11 May 2016

Our picks for the Auckland Writers Festival

11:23 am on 11 May 2016

The Auckland Writers Festival is the perfect setting to brush off the cobwebs of writer’s block (or even reader’s block).


Marlon James

Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James is appearing at this year's event. Photo: Supplied

For the next five days, the Aotea Centre will be home to an impassioned examination of literature, poetry, journalism and theatre as we know it in 2016. This year’s headline speakers include Gloria Steinem, Marlon James and that Australian dude who used to be in a rock band but now campaigns for the environment as a member of their parliament.

Last year The Wireless liveblogged the Auckland Writers Festival, attending every event we possibly could without having access to Hermione’s time turner. This year we’re taking a more considered approach, allowing time for reflection, debate and Snapchats in between sessions. With over 100 events on the festival’s programme, here are the events that we are looking forward to the most. 

A History in Seven Killings: Marlon James

When Marlon James won the Booker Prize in 2015, he was the first Jamaican author to win the award in its 47-year history. A History of Seven Killings is a fictional history of the attempted murder of Bob Marley in 1976 and the rhythms of reggae emanate from every sentence. James will be in conversation with Noelle McCarthy.
10.30am, Saturday 14 May, ASB Theatre

Column Inches

Despite the rapid change the media industry is facing, few analysts could have predicted just how different things would look only 12 months on from the last Writers Festival. There has been huge disruption (and not in that empty, hype-driven way tech startups try to use that word), at Mediaworks, a merger between NZME and Fairfax, and online publishers are rapidly growing in readership and influence. This discussion on the state of the media industry was popular last year, so we recommend arriving early to get a seat.
9.30am, Saturday 14 May, Aotea Centre


Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara Photo: Sam Levy

Life Lessons: Hanya Yanagihara

Those who have read Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life have described being so affected by it that they start sobbing, such is the misery enclosed between the two covers. The novel sets itself up as a typical four-friends-in-New-York story, but those expectations are tipped off balance as we follow the young graduates through the 720 pages of ‘Life’. Hanya Yanagihara will discuss this, her remarkable second novel, with Anne Kennedy.
2.30pm, Friday 13 May, ASB Theatre

The Girl on the Train: Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train was one of the bestselling books of 2015. The novel is a compelling read; a story that spirals out from a fleeting glimpse into the lives of strangers from a train window. The ‘girl’ of the title is Rachel, who has an unsettling characteristic that makes her an unreliable narrator. Hawkins will discuss her life and her writing, and reflect on the impact ‘Girl’ has had on her life since it was released a year ago.
4pm, Friday 13 May, ASB Theatre

Very New Zealand Murders

With Netflix’s Making a Murderer and the podcast Serial infiltrating watercooler conversations, it seems true crime stories are being turned into a riveting storytelling. Journalist Steve Braunias has reported on criminal cases throughout his career and his latest book takes a closer look at some of the horrific crimes that made headline news. He will share some of his observations on crime and punishment in Aotearoa.
5pm, Thursday 12 May, The University of Auckland


Omar Musa

Australian slam poet Omar Musa Photo: Supplied

A Cappella

Australian slam poet Omar Musa and our own hip hop legend King Kapisi will trade rhymes and beats at A Capella. Each artist has 25 minutes to perform, showcasing their unique style in front of a live audience. Musa is one of the few young writers included in this year’s festival, and with his work touching on the issues of migration, racism, violence, masculinity and loneliness, expect to hear some real talk.
7pm, Friday 13 May, Aotea Centre


The new issue of Manukau Institute of Technology’s journal of literature and art was inspired by a quote by writer and anthropologist Epeli Hau’ofa: “…the sea is our pathway to each other and to everyone else, the sea is our endless saga...”. Edited and produced by staff and students from MIT, IKA features writing and visual art by young artists alongside the work of established New Zealand writers.
12pm, Saturday 14 May, Central City Library

NB: Feminist activist Gloria Steinem’s talk would totally be on this list if her talk hadn’t sold out months ago, and unfortunately we don’t have any intel on who you have to #regram to get tickets.