Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 19, 2020

Auckland Writers Festival: free online broadcasts

Round about this time last year I was gadding about in New Zealand leading up to the Auckland Writers Festival, about which I blogged at length.  This year, it was of course cancelled, but the organisers had a nimble response and the result is the Auckland Writers’ Festival Winter Series, in which you can view (for free) some very interesting sessions conducted digitally.  Click the YouTube links on the relevant week.

Week 1 was hosted by Paula Morris, (author of Rangatira, which I reviewed here) and it featured:

  • actor and writer Barbara Ewing with her about-to-be-published memoir One Minute Crying Time.  I have a copy of The Trespass, from 2001 on my TBR;
  • former Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard with Economists At War, How a Handful of Economists Helped Win and Lose the World Wars (which was surprisingly interesting), and
  • Booker Prize joint winner Bernardine Evaristo on Girl, Woman, Other (on my TBR) who spoke vividly about being a woman of colour in contemporary Britain.

Week 2 was also hosted by Paula Morris, and featured

  • Philippe Sands, a lawyer, whose book East West Street  I read last year from London, and whose most recent book is The Ratline: Love, Lies and Justice on the Trail of a Nazi Fugitive. It sounds like a most interesting book because it’s an account of the daily life of a senior Nazi and post-war fugitive, and of his wife. Sands drew on an archive of family letters and diaries, and made contact with Wächter’s youngest son, who continues to believe his father was a good man.  Morris says it reads like a thriller, so perhaps it might be made into a film one day.
  • Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women (USA), reviewed by Kate at Books are My Favourite and Best.  It’s an important book, and it was interesting to hear Taddeo talk about it, but it’s not one I plan to read.
  • Kiwi poet Ian Wedde, talking about his novel The Reed Warbler, (which has the most gorgeous cover). I’m tempted by this one but it’s not listed at Goodreads or available at Fishpond so perhaps its publication has been delayed.  I’ve emailed The Women’s Bookshop in NZ to see if they have stock and will deliver to Australia.

Week 3, again hosted by Paula Morris,  featured

  • Becky Manawatu discussing Auē, which has just won the Ockham Acorn Prize and also the Best First Book Award.  Becky is the sixth Maori to win this major award.  I’ve had this book on reserve at the library since before the lockdown…
  • Robert Macfarlane, from Cambridge with Underland: A Deep Time Journey which won England’s major environment writing prize.  He talked about how he was fascinated by what’s underneath us, and how people exploit what’s under the ground, go adventuring under there (including in the French catacombs) sounds, and how Nature in recent years has shown us with one natural disaster after another that we do not control it; and
  • Chanel Miller on Know My Name.  This is an important book about sexual assault, but confronting to read.

The fourth in this Winter series will be on next week: this info is from their website.


DEBORAH EISENBERG (United States) A master of the short story – with the requisite skills of observation, pacing, and economy – Deborah Eisenberg is dubbed a “chronicler of American insanity” by The New York Times. Her five collections include the recent Your Duck is My Duck. She teaches writing at New York’s Columbia University.

WALLACE SHAWN (United States) Writer and actor Wallace Shawn’s plays have been performed at New York’s Public Theater and the National Theatre in London with The Designated Mourner, The Fever and Marie and Bruce also made into films. Shawn’s many acting credits include Toy Story, The Princess Bride, Manhattan and My Dinner with Andre.

CAROLINE BARRON (Aotearoa New Zealand) Caroline Barron is a writer, manuscript assessor, book reviewer, and trustee of the Michael King Writers Centre. She has a master’s in creative writing from The University of Auckland, and won a NZ Society of Authors Complete MS award for her memoir Ripiro Beach: A Memoir of Life After Near Death.

Watch the livestream, at 9-10am each Sunday:

Or catch up later:


  1. These are available for viewing in Canada, so hopefully others here from other places will also be able to access them. (My YT list for bookish materials seems as endless as my TBR, but I do have big ideas.) Thanks for sharing these links!


    • I’m glad to hear that the sessions are accessible from overseas, I wasn’t quite sure, and I know how frustrating it is when they’re blocked. (I’m forever hearing about beaut things on the BBC but can’t see them unless I wait an eternity till we can buy them.)


  2. I think it’s wonderful how these festivals are switching online – the Hay Festival has done so over here, and although I’ve never been able to attend in person, I *am* going to be able to go virtually, which is lovely. One of the speakers will be Philippe Sands, and I listened to a fascinating podcast by him here:


    • Thanks for that link, it’s just gone midnight here and I must to get to bed because I have tradesmen arriving at the crack of dawn tomorrow, so I’ll listen to it in the morning.
      It will be very nice if we can access the Hay festival too! Please keep me posted if it’s on open access.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Will do! At the moment you have to register for a place for the live slots, but I think there’s a Hay Player on their site where things turn up later, so you might be able to access it there. Goodnight! :D


      • And here’s another one!


        • Like

          • Thank you…. what a feast of listening!
            (There go the plans to do the dusting…)


    • I listened to it today, what an amazing story it must be. I am sorely tempted by this one…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too! I watched the Charlestone link I sent you last night, which does cover much of the same ground, but I have his other book to read which I think I will do first, and wait to see if the new one turns up in the local library (when it eventually opens again)


        • I was really impressed by East West Street: it could have been a very dry topic but he writes so well…

          Liked by 1 person

  3. A moment of serendipity this morning when reading your post. Yesterday, I had a zoom call with my old book club in Switzerland. We discussed Girl, Woman, Other so of course I went straight to the interview where Evaristo answered some of the questions we had! Thank you.


    • That *is* nice! Did your group like the book?


      • Yes! We all did. An interesting comment from a few was that they read African American authors but not African/Caribbean British authors. And some of those commenters were Brits! In her interview she said she wanted to write a range of characters for this reason – not much fiction around for people with these backgrounds. I just bought her first novel – Lara.


  4. […] against Humanity, Philippe Sands was featured at the (digital) Auckland Writers Festival (see here), but at that event he was one of three authors in a one hour session.  In this hour-long MJBW […]


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