Top ten WORD Festival picks… for Writers!

Rachel King asked me to do a top five. I laughed. And laughed and laughed. And then set myself the cruel and unusual task of picking only ten events at the upcoming WORD festival in Christchurch.


So, without further ado, here are my top ten picks for writers…

1. Can Books Change the World?

Thursday 25 August, 6-7.15pm @ Concert Hall, The Piano ($19/17)

As a writer who slogs away at a manuscript for years before possible publication, the question ‘why do I bother?’ does occasionally come up. Rachel assures me this session will sound a resounding ‘yes! Books can change the world.’

No pressure or anything, but wouldn’t that be great? The hope of writing something that moves people is what gets me up, and at ’em, and to the books, frankly, so I’m looking forward to this stellar line-up: John Freeman, Nadia Hashimi, Victor Rodger, Kate De Goldi and Peter Biggs (chair). Woah.

2. An Hour with Dame Fiona Kidman

Friday 26 August, 9.30-10.30am at Concert Hall, The Piano ($19/17)

I adore Fiona Kidman’s work, so I couldn’t flick through the enticing WORDfest program without stopping for this. Fiona Kidman writes novels, short stories, poetry and  memoir with serious punch and sumptuous beauty.

Plus, she’s in conversation with Owen Marshall. Right? Can’t miss this!

3. Teaching the Monster to Speak: Writing Believable Fictional Characters

Friday 26 August, 9.30am-12.30pm at The Box, The Piano ($45 – limited places)

No! It’s a clash! And I’m only up to no.3! Okay, maybe Fiona Kidman will come up again later. Or I could clone myself and go to both.

This workshop explores techniques for inventing great characters and developing your writer’s instincts. Tracy Farr, author of ‘The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt’ takes this session. I’d say essential for fiction writers wanting to hone their craft. Getting characters right is so important. Makes or breaks a novel.

Okay, where can I get one of those time-turner things Hermione Granger has in The Prisoner of Azkaban…

4. Canadian Tales: Elizabeth Hay

Friday 26 August, 12.30-1.30pm at Concert Hall, The Piano ($19/17)

Excuse my ignorance, I haven’t heard of her, but go on, compare her to Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, A.S. Byatt and Annie Proulx… and that might do it.


Plus, there’s talk she’ll make mention of that Trudeau guy.

5. Reading Favourites

Friday 26 August, 2.15-3.15pm at The Chamber, The Piano (FREE)

Now this clashes with C.K. Stead’s session but I’ll see him in the no.6 so I’m almost okay with that. And I would very much like to hear Chris Tse, Jolisa Gracewood and David Hill talk about their favourite local writers. They’re bound to throw a stack of New Zealand books to the top of my tbr pile. Bring it!

6. The Power of Poetry

Friday 26 August, 5-6pm at Concert Hall, The Piano ($19/17)

This session caught my eye because I read and loved Selina Tusitala Marsh’s account of her visit to the queen. So funny, so insightful… I’d just love to meet this incredible woman.

But then there’s the rest of the line up… holy cow! C.K. Stead, Fiona Kidman, Ali Cobby Eckermann, Bill Manhire and Chris Tse. There’s only one thing for it. Gotta. Be. There.

7. Taku Kupu Ki Te Ao: My Word to the World

Saturday 27 August, 1-4pm at Te Whare o Te Waipounamu, 15 Show Place, Addington ($20)

This session is hosted by Ngai Tahu writer Hana O’Regan and she’ll have Elissa Washuta, Ali Cobby Eckermann and Ivan E. Coyote alongside, running an interactive workshop about writing and performing personal stories as indigenous writers.

Topics include…

  • How to find the story worth telling.
  • The challenges facing indigenous non-fiction writers
  • How to make your stories sing both on the page and out loud.

This is another great value for money one. You can see the presenters at other sessions but I’m trying to hit many birds with just a few stones here…

8. How to be a writer: Steve Hely

Saturday 27 August, 3.30-4.30pm at Concert Hall, The Piano ($19/17)

I’m curious about TV writing so, naturally, I’m going to drift toward this session with a guy who wrote for The Office, 30 Rock and American Dad! but, turns out, he’s also a novelist. And his book, “How I Became a Famous Novelist” is definitely on my tbr list.

He’s also a travel writer. Something for everyone and uproariously funny. Bring it.

9. Hear My Voice

Saturday 27 August, 5.30-7pm at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu ($19/17)

Here come the rock stars of poetry, people. Selina Tusitala Marsh would be enough for me, but throw in the mix some Sophia Rea, Ivan E. Coyote, and Ken Arkind. Add a little Daisy Speaks and Tusiata Avia, a dash of Mohamed Hassan and the ever-awesome MC Ciarán Fox… well. It’s a done deal folks.

10. The Great New Zealand Crime Debate & Ngaio Marsh Award

Saturday 27 August, 7.30-9pm at Concert Hall, The Piano ($25/23)

Full-disclosure, my friend Ray Berard is up for the Ngaio Marsh award, so I’m fully and openly biased putting this in my top ten (cough-twelve-cough-maybe). But they’re promising a ‘raucous night of argument and repartee…funny, sometimes shocking and always entertaining’ with—get this—a coroner, satirist and journalist, versus a lawyer, murder expert/novelist and the TV writer/novelist from no.6… all MCed by Joe Bennet.

And then the award… fingers crossed, Ray!

11. The Sunday Fringe

Sunday 28 August, 10am-3.30pm at Space Academy, 371 St Asaph Street ($15)

This one’s just good value for money, frankly. Four for the price of one:

  • How to Start a Magazine with editors from BUST, The Spinoff, and Cheap Thrills as well as Rachel Morton
  • Writing to Make a Change with folks from ActionStation and Pencilsword, as well as Morgan Godfery and James Dann
  • Songwriting with Rachel Morton
  • Rising Voices showcase of young poets.

Oh I’m skipping past so many good ones and I’m already sneaking in twelve top picks instead of ten. Shhh, don’t tell. Seriously, go check out the WORD Christchurch website. This line-up is incredible.

12. Making it Overseas

Sunday 29 August, 3-4pm at The Box, The Piano ($19/17)

I’m a tiny bit biased here, too. The brilliant Tania Roxborogh is one of the three authors presenting this session, and she’s a dear friend, not to mention a brilliant author in more genres than you can shake a bookmark at. She’s also one of those speakers you could just listen to all day.

But you only get one hour. And you get Ben Sanders and Helen Lowe as well!

They’re talking tough reality in this session. Making a living writing fiction in New Zealand is next to impossible, but these three found publication overseas and will talk about their journeys.

I want in. Don’t you?

13. How to perfect your submission

Friday 26 August, 1-3pm at The Box, The Piano ($45 – limited spaces)

Okay, I give in. Baker’s dozen, right? And if bakers are allowed then so am I.

This workshop is the perfect thing for writers looking to go down the traditional publishing route. The submission process can be daunting… I’d go so far as to say soul destroying. But if you’re well-prepared, set your expectations to realistic, grit your teeth and hone your query letter till it sings seductively to every editor and lit-agent lucky enough to skim it off the top of the slush pile… well, then you’re in.

And here’s a great place to start. Scott Pack will draw on years of industry experience and set you on the right path.

Bring your cover letter, your pitch, synopses, etc. Be ready to sell your story.

Basically, it’s going to be a jam-packed weekend and luckily, there’s no rule that says you have to pick twelve.

See you there!

Or maybe not, if I’m running from one thing to another. And time-turning.

Amy Paulussen
Chairperson of the Christchurch branch of The NZ Society of Authors




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