Wilkins, Perkins classic Kiwi authors

Wilkins and PerkinsEmily Perkins and Damien Wilkins are classic New Zealand writers in the sense that writing isn’t the only thing they do. Both have other strings to their bow, other jobs – Perkins as host of The Good Word, and Wilkins as a lecturer at Victoria University.

Their careers also follow a similar path: major early success – Not her real name for Perkins and The Miserables for Wilkins. Both made careers overseas and both now work in New Zealand and both are published in New Zeland by Victoria University Press.

Fergus Barrowman, their publisher and former teacher, hosted, and was rightly proud of their success. An absorbing, and detailed session followed, which concentrated on the writing process, the challenging and invigorating process of teaching creative writing.

We discovered that Wilkins dislikes satirical writing, and prefers dialogue, which took him a long time to learn; Perkins dislikes protected characters The readings from each author were well chosen and appreciated by the audience.

The session could easily have gone on for another hour, as one of the audience landed a great topic, with the great question of what is the New Zealand story? Colm Toibin had written it was about children.
Wilkins agreed – as New Zealand is a young literary culture it made quite a lot of sense. Our films are also full of child’s commentary on the adult world. Janet Frame had a hotline to child fears, he said;  a child’s lack of power, lack of control. Perkins said for an author the child as agent is a thrilling kind of figure. Barrowman added that Katherine Mansfield  never created an adult relationship in her writing which was as interesting as the relationships of the children in her work and that she satirised adults.

What do you think – is the great New Zealand story set on a farm? Is all the emotion in the silences? Is it about childhood? Tell us your great New Zealand story.

6 thoughts on “Wilkins, Perkins classic Kiwi authors

  1. wendy 19 May 2010 / 8:36 pm

    Yes, what is the great NZ novel? Owls Do Cry certainly had the most profund effect on me. But that life is not contemporary NZ – we are such a diverse bunch and even rural life is not a common experience now. What is the NZ novel of contemporary urban life? For me, growing up in the 50s I remember long hot summers at a Kiwi bach by the beach and Kirsty Gunn’s The rain captured that so well – also from a child’s perspective -lots of unexpressed emotion there.

    • bronnypop 20 May 2010 / 1:33 pm

      We here at the Popular team would be really interested in any answer to this – we often get asked for ‘The NZ Read’ – one that will give (mostly) visitors to NZ a flavour of our country. It’s a hard ask!

  2. Damien 19 May 2010 / 10:41 pm

    I’m very pleased you found the session worthwhile and thanks for taking the time to report on it. Can I just make a small correction to the account here. It wasn’t Fergus who said Katherine Mansfield never created adult characters who are as interesting as her children; that was me. (Fergus might think otherwise.) It was also Emily who made the very nice comment about Janet Frame’s hotline – though I wish I had.

    • richard 20 May 2010 / 11:55 am

      Hi Damien, thanks for your comments. My notes have gone wayward and I stand (well actually I sit) corrected. Did you enjoy the rest of the festival?

  3. CharlieBean 1 June 2010 / 12:35 pm

    My vote for something that captures the essence of ‘New Zealandness’ would have to be The Captive Wife by Fiona Kidman. She has utilized our colonial beginnings – inextricably linked to Australia – and made much of pre-1840 colonial relationships with Maori by creating a personal story set against the tumultous era of Te Rauparaha. This is a real-type backdrop for our current social, racial and political climate and is as relevant to the New Zealand story and the here and now as are so many historical interactions.

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