The 10th Whanganui Literary Festival is set to return with a lineup of celebrated authors ready for the “intimate and boutique” festival.
Festival founder Joan Rosier-Jones said 2023 marked nearly 20 years of the biennial literary festival.
“It’s been absolutely incredible to watch it grow from this very small thing into what it’s become today.”
New Zealand Poet Laureate Chris Tse and esteemed writer Witi Ihimaera are some of the star-studded guests attending this year.
The festival will kick off on September 20 with the launch of Desmond Bovey’s new illustrated book Tongariro National Park: An Artist’s Field Guide, featuring original, vivid illustrations of the landscape.
Authors Stephanie Johnson and Fiona Sussman will offer individual talks on their latest books Kind and The Doctor’s Wife, as well as a joint lecture on how to develop ideas for novels.
Rosier-Jones said selecting the authors for this year’s festival was no easy task.
“We look carefully at what publishers are releasing because we like to invite authors who are bringing out new books, and we’re also in contact with book clubs and groups around Whanganui to discover who they would like to see.”
Investigative journalist Stephen Davis will discuss disinformation and Operation Trojan Horse, and New Zealand historian Jock Philips will share ideas from his latest book A History of New Zealand in 100 Objects.
Rosier-Jones said there were always returning visitors to the festival and part of its appeal lay in the relaxed and close-knit interactions visitors could have with authors.
“At larger writers’ festivals, the author on the stage might be as big as your thumb if you’re sitting up the back, whereas here it’s an intimate auditorium at the Memorial Hall.
“It’s a boutique festival and we tie the whole arts community into it; it lets people experience the local creative sights.”
A Dinner with the Stars will be hosted at Bushy Park on September 30 for people to dine and meet the visiting authors.
In a shift from the written craft, gardening expert Gordon Collier’s talk on swapping a paintbrush for flowers and colours in the garden will take place on October 1.
The highly anticipated final night of the festival will celebrate the publication of Witi Ihimaera’s double-volume anthology of stories by Māori writers.
Rosier-Jones said in the early years she had secured guests for the festival by calling on friends who were writers, but this was no longer the case.
“But then word got out and it grew; we always make sure to take care of the writers and see that they’re well looked after.”
The official festival brochure launch is at 2pm on Saturday, July 22, at the Community Arts Centre, Taupō Quay, with all past committee members and trustees from previous years invited to take part.
Eva de Jong is a reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle covering health stories and general news. She began as a reporter in 2023.