The written world
Arts festivals are made to engage the eye, the ear and the brain. At Writers Week at the NZ Festival audience members can listen in on conversations with brain surgeons, playwrights, physicists, poets, children's book authors and many others. A celebration of local as well as international writers, it's a week-long feast for the mind.
Renee Liang interviews Wellington author, and festival participant, Chris Tse about the programme.
How does Writers Week feed into the already packed literary calendar in Wellington?
Writers Week is all of our Christmases squeezed into six glorious days. It’s your chance to be fully immersed in a literary state and have your expectations and interests challenged and expanded. The sheer concentration of writers, readers, and the celebration of words and ideas that leaves me on a high for weeks after the festival has wrapped up.
What's special about this year's line-up?
Every year’s line-up is special, but this year feels very forward-thinking and urgent to me. There’s a mix of ‘looking back’ and debate about current hot topics. I also think it’s great that a very broad range of genres and writers are featured, from poets and novelists to cartoonists and bloggers.
Who are the authors you're not going to miss?
I bought a ticket for Miranda July’s Lost Child! the day it went on sale. I have no idea what to expect from her but I’m more than willing to get swept away by her unnerving genius. Mallory Ortberg was a writer I’d never come across, but after being sent many, many links to her work I was instantly converted. I’ve also heard nothing but good things about the US slam poet Anis Mojgani, who is appearing in quite a few sessions, so I have no excuse for not seeing him during Writers Week!
Which local writers will you be seeing?
There are so many fantastic sessions involving local writers in this year’s line-up. I’m particularly looking forward to Who the Hell Are We?, which is one of the Spotlight on Playwrights events; Dr Philip Temple’s Janet Frame Memorial Lecture; and Debating New Zealand with Morgan Godfery, Holly Walker and Courtney Sina Meredith.
What is your pick of the free events, and why?
The Photobook New Zealand session is something I’ll definitely be checking out to cover off my love of both books and photography.
What are the top three questions to ask a writer at Writers Week, and three questions to avoid?
My pet peeve as an audience member is when people’s 'questions' are actually five-minute stories or personal statements. So, my number one tip/plea is: make sure it’s question! Don’t get too personal or ask something vague – specific questions are much easier for writers to answer on the spot. As a writer, the best questions I’ve had are the unexpected ones that still related to my work or the event – these are the questions that often produce the most telling answers.