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.

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!


I 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.


Best 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!

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