Here’s our audio wrap-up from our final day at the festival – and as we bid farewell to Auckland, we thank the organisers, writers, poets, experts, volunteers and audiences for their energy, dedication and all-round pleasantness over the last few days.
We have tried to convey the breadth and depth of the festival, and hope you have enjoyed the coverage. Keep your eye on the blog for the final few posts over the coming days.
Festivals like this are, in the end, about people who love reading and writing. They’re also about trying the unknown, and pushing your literary limits. So, if you want to write, write. If you need to read, read. Your library is a permanent literary festival. Use it.
Rives and I began our chat by sharing earthquake experiences. He’s had his fair share whilst living in Los Angeles.
If you haven’t heard of Rives, seek him out – he is a master-craftsman with a huge ability to deliver knock-out lines which “break your frickin’ heart”.
We went on to talk about paper engineering (he made a pop-up brochure for my daughter); life and love and libraries, and sometimes love in libraries; about poetry on stage and page; the importance of quietness; and his desire to respond to circumstances more than the demands of his diary.
He also likes to encourage others to have a go – last night he invited people to meet him outside if they had any questions or would like to talk – I began by asking him how it went:
Another massively busy day at the festival for the team, capped off with a special event – This one’s for Christchurch. There was a large contingent of Canterbury people in this session, hosted by Morrin Rout and Ruth Todd. The Christchurch writers festival has been cancelled twice due to earthquakes, so it was teleported to Auckland for a mini-festival.
Special mention was made of The Press for its commitment to supporting the Christchurch festival, and its incredible determination to publish come hell or high water. In Bronwyn’s words, we felt “proud to be Christchurchians”.
We also talk about David Mitchell, Cassandra Clare, New Zealand poetry, Antarctica, and reveal some little known facts about Vincent O’Sullivan. [13 min 44 sec, 12.8Mb .mp3]
Tina Makereti’s collection of short fiction, Once upon a time in Aotearoa, contains stories about the young, the old, the mythical, the alien and more. She gives old stories new treatments, has characters it feels like you have known forever, and a knack for dialogue and observation that is perceptive and dreamy, yet down-to-earth at the same time.
In this interview I talk to her about her new collection, her writing style and her first time on stage in Auckland [10 min, 10.4Mb .mp3]:
David Mitchell waved his arms and made a take-off noise as he said this to a large crowd on Saturday morning at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. Away from the concerns off the world, and off on a journey, somewhere fantastic. It was in answer to a question about writers that consciously influenced him.
He added that he wanted to emulate writers – that rather than influence, it’s more aspiration that stuck with him. He “ached to do to other people what writers had done to me”.
The “imaginatively intelligent” writers he read when he was 11, 12 or 13 merged with the cellular structure of his brain, and spurred him on. Tolkein was the main writer he mentioned.
Emily Perkins reminded the audience of one of Mitchell’s great lines:
The world contains but one masterpiece – itself.
Mitchell said “I stole it from a Leonard Cohen song. The best line on the book, and it’s not even mine!”.
Asked about the film of his book Cloud Atlas, Mitchell quipped “they don’t call it Hollyweird for nothing”.
He said it had been languishing in the hell where optioned books go. There was a ladder leading out of the hole and poor, exhausted Cloud Atlas was a few rungs from the top. He was confident that the filmmakers would do a good job, optimistic that it would happen, but hoping the film wasn’t too like the book as so many adaptions fail on that score.
A large crowd queued for book signings, and despite a little jet-lag, Mitchell managed to give fans plenty to think about. He will certainly be on my reading list.
Authors Atka Reid and Hana Schofield were regular customers of Christchurch City Libraries for many years, and went on to write Goodbye Sarajevo, a remarkable tale of their family’s survival. I asked for the duo’s thoughts on libraries:
Hana said libraries were ‘healthy, inspirational places’ that were a way of connecting with the world. Atka said they are part of what makes you a human being; books, thinking – ‘not just collecting water and surviving’ – and that they create a love for learning. [1 min 23 sec, 1.2Mb .mp3]:
Sisters Atka Reid and Hana Schofield and their family were sponsored by a Christchurch family to move to New Zealand from war-torn Bosnia 18 years ago. Their story, Goodbye Sarajevo, has just hit number one in the international besteller lists in New Zealand, beating out royalty in the process.
Christchurch City Libraries played a vital part in the book’s creation, becoming a virtual office for the pair as they put the book together.
In this nine-minute interview, Atka Reid and Hana Schofield talk about their book, family, perseverance, and the similarities between war and post-earthquake life. Atka is speaking first [9 min 34 sec, 9Mb .mp3]:
Well, what a start! Famous names, famous faces; authors and playwrights, poets and journalists; Auckland’s literati out in force … and us!
We finished rather late, but by the time you read this will still be feeling slightly buzzy with energy, as this truly was a great night out. In a slightly different format from recent years, 2011’s opening night featured the story-telling genius of eight world-class talents. Miriama Kamo introduced the line-up and told a story of her own, before Karen Healey took to the stage, followed in turn by Victor Rodger, Fatima Bhutto, Rives, Fiona Farrell, James Fergusson, A A Gill and Meg Rosoff.
Instead of reading from their most recent work, each speaker was asked to share a true personal story inspired by the alphabet. Stories ranged from the sublime to the gloriously ridiculous, from the deeply moving to the slightly dodgy, all told in the best storytelling manner. Chatting with Bookman Beattie afterwards, we all agreed that we could have stayed twice as long.
There’s not room enough to share every story from every speaker, but for those of you who would like to get a wee taste of some of the tales, and hear what we’ve got planned for Friday, please check out the report from Bronwyn, Catherine and myself [13 min, 13Mb .mp3]:
Cassandra Clare was one of several young adult authors on the programme for high school students at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. She held the attention of several hundred students with ease as she answered some perceptive questions about the writing process.
Schools from as far away as Hamilton had made the trip, and the students were interested in all sorts of things – her opinions on Draco Malfoy (hard done by as a character), whether her work would be available in graphic novel form (yes) and how she got to be where she is now.
There was a refreshing buzz in the air as they queued to get books signed. I spoke to a couple of students in the line, Rebecca and Charlotte from St Cuthberts. Rebecca was literally jumping for joy after seeing Garth Nix and Sean Williams; Charlotte had been to Cassandra Clare’s session, as had Anna and friends from Hamilton. Teagan Johnson also shared her thoughts.