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"Words in Winter" Series 2020

Updated: Aug 17, 2020

Featherston Booktown is back!

Having been forced to postpone the Featherston Booktown Karukatea 2020 Festival in May, Featherston Booktown is returning with a roar, with a series of drawcard literary events dubbed Words in Winter from June through to August in Featherston.

The opening event will be “Aotearoa New Zealand, We Need to Talk” featuring three award winning and provocative writers held over the weekend of 27- 28 June 2020.

We will start the kōrero with Sarah Gaitanos in conversation with Linda Clark, exploring her recently released biography of Shirley Smith: An Examined Life (which was a finalist at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards this year) at 2:00pm in the Kiwi Hall on

Saturday 27 June.

This will be followed by Alan Duff, one of this country’s most acclaimed writers, being interviewed by Featherston Booktown Chair, Peter Biggs, about his recent best-selling book, A Conversation With My Country at 4:00pm, also in the Kiwi Hall on Saturday 27 June.

The next morning, on Sunday 28 June at 11:00am, the winner of the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at this year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, Becky Manawatu, will be in conversation with her publisher, Mary McCallum, of Mākaro Press. They’ll be discussing Becky’s prize-winning book (her first book), Auē.

Tickets are available on Eventfinda - $20 plus ticketing costs. The books will be for sale at the Kiwi Hall and the authors will be signing their books after each event.

Featherston Booktown will announce details about their other Words in Winter events shortly.


Sarah Gaitanos’ book tells the story of Shirley Smith - a remarkably warm and generous woman, one with a rare gift for frankness, an implacable sense of principle, and a personality of complexity and formidable energy. Her life was shaped by some of the most turbulent currents of the 20th century, and she in turn helped shape her country for the better.

According to the publisher, Victoria University Press, Shirley Smith was one of the most remarkable New Zealanders of the 20th century, a woman whose lifelong commitment to social justice, legal reform, gender equality, and community service left a profound legacy.

Shirley was a pioneering lawyer, a civil rights advocate, a champion of human rights and liberties, who wanted to make a difference. She was also married to Bill Sutch, one of New Zealand’s most prominent public servants who in 1974 was arrested and charged with espionage.

“Never one to shy away from being a whetstone on which others can sharpen their own opinions, Alan Duff tells the truth about Aotearoa New Zealand how he sees it. In his latest book, A Conversation with My Country, Alan gives a fresh, personal account of New Zealand, now. Alan has been called one of our hardest-hitting writers. “Following Once Were Warriors, Alan Duff wrote Maori: The Crisis and the Challenge. His controversial comments shook the country. A quarter of a century later, New Zealand and Māoridom are in a very different place. And so is Alan – he has published many more books, had two films made of his works, founded the Duffy Books in Homes literacy programme, and endured “some less inspiring moments, including bankruptcy”.

“Returned from living in France, he views his country with fresh eyes, as it is now: homing in on the crises in parenting, our prisons, education and welfare systems, and a growing culture of entitlement that entraps Pākehā and Māori alike.”

Becky Manawatu published her first book Auē last year to immediate acclaim. Steve Braunias said: [It’s] “the best book of 2019 – and it really is immense, a deep and powerful work, maybe even the most successfully achieved portrayal of underclass New Zealand life since Once Were Warriors.”

"This is a real punch-in-the-guts kind of novel but while it deals with themes of domestic violence, gang culture, grief and fractured families and, is at times, a heart-breaking read; it is also a beautifully pitched and nuanced hopeful story about the power of love, friendship and family… I think everybody should read Auē. It’s a book that people will still be talking about in decades to come. “— Kiran Dass, NZ Herald

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