Friday, October 16, 2015

On literary festivals

The always excellent Tauranga Arts Festival runs from Thursday 22 October to Sunday 1 November. The full programme is here. There is music (Julia Deans sings Joni Mitchell, Annie Crummer sings soul), theatre (Mei-Lin Te Puea Hansen’s The Mooncake and the Kumara, the Welsh Hireath) and a bunch of other stuff  I would really like to see.

There will also be some writers.

Siblings Mandy and Nicky Hager will talk about family ties, Harry Ricketts will talk about how to read a poem, Debra Daley will talk about her two recent historical novels, Christina Lamb – the biggest star of the festival – will talk about reporting from the war in Afghanistan (I gather this is nearly sold out so if you are interested, book tonight), Phil Jarratt, probably the second-biggest star, will talk about surfing, and then there is me.

Specifically, there is me talking about writers’ festivals with Stephanie Johnson and Claire Mabey, both of whom have run them. The blurb for the event – Sunday 25 October, 1pm, $15 don’t miss out! – says:

Being at a writers’ festival sounds a great deal for an author ... or does it?
In her latest novel, The Writers’ Festival, Stephanie Johnson possibly uses her own experiences, including as a founding board member of the Auckland Writers Festival, and at last year’s inaugural Australia and New Zealand Festival of Literature and Arts in London. Claire Mabey, associate director of the Tauranga Arts Festival, was also at the London festival last year, as well as the renowned Hay-on-Wye and Edinburgh events.
What makes for a good festival and why are some festivals thought to treat their writers shabbily? Johnson and Mabey talk to Stephen Stratford.

Two good questions right there. Like Stephanie I was a founding board member of the Auckland Writers’ Festival (I served seven years, for what crime I do not know), and I have performed at one of Claire’s festivals (last year in Hamilton) as well as at others in Dunedin and Christchurch. So I know the territory and assume these events must be a good thing.

Possibly I am prejudiced from knowing too many authors, but I sometimes wonder why any reader would wish to meet a writer or listen to them bang on about themselves. Because that, frankly, is what writers do. Even the shy ones. So at some point in the proceedings I will ask the audience, “Why are you here?”

If any reader of QUQ can offer any suggestions for a more polite question I can ask of the panel or audience, I would be very grateful.


Mark Hubbard said...

How much money do you make from writing? Would be interesting question.

Stephen Stratford said...

Hah. Thanks, but I think we all know the answer to that one. Two words, one of four letters beginning with F and the second of three letters beginning with A.