Who chooses the writers we see at writers festivals, and how do they decide? Do they create their programs with gender and diversity in mind?
We talk to the women behind the legendary Auckland and Melbourne Writers Festivals, the North Texas Teen Book Festival, and Australia’s new Feminist Writers Festival.
About our guests
In May each year, the Auckland Writers Festival stages over 120 public events, gathering together 160 of the best writers and thinkers from New Zealand and across the world, with over 22,000 festival goers and more than 5,000 young readers.
Director Anne O’Brien has been with the Festival since 2011. A trained journalist, Anne has worked on the legendary radio show ‘Nine To Noon with Kim Hill’ and with Women in Film and Television.
Rose Brock is a librarian and academic, and one of the founders of the hugely successful North Texas Teen Book Festival. It’s a free, one-day event featuring over 70 writers for young adult and middle grade readers talking with each other and 6,000 fans about books. It also includes a workshop day for teachers and librarians.
We spoke to Anne and Rose on site during their festivals (hence the audible excitement in the background!).
Then we brought committee members from the recently announced Feminist Writers Festival and the director of the Melbourne Writers Festival into the studio to talk with us about their processes and decision-making.
The Melbourne Writers Festival (MWF) is an annual, two-week celebration for writers, readers and thinkers, held in August. It includes events for people of all ages and its Schools’ Program is Australia’s biggest literary festival for students. Last year over 56,000 people attended the festival – its biggest year ever, after thirty years of festivals.
Lisa Dempster is the Director of the Festival, and prior to that was with the Emerging Writers Festival, and worked as a writer, editor and small press publisher.
Joining us from the Feminist Writers Festival are Veronica Sullivan and Stephanie Convery.
Veronica is Prize Manager of the Stella Prize. She is a 2016 Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellow, and was one of Melbourne Writers Festival’s 30 Writers Under 30 in 2015.
Stephanie is the festival’s Sponsorship Manager, and is a writer and the deputy editor of Overland. She was recently appointed as the deputy culture editor at The Guardian.