Auckland Writers and Readers Festival highlights

Eleanor Catton (Robert Catto)
Alice Walker

Auckland Writers and Readers Festival
May 14–18

The Auckland Writers and Readers Festival this year features one of the most accomplished writers of our time with Alice Walker joining a stellar line-up including Eleanor Catton, Alexander McCall Smith, Lloyd Jones, Camilla Lackberg and Michael Leunig.

Alice Walker will appear in one event only – The Color Purple, named after her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name

The festival is also instigating a new series of talks entitled Great Kiwi Classic, which in its first year will feature Keri Hulme and The Bone People.

This initiative, delivered in partnership with the New Zealand Book Council, will culminate in a giant, free ‘book club’ discussion of the book. 

As part of the selection process for deciding on the 2014 Great Kiwi Classic, hundreds of New Zealanders from around the country engaged in Facebook conversations about their favourite New Zealand books. 

Anne O’Brien, the festival's director, says, “The titles championed were diverse in genre, age and target audience. We received nominations for out-of-print books, children’s books, just-published books, funny, sad and sci-fi books, fat books, slim books; books of all persuasions. The enthusiasm with which New Zealanders engaged with the conversation was infectious and a wonderful reminder of just how much great New Zealand writing there is.”

Another of New Zealand’s literary heroines, Eleanor Catton, talks to broadcaster John Campbell about writing, storytelling and what success means.

The Auckland Writers Festival’s 2014 Honoured Writer this year will be is Patricia Grace, who will talk about her lifetime of writing

Renowned for his gritty depiction of the underworld in his novel Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh’s visit coincides with the launch of his new work, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins.

There is a meeting of Middle Eastern minds with Egyptian journalist Yasmine El Rashidi, Iraqi-born popular scientist and broadcaster Jim Al-Khalili and religious scholar Iranian-American Reza Aslan. 

After a career spanning more than 40 years, Australian Living Treasure Michael Leunig is one of the world’s most popular political and cultural cartoonists.

The Scottish philosopher and former professor of medical law, Alexander McCall Smitho has written hundreds of books for adults and children, with his No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series selling more than 20 million copies worldwide.  

Huw Lewis-Jones will be discussing Mt Everest in 1953 using the original photographs from the expedition, Jeremy Scahill looks at America’s covert operations, Frank Dikotter reveals the horrors of mid-twentieth century China and literary prize-winners Adam Johnson, Eimear McBride and A.M. Homes introduce their new fictional worlds.

Children are catered for with the festival’s free Family Day. Presenters for the 30-minute events include comic duo The UK’s Etherington Brothers, illustrator Paul Beavis, Jamaican/English storyteller Jan Blake, poet Paula Green and Storylines Much-Loved Award winner Jenny Hessell.

The Festival Debate returns following its hugely popular launch in 2013. Arguing that Privacy is an Outdated Concept will be Jim Al-Khalili, Dutch historian Frank Dikotter, Kiwi privacy expert Bob Stevens and Sandi Toksvig, chaired by journalist Guyon Espiner.

Celebrated musician Tim Finn performs White Cloud – a potent mix of story and song developed with playwright Ken Duncam and filmmaker Sue Healey.

Duncan Sarkies and musician Sean O’Brien entertain in an hour of music and storytelling celebrating Sarkies’ new novel The Demolition of The Century.

Sculptor Greer Twiss celebrates his just-published monograph at the Auckland Art Gallery; central Australian artist and writer Rod Moss shares his experiences of his close friendships with the Aboriginal families at Whitegate, an Arrernte camp on the outskirts of Alice Springs.

Jill Trevelyan will be talking to John Reynolds and Yvonne Todd about her recent biography of the Wellington art dealer Peter McLeavey.

The Festival’s Gala Night theme is True Stories Told Live: Truth and Lies where eight writers will deliver a seven-minute true story. Broadcaster Carol Hirschfeld will have the task of restraining the eight of them; Nigerian storyteller Inua Ellams, Yasmine El Rashidi, Kiwi photographer Marti Friedlander, Canadian Lawrence Hill, A.M. Homes, Sarah-Kate Lynch, Alexander McCall Smith and Irvine Welsh.

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