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2022 Event Participants


Ben Brown

Mana Kupu / The Power of Words and the Young Writers' Workshop

Ben Brown (Ngāti Mahuta, Ngāti Koroki, Ngāti Paoa) writes children’s books, non-fiction, poetry and short stories for children and adults. Born in Motueka (1962), the father of two has been a tobacco farm labourer, tractor driver and market gardener. Since 1992, he has been a publisher and writer, collaborating with the illustrator, Helen Taylor, in most of his 17 publications.

Ben is the current Te Awhi Rito New Zealand Reading Ambassador and a regular contributor to the Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Writers in Schools programme.

Ben will be working with illustrator Helen Taylor at the Young Writers Workshop and is speaking at the Mana Kupu / The Power of Words event with Dr Simon Barber.

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Helen Taylor

Young Writers

Helen Taylor is an award-winning children's book illustrator and an exhibiting artist with works in private collections around New Zealand and overseas. She often focuses on New Zealand flora and fauna in her illustrations.

She has been illustrating books since 1992 and has been twice shortlisted for the LIANZA Children's Book Awards. In 2006, Helen won Best Picture Book in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, with A Booming in the Night, a collaboration with writer Ben Brown. Helen has also written and illustrated a number of picture books and in 2015 her book Kakapo Dance won a Storylines Notable Picture Book Award. Helen is a mother of two and lives in Lyttelton.


Gregor Paul

Off the Pitch

Gregor Paul has been the Herald’s lead rugby writer since 2004 and has followed the All Blacks across the world in the last 18 years. Born and raised in Scotland, he worked as a financial correspondent for two major papers in the UK before marrying his Kiwi wife and settling here. He has written eight books and is a regular contributor to foreign publications such as The Irish Times and Midi Olympique. He lives in Auckland with his wife and three children and remains a loyal supporter of Aberdeen Football Club


John Ashworth

Off the Pitch

John Ashworth, having played 52 matches for the All Blacks, enjoyed many epic victories  as well as the bitter taste of heart-breaking defeat. John was introduced to Pinot Noir while on tour in the South of France - it is a taste which has helped define his wine palate and led to him establishing Junction Wines  in Takapau with his family after he hung up his playing boots. The rugby links are also strong with the names of some of Junction Wines' vintages including Front Row, Corner Post, Possession and Off Side.

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Tony Johnson

Off the Pitch

Tony Johnson is a Sky Sport commentator. He grew up in the Marlborough Sounds and has worked in radio and at TV3. He joined Sky in 1999 where much of his work revolves around rugby. Johnson has been to every Rugby World Cup, excluding the 1999 and 2019 tournament, as a fan, reporter or broadcaster, and has covered the Commonwealth Games in his capacity as a radio and television reporter. Tony lives in Auckland with his wife and daughter.

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Jenny Pattrick

Escape to the Past

Jenny Pattrick OBE is an acclaimed historical novelist and storyteller with ten books to her name including the acclaimed novels The Denniston Rose and Heart of Coal. Her latest novel, Harbouring, tells of Welshman Huw Pengellin’s journey to find a better life for his family in New Zealand.

Jenny started her career as a jeweller before she started writing and is still an active member of New Zealand’s arts community.  Her jewellery is held in private collections and at the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa.

Jenny has also written fiction and commentary for radio, and with her musician husband, Laughton, writes musical shows for children which are performed throughout New Zealand and abroad.

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Louise Ward

Escape to the Past

Louise Ward is a former police officer and teacher, now co-owner of Wardini Books in Havelock North and Napier, finally putting that English Literature degree to relevant use. She reviews books for RNZ, Kete, Bay Buzz and the Napier Courier and plays fiddle in a couple of bands. Louise is a Hawke’s Bay mainstay of fun, style and all things literary!


Cristina Sanders

Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant

Cristina Sanders is an historical fiction writer from Wellington, now living in Hawke's Bay. She has a book review blog and writes about history, travel and running. In 2018 she completed the Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing at Whitireia.

Her debut novel, Jerningham, about Jerningham Wakefield and the recklessness of colonial New Zealand, was published by The Cuba Press in June 2020 and shortlisted for the NZ Heritage Literary Awards. In 2020 she won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished YA manuscript, with a novel about immigrant families in the 1870s. This became Displaced, published by Walker Books in April 2021. Her most recent book, Mrs Jewell and the Wreck of the General Grant was released this year.


Dr Simon Barber

Mana Kupu / The Power of Words

Dr Simon Barber is a scholar of Indigenous thought and politics, Marxist and critical theory, black studies, communism, and conjunctions thereof. He completed his Masters at the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London and his doctorate in the Centre for Research Architecture, also at Goldsmiths. As part of his doctoral research he undertook a postgraduate diploma in Ahunga Tikanga (Māori Laws and Philosophy) at Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Ōtaki.

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Airini Beautrais

Bug Week and Other Stories

Airini Beautrais is a poet, fiction writer, essayist and teacher. Her work has appeared in a range of journals and anthologies in Aotearoa and elsewhere. She is the author of four collections of poetry, and a collection of short fiction, Bug Week, which won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham NZ Book Awards in 2021. She lives in Whanganui with her two sons and two cats.

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Alexa Cook

Bug Week and Other Stories

Alexa is a Senior Newshub Reporter based in Wellington.  (However she is originally a local CHB girl from Ashley Clinton!) Alexa is an international multi-award winning journalist and started with Newshub in 2020 after moving back to New Zealand from the UK, where she was a broadcast journalist for BBC News.

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Ashia Ismail-Singer

Saffron Swirls and Cardamom Dust

Ashia Ismail-Singer is of Memon heritage, from the Gujarat region of India. She was raised in Malawi and the UK and now lives in New Zealand. Ashia is passionate about Indian cuisine and sharing it with Kiwis. She published her first cookbook, My Indian Kitchen, in 2018 to great acclaim from seasoned food writers. Ashia has been published in New Zealand House & Garden magazine and has also featured in the TV1 show “Neighbourhood”, Breakfast on One, National Radio and Radio Live.
As the sumptuous cover suggests, Ashia’s latest book, Saffron Swirls and Cardamom Dust, is a collection of spice infused deserts and baking delights that draw inspiration form culinary traditions across the world.  Ashia’s recipes are impossible to resist and guaranteed to impress!

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Selina Tusitala Marsh

Fast Talking PI

Due to a bereavement, Selina will now be out of the country in September. Our condolences to the family. We will be in touch with ticketholders about refunds.


Peter Malcouronne

Fast Talking PI

Peter Malcouronne has won numerous national and international journalism awards during a two-decade feature writing career which began with a 1997 story on a nudist camp open day for The Listener – and ended in ignominy and exile in Melbourne where he became a vassal for the National Australia Bank.

He has written one poem and two books – a non-best-selling rugby tome published just before the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and a rather more successful 2018 collaboration on Aotea Great Barrier with photographer Chris Morton (“An ordinary place full of extraordinary stories,” wrote The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly). Returning to Aotearoa in 2017, Peter is now Chief Propagandist for apartment builders, Ockham Residential.

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Aaron Topp

Local Showcase

Aaron Topp’s first book, Single Fin (Random House, 2006), is a coming of age tale about a boy obsessed with surfing, based on a true story. The work won the Young Adult Fiction Honour Award at the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was also listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book. Since then Aaron has written Creating Waves: How Surfing Inspires our most Creative New Zealanders and Hucking Cody: A Tale of Betrayal, Jealousy, Brotherly Love and Freeriding and the recently released Nor’east Swell.


Shelley Burne-Field

Local Showcase

Shelley Burne-Field (Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāti Rārua, Samoa, Pākehā) was the only New Zealander to be shortlisted for the prestigious Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2022, awarded annually for the best piece of unpublished short fiction from the Commonwealth. Shelley’s story Speaking in Tongues is described as being about “loss of language, about community, and about being seen and heard”.

Shelley is a fiction and non-fiction writer and graduate of both Te Papa Tupu (Māori Literature Trust) and the Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Auckland. Shelley writes for E-Tangata, and her short fiction has appeared on RNZ and in Newsroom and various anthologies. Shelley’s story ‘Pinching out dahlias’ was the most read short story ever published on Steve Braunias’ curated Reading Room, part of the Newsroom online magazine.

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Andrew Cameron

Local Showcase

Author of the book A Nurse on the Edge of the Desert, Andrew Cameron joined the NZ Red Cross in his 40s as an experienced nurse and midwife. Over a 15-year period was deployed on assignments to many countries, especially those devastated by conflict. For six to eighteen months in each location, he worked in Kenya, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan (four tours), Yemen, South Sudan (twice), Djibouti, Iraq and Georgia.  While receiving Massey Universities’ Distinguished Alumni Medal in 2015, it was a chance meeting that spurred Andrew to write his story, which then became the book.

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