New chapter for writers festival
When the going gets tough, the tough get reading. And it seems they get buying tickets to the country’s biggest literary event too.
Ticket sales for the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, which starts today, are up 40 percent from last year, says director Jill Rawnsley.
“People are just being quite selective about what they want to do. And this is not an expensive event.”
It’s the event’s 10th anniversary this year and also the last year in the job for Ms Rawnsley, who has been directing the festival for the past six years.
She says she couldn’t have chosen a better year to see off the job, with an impressive lineup of international writers arriving in Auckland today.
She’s watched it grow from its humble beginnings in 1999.
“It’s been an amazing experience. We’ve built something from the ground up really.”
A self-proclaimed book lover, Ms Rawnsley first became involved in the festival as a volunteer and enjoyed the role so much she made it permanent.
She says it was a “very, very hard decision” to leave but she wanted to go out on a high note.
“We’ve achieved fantastic things and I know it’s in good hands.”
It’s a great year for people to attend who want to get a feel for what the festival is about – with more than 130 fiction and non-fiction writers, journalists and poets attending, she says.
And it’s not all highbrow, intellectual droning.
“A lot of people think it’s like a lecture or an exam and that you have to have read the book first. That’s just complete rubbish. You can come along and be as involved as you want.”
The four-day event includes more than 50 events, 11 of them free, such as author talks and panel discussions.
Highlights include Australian author of Ransom, David Malouf, Nigerian writer Chima- manda Ngozi Adichie and American performance poet Sonya Renee and three journalists from the New Yorker as well as many awardwinning local writers.
A first for this year’s event will be the inclusion of the Schools Programme, something Ms Rawnsley says has proven hugely popular already, with more than 6000 bookings.
Intermediate and secondary school students will attend talks today and tomorrow from local and international authors, handpicked from the main festival programme.
She says the programme aims to give kids an idea of what they can do with their writing skills. She hopes the students, many of whom stop reading in their teenage years, will glean inspiration from seeing the authors up close and personal.
“I think it’s really important they see writers talking about their craft. It brings a bit of liveliness and energy.”
The festival runs until Sunday, visit www. writersfestival.co.nz.
Well read: Jill Rawnsley will be manning the helm of this year’s Auckland Writers and Readers Festival for one last time.