One Question Quiz
We're in a dimly-lit auditorium, looking at rows and rows of heads in the audience in front of us.
A candid shot from the Auckland Writers Festival (Photo: Patrick Reynolds)

BooksMay 17, 2021

All the best zingers (and the odd clanger) from the Auckland Writers Festival

We're in a dimly-lit auditorium, looking at rows and rows of heads in the audience in front of us.
A candid shot from the Auckland Writers Festival (Photo: Patrick Reynolds)

Farewell to the festival, for now, but hello to these 34 one-liners brought to you by our diligent scouts at the Aotea Centre. 

Emma Espiner: To my right, but actually quite far to my left … Anahera Gildea.

Anahera Gildea: [Māori] were being invited to publish as long as we had some kete and some pipi and some nannies in our stories. 

essa may ranapiri: It was really enriching, [writing] when you’re not having to deal with Pākehā eyes watching. (Looks over shoulder, cringes theatrically, laughs). Behind that curtain, apparently.

Nic Low: Please no long rambling statements with an upwards inflection at the end.

Kate Camp: If you want to write poetry but never read poetry then you’re just a bit of a dick. 

Kazuo Ishiguro: I’m not being modest. I’m wanting to be Homer.

CK Stead: I think if anyone my age gives advice to a young person the best thing they can do is ignore it. 

Charlotte Grimshaw: If they keep going on and on at me I’ll write volume two.

Kate Camp: Dad always used to say “Power corrupts, but absolute power is even better.” Bill Manhire: He was a lawyer, wasn’t he?

Witi Ihimaera on himself, Patricia Grace and Albert Wendt: We belong to the Empire Writes Back. 

Patricia Grace, asked why she wrote her memoir: I think it was suggested by my publisher.

Patricia Grace, asked what writing her memoir gave her: It gave me a big pain. I was bored, actually. I just didn’t enjoy talking about myself.

Patricia Grace, grinning, on her writing routine: These days I’m gone by lunchtime.

Selina Tusitala Marsh, via poem, to David Eggleton: You are an egg / In all respects / And we love you

Behrouz Boochani, on New Zealand’s offer to Australia that we would take 150 Manus Island refugees per year – an offer that has never been taken up: New Zealand actually has created a beautiful picture of itself, and is doing nothing, you know? New Zealand got credit for doing nothing. 

Charlotte Grimshaw: I’ve got to say I’ve never written a book before that started a fight in a bookstore.

Jared Savage: We have got to be careful with our defamation laws not to call someone a drug dealer when they are also a very wealthy successful business person.

Anahera Gildea: It’s not a super well-paid job out here whānau. 

Vincent O’Sullivan: You could ask some artists a question and go away and he’d still be answering it next Friday.

John Banks, or someone who looked and talked uncannily like John Banks: I never heard of Vincent O’Sullivan until I heard him talk yesterday!

Adam Dudding, with three minutes on the clock: In my script I have written “improvised outro”. Oh, Lord.

Pip Adam: Humans confuse me so much that often I feel like I’m writing aliens. A first contact novel. 

Kazuo Ishiguro: If I’d spent the last 40 years making bicycles you’d think I’d have an answer to the question “How do you make a bicycle?”

Jared Savage, on ultra-violent Mexican cartels: If that came here that would be a slightly terrifying proposition and I would stop writing books about it. 

Vincent O’Sullivan: There’s nothing like live informants to tell you the stories you can believe or not.

Kyle Mewburn: People often talk about transition as a butterfly, a metamorphosis – I don’t feel like a butterfly, I feel like a turtle, who’s been buried in the soil and you crack out of your shell and you drag yourself up to the top of the surface and you look out and say, “Oh, fuck”.

Dame Fiona Kidman: When you say women’s lives, you actually mean sex, too, don’t you? … My writing has changed. I don’t have quite the same experimental territory these days. (Meaningful eyebrow waggle).

Selina Tusitala Marsh: As the former, but secretly eternal, poet laureate…

Emma Espiner, rounding up the packed-out ‘tino rangatiratanga in publishing’ session: Thank you for coming, this is amazing. This tells the festival that they should have given us a bigger room.

Keep going!