One is a landscape designer who writes books about gardening; the other is a district court judge who moonlights as a poet.

But both of them were speakers at the Whanganui Literary Festival over the weekend.

Along with Witi Ihimaera, Joe Bennett, Grant Smithies, Gregory O'Brien, Judith White, Christine Leunens and Geoff Thomas, Xanthe White and John Adams took to the stage to entertain and inform Wanganui booklovers - and even encourage them to sing.

Mr Adams, who read from his poetry during the festival lunch yesterday, had the audience singing for their lunch.


"I sing badly, so I decided everyone could just join in."

Mr Adams is a Waitakere District Court judge, who has published two books - a book of poetry entitled Briefcase and a book of short stories called Elbow Stories.

He said he had always enjoyed writing, but had only "allowed permitted myself to be a writer in the past eight years".

"Life was passing me by, and if I was going to be a writer, I needed to get it done."

At first he was inspired by the happenings of the court over which he presided, but in his recent work he's been more inspired by music, visual art and the human condition.

His current work-in-progress is a poetic and visual work on the fairy-tale character, Rumpelstiltskin.

"I see him as as a marker of a displaced person in society, especially an indigenous person," he said.

Ms White's area of expertise is more down to earth - literally. The author, television presenter and landscape designer's passion for her work is evident.

She said New Zealand was a great place to be a landscape designer because there were no centuries-old traditions imposed on designers.

"There's more freedom here," she said.

Ms White has a love for gardens with a bit of wildness about them.

"Gardening and landscape design used to be about imposing our will on a garden. But I prefer to have gardens where people and plants co-exist."

She has written two books - one about organic vegetable gardening and the other about landscape design.

Auckland-based Ms White said she had very much enjoyed the Whanganui Literary Festival. She had made the trip south with her mother, Judith, a fiction writer. "It's been really special to have the opportunity to come to the event together," she said.