Friday 30th November was a big night for Unity Books Wellington, and not only because of the annual staff Christmas meal/karaoke/soju session scheduled for later that night. Even more excitingly, the night saw Unity Books host the official launch of the programme for Writers, the writers segment of the NZ Festival of the Arts. 2020 will be the first year in which the Wellington writers festival is integrated into the full three week schedule of the Festival of the Arts and Unity Books is proud to be the official Bookseller to the festival. Festival organisers, authors and booksellers joined forces at the launch to speak passionately about some of the literary treats in store for festival goers in 2020.
First to address the crowd was Marnie Karmelita, Creative Director of the NZ Festival of the Arts. Marnie talked about her excitement at ‘exploding’ the Writers programme to the full festival length and praised the work of Writers Programme Manager Claire Mabey in putting together an incredible line up of speakers. She also took the chance to thank the many sponsors who help make the festival possible. One of the major sponsors of Writers is The University of Waikato, and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences Allison Kirkman joined in the praise of the festival line up. Allison spoke about the vibrant writing programme at the University and noted connections to Wellington including several graduates now being published in the city by Victoria University Press. Next up was Claire Mabey who gave a breathless run down of almost the entire Writers roster, highlights including the strong showing of women authors including Lindy West and Kirsten Ghodsee, and personal ‘heroes’ Witi Ihimaera and Elizabeth Knox. Claire was happy to see Writers returning to it’s traditional home in the Michael Fowler Center Renouf Foyer and noted that the expanded scheduling means there are no clashes in the programme this time around. Next up, two Wellington authors, Pip Adam and Brannavan Gnanalingam were invited to share some of their highlights of the festival. Pip pointed out the Joy of Queer Lit Salon (Sat 7th March) and read an excellent passage on the joys of bookselling from Andrea Lawlor’s Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl. Brannavan followed with a reading from The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma. Last to offer personal highlights were Unity Books International and NZ Buyers, Marcus Greville and Marion Castree. Marcus advocated for science writers Hannah Critchlow and Lisa Feldman Barrett in enthusiastic fashion and Marion shone the spotlight on Linda Burgess with a reading from her book Someone’s Wife.
The evening was rounded out beautifully with a lilting waiata from the festival staff.
We look forward to seeing you
Words & pictures John Duke
The Writers 2020 programme is live at the NZ Festival of the Arts website now. Pick up a printed programme at Unity Books.
Writers 2020 featured books are available in store and online now. The Unity Books pop-up shop will be open at the Michael Fowler Center during all Writers 2020 events.