Being writers ourselves, we could wax lyrical about how much we look forward to the Auckland Writers Festival line-up every year. And truthfully, our local literary festival is one of the best, bringing some of the most epic writers to our shores year after year. The 2023 Auckland Writers Festival programme sees a return to the original, 100 percent in-person format, hosting more than 160 live events spanning six days in late May. But with such a stacked line-up, including a raft of esteemed international figures to compliment our local talents, we have cherry-picked this year’s highlights so you can book your space — STAT.
On Never Giving Up: Bernadine Evaristo
Thanks partly to the unprecedented success of Girl, Woman, Other, Bernardine Evaristo has swiftly become a household name that defies genre or reader. Often joking that she is an ‘overnight success four decades in the making’, the Booker Prize winner lands on our shores to share her memoir Manifesto: On Never Giving Up. In conversation with Paula Morris, Evaristo will discuss the depth and breadth of her career and how she has used her newfound notoriety to champion others’ creative work and rights, especially writers of colour.
Saturday the 20th of May, 5.30pm — 6.30pm
Kim Hill in Conversation with Double Pulitzer Prize-Winning Colson Whitehead
Colson Whitehead, a two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, is a rare talent in the literary world. He is the only writer to receive consecutive awards for his thought-provoking works, including his best-selling novels, The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys., widely acclaimed for their unflinching portrayal of racial injustice, delivered with a biting wit that can only be described as lived. His latest novel, Harlem Shuffle, is the first in a trilogy set against the backdrop of the civil rights era, exploring the themes of crime and heist. In conversation with the always-probing Kim Hill, Whitehead will delve into what inspires him to create his art, shedding light on his creative process and the motivation behind his exceptional storytelling.
Friday the 19th of May, 8.30pm — 9.30pm
Birnam Wood: Eleanor Catton
Arguably one of our most brilliant literary exports, having gained global recognition for the genre-bending epic The Luminaries, Eleanor Catton’s latest novel has already been released to great acclaim — and now she brings it to the 2023 Auckland Writers Festival to talk with Noelle McCarthy about what compelled her to write this epic romp through our national parks, with rare earth mining, deep surveillance, guerrilla gardening and so much more. Catton will also join Bernardine Evaristo and Shehan Karunatilaka for a separate panel discussion on the complexities of winning The Booker Prize.
Saturday the 20th of May, 7pm — 8pm
Life Beyond The Clock: Jenny Odell
Jenny Odell, acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, has become an essential voice in our modern society. Her fiercely intelligent and original approach confronts the relentless demands on our time and focus, dismantling the pervasive cult of efficiency. Her latest book, Saving Time: Discovering a Life Beyond the Clock, delves deeply into the fundamental structure of our society, revealing that the clock we live by is designed for profit, not people. This intimate discussion promises to be a thought-provoking exploration of the cultural moment in which we find ourselves, with attendance essential for any with a semblance of social curiosity.
Tuesday the 16th of May, 8.30pm — 9.30pm
Bonus Event: The Art of Noticing: A Masterclass with Jenny Odell. This masterclass offers an opportunity for a select few to learn from the inimitable mind of Odell — who credits much of her literary mastery to the subtle act of observation. Tickets and more information are available here.
Taking over the inner-city precinct, here, performers, poets and writers of all creeds converge for a night-long affair of readings, declarations and live storytelling to reclaim the land they stand on. Festival organisers describe this as one of their favourite events, year after year. The 15-minute showcases facilitate a spirited and constantly moving experience, where local literary minds are finally given a soapbox to stand upon — and we wait in great anticipation for what they have to say.
Friday the 19th of May, 6.15pm — 7.45am