Thursday, 29 March 2012

W&R 2012 - the final post.

After the ‘Last Real Book Readers' session, it seemed like a good idea to sign up to Twitter. Others in my class were following various book industry folk, and I felt left out. It seemed the most common factor in all of their followings was Helen Heath from VUP. The advantage of following her meant my budget of $40 for W&R sessions wasn’t stupid – she was at the majority of sessions and reading her tweets made me feel like I was in the audience. So for that, Helen, I thank you! And if you like Twitter, find me - @kimaya__m.

The next session I headed to was Germaine Greer on her 2007 novel, 'Shakespeare’s Wife'. It was a very last minute decision to attend this session, and we did have to wait in line for a while to get the tickets. Totally worth it. The Embassy was packed out for the session, and I found it nice that people wanted to hear about Germaine’s first love – English Literature. She did her PhD at Cambridge on Shakespeare’s early comedies, for those that didn’t know. Linda Hardy from Victoria University was in conversation with her, and they worked very well together I felt.

Stunning lady.
(c) Writers and Readers website. 
Being super excited about listening to Germaine, I didn’t take notes again. Sigh. The main quote I remember from here that really intrigued me was “his plays are enough, he doesn't have to be a good man too.” She talked a lot of her fellow Cambridge scholars, including Stephen Greenblatt). Her main reason behind talking about him was that he pushes for Shakespeare to be a great man in general, as well as the greatest playwright this world has seen. However, Germaine destroys all these boundaries by asking the questions no one ever thinks to ask – did he really just leave his family to find his wealth? How did Anne Hathaway survive with the children alone? She must have had help – where did it come from? Did she have her own fortune?
By asking the questions and pushing these barriers, Germaine shows she’s not only a hugely significant feminist voice of the 20th Century, but also an extremely intelligent woman (not that she isn't without Shakespeare) with an incredibly strong way of making history shiver in its boots – simply by questioning it.

The last session I made it to was Harry Ricketts in conversation with Ingrid Horrocks, who also launched ‘Just Then’ at the launch on the Saturday. Ingrid had definitely prepared and knew exactly how to make this session flow. The session was called ‘Strange Meetings’ – named for Harry’s 2010 biography of World War I poets. I picked up a copy of this the day it came into the store – having studied WWI poets in sixth form at school, I picked up a passion for the subject. The book includes real meetings that happened between poets, as well as imagined ones created by Harry to create a stunning cross between fiction and non-fiction. The research and imagination that Harry put in to writing this book is really amazing.

Harry and 'Strange Meetings'.
(c) Writers and Readers Website
Biographies and autobiographies are easily my favourite genre of writing, there’s just something about that person allowing you to share their life that I just love. Harry said of them “the best biographies are when it seems the biographer is being haunted by the subject.” He is well known for his biography of Kipling and said he did the book because he felt he was growing up at the end of the ‘Kipling World’, being the 1940-50’s period. There’s always got to be a love-hate relationship going on with your subject, otherwise you’ll, apparently, just grow to hate them. And there are definitely things to love and hate when it comes to Kipling.

With ‘Strange Meetings’, it apparently took Harry three years to figure out the structure of the final product. As I mentioned, there are real meetings and imagined ones; one of the imagined ones is between Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen. Harry said it’s very likely that Thomas met Owen as they were at the same training camp, and so he wrote three versions of what may have happened – one that is likely, one less likely and one that is even less likely than the previous two but would’ve been the best scenario. The book is so well written, and after reading one in particular, I had to put it down for a little while due to its mildly depressing nature. But totally stunning book, if you're into the subject, I highly recommend looking in to it.

Harry is also known widely as a poet, and an audience member asked how he gets his poems to their final standard. His answer? “I just fiddle around with them…Muck around for ages. I have no idea where a poem is going to go when I start it.” I found that simply great – I’m sure no writer knows what they expect out of a piece when it starts, and that’s definitely the way things should be written. For example, when I started this blog I had no idea how it would go, or where I wanted it to go. Hopefully somewhere great in the end. As this session did; I walked out, headed straight for the signing desk and had Harry sign my copy of ‘Strange Meetings’. After prompting him my name, he looked up, remembered who I was and we had a nice chat. Still getting my network on. Excellent.

And then it all comes back to twitter - After Harry finished I tweeted: "Harry Ricketts: Making non-fiction writing and poetry look easy since (insert date here.)" It's true.
But then Helen tweeted this when W&R week finished: "Merging #writersandreadersnz themes: Writers help us find ourselves in the past & in universal stories. Just Write." I think Helen's is probably better than mine. She definitely summed up W&R Week 2012 super well in 140 characters.
My sweet collection from W&R 2012.
Writers and Readers Week 2012 was easily a highlight of the first few months of this year. It started, for me, through a chance meeting at some work drinks, which led to attending my first session, and things just snowballed from there. I feel this year is going to go well.

Watch this space.


  1. Hi there
    Thought you might be interested in a forthcoming event in Wellington on 24 April: Leipzig Reads... in Wellington! 3 NZ writers and a publisher talk to Anne Chamberlain (director, Writers & Readers Wk) - details below.

    Leipzig Reads... in Wellington!

    6pm, 24 April at Meow Bar (9 Edward Street)

    Join Elizabeth Knox, Jenny Pattrick, Damien Wilkins and Fergus Barrowman as they share their experiences of one of Europe’s premier literary events, the Leipzig Book Fair and Festival.

    Four Wellingtonians have been part of New Zealand’s advance party into Europe as the literary world gears up for this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair devoted to New Zealand books. You can hear more about them, their experiences and how they think New Zealand’s literature will be received at the world’s biggest literary event in October. Anne Chamberlain (Director, Writers & Readers Week) will chair.

    This event is part of the Temporary Literaturhaus, a project of the Goethe-Institut New Zealand, the New Zealand Book Council and the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation, with support from Creative New Zealand. For more details see

    1. Thanks so much, will definitely be attending!

  2. Great! And congratulations on the new job!