> Skip to content

Wit, compassion and insight combine in this entertaining novel that explores the politics and human comedy behind writers’ festivals and the publishing industry.

Wit, compassion and insight combine in this entertaining novel that explores the politics and human comedy behind writers’ festivals and the publishing industry.
Writers’ festivals can be hotbeds of literary and romantic intrigue, and the Oceania is up there with the best of them. Rookie director Rae McKay, recently returned from New York, fears she has bitten off more than she can chew. Pressure comes not only from local and international writers but also from the prestigious Opus Book Award, which this year is being hosted by the festival. Add to that high-level diplomatic fallout surrounding a dissident Chinese writer, Rae’s slowly disintegrating private life and ongoing dramas involving much loved characters of The Writing Class, and the result is a wise and witty novel that explores the contemporary phenomenon of the public face of the writer.

This lively, stand-alone novel is as ‘intelligent, tender and funny’ as readers found The Writing Class.

'. . . a book that's sophisticated, witty and - best of all - generous in its attitudes to its characters. It's a love letter to reading and writing and things readers and writers share, especially the mutual effort to understand the world and the people in it.' - Paul Little, North & South on The Writing Class


Johnson gets so much so right . . . Along with Charlotte Grimshaw, Johnson is one of the best anatomisersof 21st-century Auckland . . . She's also a joyous advocate for writing and reading. You have to like that. . . It's a substantial book, emotionally as well as physically. Love hurts. The author excoriates yet sympathises with her cast. . . Does the book succeed? Oh, yes.

David Hill, NZ Listener

A couple of years ago, Stephanie Johnson wrote a highly entertaining novel about a writing class at an Auckland tertiary institution. It featured a wide cast of characters, some trenchant satire, a good deal of humanity and carried just a whiff of roman a clef. Her latest, The Writers' Festival, is the sequel (although it stands alone perfectly well). It features many of the same characters, a few new ones, even more trenchant and mischievous satire and the same sense that the author - herself the longserving (not to say suffering) director of the Auckland Writers' Festival - has created for herself the opportunity for some much-needed catharsis. . . Only a writer of Johnson's ability could keep so many narrative balls in the air with such deceptive ease. She once described the writing of fiction (when it is going well) as a form of legal hallucination, and her prose these days has that quality - the characters and reality she creates are completely believable despite the aura of farce flickering at the margins. . . She is just as generous to her peers in New Zealand letters here as she was in The Writing Class . . . There are some hilarious episodes. . . But there is also much poignancy. . . The uneasy nexus of art and commerce is always there . . . And although Johnson lives and breathes books, she is no mere sentimentalist: the place and importance of writers and writing in the digital world and in the brutal world we inhabit provide the ballast to all that entertaining sail.

John McCrystal, Weekend Herald

With new characters rubbing shoulders with those from The Writing Class, The Writer’s Festival is a fun read; one that made me go back and re-read The Writing Class because I wanted to, not because I needed to.

Sarah McMullan, Booksellers New Zealand's blog

It is a self-referential and celebratory novel – and bounded by the plight of a dissident Chinese writer, a device which nicely puts the chaotic hotbed of free literary emotions into perspective. A great read.

alysontheblog, https://alysontheblog.wordpress.com/

The festival reminds me of Ben Jonson’s great play Bartholomew Fair in which many strands are woven into the plot, where the swirl of activity represents social disorder. . . she has become increasingly sharp-eyed in observing fashions and increasingly assured in her technique. If she were not hidden in the Antipodes she would be mentioned along with Malcolm Bradbury, Thomas Sharpe or David Lodge as amusing, witty, satiric, yet a good read. . . Her books are clever, enjoyable mirrors of our time.

Bruce King, Journal of Postcolonial Writing

The inimitable Johnson follows up her superbly witty The Writing Class with this very entertaining sequel exploring territory she knows so well, as former director of the Auckland Writers' Festival. . . . Johnson appoints Rae McKay as her fictional AWF director and puts plenty of obstacles in her way: egos, politics, conficts of interest and corporate team-building bollocks. While farce is never too far away, it's also a generous, poignant triumph.

Linda Herrick, Weekend Herald

Read More

Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    April 22, 2015

    RHNZ Vintage

    384 pages

    RRP $38.00

    Online retailers

    • Fishpond
    • Mighty Ape
    • Paper Plus
    • The Warehouse
    • Whitcoulls
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

  • EBook


    April 22, 2015

    RHNZ Adult ebooks

    352 pages

    Online retailers

    • iBooks NZ
    • Amazon Kindle
    • Google Play
    • Kobo
    • Booktopia NZ

    Find your local bookstore at www.booksellers.co.nz/directory

Also by Stephanie Johnson

Good Dog!
The Heart's Wild Surf
The Whistler
The Writing Class
The Night I Got My Tuckie
Drowned Sprat and Other Stories
John Tomb's Head
Music from a Distant Room
The Shag Incident
The Open World
Swimmers' Rope


The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
A Gentleman in Moscow
Echo Burning
The Girl on the Train
The Heart's Invisible Furies
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Dragonfly In Amber
The Bear and The Nightingale
Swing Time
Fifty Shades Darker
Ready Player One
The Light Between Oceans
A Long Way from Home
The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Uncommon Type
The Secret Vineyard
Animal Farm