Pantograph Picks: LitCrawl 2016

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LitCrawl is an annual Wellington event that celebrates the work of local, national and international writers. The ‘crawl’ is divided into three parts between 6pm and 9.30pm, and this year features a superb line-up of insightful and talented people. If you want more LitCrawl goodness, there are other events happening during the weekend, but here are my top ten picks from the festival.

BWB Texts Live 
6pm Saturday 12 November, Bats Theatre, 1 Kent Terrace

Bridget Williams Books have published over 35 of their “short books on big subjects,” and I want to read them all. The Texts are curious, smart, and thought-provoking explorations of a single topic by a New Zealand writer. They range from Hannah August’s No Country for Old Maids? which challenges the idea of a ‘man drought’, to Andrew Dean’s Ruth, Roger and Me, which examines “the lives of the generation of young people brought up in the shadow of the economic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s.” The session sees four BWB Texts authors come together to quiz each other on their work, ideas, and life. As the package promises, “Every author has the same set of questions (think Desert Island Discs) but, no doubt, a very different set of answers.” This will be a quick-witted and funny session.

Not in Performance
6pm Saturday 12 November, Hashigo Zake, 25 Taranaki Street

This session is a gift to all of us who identify as a minority, and to everyone else as well. Here’s the blurb in full: “When you write from a minority perspective, whether it’s your sexuality, your gender, your mental health or something else about you, there’s an expectation you’ll perform those parts of yourself. We choose what parts of ourselves we offer, reveal and share. We decide what we gift of ourselves to the audience. We’re not just queer writers. We’re writers. We’re not just genderqueer writers. We’re writers. We’re not just mentally ill writers. We’re writers. We’re all of these things and none of them. Come along to hear some writing loosely organised along non-heterosexual lines across genders and experiences.  We’re wrapping up ourselves as gifts and we’ll rip the paper too. Curated by Emma Barnes. Featuring Chris Tse, Janis Freegard, Gem Wilder and Sian Torrington.”

Polylingual Spree – Poetry in and out of Translation
7.15pm Saturday 12 November, Ferret Bookshop, 175 Cuba Street

The first time I heard poetry read in Italian was a surreal and mesmerising experience; I could feel the poetry in my body, even if I didn’t understand the words. This reading features poetry in multiple languages, read by poet translators Marco Sonzogni (Italian), Vana Manasiadis (Greek), Ya-Wen Ho (Mandarin) and more. Hosted by Helen Rickerby (mostly English).

Open Hearts: New Writing From Starling
7.15pm Saturday 12 November, Arty Bees, 106 Manners Street

Six writers reading work fresh from the pages of Starling! This new online journal showcases writers under 25 years old, and has just published its second issue. Discovering new voices is one of the best things about LitCrawl, so I expect this session to be packed. Featuring Rebecca Hawkes, Claudia Jardine, Lily Ng, Eva Poland, Emma Shi and Tayi Tibble.

Playing Poetry
8.30pm Saturday 12 November, Alistair’s Music, 215 Cuba Street 

When LitCrawl last held an event in Alistair’s Music it was crammed to the point that LitCrawlers were sitting at the feet of the performers. By all accounts it was an amazing time. Nick Bollinger will return to host this session with a fine line-up of singer-songwriters, “all nestled into New Zealand’s most sympathetically resonant venue.” The session features the stories and songs of Brooke Singer, Ben Would, Eva Prowse and Samuel Flynn Scott. It’s being recorded by RNZ so if you’re torn between this and another session, be comforted that you’ll be able to find it online.

8.30pm Saturday 12 November, Meow, 9 Edward St 

There have been some fine essay collections and anthologies published of late. The rise of the essay might come from a desire to see ourselves reflected in our literature, or to connect with each other in a society that can be isolating. Whatever the reason, we’re drawn to the essay. This session features essayists Ashleigh Young (Can You Tolerate This?), Aimie Cronin (Metro, North & South, The Spinoff), Naomi Arnold (Metro, New Zealand Geographic, The Spinoff), John Paul Powley (Man of Errors) and Khalid Warsame (The Lifted Brow).

I Ain’t Sorry
8.30pm Saturday 12 November, Layers Laundrette & Emporium, 282 Cuba Street 

This will be a powerful session, and one that I don’t want to miss. Here’s the blurb in full: “Stolen body. Stolen history. History denied. History reframed. Returning home. White skin brown bones. Brown skin. White assimilation. Smothering. Autonomy. Healing. Self determination. Fulfillment. A one-night-only reading with a short publication. All writers will speak to experiences of dislocation and marginalisation within their communities. Defined by difference, they look to points of intersecting experience, vocalising new histories, claiming new narratives. Curated by Faith Wilson and Hana Pera Aoake. Featuring George Watson, Piupiu Maya Turei, Quishile Charan, Ines Almeida, Anahera Gildea, and Tayi Tibble.”

Photo by Matt Bialostocki

After Party
9.30pm, Saturday 12 November, upstairs in the Paramount, 25 Courtenay Place

The LitCrawl after party is where you get to hear about all of the sessions you couldn’t attend. Come and talk about the events you’ve seen, buy some books, play Scrabble, and meet the authors!

Mansfield & Me
2pm Sunday 13 November, Katherine Mansfield House and Garden, 25 Tinakori Rd

I wouldn’t count myself as a hard-core Katherine Mansfield fan, but I am a hard-core fan of women writers talking about writing. This ticketed event will be held in the Katherine Mansfield House and Garden, where you can spend an afternoon with local writers Sarah Laing, Helen Rickerby and Anna Jackson. All three have created work inspired by the life of Katherine Mansfield. The most recent of these is Laing's book Mansfield & Me: A Graphic Memoir (published by Victoria University Press in October). The memoir explores the connections and differences between Laing and Mansfield’s lives, and the role of personal heroes. Any conversation between Laing, Rickerby, and Jackson is bound to be informed and lively.

People of Letters
7.30pm Sunday 13 November, San Fran, 171 Cuba Street

I regretted not going to last year’s Women of Letters, a hugely popular spoken-word event that celebrates the art of letter writing. This year Michaela McGuire and Marieke Hardy are returning to LitCrawl with People of Letters. In this show writers, performers, and artists are paired off and invited to write “a letter to my other half.” The blurb states, “The stage will be awash with warmth and curious tales of affection, bringing together the heady combination of sentiment and sauvignon blanc audiences have grown to know and love.”

Unlike most LitCrawl events, this one isn’t by koha (presales $40, door sales $45), but I’m sure it will be worth the ticket price to hear these pairs read to each other. Featuring politicians Fran Wilde and Grant Robertson, writers Paula Morris and Tom Moody, writer Fiona Kidman and publisher Harriet Allan, writers Lloyd Jones and Carrie Tiffany, and poets Hera Lindsay Bird and Gregory Kan.

LitCrawl 2016 runs from Friday 11 November to Sunday 13 November, 2016. Find the entire LitCrawl 2016 programme on their website.