Monday, May 18, 2009

Auckland Festi-Vale

The Auckland Writers and Readers Festival is over, I am back to the real world of domesticity and of being Mummy, rather than Vanda, my literary appetite has been beautifully sated and it is good to be home to the smiling faces of three boys (two small, one big) and the cat (who, apparently was the only one to misbehave while I was gone.)

There have been fantastic summaries of the events at the Auckland festival from Beattie's Book Blog, and the Christchurch City Libraries Blog, so I will not go into a blow by blow account of each session I went to, (thirteen!) but more impressions and the most memorable quotes.

Firstly Bouquets and Brick Bats:

Bouquets, to Jill Rawnsley and the organisers for a fabulous festival. Well done, and although I was disappointed there weren't any crime fiction writers, I got over it pretty fast.

Brick Bats... nah.

Opening Night:

When asked about how being awarded prizes affected the writer...

Chimamandra Ngozi Adichie: "When you are sitting at your computer, struggling to write a decent sentance, you don't remember that you won a bloody prize"

Closely followed by Christos Tsiolkas: "Prizes are great for your parents to brag about to their friends."


Anne Thwaite, Joanna Woods and Hamish Keith.

Fabulous session, and did anyone else notice the similarities between Hamish Keith and the larger than life Charles Baeyertz?...

An Hour with Ranginui Walker:

This session was a revelation. The term the Accidental Activist came up during the conversation between Ranginui Walker, Paul Spoonley and Geoff Walker. I came away with a far greater understanding of the man and his part in campaigning for issues affecting Maori in New Zealand. Fabulous.

Can you hear me, Whangaparaoa?

This was a special treat, with a selection of readings from the correspondence of Janet Frame and Charles Brasch. What fun, it certainly gave a glimpse into their special relationship, and Janet's mischievous sense of humour. It also gave a very important look into the role Charles Brasch and some of his friends played in financially supporting writers and artists at the time. I certainly hope the trusteees of their estates let us see more of these fascinating and delightful insights. Please!

Short and Sweet:

A little stilted perhaps, but a lovely opportunity to hear short story writer David Malouf, Paula Morris, Charlotte Grimshaw and Owen Marshall read and discuss their craft.

Love, Food Wine and Travel:

My favourite session of the festival, it could easily have been billed as the Sarah-Kate, Nicky and Jim show and be shown on comedy central. Between Dr Evil chairs, lashings of champagne, freezing in dining hovels and the Chairperson giving away the ending it was a lively and fun session.
The comparisons to food kept on coming, including the authors' approach to writing - Sarah-Kate Lynch's being meticulous and over prepared, the baker, and Nicky Pellegrino's chuck it together with whatever's to hand approach. So when Sarah-Kate said when they were "100 years old and in the Havana Home for Bewildered Writers, Nicky could do the main course and I'll do the deserts," Nicky piped in, "and then Jim could come along and spoil it with the ending."

An Hour with Christos Tsiolkas.

What can I say about this session other than fantastic; Christos was very generous with his answers to great questions from the Chair, Charlotte Grimshaw.

Emerging Stars.

Eleanor Catton, Anna Taylor, Bridget van der Zijpp... so young, so eloquent, so beautiful, so talented...sigh...

An hour with Chimamandra Ngozi Adichie.

Another revelatory session, with the eloquent Chimamandra challenging my media induced World Vision view of Africa to realise the very real issues of class are just as prevalent there. I felt blessed to be a part of the audience in this entertaining and enlightening session. Great chairing by Paula Morris and the Ginger Beer touch at the end was inspired!

Commonwealth Writers Prize Awards.

Again I felt privileged to be a part of this. Congratulations to Christos Tsiolkas and Mohammed Hanif for winning the overall awards. John Campbell's great skills as MC turned this into a true event.

An Hour with Monica Ali.

What a warm and generous writer. This session was wonderful, I very much related to Monica with her writing her novels between the endless tasks and joys of motherhood. Quotes I liked: from Monica - "Non-fiction writing uncovers the lies, fiction uncovers the truths, the emotional truths." And one she said and I didn't get the name of the original teller, although I believe it was on a coffee mug... "A well behaved woman never changed the world."

An Hour with Judith Thurman. The Michael King Memorial Lecture. It was my first time at a Michael King Memorial Lecture, and I did not know what to expect. What I got was a warm, witty, fascinating and enlightening view into the life of a biographer and a columnist. As a writer it was great to hear that others could agonise so much over their work, Judith giving the example of her column on the grand subject of Tofu, and sharing four drafts of that vital first paragraph before the finished product. (There were 20+ drafts!) Wonderful stuff.

Drayton on Ngaio Marsh.

This was a high energy, rapid fire visual feast of a talk by biographer Joanne Drayton on the multifaceted life of Ngaio Marsh. It covered her family and childhood, friends and influences, detective fiction, and theatre. It felt like the quickest hour ever, and was a great high point for me to end the festival on.

I showed exquisite self-control by only buying two books: In the Kitchen, by Monica Ali and Cleopatra's Nose, by Judith Thurman, which is a collection of her essays.

My only other spending in Auckland was a pair of tights, as I managed to ladder mine at the airport on arrival (mutter, mutter) and the requisite bribery for the children for abandoning them for four days ($3.00 Japan is fantastic)

So four days of inspiration, great company, food, wine, and freedom. I shall dine out on the memories...


Mary McCallum said...

oh Vanda I couldn 't be there - thanks for your post - wonderful stuff


Anonymous said...

Vanda so pleased you had a good time and I agree wholheartedly with your comments about the festival - the range and depth of events for all tastes was exceptional. I'd encourage all of your readers to go to festivals like this - whether they read or write, they will come away inspired.

Dave B said...

I can't believe you only bought two books! That seems very restrained given some of your blogs. I guess he must roll his eyes when you parade the books you bought as much as I do when my wife parades the childrens clothes she got from TradeMe.


Well done.

Dave B said...

'He' of course being your husband.

Vanda Symon said...

Oh yes I had a wonderful time, and yes, I did oh so covet more books, but I was oh so mindful of excess baggage charges! As it turned out I was miles off it, so I could have managed one or two more...