Now that arguably Auckland's most successful yet Writers & Readers Festival is over I thought you might like to read this piece describing a Friday morning back in January in the life of the Festival Director Jill Rawnsley. It first appeared in the NZ Book Council's new Booknotes magazine published last week. It is reproduced here with their kind permission.
6am Wake to blinding sun. Coffee and the New Zealand Herald … the one uplifting, the other elicits whimpers of despair. A super-Auckland with a mega-Mayor, hmm, wonder where the festival fits into all of this (hear later on news Rodney Hide thinks it could all be in place by 2020 and make mental note to start worrying about it some time later).
7am Answer emails from overseas contacts – love the first click in the morning to see what’s happened overnight. Un-Pantene-like, a lot can happen in the 8 hours (sometimes considerably fewer) I’m asleep. Feel buoyed by large carrot (author) being dangled but won’t have availability confirmed for two to three weeks. Mentally rejig entire programme for the 378th time since last week. Send list of confirmed writers to festival bookshop managers to start work on ordering books … feel depressed by the size of the “to be confirmed” column. Still, it’ll all be over in – oh gawd – four months!!!! Scuttle white rabbit style (“I’m late, I’m late”) out to deck for cigarette and talk myself out of panic attack.
8am To gym for session with personal trainer (then to hairdresser, masseur, business coach, podiatrist, Caci clinic and psychiatrist – day done – hah!).
9.30am Ponder possibility I might not be the most efficient organizer in the world when arrive in the office in bare feet (forgot to take shoes to gym). Need coffee. People stare at me in the café like I’ve just emerged from my nest in West Lynn Park – look at their officious looking lanyards and decide wearing those in public is more cringeworthy than being shoeless. Ring Chair of Board, try to damp down exclamations of joy about the yet unconfirmed and possibly not-that-likely carrot mentioned overnight. I find it difficult to get excited until writers are actually here, on the ground, preferably in the Green Room and about to go on stage. Haven’t been nearly so gung ho since Iain Banks burnt his passport and Annie Proulx got the jitters over SARS (anyone remember what SARS stands for?) back in 2003. Every time I look at a copy of the 2003 poster I cringe.
10.30am Answer emails from patient correspondents with queries/answers/ideas …. Receive yet another enthusiastic email from a writer wanting to appear in the festival this year … want desperately to close off the programme, but haven’t yet exorcised the temptation to keep adding events. Dealing with a slightly restricted venue space this year is a welcome discipline. Go over and over event times/content trying to keep in mind various provisos around speakers’ schedules, and imagining audience members trying to select events for their Ten Trip Pass!
11.00am Fight urge to resurrect the “day in a life” piece I started in December which was very grim. Lots of sleep and a tinful of mince pies at Christmas has made everything look brighter.
11.15am View 2009 Festival design concept and feel optimistic – think how lucky I am to work with people I like (!) who are fun, creative and smart.
11.25am Fire off info to Peter and Stephanie with impossible deadline re programming decisions.
11.45am Decide to have fun looking up exchange rates and googling airfares while simultaneously fiddling with the budget … Which reminds me, it must be time for another coffee, surely …
It is all history now Jill and once everything is cleaned up at the Festival office you can go away and have a well deserved break. Fabulous Festival - grazie, merci, thank you.