A sum up of New Zealand Festival Writers Week

Observations from the 2016 New Zealand Festival Writers Week

  • Cover for CreationEvery person I sat beside had a fit bit thingy instead of a watch.
  • Science sells – by far the biggest attendance at any of the sessions I went to was at Adam Rutherford (no relation). The person I sat beside there went to sleep immediately and stayed that way for the entire hour. Perhaps her fit bit was able to tell her if it was REM sleep or not.
  • Some sessions featured Sleater-Kinney T-shirts and Lea DeLaria haircuts, most did not.

Things some of the writers love

Cover for A Little Life

Good things some of the writers said

The power of a story teller is to build a shelter. (Cornelia Funke)


A geneticist is a ‘gel jockey’ and origin of life research is a fractious field full of people who hate each other (Adam Rutherford)


There is nothing better than a painful childhood for a creative life (Mariko Tamaki)

Things resisted

  • Joe Bennett resisted the impulse to bow down before C K Stead, the Poet Laureate, when they shared a lift.
  • I resisted the urge to ask Joe Bennett “How did it go Joe?” when passing him as he left his sold out session.


  • When you ask a question, care about the answer – not how clever you are being when you ask it.

Easter 2016

Friday 25 March is Good Friday (note: not Easter Friday, I’m a stickler about that one). In New Zealand both the Friday (Good Friday) and the Monday of Easter are statutory public holidays, so libraries will be closed. But Saturday and Sunday aren’t public hols – libraries will be open their normal hours, except Linwood Library at Eastgate which will be closed on Easter Sunday.

Friday 25 March Closed
Saturday 26 March Open normal hours
Sunday 27 March Open normal hours (except Linwood Library at Eastgate – closed)
Monday 28 March Closed
Ballantynes Easter
Ballantynes Easter, Friday 1 March 2013. Flickr CCL-2013 -03-13-IMG_4517-1

Jesus Christ Superstar the movie will be shown at the Christchurch Art Gallery on Saturday 26 March.

Easter reading

CoverCover Cover Cover

Easter Parade
Easter Parade heading down Oxford Terrace toward the Catholic Cathedral in Barbadoes Street. Forester’s Hotel is on the left. c. 1950 Flickr HW08-img-fe111

Want to see some photos of Easters gone by? Have a look at this DigitalNZ set Easter Parade.

Wellington singer Anna Leah donating Easter eggs to Radio Station 2ZM. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1974/1619/19-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23144134
Wellington singer Anna Leah donating Easter eggs to Radio Station 2ZM. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1974/1619/19-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23144134


All about women – Sunday 6 March 2016

Last March, I went to the University of Canterbury for a panel on How to be a feminist and a session live from the Sydney Opera House. It was brilliant! Just before International Women’s Day, the Sydney Opera House brings you All about women. There was going to be a live simulcast shown at University of Canterbury, but unfortunately this has been cancelled. Hopefully the session will be recorded, as last year’s was.

All about women

What needs to change? panel discussion

First up at 2.30pm: What needs to change? featuring Masha Gessen, Crystal Lameman, Mallory Ortberg, Ann Sherry and Anne-Marie Slaughter.

If you could change the world overnight, what would you do first? What needs to change? We ask our panel to tell us what crucial levers they would pull if they had the power to change things overnight.

More information

Orange is the new black with Piper Kerman

Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison was the source material for the super popular Netflix series. So popular that it has its own abbreviation: OITNB. Piper will talk about the lessons she learned ‘doing time’ and:

how the generosity and acceptance of the women she met inside inspired her to become an advocate for the rights of female prisoners.

More information

All about women – reading list

Cover Cover Cover

Our page on International Women’s Day has more feminist resources and reading for you to explore.

Calling all preschool scientists

In a way, all children are scientists. Always enquiring of mind, pushing the boundaries of what is possible (can I climb/eat/destroy this?), always trying out new ways of interacting with the world around them.

Under 5 Fest posterThe Science Alive Under 5 Fest harnesses these inquisitive impulses and sends them off in daring (but actually pretty safe) new directions.

For several days in March the Canterbury Table Tennis Stadium on Blenheim Rd will be converted into a whistling, waving, spinning, whooshing, bleating hive of activity. Numerous “stations” around the venue demonstrate through colourful, interactive fun, the effects of gravity, wind, light, magnetism and more. There is also a petting zoo, puppet show, building with giant blocks and other cool toys to play with.

The details

Under 2s get free entry ($6 per person for everyone else)
1-7 March 2016

Table Tennis Canterbury Stadium
294 Blenheim Road, Christchurch
9:30 – 4:30 every day

Travelling by bus? Jump on the Route 80 bus and get off at the stop by The Warehouse. Table Tennis Canterbury is on the opposite side of Blenheim Road.

For more details visit the Science Alive website or the Under 5 Fest Facebook event page.

Science Alive at Libraries

Science Alive imageFor older kids Science Alive also offer an after school science programme in ten of our libraries across Christchurch

Programmes run during term time except the first week and no bookings are required.

More resources for young scientists

Cover of Once there was a raindropInspired to introduce more science-themed fun to your child? Try these resources –

SCIRT World Buskers Festival 2016

With the New Year comes another outing for the SCIRT World Buskers Festival, which is back for its 22nd year.

Between 14th and 24th of January, Christchurch will be hosting 65 world class local and international acts for our enjoyment. This year’s selection of acts include street performers, comedians, fringe artists, musicians and visual artists.

Circus Firemen
Circus Firemen at the World Buskers Festival 2012 in Hagley Park, CCL-2012-01-20-BuskersFestival-January-2012 DSC_020.JPG

Once again, Hagley Park will act as the epicentre, with family friendly shows beginning daily from 11am at the SCIRT Stage, L&P Stage and Buskers Kids Pitch, to name a few, as well as super-highbrow-civilized entertainment for us grown ups in the evening. There’ll also be select shows in the Arts Centre, Christchurch Art Gallery, Mashina Lounge and in New Brighton.

The Festival is a good option for a day out with your kids or night out with friends (or even a date *wink*), conveniently timed in the middle of “I’m bored” season. From experience, SCIRT Busker Comedy Club beats sitting in front of the TV watching dire summertime substitute shows, plus it’s only a gold coin donation admission and you can bring your dinner! Containing “Adult Themes” this one of those grown-up shows I just love, so leave your kids at home.

This year I’m particularly excited about Rose Matafeo, who will be performing in this year’s line-up of Nothing but Stand Up, alongside Ben Hurley, Lloyd Langford and Christchurch born (holla) Eli Matthewson, who has worked with Matafeo on TV-shows such as U-Live and Funny Girls.

Burlesque performer
Buskers Burlesque (photo supplied by World Buskers Festival)

Buskers Burlesque is also something you have to experience at least once, with this year being the USA Invasion edition. I think this goes without saying, but go with someone you’re comfortable with seeing that kind of show with.

Puppet Fiction
Puppet Fiction (photo supplied by World Buskers Festival)

Other acts I’m also excited to see include Puppet Fiction (“the ultimate Tarantino homage, this is Pulp Fiction with strings attached”), and Jon Bennett’s Pretending Things Are a Cock.

If nothing I’ve mentioned remotely interests you, you can head to the World Buskers Festival website where you can see the full selection of shows and performers along with a timetable.

And if I’ve been unhelpful, but you’ve managed to read this to the end, I promise my final tip will be worth it. Beat the Queue tickets are now available, so buy them to shows that do interest you! When they sell out, a selection of tickets for the shows will be available on the day of the show to purchase in Hagley Park, so don’t panic, but, like, who wants to wait in a queue? Don’t say I didn’t give you anything.

Learn more about the SCIRT World Buskers Festival

Writing and writers

Cover of Pacific: The Ocean of the FutureWeeks after NaNoWriMo ended, and still no blog post! Alas, I didn’t reach 50,000 words — finished up around 35k — but I achieved my main goal, which was to write every day. I’ve continued to write on and off since the 30th, but Christmas panic is definitely descending so who knows how long that will last.

My current distraction has been flicking through the New Zealand Festival lineup, which will be held in Wellington next year. All of the events look great, but I’m especially excited about the Writers Week. I want to see almost all of them! I’ve narrowed it down to some favourites:

  • Kate Beaton. I’ve been enjoying her online comics since she was on livejournal.com, and I own all her published material (which now includes a picture book, the adorable Princess and the Pony). She is so clever and funny and writes about my favourite subjects (history! feminism! fat ponies!).
  • Jasper FfordeCover of Hark! A Vagrant. I haven’t got around to reading his more recently published works, but I thought the Thursday Next books were super fun. If you like quirky books about books, with dodos and national croquet, then start with The Eyre Affair.
  • Mariko Tamaki. I first came across her in collaboration with her cousin Jillian Tamaki, whose comic Supermutant Magic Academy came out this year. Together they’ve published graphic novels Skim and This One Summer, both beautifully illustrated reflections of adolescent experiences.
  • Simon WinchesterWriter of recreational non-fiction, most recently Pacific, all about our neighbouring ocean. I can’t wait to read it.

Needless to say there are loads of other authors I’d like to see, including Anis Mojgani (spoken word poet) who Alireads blogged about last year, but those are my top five.

Is anyone else planning on going to the New Zealand Festival? What events are on your must-see list?

New Zealand Festival

A Yuletide wish

A Yuletide wish from AshburtonA Happy New YearChristmas greetingSincere regards from GeraldineA volume of good wishesMay all that is bright on earth smile upon youNew Year greetingsA very happy Christmas and a bright new year

These images come from Heney family album, a private collection including a selection of photographs and postcards from the Heney family album.

Explore more Christchurch Christmas images.

Spend your weekend with the K-Culture Festival!

Have you ever been curious about Korean culture and cuisine? Are you free this Saturday? Then the K-Culture Festival is just for you. This year it will be held at the Cardboard Cathedral between 11am and 2 pm on Saturday 14th of November.

K-Culture FestivalThe K-Culture Festival (Korean Day) is held annually in Christchurch, showcasing the essence of Korean culture and heritage. The Korean Society of Christchurch is promoting this year’s K-Culture Festival in order to foster cultural diversity and to strengthen the bond between the different cultures within the Christchurch community.

There will be a variety of performances on display, including traditional Korean dance and Pansori (Korean opera) performed by the International Korean youth performance group as a special guest all the way from Korea.

There will also be a special K-Pop competition showdown held for the remaining final 8 teams. Watch the Hanbok (Korean traditional dress) fashion show as you eat a variety of delicious Korean food. Experience the beauty and rich culture of traditional Korea through your very eyes, right here in Christchurch

The K-Culture festival will be an experience you will never forget. Step out of your front door and step into the new and exciting world of Korea.

Wrapped up in bookshops – NZ Bookshop Day Saturday 31 October

Tell you what book launch, Scorpio BooksSaturday 31 October is the inaugual NZ Bookshop Day. Pay a visit to a local favourite, or try someplace new.

Here’s a grab-bag of my Christchurch bookshop hangouts (do tell about your faves in the comments):


  • East’s Bookshop – perfectly centrally located for a browse,  saw Jasper Fforde talk there.
  • Smith’s Bookshop on Manchester Street – a cornucopia of books, you could lose yourself for hours in its rambling bookwilderness.
  • Scorpio – like a platter of temptation. (bought a book about typography called Just my Type)
  • Book city – by the IRD. I used to go there a lot with my Dad on work lunchtime rambles. The books are still in there if you peer in. (bought a book about Bronzino)
  • That shop by South City that had loads of Taschen books. (Pierre et Gilles)
  • The Children’s Bookshop – when I was a new Mum, me and my wee girl were always hanging out on Victoria Street. (Mouk)


  • Scorpio Books, still. The bijoux one in the Re: START, with an occasional foray to Riccarton for the big brother shop. (Bought books by Morrissey, Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker  etc)
  • IMG_8596Best books – a pop up book store, a fab part of the new Christchurch. (as pictured)
  • The new Smith’s Bookshop at the Tannery in Woolston. (bought High noon for coaches)
  • Edgeware Paperback Centre. Shelves everywhere, heaving with books. (Bought Gwenda Turner ABC and a Raymond Briggs book)
  • University Bookshop – oh boy, not just for students. (bought a little book about bookshops)
  • Comics Compulsion in Papanui – a regular visit now is part of our lives. Comics rule! (Bob the Burger and My Little Pony comics)

To all the bookshops – and the people who make you tick and hum – you are the goodies. Love your work.

IMG_6016 Tell you what book launch, Scorpio Books

More about NZ Bookshop Day

What’s on in Christchurch

There’s a Snap me reading photo competition and an All Good: A New Zealand Colouring Competition.

Booksellers list of what’s on – here’s the Christchurch events:

Piccadilly Books – Celebrate your bookshop with your children! Bring the children in-store at 11m for a playful interactive storytelling show with Kirsty Collett, author of Fly Story Fly and while your young ones are being amused there is something for the Mums and Dads happening at the same time, internationally acclaimed postnatal educator, author, director and practitioner of BabyCues, Philippa Murphy will be in-store to chat to parents and sign copies of her book.

The Original Children’s Bookshop Christchurch
It’s Halloween, so dress up!  Spot prizes for the best costume, colouring competitions for all ages – win books, gift vouchers, Book Tokens and a Hugless Douglas toy and slippers.  Local illustrator Jenny Cooper will be instore from 11.00am – 2.00 pm and Helen Taylor will join her at noon and be here until 3.00pm.  At 2.30pm community librarian Zac McCallum will be here for story telling.

University Bookshop Canterbury  – Banned Book Quiz – Test your knowledge and be into Win!In celebration of NZ Bookshop Day UBS is running a banned/challenged book quiz. Penguin Random House, Walker Books, Hachette, HarperCollins and Nationwide Books have all kindly donated items for their awesome gift pack. Come in and give it a try! The winner will be announced on the 2nd of November.

Paper Plus Northlands – Conversation Couch & Speed Dating
Paul Cleave and Joe Bennett will be taking pride of place on a “conversation couch” at the front of the store where customers can join them for a beer/wine to discuss their books, or any other book/topic of their choosing. Kind of like speed dating with a famous author…

Scorpio Books – Meet with Local Authors and Poets
Patrick Evans, Being Eaten Alive, Making It and Gifted will be instore in the morning and over lunchtime meet Fiona Farrell, The Broken Book, The Quake Year and The Villa at the Edge of the Empire and during the afternoon meet with poets Jeffrey Paparoa Holman and Frankie McMillan. Enter the Colouring In competition and visit the store to be in to “Win Your Height In Books”.

Trick or treat?

The Halloween EncyclopediaHalloween is upon us! It seems that everywhere we go, there are costumes and candy, and, in spite of many people being “dead” against it, it’s gaining momentum and getting bigger each year.

The word Halloween comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve, the eve of the Christian celebration of All Hallows’ Day. It initiates the three-day observance dedicated to remembering the dead, including saints, martyrs and the faithful departed believers. If you are interested in learning more about it, we have a great book: Halloween, Its Origin, Rites and Ceremonies in the Scottish Tradition.

Halloween is celebrated by many cultures in many different ways, but the best known is the American way – a fun celebration where costumes are worn and children go trick-or-treating: door knocking asking for candy in exchange for not doing mischief.

Cover of The Day of The DeadIn Japan the day is called Obon (Festival of Lanterns); in Mexico it is Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead); in Cambodia it is P’chum Ben, (Ancestors’ Day); in Romania it is Világítás (Day of the Dead). Samhain is a Gaelic celebration; in China it is Zhong Yuan Jie (Ghost Festival) and many other countries have a similar festivity. I suppose for us humans death is the last frontier and we want to make sense of it in any way we can. And if we can’t, then we will challenge and mock it by dressing up and eating lots of candy!

So what will you be doing? Will you be joining the fun by getting dressed up and making some ghoulish goodies and decorations? Or will you just have a quiet day of remembrance?

Cover of The Real Halloween Cover of Ghoulish Get-Ups Cover of Halloween Book of Fun! Cover of Trick or Treat