WORD things to get excited about: Mark’s picks of the 2018 festival

The WORD Festival is arriving in Christchurch (29 August to 2 September) in a celebration of all things literary. There will be something for everyone with events ranging from the silly to the profound with over 120 authors, and close to 100 events across 30 venues. Below is just a tantalising taste of what this wonderful event has to offer, so feel free to explore the WORD Christchurch Festival programme in full.

So pull up a chair, get yourself a drink, and get ready to explore the wonderful world of the WORD.

Picks of WORD Christchurch 2018

The Politics of fiction (Saturday 1 September 4-5pm, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)

Brannavan Gnanalingam, Pip Adam, and Rajorshi Chakraborti. Image supplied.

There will be certain pieces of fiction that hold special places in the hearts of literature fans, and one of the reasons could be for political reasons. Join Ockham award winning author Pip Adam, with fellow authors Rajorshi Chakraborti, and Brannavan Gnanalingam in conversation with Julie Hill as they discuss the very topic of the politics of fiction looking at the way fiction can be more than mere entertainment, but can serve a role in helping create empathy and change perspectives.

Yaba Badoe: Fire, Stars and Witches (Saturday 1 September 2.30-3.30pm, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)

Magical Realism is a beautiful genre of literature with narratives that can displace time and space or use magic as a metaphorical device through which to tell fantastic story rich in cultural relevance. A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars author Yaba Badoe is a great international author of the genre of magical realism in addition to being an accomplished filmmaker and will be in discussion with University of Canterbury PhD candidate Sionainn Byrnes. This talk promises to explore issues surrounding women in Africa in addition to magical realist fiction itself.

Laurie Winkless: Science and the City (Saturday 1 September 4-5pm, Phillip Carter Family Concert Hall)

A topic that should be at the heart of all Christchurch locals. Following the tragedy that was the Christchurch Earthquakes, everyone – bar none – has had an opinion on how the rebuild has progressed and what should have been done. Laurie Winkless, author of Science and the City, will provide specialised knowledge on the subject that is well informed through studies of cities from all over the world and explore the scientific considerations of cities.

New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival (Thursday 30 August, 6-7.20pm, New Regent Street)

A glorious event for young and old. The New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival is my favourite event from Word Festival’s prior, and it’s free! This event will bring world class talent to New Regent Street in multiple pop-up events as the street is turned into a festival celebrating the literary form. The New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival will make you wish New Regent street was like this everyday.

David Neiwert: Alt-America (Thursday 30 August 6-7pm, Philip Carter Family Concert Hall)

David Neiwert. Image supplied.

American journalist David Neiwert will be talking about his book Alt-America: The Rise of the Radical Right in the Time of Trump, in an attempt to explain what is actually happening in the American political landscape at present. What promises to be a great and informative event, David Neiwert will historicise the rise of this seemingly overnight political phenomena to the 1990s as he discusses his work in tracking and following the far-right in American politics for multiple decades.

Ted Chiang: Arrival (Sunday 2 September 2.45-3.45pm. Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)

The Science Fiction Author of Story of Your Life, which was adapted into the film Arrival, Ted Chiang will be in conversation with science fiction and fantasy author Karen Healey. Expect and interesting and philosophical conversation from this thought provoking and awarding winning author.

Find out more

WORD Christchurch 2018: Moata’s picks of the festival

The release of the WORD Christchurch festival programme always presents a challenge for this library blogger – how many events can I reasonably manage to go to over 5 days? 

It’s a great problem to have, sure, but it still presents some logistical issues, and questions like “is it possible to overfill your brain?”

Still, I’ve done my best, poring through the 2018 programme. Below are my picks from this year’s festival (on 29 August – 2 September).

Picks of WORD Christchurch 2018

New Regent Street Pop-Up Festival (Thursday, 30 August, 6.30pm)

A fun-filled literary tour around the characterful spaces of New Regent Street and surrounds that you can pop in and out of according to your whim. Sessions on horror, sci-fi, erotica, poetry, comedy and much more, featuring emerging Christchurch writers and performers alongside well-established local, national and international talent. This is a free event and sounds like a lot of fun.

125 Years: Are We There Yet? (Thursday, 30 August, 7.30pm)

Georgina Beyer, Lizzie Marvelly, Anne Salmond, Paula Penfold and Sacha McMeeking, chaired by Kim Hill. Now that is a line-up of formidable, impressive women. Count me in.

KĀ HURU MANU: My names are the treasured cloak which adorns the land (Friday, 31 August, 10am)

Ngāi Tahu have been working on creating a comprehensive map that details the place names, stories, and important places for the iwi for many years now and Kā Huru Manu is the result – an online, fully referenced, searchable place names map that anyone can use. This free session is a must for nerds of the local history/mapping/iwi history variety.

You Write Funny! (Friday, 31 August, 5.30pm)

Lots of funny people in a room together is my idea of a good time. This session with have readings from Chris Tse, Megan Dunn, Annaleese Jochems, Erik Kennedy, and Ray Shipley.

Irvine Welsh: Trainspotting to Dead Men’s Trousers (Friday, 31 August, 6pm)

Trainspotting is one of those seminal works that it feels like there was a distinct “before” and “after” of. To hear its author Irvine Welsh speak on this and his other literary outings is a rare treat. He will be “in conversation” with New Zealand author, Paula Morris.

Starry, Starry Night (Friday, 31 August, 8pm)

The Gala Showcase is always a great night out. It’s sort of a taster for the rest of the festival and this year will feature Robin Robertson, Hollie McNish, Sonya Renee Taylor, Rajorshi Chakraborti, Philip Hoare, Yaba Badoe and Joseph Hullen. John Campbell is in charge of making everyone feel welcome by lavishing compliments and being puppyishly excitable.

Bad Diaries Salon (Friday, 31 August, 10pm)

I was recently looking through a box of photos and came across one of my old diaries. Curious, I read one sentence on one page and then flung it back into the box hoping to distance myself as much as possible from the horror within. But other people’s diary entries? That’s a whole other thing. Getting authors to read from their diaries is a stroke of genius and something I will very much turn up for even though this time slot is past my bedtime.

Timey-Wimey Stuff (Saturday, 1 September, 11.30am)

I’m a sucker for a good title and this one tickles my Whovian tendencies – Ted Chiang, Whiti Hereaka, and Michael Bennett, talk time travel with literary academic Daniel Bedggood. This should make a nice companion piece to WORD Christchurch’s James Gleick event last year. 

Tāngata Ngāi Tahu (Saturday, 1 September, 1pm)

The researchers at Ngāi Tahu have been producing some outstanding biographical books, Tāngata Ngāi Tahu being one of them. There’s a lot of history than can be revealed in the stories of individuals, He Rau Mahara: to Remember the Journey of Our Ngai Tahu Soldiers being another great example of this. With so many stories that could be told, I’m curious to know how they choose who to focus on – so maybe I’ll find out at this free session.

Mortification (Saturday, 1 September, 5.30pm)

Writers Paula Morris, Steve Braunias, Megan Dunn and Irvine Welsh share stories of public shame, hosted by Robin Robertson. There’s a vein of confessional sessions running through this festival and this is just one of them. I want to go to ALL of them (see more below).

The Sex & Death Salon (Saturday, 1 September, 10pm)

Christchurch-born journalist, playwright, and actor Victor Rodger interrogates a selection of festival guests about taboo subjects. I’m imagining it as a no-holds barred chat show (Graham Norton but more rude?!) It’s in The Gym at The Arts Centre and it’s free!

Ted Chiang: Arrival (Sunday, 2 September, 2.45pm)

The poignant, thoughtful sci-fi movie Arrival was my favourite film of 2016, so it’s pretty exciting to have science fiction writer Ted Chiang who wrote the short story the film was based on at the festival. If I could only go to one thing this would probably be it.

The Nerd Degree (Sunday, 2 September, 5.45pm)

Part pop culture quiz game, part nerd-fest, all podcast, The Nerd Degree is always a good time. Their last outing at the 2016 festival which featured Caitlin Doughty and Alok Jha was no exception. (Full disclosure: I am a regular panelist on this show so I am slightly biased towards loving it but that doesn’t make me wrong)

A Cabinet of Curiosities: Tiny lectures on the weird and wonderful (Friday 31 August,
Saturday 1 September, Sunday 2 September – sessions at 4pm and 4,40pm)

This one’s a bit different and something like a literary festival lucky dip – seven writers, seven disparate topics. You won’t find out which writer or esoteric 20 minute lecture you’re going to get until you turn up… but there’s a gin cocktail included in the price of the ticket (the venue is The Last Word whisky bar) so either way it should make for a refreshing break between sessions.

This list may not be strictly achievable but it’s just so hard to choose! What’s on your WORD wishlist?

Find out more

Introducing your Auckland Writers Festival 2016 angels

Good morning, Charlie (and also people not named Charlie)!

This week the Auckland Writers Festival 2016 begins (10-15 May) and again Christchurch City Libraries is sending a crack team of librarians up to the Big Smoke to absorb, experience and share the excitement of being in the midst of great writers of all kinds.

AWF Angels
Your AWF Angels, Roberta, Masha and Moata, are armed with bookish knowledge

Myself, Masha and Roberta will be your festival “angels” blogging, tweeting, snapping and interviewing our way through the fest beginning on Thursday 12 May and wrapping up on Sunday 15 May. So keep an eye here on the blog or the #awf16 hashtag if you want to stay updated on the festival comings and goings.

There are some extraordinary writers taking part in the festival this year from 81 year-old feminist legend, Gloria Steinem to Man Booker prize winner Marlon James and literary darling Hanya Yanagihara. For fans of smash bestseller (and soon to be released movie) The Girl on The Train, the presence of author Paula Hawkins is sure to raise some interest. Not to mention there being a raft of talented local writers of all stripes attending.

You can find out more by checking out the full festival programme.

What we’re looking forward to at Auckland Writers Festival 2016

Masha, Roberta and I share our picks for what’s good at this year’s event.



The author I am most looking forward to seeing is Liz Pichon, the creator of the amusing and very likeable character Tom Gates. Not only does Liz write every page of Tom’s story by hand, she also draws them  – doodling is as important part of her narative as is writing. Hopefully she will teach Auckland’s audience how to doodle and eat caramel wafers at the same time. Very important for future pacifists!

Liz is not the only super-all-in-one-author at the festival. Edward Carey also illustrates his own stories, though his ones are much more darker, eccentric and peculiar. His award-winning young adult Iremonger trilogy has been praised highly by many writers for its truly innovative and unusual imagination.

The rest of the authors that I’m going to see at the festival are all ramblers on the dark side (but another kind of dark): John Boyne with his World War II inspired young adult novels (The boy in the striped pyjamas, The boy at the top of the mountain), this years Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James with A brief history of seven killings (so dark I stopped reading after the first few chapters) and Paula Hawkins with last year’s domestic thriller hit The girl on the train. But please, do not fear! The vibe at the Aotea centre is so uplifiting, I can already see myself floating through the festival days with a big grin on my face, unwrapping each chocolate like it’s the last one!


MoataI adored The Goodies when I was kid so I would be lying if I said being in the presence of one Mr Bill Oddie isn’t looking like being a highlight for me. As well known for his conservation work and bird-watching as he is for his comedy (and music), it will be interesting to hear what he has to say.

As a science enthuisiast I’m also really looking forward to a session by Janna Levin. She is Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Barnard College of Columbia University and has the inside word on all that recent hub-bub about the discovery of gravitational waves resulting from black holes crashing into one another. I expect her Gravitational Sensations session will be heady stuff. I hope I understand some of it!

Levin also features in my other top pick for the festival, The State of America, a session that couldn’t be any more timely, what with the eyes of the world turning towards the US presidential race – and widening at what they see there. Levin, with legendary feminist writer Gloria Steinem (I was gutted to miss out on tickets to her solo session but at least I can get to this one) and historical novelist, essayist and critic Thomas Mallon are set to discus and unpack their homeland (chaired by Guyon Espiner). I’m secretly hoping it’s equal parts brainy and scathing.


RobertaBest I give you three short quotes to whet your appetite:

  • Jeanette Winterson on writing and creativity: “Nothing kills creativity like dinginess… the small damp confines of the mediocre,…the compromising and the settling.” (Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit)
  • Jane Smiley on how we love our children in different ways: “Who you are shapes how you are loved”. “You didn’t love us equally” said Debbie. “We loved you individually” answered her father. (Early Warning)
  • Vivian Gornick on her relationship with her best friend Leonard “We share the politics of damage. Our subject is the unlived life.” (The Odd Woman and the City)

These sentiments seem true to me. I have lived these things: the creative crises, the sibling rivalry and the bonds of best friends. And yet I could not have explained them better – or even half as well. So, Auckland here I come, ready to have my eyes opened, my brain prodded and my heart filled. Ready to be amazed.

Indeed. We’re all ready to be amazed. Please do come along and be amazed with us.

*Late edit: More tickets for An evening with Gloria Steinem became available, so I’m going after all!

A very booky week – WORD Christchurch Autumn Season, and the Auckland Writers Festival

If you like exploring new ideas, if you revel in reading, if you are partial to intelligent and funny conversation – 12 to 17 May2015 was a winner of a week!

Auckland Writers Festival

In Auckland we reported back from the litfest-apalooza Auckland Writers Festival. We tweeted with the hashtag #awf15.

Read our AWF15 blog posts.

Cover of Colorless Cover of Being Mortal Cover of Not my father's son Cover of Station Eleven

WORD Christchurch Autumn Season

Christchurch played host to the WORD Christchurch Autumn Season. We attended sessions, blogged, and tweeted (hashtag #wordchch).

Read our WORD Christchurch blog posts.

Cover of H is for hawk Cover of Awful Auntie Cover of Hack Attack Cover of Bone Clocks