Hosted at the Aotea Centre, the day was spent soaking up stories, from both newly published books and the writers themselves. Firstly, New Zealand science fiction writer, J. A. Pawley, outlined her journey from passionate young writer to being picked up by an international publishing house.
Sher Khan Mazari (Year 13, St John’s) writes, “From her humble beginnings as a shy student to a fully-fledged writer by the age of twenty-eight, Pawley currently has a series being published, Generation Icarus, and many more novels to follow. She described her struggles; especially the traumatic experience of publishing after being conned once before, followed by the excitement of online publishing. She inspired many young writers. I personally bought a book, eager to see what she has in store for her audience.”
Awarded an MBE for services to literature in 2008, Alex Wheatle, the so called ‘Brixton Bard’ presented next. The energy and honesty with which he spoke inspired the entire hall of onlookers. Wheatle enlightened us to the trials and dangers of growing up with a split family in an area full of music, crime, and vibrant culture, he read alluring extracts from his novels Liccle Bit (2015) and Straight Outta Cronghton (2017). He detailed his time in jail where he was driven to remedy his past folly of shunning education. Wheatle became inspired not just to read all he could, but to start writing. His works highlight the importance of everyone having a voice, and the necessity of diverse literature.
While some of our senior Writing Club members attended a specialised workshop on journalism, hosted by Sasha Borissenko, the fast-paced day continued for the rest. Oliver Hawkins-Roberts (Year 10, Marsden) offers a perspective on A.S. King, the first of the afternoon sessions:
“More free spirit than royal, King is an American writer who presented at the Auckland Writer’s Festival this year. A.S. King discovered writing in high school. King’s English teacher assigned the class to write from someone else's point of view. King chose to write her story about a can of succotash (corn and beans). Why? King explained that at the time she felt like that can - unwanted and lonely. The first line in the story was “Excluding me, the supermarket shelves were empty; in a blizzard.” Writing about that can of succotash was a metaphor for her life and it changed her path. She realised the value of not letting what other people say and think define you.”
The positivity was overflowing during and after this event. Our attention was brought back a little closer to home with the final speaker, Victor Rodger, winner of four Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. Born of Samoan and Scottish descent, Rodger is an award-winning playwright and scriptwriter who has worked on everything from Shortland Street to his play Sons. He spoke of the difficulties involved in negotiating the perils of an absent parent.
It was a sobering and thought-provoking end to the day, reminding us to be grateful for those gifts and privileges to which Bradbury alludes.
By English teacher Melyssa Banham