The 2019 Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival may have finished, but the audio joy lives on. These recordings were made possible by various generous funders: ten were supported by a Copyright Licensing New Zealand grant, one was captured via New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO funding, and the rest were secured for your ears courtesy of the Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature. All were expertly recorded and edited by our good friends at OAR FM. Enjoy! (Claire Finlayson, Programme Director).
Dead People I Have Known
Indie-rock legend Shayne Carter (best known for his bands Straitjacket Fits and Dimmer) will talk about his new autobiography, Dead People I Have Known. Shihad’s Jon Toogood gave the book this verdict: “Sometimes profound. Sometimes utterly hilarious. I couldn’t put this book down. A triumph.” Carter will talk about his stellar music career, the Dunedin Sound, his love of sport, growing up in Dunedin, and everything in between. Chaired by Carter’s former driving student Steve Braunias.
Murder with McIlvanney
Liam McIlvanney has been described as a master of Tartan noir. His latest novel The Quaker was crowned Scottish Crime Book of the Year in 2018. Based on the unsolved Bible John murders that shocked Glasgow in the 1960s (which McIlvanney describes as “a kind of West of Scotland equivalent of the Kennedy assassination”) the book takes its own fictional trajectory while capturing the menace and soot-grimy atmosphere that prevailed in Glasgow at that time. McIlvanney will talk with Steve Braunias (author of The Scene of the Crime) about mixing murderous fact with fiction, how to write a good ghost and other dark matters.
Six of our international/NZ festival guests tackle the theme ‘Distracted’. Each will speak about guarding creative space amid today’s digital noise. The line-up is astonishingly good: John Boyne (Ireland), Markus Zusak (Australia), Clementine Ford(Australia), Akala (UK), Tina Makereti(NZ) and Chris Tse (NZ), with MC Michèle A’Court.
The Galloping Mind
In her introduction to Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety, Naomi Arnold notes, “In 2017, one in five New Zealanders sought help for a diagnosed mood or anxiety disorder… but the real figures will be even higher than that, and they’re growing.” Arnold will join two others who’ve done their bit to destigmatise mental illness: Ashleigh Young, one of the contributors to Headlands, and Wendy Parkins, whose new memoir Every morning, so far, I’m alive covers her battle with depression, contamination phobia and OCD. They’ll talk to journalist Charlotte Graham-McLay about their experiences and the importance of shining a light on mental health.
One of the most talented shapeshifters of the New Zealand literary world,Vincent O’Sullivan is a poet, short story writer, novelist, playwright, librettist, biographer, editor and critic. His latest work, the secret-laden family saga All This By Chance, is his first novel in 20 years and a frontrunner for this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Reviewer Nicholas Reid called it “as outstanding a novel as has been produced in this country in the last 10 years”. Fergus Barrowman will quiz O’Sullivan on his latest novel, his 60-year career and how he got so darned accomplished.
Karori Confidential, a collection of Sunday columns by the award-winning Leah McFall, is full of her trademark wit and daring. No subject is too sacred or small (leakproof pants, her cervix, Marie Kondo or royal wedding cakes). Stand-up comedian and writer Michèle A’Court finds her humour in similar places: “Telling jokes doesn’t necessarily speak to natural wit. We tell our stories.” And she should know – she was named Comedian of the Decade at the 2010 NZ Comedy Awards and won the Funniest Column Award (NZ Comedy Guild) in 2015. Otago Daily Times columnist Liz Breslin will quiz A’Court and McFall about where they mine their funnies, the importance of tone and who makes them chuckle.
That F Word
We bring together two audacious feminist writers who put their heads well above the parapets with their recent books: Lizzie Marvelly, author of That F Word: Growing up Feminist in Aotearoa and Australian author Clementine Ford, whose bestselling book Fight Like a Girl was described by one reader as “an unapologetic roar for equality”. Ford and Marvelly will compare trans-Tasman notes on that ‘F’ word, trolls and feminism’s current trajectory. Barbara Brookes (author of A History of New Zealand Women) will steer the conversation.
Award-winning hip-hop artist, social entrepreneur and writer Akala will talk with Paula Morris about his bestselling debut Natives, a searing, modern polemic on race and class in the British Empire. His memoir reflects on growing up poor, mixed race and politicised in Britain during the 1980s and ’90s and offers a nuanced historical treatise that The Guardian has lauded as “the kind of disruptive, aggressive intellect that a new generation is closely watching”.
The War on Truth
Award-winning investigative reporter Stephen Davis spent three decades working on the frontlines of journalism – for TV, magazines and newspapers, and as an educator. Among those who have tried to persuade him from reporting his stories: men with Kalashnikovs, government lawyers, corporate PRs in fancy suits, senior police officers, billionaires and newspaper owners. In his explosive new book Truthteller, he spills the media beans and tells of his journey through the world of truth prevention, fake news and conspiracy theories. Fellow journalist Guyon Espiner will sift through the fake and the true with him.
Irish author John Boyne won a global fan base for his book The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. He’s written 11 novels for adults and is soon to release his sixth book for younger readers. His latest novel A Ladder to the Sky, which follows a character both intriguing and appalling in equal measure, has been described by The Observer as “an ingeniously conceived novel that confirms Boyne as one of the most assured writers of his generation”. Majella Cullinane will find out how much fun Boyne had creating the charismatic psychopath at the centre of his new novel and what it’s like to be at the top of your writing game.
One of Australia’s most successful authors, Markus Zusak has written six novels, including that hugely popular The Book Thief. Bestselling American author John Green said of Zusak, “I’m in awe of him”. His latest novel, Bridge of Clay, was 13 years in the making (which, according to Zusak’s calculations, works out at 1.9 words a day). It follows the travails of five orphaned adolescent brothers left to their own devices in “a porridge of mess and fighting”. Charlotte Graham-McLay will talk to Zusak about his new novel and find out how he paced himself with that word count.
Gavin Bishop has published over 70 books. His latest works illustrate aspects of New Zealand history and are thoroughly sumptuous publications: Aotearoa (which won both the non-fiction prize and the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year Award at last year’s Children and Young Adult Book Awards) and Cook’s Cook (an idiosyncratic view of Captain Cook’s voyage, told through the eyes of his one-handed cook). Fellow author/illustrator David Elliot will chair the session.
The Te Reo Boom
In 2018 Stuff reported on te reo Māori courses “selling out as fast as tickets for Ed Sheeran or Adele”. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently pledged to ensure that a million New Zealanders can kōrero with confidence in te reo Māori by 2040. We gather four energetic te reo advocates to take the pulse of one of New Zealand’s official languages: Scotty and Stacey Morrison (authors of Māori Made Easy and Māori at Home), and local te reo champions Paulette Tamati-Elliffe and Komene Cassidy. Chaired by the man who got Don Brash all flustered for “spouting on” in te reo Māori on RNZ: Guyon Espiner.
We’re gathering together four novelists who’ve attached their fictions to the scaffold of history: Morris Gleitzman is working on the final instalment of his Onceseries (about a Jewish boy’s experiences in Nazi-occupied Poland during the Second World War); Tina Makereti grew her latest novel, The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke, from an 1846 article in the London Times; Majella Cullinane takes on New Zealand military involvement at the Western Front in The Life of De’Ath; and Maxine Alterio’s third historical novel, The Gulf Between, explores the legacies of occupation in post-Second World War Naples. History curator Seán Brosnahan will find out how they went about the business of marrying fact with fiction and how far they fell into the rabbit hole of history.
One of New Zealand’s most distinguished poets, Bluff-based Cilla McQueen has published a whopping 15 volumes of poetry. She has scooped the NZ Book Award for Poetry three times, was the New Zealand Poet Laureate from 2009 to 2011, and was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in 2010. Her latest collection, Poeta, gathers together five decades of superlative work. When asked what irked her about poetry, she said “its difficulty”, and when asked what delighted her, “its difficulty”. Richard Reeve will talk with McQueen about her illustrious career and the pleasingly persistent tug of poetry’s difficulty.
For Mother’s Day, we’ve tasked five mums (at different stages of parenting) with writing a letter to motherhood. With its mixed bag of delight and exhaustion, worry and hugs, sweetness and chaos, we know that motherhood hangs differently on all who serve it. The mums stepping up to the mic: Clementine Ford, Michèle A’Court, Tina Makereti, Majella Cullinane and Louise Wallace, with MC Charlotte McKay.
Morris Gleitzman: Australian Children's Laureate
Australian Children’s Laureate Morris Gleitzman says: “Young people need stories more than ever. Stories to delight, stories to beguile, stories to inspire, stories to move deeply.” He believes stories help our young people to develop empathy, insight and resilience: “I like to think of them as a bit like vitamins.” He’s been producing those vitamins for over 30 years now and has written over 40 books (for 8–12 year olds). Don’t miss this chance to hear one of the world’s most articulate and heart-huge children’s authors in conversation with Barbara Larson.
Woman in the Wilderness: Miriam Lancewood
Billed as ‘the female Bear Grylls’, Dutch-born Miriam Lancewood quit modern comforts and the teaching profession eight years ago to embrace an off-grid, primitive life in the New Zealand wilds. She’s written about her experiences in Woman in the Wilderness. What began as a year-long experiment, alongside her Kiwi husband Peter, has turned into a fulfilling nomadic lifestyle: “It seems that the trees pull the burdens off your shoulders.” Jinty MacTavish will find out what it was like for Lancewood to swap vegetarianism for hunting, shampoo for dandruff-busting urine, and digital distractions for Nature’s peace.