The Auckland Writers’ Festival was a welcome return to the yearly queue of events Rutherford College students have the opportunity of attending. After a year of otherworldliness leading to its cancellation last year, through the ambient atmosphere it was evident that the people behind the “Writers Fest” exhaled a sigh of relief when the event could continue without the interruptions it faced last year.
Rutherford College attended Day Two of the Writers Festival on Wednesday, 12 May and the day’s lineup started with a pleasant surprise: New York Times best-selling author of ‘The Hate U Give’ – Angie Thomas. Due to the current border restrictions and the COVID-19 situation in the United States Angie ‘zoomed in’ from her home in Jackson, Mississippi, and was presented on a large screen. Being a part of the crowd you could feel the hype and the gasps as Angie appeared. Angie talked about the origins of ‘The Hate U Give’, and how the story was in reaction to the death of a young black man in her community. We also learned from Angie that one of her largest inspirations for her craft and style is ‘hip-hop’; Angie would often write her stories while listening to artists such as Tupac for inspiration. She also revealed some of her passions and hobbies outside of her esteemed writing career – she enjoys video games, food, and SHOES. She has a large shoe collection of more than 350 sneakers!! When question time hit there were various questions regarding the significance of ‘The Hate U Give’ and how her experiences as well as her skills enabled and compelled her to write the award-winning book which has resulted in unity and flack from all over America.
Other sessions included Dan Salmon – an award screen director and documentary maker, discussing his new novel release of ‘Neands’, a creation of aliens amidst the COVID regime. As well as poet Karlo Mila, who is an example of Pacific Islander excellence and us Pacific Islander students looked up to her, her wisdom and her ability to create stories through her experiences as a young afakasi girl in Palmerston North in the 1970’s.
I had the opportunity to attend two workshops at the “Writers’ Fest”, which were led by award-winning writers who had great skills in their craft whether that be poetry or scriptwriting. The poetry workshop was led by poet and storyteller Dominic Hoey, which despite having dyslexia was able to overcome it and tell rich stories using abstract nouns as one of his keys. He also mentioned being raw and honest when telling your story, as well as how the flow and pace of poems can be used to convey a powerful story. There was another workshop led by Bernard Beckett who is an author and has experience with scriptwriting and storytelling particularly. Bernard focused on how to effectively script write in order to maintain a balance of actions as well as spoken word, and we were tasked with writing our own fifteen-line script in order to practice our skill, as well as receive critique. One reason why I wanted to attend these workshops was to attain skill which I could then apply and utilise within English, and there are definitely a couple of things which I have learned that I can take away from both of them.
The “Writers’ Fest” was a great day and it was good to be back in that atmosphere after the cancellation of it last year, fifty Rutherfordians came along for the experience, and thanks to Mr Ferguson, Mrs Fraser and Ms Payne, it was seamless and the students including myself had highlights which they will keep with them from this particular event.