Adelaide Writers’ Week is just around the corner (3-8 March). Eloise Keating spoke to new director Laura Kroetsch about her first festival, her favourite sessions and the themes behind this year’s program.
What do you think will be the highlights of this year’s Adelaide Writers’ Week?
For much of our audience the highlights will be discovering new writers and some really great books. Among our many treasures, I think audiences will fall in love with American novelist and short story writer Ron Rash. Rash is a gorgeous speaker and his books are a delight. I’m also predicting people will be quite enchanted by Israeli short story writer Etgar Keret. Keret’s oddly funny and always surprising. I think our audiences will be as charmed by our two titans’ of Spanish literature, Javier Cercas and Juan Gabriel Vasquez. I’m also predicting that our audiences will love British biographer Selina Hastings, and her terrific biography, The Secret Lives of Somerset Maugham (John Murray).
What sessions or which authors do you think will attract the big crowds?
We have some truly wonderful big-name writers coming this year and we are expecting big crowds for Kate Grenville, Alan Hollinghurst, Frank Moorhouse, Les Murray and the crime-writing superstar Jo Nesbo. I also think Glen Duncan will pull in the numbers as his recent novel, The Last Werewolf (Text), has enjoyed huge success. We’re also expecting big numbers for Greg Chappell in a session that will see him in conversation with Malcom Knox, we’ve never really celebrated sports writing at Writers’ Week and we are hoping for a good crowd. We also feel confident that our speculative fiction writers will also enjoy big audiences, in part because Robert Shearman’s ‘Doctor Who and Daleks’ was our first ticketed session to sell out. I’m hoping for big audiences for Kelly Link and Margo Lanagan, two great writers who deserve the huge audiences they enjoy.
What about your personal picks? Which authors are you most looking forward to hearing talk about their work?
There are some writers that you get a bit selfish about, and these are, for me, my more recent discoveries. I’ve loved Kate Grenville for over a decade, probably longer, but I only met Jenny Erpenbeck as a writer last year. Her novel Visitation (Portobello Books) is one of the best I’ve read in years. Technically I began reading Michael Crummey about 10 years ago, but he’d slipped from my mind. Fortunately a mutual friend told me to read his novel Galore and I’m so delighted he is coming to Adelaide. I’m huge fan of noir novels and so am really looking forward to meeting Megan Abbott—she is the real deal. Poetry is a passion and among our poets the one I most look forward to meeting is Dionne Brand. Her long poem ‘Ossuaries’ is a must read—even for those who don’t think they like poetry.
This is your first Adelaide Writers’ Week. Is there anything new or different that you have introduced?
We’ve changed a lot—not what makes this event great—but a lot nonetheless. We’ve redesigned the site. We’ve traded the tents for sail cloth, we’ve moved the booktent and the caterer to another part of the garden in an effort to make the site more comfortable and we’ve even got new chairs—they’re green. We are thrilled to be hosting our first kids program—it will run alongside the regular program on Sunday 4 March and will include a story tent, a giant Leafy Sea Dragon and some very clever craft. We’ll also, in an effort to attract office workers, run a series of lunchtime and early evening sessions designed to appeal to office workers, or indeed anyone who has never been to a literary festival before. The series will feature both fiction and nonfiction and we hope to see a few suits in our new green seats.
There has been a trend towards issues-based programs at recent writers’ festivals. Are there any particular issues or themes that inform this year’s event?
The demand for issues-based conversation is a fascinating one, and yes, we now have a focus on nonfiction that we haven’t had in past festivals. Among the many issues that I hoped to present is a conversation about religious tolerance, and in doing so to attempt to provide a counter-balance to the story so popularly presented by Richard Dawkins in 2010. That answer comes from two extraordinary journalists, Eliza Griswold and M J Ackbar, both of whom are writing about the religious tensions in the Middle East with insight and generosity. Like everyone else in Australia I too burn to know more about China, and am delighted to be presenting both Jianying Zha and Paul French. I realise now, looking back over the program, that I have a lot of writers coming who in both fiction and nonfiction write about the experience of immigration, and as a new migrant myself, it strikes that this is, for this nation of immigrants, one of our most enduring questions.
For more information on Adelaide Writers’ Week visit the website here.