I arrived in Christchurch on Friday morning August 26th and didn’t stop to draw breath until I flew home Sunday afternoon August 28th. Christchurch is where I was born and grew up and lived until 4 years ago. So I had a LOT of family and friends to catch up with between festival events. Some of the great treats of the trip were the sudden spontaneous catch-ups, like dinner with award winning Romance writer, Becky Watts before the Word Christchurch Writers & Readers Festival Opening Night Gala at the Isaac Theatre Royal. Becky and I talked ourselves blue in the face before dashing into town for the Gala.
Here’s a pic of a my fancy festival pack.
The incredible Rachael King welcomed us and handed over to Kim Hill to introduce the 6 writers/artists/performers who gave the packed out theatre a selection of readings, poems, stories & songs to set the tone for the weekend. The atmosphere was electric. The highlight of the evening was hearing Ivan Coyote whose performance prose was utterly captivating and heartwarming. The Gala was followed by a welcoming party for the writers participating in the festival. It was a joy to meet Stephen Daisley, winner of the Ockham, New Zealand Book of the Year Award – such a sweet, kind and down to earth man. I also had a lovely chat with Elizabeth Knox (my favourite NZ author!) and caught up with the delightful Tania Roxborough, author of the popular Banquo’s Son series.
Saturday morning, I enjoyed another spontaneous meet-up over breakfast with award winning fantasy author, Helen Lowe. It was a delight to meet Helen who I have chatted with on Twitter but never met in real life before. We went straight from breakfast to hear the incredible David Levithan deliver the Margaret Mahy Memorial Lecture at the new creative arts centre, The Piano. David spoke with great eloquence and humanity about the importance of giving voice to the stories/narratives that haven’t been told.
Straight after this it was time for my panel event “Teens In Peril” with Ted Dawe, Jane Higgins and Anna MacKenzie. It was a reading session and a great treat to hear from each of these authors. I especially enjoyed meeting Ted and hearing his feelings about censorship and the need for authenticity. Wonderful children’s librarian, Zac McCallum convened the session to a packed out room. I was delighted to see so many faithful #SparkArmy readers in the audience. Afterwards we had a signing session and, holy moly, my queue went down the hallway! Shield sold out, which is wonderful, but I felt so sad for the people who missed out on picking up an early release copy. However, it was great fun signing, taking selfies, snatching hugs and giving away freebies. I wish I had taken more photos!
Freebies for the signing table.
Friends and a loooong queue.
So lovely to finally meet lovely book blogger, Ella!
Friends, Spark Army soldier Lily (and my dad photobombing the background!)
Some of the hardcore #SparkArmy faithful, Abbie, Hannah and friends!
The rapidly depleting stack of Shield books at the UBS Bookshop stand (they had more boxes under the table).
Saturday afternoon I visited bookshops around the city signing stock and chatting to booksellers. Great signed stacks of Spark and Stray can be found at Northlands Paper Plus & Whitcoulls and South City Whitcoulls. It was so great to meet Rachel at Scorpio Books and Desna Wallace, pictured below, author, bookseller and librarian at The Original Children’s Bookshop. Desna wrote a wonderful blog about our meetup which you can read here.
Saturday night I had the joy of catching up with some of my closest girlfriends over dinner then Sunday brunch with some of my extended family before flying home exhausted but happy in the afternoon.
My sincere thanks and gratitude to Rachael King and WORD Christchurch for inviting me to be a part of such a wonderful event and to my incredible publisher Walker Books Australia for supporting my attendance.