needed a Murdoch man in their office”. Cameron had Coulson, but Milliband had a Murdoch connection too because:

You have to build a bridge to Rupert.

Nick explored more the parlous state of journalism and public relations:

The PR stuff can go in the bin – we decide what is news. … Honesty is the main thing in journalism.

A great discussion – and the issue is of ongoing interest. Read the book, and follow @bynickdavies and keep up with it all.

Search our catalogue for Nick Davies

Cover of Hack Attack  Cover of Flat Earth news

More from the Nick Davies talk

Read Andrew’s post Hack attack by Nick Davies

WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

Christchurch plays host to the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. We will be attending sessions, blogging, and tweeting (hashtag #wordchch)

Read our WORD Christchurch blog posts

Nick Davies