The Shape We’re In: Stephanie Johnson



‘Our original intentions were not to make people vomit’


Twenty-two years ago the Auckland Writers Festival burst into literary life, propelled by the ambitious advocacy of writers  Stephanie Johnson  and the late Peter Wells who wanted to showcase our talent to our people. Johnson takes stock of how the New Zealand literary landscape has changed across the era. Have we grown up, grown out, grown at all? Or are we still trying to find our place? A spirited assessment of the state of play and some provocative suggestions for the future.

The following excerpt is the opening paragraph from the University of Auckland Free Public Lecture, held on the 13th May in the Aotea Centre, Auckland, as part of the 2021 Auckland Writers Festival.


Stephanie Johnson:

It’s quite a brief to be given, isn’t it? the last twenty years of literary endeavour in Aotearoa. And like anyone given that brief, this lecture will no doubt be coloured by my own tastes and prejudices and I ask in advance that you forgive me for that. I have a little over 30 minutes. Half an hour to cover twenty-two years! I am reminded of my fiftieth birthday party, where after several glasses of wine I thanked friends for coming but forgot to thank certain important people who were very distressed by the omission. There will be writers, publishers and booksellers I leave out, and if I do, it’s not necessarily because I do not respect or enjoy them and this time I can’t blame the wine.


Read Stephanie Johnson’s entire lecture at the Auckland Writers Festival website.


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