The Christchurch Writers Festival is over. It was a great but exhausting few days, and I didn't even go to as many sessions as I would have liked. I think I'm tired from a combination of going to hear writers, being a writer on panels myself, being 'on', partying (ie drinking) more than I'm used to, and still having to be the usual mother when I came home. But hell, it was fun.
Chairing a session in particular takes it out of you as you're responsible for the whole thing running smoothly, and I am a compulsive over-preparer for that kind of thing (although strangely when I am there as a panellist I find it easier to prepare nothing at all), so it took me all week to write introductions and to generally feel anxious. Well, I'm happy to report that the Friday session did run smoothly, despite being told when I arrived that Mark Sarvas wasn't going to make it (which would have meant rewriting my introduction, coming up with more questions and dumping the rather nice intro I had written for Mark). Luckily I found out in time that he would in fact be coming; he'd just be a little late. This actually provided a bit of flair to the session as Mark arrived in a flourish about halfway through.
I couldn't have asked for an easier group of writers (Anya Ulinich, Christine Leunens, Maxine Alterio, Mark Sarvas) to chair. They all had plenty to say, and rather than sticking rigidly to my plan for the session, I just let it flow organically, with readings and questions that arose out of the pieces that were read. I do wish we'd had more time, as we were really only just getting warmed up when it came to an end. Four writers is one too many for a session such as that, even if we did have more time. Mark Sarvas in particular could have had a session all to himself to talk about his book, Harry, Revised and his blog The Elegant Variation (more on this when I write about the blogging panel we were both on). But I guess no matter how well a writer performs on the day, the nature of festivals and their resources is that sometimes people have to share the stage, and it would have been a gamble to give a writer who is really unknown in New Zealand a session all to himself.
I did, however, get feedback that it was a good taster for the works of the writers involved and that plenty of people went out and bought their books after.
I have to say that a highlight of the festival for me was meeting and hanging out with the wonderful Anya Ulinich. She is one cool chick and we had lots of laughs. And quite a few drinks.
More on the festival here, here, here and here.