writers festival pic

For a word lover the Auckland Writers Festival is about as close to christmas as you can get. One brilliant mind after another, speaking to hoards of wide-eyed readers, flat-white in one hand, moleskin notebook in the other.

For me it began on Friday as I watched Noelle McCarthy, John Boyne, and Irish poet Paul Muldoon describe Ireland’s uprising in ‘From 1916 to Here.’ The mature lady next to me, shoes already off and pen at the ready, asked if I might be able to ‘give her a nudge if she nodded off.’ She did nod off, but I felt mean robbing her of sleep.

Later that day Elanor Catton spoke with Edward Carey, author of the Iremonger Trilogy, where its inhabitants live in Heaps, a vast sea of lost and discarded items collected from all over London. Edward’s illustrations are dark, gloomy, cold, depressing and brilliant. Cha-ching went the till.

There was a Michael Grant talk, Tom Gates author Liz Pichon, a tribute to Vincent O’Sullivan and a lively Bill Oddie telling a packed house why he threw Jesus out and kept Elvis. Long story.

In the VIP lounge I met Petina Gappah, the charming and hilarious Zimbabwean-Genevan lawyer turned novelist. What a mind! I was introduced to Michel Faber and we talked music. He likes to be challenged when he’s writing, nothing nostalgic, something gripping, like Coil or Current 93. Then I discovered his latest work ‘The Book of Strange New Things.’ Cha-ching went the till.

The Herald Theatre is a beautiful space in which to talk. I spoke on Sunday afternoon, but why was I so nervous? Didn’t I do school talks often? Yes, but this was a theatre. 30 minutes flew by, thanks to a hilarious crowd of kids, happy to turn bananas into penguins, tea towels into chickens, each clutching a copy of ‘Shot, Boom, Score!’ which I was more than happy to sign.

Festival staff: 10/10. Keeping 65,000 people happy can’t be easy.

What a bugger. Having to wait another year and all…