Queenstown Writers Festival back with in-between year treat

Sep 14, 2023

The organisers behind the biennial Queenstown Writers Festival couldn't resist delivering a literary treat on their in-between year.

A mini-festival as been put together for November, and the initial line-up of speakers released today won't disappoint book lovers.

In a media release today, the festival team says to "expect the mysterious, the morbid, and insights into the deeply personal act of memoir writing" at the two-day festival, to be held again at Frankton's Te Atamira. 

They've brought together a group of acclaimed writers from across Aotearoa New Zealand to discuss bold ideas and their latest literary works, on Saturday, November 11 and Sunday, November 12.

On the festival agenda are writing workshops on memoir and screenwriting with two doyennes of New Zealand storytelling, Dame Gaylene Preston and Barbara Else.

Dame Preston, a writer, producer and director, will be headlining the festival, sharing her story as a trail-blazing pioneer of New Zealand’s film industry in her recent memoir Gaylene’s Take.

She will discuss her life and works with local filmmaker Holly Wallace in addition to holding a screenwriting workshop with a small number of participants helping take stories from their imagination to the screen. 

Also in attendance will be award-winning filmmaker Michael Bennett (Ngāti Pikiao, Ngāti Whakaue), who took the publishing world by storm with his début novel, the crime thriller, Better the Blood.

A writer of wide-reaching ability and a fighter against institutionalised racism and injustice, he played a key role in having Teina Pora’s wrongful conviction for the 1992 rape and murder of Susan Burdett overturned. 

Former journalist and columnist Megan Nicol Reedwill also take the stage, in a conversation with Queenstown author Jane Bloomfield. In her debut novel One of Those Mothers she has channelled her delight in sending up the middle classes, and writing about the absurdity and mundanity of modern parental concerns.

Then there's Barbara Else, one of Aotearoa's literary greats whose beautifully published memoir Laughing at the Dark, tells her tale of finding the courage to break free of societal constraints. She will speak on writing memoirs, at Arrowtown Lifestyle Village, ahead of an on-stage conversation with Ms Reed.

The last of the freshly announced line-up is Cristina Sanders, who reimagined the sinking of one of New Zealand’s most famous shipwrecks - the General Grant - and the lives of 15 survivors on the sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands, in Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant. She shares the stage with Wānaka businessman Bill Day, who spent 35 years and millions of dollars on five unsuccessful attempts to recover the General Grant and its golden treasure.

Also, an all-new segment, 'On Arrival: The Sampler Session', where the floor will be open to some of Queenstown’s own talented writers to share work in a sampler session built around a theme of arrival - physical arrivals and those that happen inwardly.

Festival chair Tanya Surrey says the trust aims to provide an eclectic mix in the programme and hopes to see many local readers and writers at events. 

“We are also pleased to be providing an opportunity for some of our up and coming local writers to take the stage.”

Tickets for the 2023 Queenstown Writers Festival are available online via Eventfinda, with early-bird prices available until October 14.

More information is available on the festival website at qtwritersfestival.nz or on its Facebook page.

Main image: Dame Gaylene Preston, a writer, producer and director, will be headlining the festival, sharing her story as a trail-blazing pioneer of New Zealand’s film industry in her recent memoir 'Gaylene’s Take'.


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