Attracting more than 1000 writers and thinkers from across the globe, the Edinburgh International Book Festival can lay claim to being the largest celebration of the written word in the world.

This year, New Zealand authors Rachael King, Courtney Sina Meredith, Hera Lindsay Bird and Sarah Laing attracted attention in line-up that included Zadie Smith, Ali Smith and Paul Auster - the latter two shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

The Guardian newspaper even namechecked Sina Meredith, declaring when the Man Booker's 12-strong 2017 longlist was announced: "Watch out for New Zealander Courtney Sina Meredith and her compatriots, who were out in force at the festival. Who knows, they may one day return as part of the Booker Dozen."

Recently returned from the Queensland Poetry Festival, where she was poet-in-residence, Sina Meredith acknowledges the comment is one of the highlights of her career.


"I read it when I was in Australia and I don't want to sound like a super nerdy book person, but it was definitely one of the best moments of my career," she says. "There are certain milestones you aim for - being in the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times are all up there."

At the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Sina Meredith shared her opinions with a diverse group of authors in the 21st Century Women discussion. Chaired by feminist author Laurie Penny, Argentinian novelist Gabriela Cabezon Camara and Iceland's Thordis Elva also participated in the freewheeling discussion about the ever-changing role of female writers. Elva's recent book South of Forgiveness, written with Australian Tom Stranger who raped her when she was 16, has stirred controversy.

As she noted during the discussion, Sina Meredith - of Samoan, Mangaian (Cook Islands) and Irish descent - is wary about being stereotyped as a Polynesian writer.

"During my first residency in Berlin in 2011, I was totally thrown in the deep end when I did a live BBC interview to about 40 million people worldwide and was asked to speak on behalf of all Asia/ Pacific people," she says.

"You learn very quickly that you have to be true to yourself and your story because you're often put in that situation... you have to stick to the things that you do know and what you believe in and try and add value and to connect the dots as much as you can."

Headed by WORD Christchurch programme director Rachael King, the NZ quartet was selected for the Edinburgh International Book Festival as much for their ability to deliver their work in person as for the quality of their writing.

King liaised closely with Book Festival directors Nick Barley and Jenny Niven to team Sina Meredith, Bird and Laing up with suitable authors from other nations.

"We've all got our different strengths and styles and just being from New Zealand isn't a good enough reason to put people together anymore," King says. "Where possible, we wanted to put them with local Scottish writers, so that we can build relationships between Scotland and New Zealand and the one thing that we're hoping to get out of this is collaboration.

"If the writers get on with the people they're paired with then there's actually some funding to commission some new work that could potentially be published in New Zealand."

With her own 2012 young adult novel Red Rocks centring around a selkie that washes up on a Wellington beach, King took part in a lively panel with prolific Edinburgh-based children's writer Lari Don where they discussed their mutual love of folklore.

She says Bird already has a strong profile in the United Kingdom so festival organisers were keen for her to attend and, with Penguin releasing Bird's self-titled debut collection in Britain in November, the festival was perfect timing for her.

Topping the bill at late night spoken word event Unbound, the Wellington poet more than held her own alongside 10-time slam champion Vanessa Kisuule and so-called "Poet Laureate of Twitter" Brian Bilston. She also took part in a more intimate event with British poet Hollie McNish, spending half an hour reading her irreverent poems to a sold-out room of 320 people.

"It's been really fun and I hope I didn't alienate too much of the audience," says Bird. "I like doing events at festivals, where you get to do readings as well. Panels are really interesting, but you often don't get to hear any of the authors' work, so I like being at a festival where you get to read things and hear work from other countries."

Appearing under the banner of the festival's comic book themed Stripped events, Laing discussed her work with Brighton-based writer and artist Hannah Berry.

"She's said that she's going to give up doing graphic novels because she can't make a living from it," says Laing. "I should tell her to come and live in New Zealand, where you're resigned to that fact."

While Laing's Mansfield & Me is a bestseller in New Zealand, it's proved to be a tougher sell internationally.

"It's a curious book," she admits. "The comics' audience is very strange, and the people who buy 2000 AD or superhero comics are not necessarily the same people who buy independent comics.

"My book is quite literary, which is something that the comics' audience isn't necessarily interested in. It would probably be a better fit at a literary publisher who has an interest in personal memoir than a traditional comics' publisher."

Laing also hosted a workshop on Katherine Mansfield at the festival, of interest to fans of the late New Zealand literary icon.

"A lot of people back home have said that it has been the first comic they've ever read because they approached it from a Katherine Mansfield perspective," says Laing. "They were quite surprised because they thought it would be hard to read but actually it was rather good and was easy to read as well.

"It's been striking how many people love Katherine Mansfield over here and feel that they have a connection to New Zealand through her. They've been really enthusiastic and have wanted to talk about her work."

King, Sina Meredith, Bird and Laing all made promising connections during their time in Edinburgh.

"Creative New Zealand held a reception for us and I've now got like a playing deck full of business cards," says Bird. "People have said if you ever come to the Hebrides please come and read, or if you come to London come and do a show. That's the nice thing about going to these kinds of festivals, as I now have about twenty people I can call if I ever come back to the UK and you just can't meet those people in New Zealand."

Meanwhile, the winner of this year's Man Booker Prize is announced on Tuesday, October 17. The short list is:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Hamish Hamilton)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (JM Originals)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Autumn by Ali Smith (Hamish Hamilton)