Sunday, May 17, 2009

Brief Reports – Auckland Writers & Readers Festival 2009

An Hour with Martin Edmond

Sydney-based New Zealander Edmond is a poet, screen writer, essayist and writer of imaginative non-fiction. He is as Chair Peter Wells said “a writer in the prime of his writing life”. He is a tall, thoughtful, likeable looking fellow who strikes you as perhaps being a University teacher and it seems there is a smile never far from his face.
He started by reading an excerpt from his latest book, The Supply Party, and then went on to talk about his writing life – his approach & technique for writing, researching for non-fiction titles and the influence on his mother , NZ poet Lauris Edmond, on his writing and early attempts at writing verse.
A quiet, thoughtful session.
Here is a review of The Supply Party from The Age.

An Hour with Lloyd Jones

400 plus patrons packed in to Lower NZI Room to hear NZ’s highest profile author of the moment. This was a remarkable turnout when one considers the two opposing events upstairs – An Hour with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellows Celebrate 40 years.

Lloyd Jones can sometimes be a bit prickly in his public outings, one suspects he doesn’t especially enjoy the publicity side of his writing life, but under the quietly effective and knowledgeable chairmanship of Finlay Macdonald he was at his very best talking about Mister Pip and how it unexpectedly took him out into the world. And how it diverted him from his writing for two years following is winning of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2007 and short-listing for the Man Booker Prize the same year.
He talked warmly of his Mother’s influence on his early reading life with their regular visits to the Hutt Public Library.
One went away having had an interesting look inside the intricacies of a writer’s mind.
Excellent session, superbly chaired.

New Yorker Night

A sell-out audience of over 1500 people packed into the Aotea Centre’s ASB Theatre to listen to four colleagues from one of the world’s truly great magazines, The New Yorker, talk about their writing lives at the magazine.
The group was introduced by one of their own, Rhonda Sherman, director of The New Yorker Festival, who started by saying that 98% of readers say they first look at the cartoons before reading any of the articles and that at the magazine they reckon the other 2% are lying. We were then treated to 20 or so superb cartoons projected onto a big screen behind the panel which drew forth much laughter.
The magazine celebrates its 85th birthday this year during which there have only been five editors. Each panelist talked of major stories they had written, other writers in the magazine, past & present, that they admire, the rigors of the editorial and fact-checking procedures and how they assume that their readers want to read what the writers want to write. There was interesting discussion on the importance of the magazine in launching fiction writers and how some went on to become major American writers.
It was entertaining listening to these articulate and erudite folk but I went away with the feeling that it might have been more effective if they had used an outsider as the Chair rather than one of their own.

An Hour with Monica Ali

A 400 plus crowd again, at 10.00am on a Sunday morning which even surprised the author. Ably chaired by Paula Morris, (standing in at short notice for Kirsty Gunn who sadly had to return unexpectedly to the UK two days ago), the much-acclaimed young British writer turned out to be a most appealing and agreeable speaker and the audience were clearly charmed.
She read two passages from her latest book, In the Kitchen, and then talked about the book and her research for it, on Britishness and citizenship tests, writers whom she admires, on being a working Mum and how she initially wrote when her two children were sleeping but now they are at school she has more time although when the school holidays come around she only writes in the evening after they have gone to bed.
There were interesting comments from her on the movie version of her first book, Brick Lane; she sensibly tasks the view that a book is a book and a movie is a movie and you cannot expect them to be the same.
In response to a question from the audience she explained that her father is a Bangladeshi and her mother is English and that she has lived in the UK since she was three, growing up in the Lancashire former mill town of Bolton but she now lives in London with her husband and two children
She gave thoughtful and respectful answers to the audience questions..

Monica Ali is a star and the audience went away impressed, liking her and pleased they had made the effort to be there.
And full marks to NZ’s most travelled author Paula Morris who is always thoughtful and well-prepared.


artandmylife said...

Thanks for blogging the festival for those of us who could not get there

Bookman Beattie said...

It has been a great pleasure.

Vanda Symon said...

This was a fabulous session, and as so you said, well chaired (as always) by Paula Morris.

Monica came across as a delightful, warm, and generous guest, and it was a pleasure hearing her read from her book and the humour she injected into it. It was well worth crawling out of bed earlyish for.