8. On festivals

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.

Listen here:

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!).

Auckland Writers Festival theme for 2016: Read the World

Auckland Writers Festival theme for 2016: Read the World

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.

Image of Melbourne Writers Festival theme for 2016: Identity

Melbourne Writers Festival theme for 2016: Identity

One day soon on Unladylike

We’ve been plotting.

Now we have a few live episodes, they ought to keep you occupied for a day or two.

We’ll release a new one each month – or more often if we get a bit excited.

Here’s what we have in mind for a few future episodes of Unladylike.

Image of recording studio

On translation
Ann Goldstein on the art and science of translation, and her work on the novels of Elena Ferrante.

On festivals
Do writers festivals create programs with gender and diversity in mind? We talk to women making decisions for festivals in the US, New Zealand and Australia.

On labels
Anita Heiss and Jessica Walton on perceptions, constraints, representation and freedoms.

On heroines
Malinda Lo and Rebecca Lim on creating kick-ass protagonists.

On process
Charlotte Wood and Paddy O’Reilly on dreaming, plotting (or not), drafting and redrafting.

On rebellion
Lee Kofman, Silvia Kwon and Maria Katsonis are possibly not such dutiful daughters.

That’s the plan for the next little while. We’ve already recorded some of these, but others are in the calendar-juggling phase. It might turn out differently. Certainly themes can change or emerge when we get into the studio and start talking.

But we want you to know how we’re thinking and what might lie ahead.

Coming up

Very soon, on Unladylike podcast, you can hear our first few episodes.

And they are stonkers*, if we do say so ourselves.

#1 On story

Vivian Gornick and Sian Prior, both journalists and memoir writers, in conversation about memory, imagination and language.

#2 On friendship

Fiona Wood, Simmone Howell and Cath Crowley talk about portraying friendship in writing for young adults, and their own collaborations.

#3 On editing

Historian Clare Wright and editor Mandy Brett on the process of creating an award-winning bestseller.

#4 On romance

Tessa Dare on romance fiction as a feminist genre, and why readers are in love with love.

#5 On swearing

Novelist Toni Jordan and playwright Patricia Cornelius on the power of purple language.

 

And after that? You just wait.

 

* stonker

noun BRITISH informal plural noun: stonkers

  1. something which is very large or impressive of its kind.

    (Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press)