Tuesday, May 19, 2015

If only I could eat their brains...

Last weekend I attended a number of excellent sessions at the Auckland Writers Festival. They pulled out all the stops and had an incredible selection of international speakers this year including Haruki Murakami (who just does not attend festivals), Carol Ann Duffy, Tim Winton, Dav Pilkey, Helen MacDonald, David Walliams, David Mitchell, Alan Cumming, Anthony Horowitz, Morris Gleitzman, Ben Okri, Atul Gawande and many, many more. Local writers included Philippa Werry, Donovan Bixley, Paula Green, Rachael Craw, Nalini Singh and Helena Wisniewski-Brow. It is hard to imagine how they might top this collection of awesome in future. But I wouldn't put it past them to somehow manage it (Sonya Hartnett, Maggie Steifvater, hint hint).

The crowds (and boy were there some crowds) were full of familiar faces, both of good friends and local writing (and other) luminaries. I caught up with pals from Queenstown, Dunedin, Taupo and Wellington as well as a bunch of Aucklanders. We raved about who we had just seen or were about to see, shared writerly gossip and generally had an all round good time. I went to the opening night gala, attended a scriptwriting workshop and saw and heard Alan Cumming (who urged everyone to be authentic), David Walliams (apparently when you meet the queen you aren't allowed to ask any questions which is very tricky, you just have to wait for her to ask you some), Anthony Horowitz (sought the original author's voice when writing Sherlock and Bond stories), and Helen MacDonald (who found solace in the relationship she forged with the brutal and noble goshawk Mabel) in action. I queued up to have a book signed by Anthony Horowitz (such a lovely guy) but did not even attempt to join the 3 hour line for David Walliams. You have to pick your battles folks. And all the time, this buzz of excitement, an energetic frisson of anticipation.

I enjoyed everything I went to. I laughed at times, had a lump in my throat at others, and felt that twinge of jealousy when they read from their work. Once or twice I felt grumpy with things the speaker said. But in the end I couldn't avoid feeling mostly a professional curiosity, rather than a fan's love. I nodded in recognition at their writerly advice. Sympathised with their struggles. I scrutinised their presentations for tricks and tips and ideas that I might be able to use myself in future. Sometimes I just wanted to be them, other times I thought, I could do that too. In the end none of them really spoke about how they write, which is fine because everyone's process is personal and non-transferable (except in a zombie-ate-my-brain kind of situation and even then there are no guarantees). They were all just interesting people with stories to tell, which I guess is kind of the point.

1 comment:

Jane Bloomfield said...

Great post Melinda! I wish I'd been there. Alas I was in Broome, WA, on the beach...is the festival the same time each year? I must plan better. Jealous much.