Quick Questions with Charlotte Graham-McLay – WORD Christchurch

We are asking quick questions of writers and thinkers coming to the WORD Christchurch Festival 2018 (Wednesday 29 August to Sunday 2 September). 

Charlotte Graham-McLay is a journalist and broadcaster from Wellington. Her reporting and reviews appear in The New York Times, Vice, New Zealand Geographic, Landfall, The Spinoff, and on Radio New Zealand. Charlotte has a Masters in Journalism from Massey University.

What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?

Christchurch holds formative memories as the place where I studied, made enjoyable teenage mistakes and started out as a junior reporter, so I love coming back. As well as seeing as many WORD Christchurch sessions as I can catch in a weekend and saying hello to writers I only get to see at festivals, I plan to hang out at C1 and wander the central city to see what has sprung up since I was last there. The places I lived and worked are all gone now, which is unsettling, but I'm always curious to see what is happening in those spots.

What do you think about libraries?

Libraries are fantastic and essential. I spent many happy lunchtimes among the shelves as a nerdy school kid, reading books thoroughly inappropriate for my age group and learning things about the world that have shaped and informed my beliefs to this day. I'm 32 now and I'm still at the library all the time. I don't think people know half the stuff they offer! You can request books they don't already have and the librarians will order a copy for you to borrow. Plus, my local library has signs up now saying it's ok to eat there, so I still eat my lunch at the library a lot because I'm a freelance journalist with no office and I can't afford cafes. Bless librarians! They know what people need. 

What would be your desert island book?

Sometimes when I feel like I've forgotten what I think good writing sounds like, I start reading any essay from Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young, and within few paragraphs I remember. If I can pick another, it's been such a joy to revisit Denise Mina's novels ahead of our WORD Christchurch session. Two of her characters especially - Maureen O'Donnell and Paddy Meehan - gave me those rare experiences as a young woman of feeling seen and understood through a fictional character. I could read those books umpteen times.


Share a surprising fact about yourself.

Before I ever started reporting or writing anything, I thought I was going to be a professional dancer. My skills aren't what they used to be, but I can still land a double pirouette!

Charlotte Graham-McLay's sessions at WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

The Body Issue Saturday 1 September 5.30pm

Denise Mina: Bloody Scotland Sunday 2 September 10am