Great launch last night for the New Zealand Festival Writers Week (7 to12 March). Kathryn Carmody's speech was full of thanks to others, but she has done an amazing job of putting together a wonderful programme. She said that two words embody the thinking behind this year's programme: "identity" and "community", but it's also the best programme for years for anyone interested in writing for children and young adults.
You can choose from sessions with Swedish writer Ulf Stark, Belgian illustrator Leo Timmers or Polish designers Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinksy, who produced the brilliant H.O.U.S.E. and D.E.S.I.G.N. books. Kids' Lit Quiz creator Wayne Mills will talk about the results of a survey of NZ children's reading habits, and there are two sessions with Francis Spufford, author of The child that books built. There are two workshops for illustrators (lucky them), a session on how to read a classic picture book in te reo Maori and a free event featuring favourite NZ writers such as Joy Cowley and Kyle Mewburn reading stories from Te Papa's new anthology The Curioseum.
That's still not all! On Monday 10 March, Gavin Bishop will deliver the 2014 Janet Frame Memorial Lecture, an annual literary "state of the nation" speech sponsored by the NZ Society of Authors, in which he promises to focus on "the value and standing of children's literature and of illustration".
But of all of those events (with Gavin Bishop's' speech a close second), the one I am most looking forward to is an hour with much-beloved NZ writer Jack Lasenby, talking to Kate de Goldi about his books for children. Saturday 8 March at 12.15pm.
And I haven't even mentioned Eleanor Catton, a session by Weta on special effects in the Hobbit movies and an intriguing sounding reading experience at the National Library.
Get a copy of the programme and book a ticket as soon as soon as you can! Book several tickets - I know it will be hard to choose!