Navigation for Writers and Readers Festivals

Sessions recorded at Writers and Readers Festivals in New Zealand

A selection of Radio New Zealand interviews with guests of the Auckland Writers Festival, 13-17 May 2015;  Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival, 5-10 May 2015,  and Word Christchurch Festival events during 2015.

David Walliams - Awful Auntie

David WalliamsDavid Walliams was the number one bestselling children’s author in Britain last year.

He has published seven books, including The Boy in the DressMr Stink, Gangsta Granny and Awful Auntie.

His stories often feature mean, stupid – and sometimes homicidal – adults and kids who find it hard to fit in.

He is also about busting stereotypes and exploring themes of acceptance and redemption.

David Walliams talks to Wallace Chapman.


Carol Ann Duffy: poems, wives and children

Duffy Carol AnnScottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy, DBE, FRSL is Professor of Contemporary Poetry and Creative Director of the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, and was appointed Britain's poet laureate in May 2009.

She is best known for her 1999 collection, The World’s Wife (Picador Classic), and she has written many other children’s books, and collections of poetry for children and adults including Mean Time (1993), Feminine Gospels (2002), Rapture (2005), New and Collected Poems for Children (2009), and The Bees (2011).

Carol Ann Duffy talks to Kim Hill.

Philip Ball: Science Writer

Invisible book coverPhilip Ball writes on all sorts of science-related topics, including theories of colour, invisibility, and music.

Eva Radich catches up with him ahead of his talks at the Auckland Writers Festival and for the Royal Society.

Auckland Writers Festival kicks off today...

The organisers of the Auckland Writers' Festival are pegging this year's event as the biggest yet.

Emily St John Mandel: Canadian Author

Emily St John Mandel

Emily St John Mandel's latest novel 'Station Eleven' recently won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for Science Fiction. She visits the Auckland Writers Festival this week, and tells Eva Radich about what's behind it.

Shakespeare scholar Peter Holland

Peter HollandUniversity of Notre Dame scholar Peter Holland is fascinated with William Shakespeare’s influence on modern culture. As part of the Auckland Writer's Festival; Peter is giving talks called Shakespearean Spinach, and The Role of The Critic. He's also taking Shakespearean Spinach to Dunedin.

Graphic Poetry

Rachel Fenton

We’ve all heard of graphic novels by now but what about graphic poetry?

Auckland writer Rachel J Fenton is an exponent of this new hybrid art form and will be presenting selections of her work at the Auckland Writers Festival.

She mixes watercolour paintings with poetic texts to create what she calls ‘epic graphic poems’ and tells Standing Room Only’s Justin Gregory that using images allows her greater freedom with her choice of words.

David Mitchell: extended web version

David Mitchell by Paul Stuart
David Mitchell. Photo (c) Paul Stuart.

David Mitchell is the author of six novels, two of which have been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

He lived and taught in Japan for many years, and now lives in Ireland. His most recent novel is The Bone Clocks (2014, Sceptre), and with his wife Keiko Yoshida he translated The Reason I Jump (2013, Hachette), written at the age of 13 by autistic child Naoki Higishida.

He talks to Kim Hill.

(During the interview, Kim and David discussed the poem Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota by James Wright, from his collection The Branch Will Not Break.)

David Mitchell will visit New Zealand for the 2015 Auckland Writers Festival (13-17 May), holding a (sold-out) workshop and speaking at two events, before heading south for a WORD Christchurch Autumn Season event (17 May).

Philip Ball: invisibility and curiosity

Ball Philip c Richard HaughtonScience writer Philip Ball was editor for Nature magazine for over 20 years, and is the author of a number of books, including Curiosity: How Science Became Interested in Everything (2013, Vintage), Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler (2014, Vintage), and Invisibility: the Dangerous Allure of the Unseen (Bodley Head).

Philip Ball talks to Kim Hill about the ways social media influences the ways invisibility - or anonymity - and morality interact; the learning which has seen 'magic' evolve into science, and the understanding that the more we know, the more we know we don't know... and how far away are we from having an invisibility cloak?

Philip Ball will visit New Zealand for three events at the 2015 Auckland Writers Festival (13-17 May), and give two Royal Society of New Zealand talks: Bright Earth: the Invention of Colour (21 May, Wellington), and Invisibility: a Cultural History (22 May, Christchurch)
Photo: Richard Haughton.

Peter Holland: Shakespeare expert

Peter HollandShakespeare

Shakespeare Scholar and Alice Griffin Fellow at the University of Auckland.

Natalie Haynes: Writer

Natalie Haynes

British writer coming to the Dunedin and Auckland Writers Festivals.

Tim Winton - Australian Classic

Tim WintonWriter Tim Winton has been named an Australian national treasure. His book, The Riders - now considered an Australian classic - was short-listed for the Man Booker prize for fiction, as was his 2002 book Dirt Music.

Tim also writes children's books and non-fiction, and his work has been adapted to opera and film.

Tim's latest novel is Eyrie, and he is coming to New Zealand for the Auckland Writers Festival.

Helen Macdonald: raptor rapture

MacDonald Helen c Marzena Pogorzaly b w

Helen Macdonald is an affiliate of the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge.

Her work as a professional falconer, and in raptor research and conservation projects across Eurasia, informed the writing of her best-selling and award-winning book, H is for Hawk (Vintage).

She talks to Kim Hill about loss, invisibility and hawking.

Helen Macdonald will visit New Zealand to speak at the 2015 Auckland Writers Festival (on 16 May), the Dunedin Writers Festival (on 8 May), and a WORD  Christchurch Autumn Season event (12 May). Photo: Marzena Pogorzaly

Ben Okri - London to Lagos

Okri BenNovelist and poet Ben Okri had his first novel, Flowers and Shadows, published when he was 21, and has devoted much of his work to describing the social and political chaos in Nigeria, where he was born.

His book The Famished Road won the Booker Prize and his most recent novel is called The Age of Magic.

He talks to Wallace Chapman about his multi-dimensional world, and his non-linear writing.

Xinran - Buy Me the Sky

XinranXinran is a journalist and author. She was a popular radio presenter in China – her show focused in the lives of women and she wrote about those experiences in The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices.

She talks to Wallace Chapman about her latest book Buy Me The Sky, an investigation of the impact of China’s one-child policy on those born after 1970.

Peter FitzSimons: Gallipoli

The Australian story
Australian trooper Huthwaite at the No 1 outpost, Gallipoli, Turkey. Negatives taken by Rev Ernest Northcroft Merrington, all relating to World War 1, chiefly Gallipoli. Ref: 1/2-077969-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Remote though the conflict was, so completely did it absorb the people’s energies, so completely concentrate and unify their effort, that it is possible for those who lived among the events to say that in those days Australia became fully conscious of itself as a nation. - The words of CEW Bean, author of the Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918

- the epigraph to Peter FitzSimons' book Gallipoli.

Journalist and historian Peter FitzSimons talks to Kim Hill about the Australian experience of the Gallipoli campaign.

Peter FitzSimons Credit Peter Morris

Peter FitzSimons is a journalist with The Sydney Morning Herald and Sun-Herald, a regular TV commentator, and former radio presenter and national representative rugby union player.

He is the author of over twenty books, and is Australia's biggest-selling non-fiction author of the last ten years.

His new book is Gallipoli (Random House, ISBN: 978-1-74166-659-5), and he will be speaking about that in a solo event on 15 May at the Auckland Writers Festival, and appearing in two group events (14 and 16 May).

Photo: Peter Morris

Gallipoli Peninsula - Here Australia became a nation.

Gallipoli Peninsula - Here Australia became a nation. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: Ref: 1/2-160142-F

The power struggle in the South China Sea

Hayton Bill photoBill Hayton is a long-time journalist/foreign correspondent with the BBC, and a large portion of his career has been reporting on events in South East Asia, the dissension and the toxic manoeuverings for access and control.

He's written two books; his first book, Vietnam: Rising Dragon looked at the human rights abuses, authoritian rule and the economic rise of Vietnam. His latest book is The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia. The South China Sea is one of the world's major trading routes and the energy resources of the sea are integral to China's foreign policy, causing  friction with nearby countries.

One of the flashpoints is between Vietnam and China over the Paracel Islands, both countries are claiming the energy-rich surrounding waters as their own.

Stephanie Johnson

Stephanie JohnsonStephanie Johnson is an award-winning novelist, poet, playwright and co-founder of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

She’s published eight novels, and is a past winner of the Montana Book Award for The Shag Incident.

She’s also won the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship in Menton, and the Bruce Mason Memorial Playwright's Award.

She has held the University of Auckland writers' residency and several of her novels have been long-listed for the Impac Awards in Dublin.

Her latest novel The Writers’ Festival is an entertaining look at the publishing industry and the politics and human comedy behind writers’ festivals. It follows on from The Writing Class, which she describes as a novel about writing.

From Vietnam to Canada: author Kim Thuy

Kim Thuy Man book coverKim Thúy is a Canadian writer whose family fled Saigon as boat people during the Vietnam War.

She has worked as a seamstress, interpreter, lawyer and restaurant owner.

Her autobiographical novel Ru was an award winning bestseller - drawing on her refugee past.

Her latest novel is Man

Kim Thúy will be speaking at the Auckland Writer's Festival in May.

Atul Gawande - Being Mortal

Health science writer Dr Atul Gawande is coming to New Zealand for two events in the 2015 Auckland Writers Festival. He talks to Wallace about health care, how elderly people are treated, and where our ideas about death have gone wrong. His bestselling books include The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right, Better and, most recently, Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine, and What Matters in the End.

Chef and author, Stephanie Alexander on her memoir, 'A Cook's Life'.

Stephanie AlexanderStephanie Alexander is regarded as one of Australia's great food authors and educators. She has set up several restaurants and is the author of the several cook books, including the best-selling The Cook's Companion which has sold more than half a million copies.

She set up the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation in 2004, which runs gardening and cooking programmes in primary schools. Penguin has just published her memoir, A Cooks Life, as she tells Kathryn Ryan.

She shares her recipe for her Mum's Red Devil Cake.

Stephanie Alexander is speaking at the Dunedin and Auckland writers festivals.

Photo: Stephanie Alexander, Credit: Blake Storey, Prime Creative Media

Ken Auletta : Google and the future

Auletta KenKen Auletta has contributed journalism and media criticism for The New Yorker since 1977, and has written the magazine’s Annals of Communications column since 1993.

He is the author of eleven books, most recently, Googled: The End of the World As We Know It (Virgin Books, 2009), which he discusses with Kim Hill.

Ken Auletta visits New Zealand for the 2015 Auckland Writers Festival (13-17 May), participating in the University of Auckland Festival Debate, Everyone has the Absolute Right to Offend (13 May).

Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom Amy Bloom is an American writer and psychotherapist. She is the author of three novels and three collections of short stories. Her latest novel is Lucky Us was named by the Washington Post  as one of the top 50 fiction books of last year.

The story is about two half sisters who meet for the first time in adolescence and follows their travels across America in the 1940s, as they seek for fame and fortune. Her two previous novels are Love Invents Us and Away.

She is the University Writer in Residence at Wesleyan University and she was previously a creative writing lecturer at Yale University.

Alexandra Bligh: Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival

Dunedin Writers Festival

In May, the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival will host some of the finest poets, authors and journalists from New Zealand and abroad. Chairperson Alexandra Bligh tells Eva what's on offer.

Vona Groarke - X

The symbol 'X' can mean many things – X marks the spot where the treasure is hidden, it's a kiss at the end of a text, a place to put your signature, a mathematical symbol.

Vona Groarke is a major voice in Irish poetry and her most recent collection is called X. She joins Wallace to unpick the meaning of X and to talk about the great legacy of Irish poets.

Vona Groarke is coming to New Zealand for the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival in May.
She will also be speaking at the Auckland Writer's Festival later that month.

Playing Favourites with Alan Cumming

Cumming Alan credit Kevin Garcia crop
Photo: Kevin Garcia.

Alan Cumming, OBE, is best known as an actor for stage and screen, and is a broadcaster, director, designer, producer and musician.

He is currently performing as the MC in Cabaret on Broadway, and continues to appear in the television series The Good Wife.

He recently published a family memoir, Not My Father's Son (Canongate).

Alan Cumming tells Kim Hill about the stunning summer when he uncovered the truth about his maternal grandfather's death in Malaysia after the second world war, and his estranged, abusive father made contact to tell Alan that he wasn't really his father. He also chooses some of his favorite music.

Alan Cumming will visit New Zealand for three sessions at the 2015 Auckland Writers Festival (13-17 May).

British journalist and author Damian Barr

Barr Damian c Jonathan RingDamian Barr's first book was Get it Together: A Guide to Surviving your Quarterlife Crisis. He interviewed 200 people in their twenties, showing that for most, their attitudes to work were their main source of anxiety.

He followed that up with his memoir, Maggie and Me about growing up gay in Thatcher's Britain. He talks to Kathryn Ryan.

Damian Barr is coming to New Zealand for the Dunedin Writers Festival and the Auckland Writers Festival.
Image © Jonathan Ring

The creation of Captain Underpants

Captain Underplants
Captain Underpants float in the Superheroes parade at Mardi Gras, New Orleans, 2015. Photo credit: Clare Gleeson.

Kids love Captain Underpants and here’s how author Dav Pilkey tells the story of how he came about: “I was sitting in my 2nd grade classroom when my teacher used the word “underwear”. Everyone around me started to laugh. My teacher got very angry and shouted, “UNDERWEAR IS NOT FUNNY!” We all laughed even harder. So I took out a piece of paper and drew a picture of a superhero with a red cape and underwear, and I named him Captain Underpants. He was a big hit with everybody in my classroom—except for my teacher, of course.”

Pilkey is heading to NZ for the Auckland Writers Festival and he joins Wallace Chapman to talk about turbo toilets, Ook and Gluk, George and Harold … and being banned.

Daniel Mendelsohn: six of six million

Mendelsohn Daniel Credit Matt MendelsohnDaniel Mendelsohn is an American memoirist, essayist, critic, columnist, and translator who is presently a Contributing Editor at Travel + Leisure.

He is the author of the international 2006 award-winning bestseller The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million, about growing up in a family haunted by the disappearance of relatives during the Holocaust, and his most recent book is Waiting for the Barbarians: Essays From the Classics to Pop Culture (2012, New York Review Books).

Daniel Mendelsohn talks to Kim Hill.

Daniel Mendelsohn will visit New Zealand for two sessions at the 2015 Auckland Writers Festival (13-17 May).

Bangladeshi-born novelist - Zia Haider Rahman

In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider RahmanZia Haider Rahman is a Bangladeshi-born novelist whose circuitous route to writing his first book included stints as a Wall Street banker and an international human rights lawyer.

His book In the Light of What We Know is a cerebral and poetic journey in which two former friends, both of whom who are South-Asian and become friends at University, reconnect twenty years later.

he is appearing at both the Dunedin and Auckland book festivals in May.

Zia Haider Rahman talks to Kathryn Ryan.

Anna Smaill: music and memory

AnnaSmaill colourAnna Smaill has a background in English literature and music performance.

Her collection of poetry, The Violinist in Spring, was published in 2006, and her debut novel, The Chimes (Sceptre), is set in a future Britain where the written word has been banned, and people’s memories are controlled by music.

Anna Smaill talks to Kim Hill about music and memory.

Atul Gawande: being mortal

Atul Gawande Credit Tim LlewellynSurgeon and writer Atul Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, a professor at Harvard Medical School, director of health system innovation centre Ariadne Labs, chairman of safe surgery non-profit Lifebox, a staff writer for The New Yorker, and author of three best-selling books.

His new book is Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End (Profile, ISBN: 978-1781253946) is about trying to support people to achieve their own priorities as the end of life approaches.

“The failure we have in medicine and in society is to recognise that people have priorities besides just living longer.”

"The core trouble that we face is not that we’re not having a good death, it’s that it's about having a great life until the very end."

Atul Gawande talks to Kim Hill.

Listen to Atul Gawande's 2012 interview with Kim Hill.

Photo by Tim Llewellan.

Nick Davies

Nick Davies author of Hack Attack at the Financial Times Business Book of the Year award at the V A CC Financial TimesDirty tricks - power, politics and vasts amounts of money. Britain's phone-hacking scandal has made for a compelling story.

In fact, George Clooney has just announced he's making a movie about it.

Simon Mercep talks to the Guardian journalist who started it all, Nick Davies.

He spent eight years uncovering the full extent of not only hacking at the News of the World, but how other British institutions were caught up in the practice.

Photo: Nick Davies, author of Hack Attack, at the Financial Times Business Book of the Year award 2014 at the V&A CC 2.0 Financial Times


Helen Garner: murder and men

HelenGarner Colour RestingAustralian author, screenwriter and journalist Helen Garner is known for her novels (Monkey Grip, The Children's Bach, The Spare Room) and non-fiction works, the latest of which is This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial (Text, ISBN: 9781922079206), in which she followed the case of murder accused Robert Farquharson for eight years through the courts.

Kim Hill also spoke to Helen Garner in 2008.

Philip Ball: beauty ≠ truth

British science writer, whose work appears in Nature, New Scientist and Prospect, among others. His most recent book is Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics Under Hitler, and he will discuss his article Beauty Truth, written for Aeon magazine.

Tim Winton

Eyrie by Tim WintonAcclaimed Australian author Tim Winton has twice been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for The Riders and Dirt Music. His book of short stories The Turning has been made into a film which is about to be released in New Zealand cinemas.

He talks with Kathryn Ryan about writing, his love of western Australia, and his latest novel Eyrie - the story of Tom Keely, who is divorced, unemployed and living in a seedy flat at the top of a Fremantle high-rise block.

Nick Davies on Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks

The Guardian investigative journalist Nick Davies broke the phone hacking scandal that had been covered up for years by Rupert Murdoch's News International, and his work saw the Guardian, alongside The New York Times, become the main news agency to publish excerpts from thousands of classified documents from US military servers.

The cables were leaked by Bradley Manning, who was last month given a 35-year jail term for passing the files to WikiLeaks

Nick Davies talks to Kathryn Ryan.

David Mitchell

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida David MitchellAward-winning British novelist David Mitchell and his Japanese wife Keiko Yoshida have an autistic son.

They've translated and had published a book by written by a Japanese autistic 13-year-old, Naoki Higashida.

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism is intended to demystify the behaviour of autistic children for a 'neurotypical' audience and was first spotted online by Keiko Yoshida.

Kathryn Ryan asks David Mitchell about the project.

David Walliams

RatBurger by David WalliamsWhile many grown ups would recognise David Walliams from his television comedies such as Little Britain and Come Fly with Me, he is also a successful children's author.

His writing, which has been compared with that of Roald Dahl, has won him hordes of young fans. His latest book is entitled 'Ratburger', and it's about a girl called Zoe and her pet rat.

Lynn Freeman asks David Walliams about his duel careers, and what he was like when he was the same age as many of the characters in his books.

David Mitchell: writing and stammering

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David MitchellBritish novelist, and patron of the British Stammering Association David Mitchell's latest book is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

Kim Hill talks to David Mitchell.

Anthony Horowitz

Anthony Horowitz jpgProlific British author Anthony Horowitz's series for children and teenagers The Power of Five, Alex Rider and The Diamond Brothers, have been international hits.

He has also written for many successful television series, including Midsomer Murders and is the creator and writer of Foyles War.

He talks to Kathryn Ryan about his upper class upbringing - being raised by nannies, and being sent to boarding school at the age of eight, an experience he describes as brutal.

Atul Gawande

The Checklist ManifestoSurgeon and writer Atul Gawande is a staff member of Brigham and Women's Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and the New Yorker magazine, and is director of the World Health Organisation's Global Challenge for Safer Surgical Care.

He was editor of The Best American Science Writing 2006, and is the author of Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science (2002), Better: A Surgeon's Notes On Performance (2007), and the 2009 best-seller The Checklist Manifesto (Profile Books)

Atul Gawande talks to Kim Hill.

Helen Garner: on Death and Friendship

The Spare Room by Helen GarnerAustralian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist Helen Garner first came to prominence in 1997 with her novel Monkey Grip (later adapted to a feature film), and gained widespread acclaim for her 1982 short novel, The Children's Bach.

She is also the author of a number of non-fiction books including The First Stone: Some Questions about Sex and Power, an account of a 1992 sexual harassment scandal at Ormond College, and Joe Cinque's Consolation from 2004, about the manslaughter of a Canberra engineer.

Her new book, her first for 15 years, is The Spare Room (published by Text), a fictional treatment of caring for a dying cancer patient.

Kim Hill talks to Helen Garner about death and friendship.

David Mitchell

Black Swan Green by David MitchellBritish novelist David Mitchell was described by TIME magazine in May 2007 as one of the 100 "people who shape our world".

His first book, the multi-perspective, multi-city Ghostwritten, was published in 1999.

Since then he has written two Booker Prize-nominated novels, number9dream and Cloud Atlas. His latest book is Black Swan Green, published in 2006.

David Mitchell lives in Cork, Ireland, from where he talks to Kim Hill.

(All books mentioned published by Sceptre)