LitCrawl is almost here, which means it's time to brush off your reading glasses and put on some good walking shoes. 'What is LitCrawl?' I hear you ask, scratching your head?
Well, if you somehow haven't heard about this epic event you're in for a treat. LitCrawl 2017 is a series of events that span the weekend over 11th and 12th November. People can stroll through the city of Wellington and can attend a huge range of events that are aimed at readers and writers from all WALKS of life *pardon the pun*. The great thing about LitCrawl is that the events are all over, so you don't have to stay in one place for ages.
There are so many events to chose from that you can go along to, many of them under $20, that I can't possibly list them all here. Make sure you look at the full programme here. The most important thing to know about LitCrawl isn't just about fancy literary types. It is actually for everyone - and they're trying to shake off the 'English BA's Only' stereotype from how people see writing and literature. So somehow, of course, I've wormed my way in.
I do have to highlight two events I am part of, 'True Stories Told Live' and 'Sasha and Lucy Escape The Law' (an agony aunt session with myself and Sasha Borrissenko). The latter event is free so make sure that if you want sage advice and life skilz to any problem scenario or any weighty pondering you might need to get sorted that you send your questions and problems in advance to email@example.com with 'Agony Aunt' as the subject line. All submissions will remain confidential unless you state otherwise.
True Stories Told Live is a bit more serious. I am one of Six New Zealanders telling a story in response to this year’s theme, Quiet Revolutions. Unscripted, unsupported by notes or powerpoints or cue cards, this is storytelling in its purest form - from the heart. Apart from myself, the event features Makerita Urale, Witi Ihimaera, Hemi Kelly, Renèe, Rajorshi Chakraborti and Eamonn Marra and is supported by the New Zealand Book Council. Come to Wellington City Library at 6pm - 6:45pm on Saturday 11 November. I will definitely get a big red heat rash on my chest from nerves so you can have fun putting that on Instagram Stories and tagging me.
Why am I putting myself through all this? Well, maybe I am nuts but I'm doing it mainly because writing is one of the most important things to me and LitCrawl is obviously all about embracing reading and writing. Yes, we watch lots of videos now, and VR is just around the corner, but I still think writing is so important in an internet age. While I might be seen as 'not a real writer' because I blog, I would say that getting myself writing again is the most important thing I ever have done for myself, personally.
At school, I was a total book nerd - I was even made 'Library Prefect!!' So I always wanted to be a writer but didn't think it was realistic. Now, it makes me so happy to be able to write and publish immediately, no matter what. I can't say how much that I love that I live in a time in history which permits that and I don't want to take it for granted. Furthermore, I am a woman writing - something that 150 years ago would still be somewhat shocking. So I write because I know that it is a blessing to have lucked out on history - taking up the opportunity to share ideas freely, all across the world. We shouldn't take it for granted.
ANYWAY - back to LitCrawl. Of course, we can't simply revel in 'The Residents' themed events all LitCrawl. There is so much more to see! One event I think looks dope is 'Wild', a book reading with Harriet McKnight at 6pm on the same night, the young author of Rain Birds. Along with Paul Stanley Ward, Bill Nelson, John Summers, Richard Hall, and Laura Williamson, Harriet is reading her work exploring the wilderness and the reflections that come from adventuring beyond the confines of city life, and inhabiting a non-human world. The event is right in town, at Bicycle Junction, so very central to all the goings on in Wellington. I was lucky enough to get to ask Harriet some questions about her writing which she's kindly answered below:
What is Harriet? Describe yourself in 30 words or less
I was born in the dusty bush outside Canberra and moved to the South Coast of NSW for my teenage years before finding I felt most at home in the tropical heat of Darwin. Someone described me as ‘steely’ recently, which I like.
How did you start writing?
My mother is the reason I started. She introduced me to words and stories and encouraged my early attempts at creating my own books by stapling pieces of paper together. I think we all have a pivotal person in our history who first fuelled the fire for words and for me it was her.
After high school I took a little detour from writing. I tried a couple of other things out, tried to be a musician for a while and then found myself drawn back to stories again. Someone said to me once that with creative careers you have to choose the one that you can tolerate the shitter aspects of because it will kill the joy you have for the art otherwise. I couldn’t tolerate those in music but I can somewhat in writing.
When I began my writing degree I think was the start of me taking it seriously and beginning a proper practice.
Tell me about your new book? How do you write?
Rain Birds is set in remote East Gippsland and follows two parallel stories. The first tells of Pina, a woman caring for her husband after his early onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As his disease progresses, Pina searches for indications that he is still tied to the present and becomes convinced he is responsive to a flock of black cockatoos that appear around their house. The second story tells of Arianna, a conservation biologist who is running a reintroduction program of threatened black cockatoos in the area when the birds begin to leave their designated nesting area.
I think I write in a bit of a stop-start manner. I think about the idea for a long time and do preliminary research, then I’ll have an attack of momentum and write a whole bunch before hitting a point where I need to either go back and think or research some more before being able to continue. So it’s not always a comfortable process.
But research is really important to me. I sometimes think they only reason I write is that it gives me an excuse to spend heaps of time finding out about things I want to find out about! But I suppose I’m not unique in that sense – writing and art is often born out of curiosity and attempting to process the world. I was lucky with Rain Birds that some of the stories came from my family’s experience with dementia so a lot of my research was having chats with my mum. But I think there is a responsibility that comes with trying to portray things correctly. We’re in a privileged position of having people read our words and experiencing things through our tellings.
What is a memory?
My grandmother becoming emotional about our elderly dog and spending hours walking her gently around the yard when we had all become frustrated at how slow she’d become. My grandmother developed Alzheimer’s not long afterwards though we wouldn’t understand those early signs either until later.
What would your 5 desert island discs be and why, and what would be the one luxury you’d take with you and why (I've been listening to lots of Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs lately)?
Crowded House, The Very Very Best of Crowded House – was the first ever CD that I owned. I watched their ‘Farewell to the World’ concert at the Sydney Opera House on the television with my mum when I was nine and still remember it.
Ani DiFranco’s first album, Ani Difranco – it was a very important album for me during the year I had between high school and uni. At a time when I was really looking for a way to position myself as a young woman in the world, this album became almost a map on how to be brave with telling your experience and creating art. Her lyric-writing is one of the major influences on my writing and storytelling.
Ainslie Wills, You go your way, I’ll go mine – is one of my all-time favourite albums.
Coloured Stone, Best Of Coloured Stone – I came to this one late but it’s a beauty. For me, it captures my move to the Northern Territory because even though the band is from South Australia, their songs are often played on the local Aboriginal radio station in Darwin and still broker such a big, joyful reactions from people when they hear them.
Julianna Barwick, Nepenthe – was the album I had playing non-stop during writing the second draft of my novel. I’ve never been able to write while listening to music with lyrics, the words are too distracting. But Julianna’s work, and particularly this album, embodied the mood I was trying to capture.
The luxury I would take would be my Sodastream. I feel a bit gross admitting to it but I just bought one and because I live in Darwin and it’s moving into the unbearably hot Wet season, it’s become something I can’t live without.