Pantograph Picks: Auckland Writers Festival 2017

The Pantograph Picks for the Auckland Writers Festival 2017: Three ticketed events that we don't want to miss, and five free events that you shouldn't.

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The Auckland Writers Festival is here with over 140 events featuring the best local and international writers of contemporary fiction and non-fiction, poets, scientists, economists, journalists and public intellectuals. Here are our top picks: three ticketed events that we don't want to miss, and five free events that you shouldn't.


Michael King Memorial Lecture: A New Politics for New Zealand
Friday 19 May, 2017 4:00pm – 5:00pm

In Max Harris's recently published book The New Zealand Project - which sparked vigorous debate and everyone is still talking about - he argues that academics and intellectuals have failed to deepen the political discourse, that politics is dominated by pragmatism, and that technocratic policies have replaced value-based ones. In this year’s Michael King Memorial Lecture, Harris calls for a strategic intervention in Aotearoa New Zealand – an intervention inspired by the tenets of care, community and creativity; and driven by the imagination and impatience of the young to create a better country. Expect the 'questions' at the end of this one to be lengthy.

Read Max's essay 'This Could Be It' about having Loeys-Dietz syndrome. 

Women and Power
Friday 19 May, 5:30pm – 6:30pm

We cannot go past a lineup featuring these three amazing women, and please can we come to the party afterwards? For many women, 2016 registered as an annus horribilis, one which made it clear that the battle for sexual equality – in political and sporting circles notably – is anything but won. Writer, commedian and social commentator Michele A’Court, New York Times bestselling writer and feminist Roxane Gay, and preacher, writer and retreat facilitator, Mpho Tutu van Furth, suggest courses of required action, and we want to hear them. 

The Ten (Food) Commandements: Jay Rayner
Friday 19 May 2017, 8:45pm – 10:00pm

Our bets are that this session will be one of the most entertaining of the festival. Apart from being voted the most influential food and drink journalist in Britain, Jay Rayner also holds a Beard of the Year Award. That's enough for us. Is it ever okay to covet a neighbour’s oxen, eat with your hands, or excise the fat? Be guided by The Observer’s restaurant critic and Masterchef judge, in an audio-visual trek to the edible promised land. Rayner’s live show, based on his book The Ten (Food) Commandments, combines reportage and anecdotes with recipes. Don't go hungry.


Poutokomanawa - The Heartpost - The University of Auckland Free Public Lecture: Tina Makereti
Wednesday 17 May, 5:00pm – 5:45pm

To see Tina Makereti speak is to experience fierce intelligence, humour, humility and great heart. In this lecture Tina will discuss how Māori and Pasifika writers are under-represented in literature—research suggests that Maori and Pasifika poetry and fiction accounts for only 3% of all locally published literature. Other ethnic groups fare worse. In this lecture, Makereti, a novelist, essayist and creative writing teacher, assesses the state of affairs and presents her vision of a vibrant Maori/Pasifika/ Indigenous/NZ literature: What kind of house does our literature inhabit? Where are radical renovations needed?

Read Tina's essay 'By Your Place in the World, I Will Know Who You Are.' 

Pacific Tales
Friday 19 May, 2017 2:30pm – 3:20pm

The mighty Pacific ocean links the continents of Asia, the Americas and Australia and harbours a multitude of islands, including our own. American novelist Brit Bennett (The Mothers), Pasifika short story writers Gina Cole (Black Ice Matter) and Courtney Sina Meredith (Tail of the Taniwha), and non-fiction writer Scott Hamilton, whose history The Stolen Island outlines New Zealanders' shameful involvement in the 'blackbirding' slave trade, deliver 10-minute readings, which is the perfect length to relax and enjoy the talent of these writers. 

Read some of Courtney Sina Meredith's latest work in 'American Journal.'

Light and Shade: Jennifer Niven and Emma Neale
Saturday 20 May, 2017, 1:30pm – 2:30pm

Jennifer Niven (US) is the bestselling author of stories that reveal the tangled experience of adolescence, including Holding Up the Universe and All the Bright Places. Emma Neale (NZ) is the author of the 2017 Ockham shortlisted Billy Bird which is a serious but humorous exploration of familial grief. Sure to be a funny and insightful session, Niven and Neale will discuss the ways in which fiction can refract and illuminate the rigours of family life from childhood to parenthood, and provide both consolation and hope. 

Read our conversation with Emma Neale about her book, Billy Bird.

The Art of Crime Fiction
Sunday 21 May, 2017, 10:30am – 11:30am

There's nothing better than a good crime novel. But how do we tell the good from the bad? Tell us Miranda, Paul, Ian and David! Miranda Carter, Paul Cleave, Ian Rankin, and the academic and author of Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture David Schmid, chronicle the history of the crime novel, and sort the turkeys from the humdingers.

Lost Properties: Chris Kraus
Sunday 21 May, 2017, 1:30pm – 2:30pm

We've been hanging on every word of her cult classic, I Love Dick, so expect to be entranced by this lecture. You don’t have to paint, sculpt or make installations to be an artist, insists writer and filmmaker Chris Kraus. “The desire to pursue a life in ‘fine art’ simply means a desire to respond creatively to the present.” In this lecture, Kraus profiles artists who have found creative engagement away from institutions conventionally associated with art, in breweries for instance. 

Read our conversation with Chris Kraus, 'Antihero of her Own Life.'

The Auckland Writers Festival runs from 16-21 May 2017.