Feel like a change of career?

Victor Rodger’s first published play

Then why not become a scriptwriter for a show like Shortland Street?

Victor Rodger did just that and had his young adult audience and one lone age-challenged library assistant convinced that this was not only possible but something we should get onto straight away.

I’ve never watched Shortland Street – but I grew up on its big sister Coro Street which Victor admits to loving as well. Here’s what he said we’d need to do to get a position as a scriptwriter on this iconic New Zealand TV show:

  • Love your life and be prepared to share it – the good, the bad and the ugly (muted murmuring at that)
  • It’s OK to have failed Maths every year at school (much cheering here) but you do need to have an ear for dialogue and a love of English (back to murmuring)
  • Submit an application with a complete script attached (Oh No!)
  • While you’re waiting for the big bucks to come flowing in, go on your OE and get a job licking stamps or working for three months for the French Embassy when you can’t speak a word of French (that’s more like it!)
  • Try not to ruffle any feathers in the industry – the New Zealand TV world is tiny and you can’t afford to make enemies. No swearing when things don’t go your way (Boooooo!)
  • Be prepared to work from anywhere in the world. (WooHoo!)

Victor RodgerVictor gave good, positive advice which can be summed up as:

Never Give Up!

Three giant Samoan students in front of me high-fived throughout. They so wanted his life. After the event I saw them gathered at the stage door waiting for him. I loved him for the glimpse of another life that he gave us. Then I trudged my weary posterior back to the hotel and blogged this for you. Scriptwriting might need to wait for another life!

Behind the doors with Emily Rodda

Emily Rodda signs books at the Schools ProgrammeThursday at the Festival – another day, another full auditorium, and another bookbag – this one comes with a clear message that bookbags are ONLY for the kids (pfft – whatEVERRR).

The lovely and supertalented Paula Morris is our MC for the day, and we are straight into a session with Aussie legend Emily Rodda who, with more than 50 published teens’ and kids’ books, has a wealth of knowledge and experience to offer young writers.  The most well-known of these is probably the Deltora series, and Emily is also nearly finished the third in her new Doors series.

The session is called Fiction and Fantasy, but Emily is quick to point out that she isn’t the one who named it – after all, isn’t all fiction fantasy in the true sense of the word? What Emily writes, she tells the kids, is what’s called high fantasy – building a whole new world from scratch, and adding magic to it as well.

The current set of books – the Doors series – is, she says, all about choices.  She’s fascinated by them – we make choices all the time, in everything we do (theme of the week, perhaps? David Veart also talked about choices yesterday, and so did Eoin Colfer); some are big, some are small, and sometimes we don’t even know we are making them.  Doors, however, are easy – you see a door, or a series of doors, and you choose which one to go through, or to NOT go through, and then whatever you find on the other side is what you deal with.  Often (mostly) you don’t know what will even BE on the other side, even if you think you do.  Books, too, are like doors – into places and worlds and experiences, and that’s what makes libraries (woo! libraries!) such amazing places: “To me a library is just a big room full of thousands of doors …”, and you can open and explore as many as you want.

The fiction/fantasy debate aside, what she really wants to talk about today is how to make sure your fictional world, whatever it is, is based on reality.  The old advice always given to aspiring writers to ‘write what you know’ holds true, but you should never let that stop you from writing fiction or fantasy: even if you’ve never been chased by a dragon, met a ghost, picked up a sword or fought a monster, you can still write convincingly about those things if you start with the things you really DO know – what does sand, wind, dirt, anger, fear, boredom, hunger feel like – YOU KNOW ALL THIS ALREADY, and therefore so do your characters.  Then and only then add the ‘What if …’ bits.  She adds,

Get to know your your own characters and your own world so they are real to you.  Then they will be real to everyone else too … No fantasy, no idea is so great that it doesn’t need this … If you can’t make [your characters] real, no-one will care.

Sounds like pretty good advice to me. What do you reckon, writers out there?

Fleur Beale

Dirt Bomb by Fleur BealeAs a writer you need to be a bit of a magpie. Tuck things away you hear or see.

Fleur Beale is one of New Zealand’s favourite and most prolific Young Adult and Children’s authors. She’s written 40 books, is winner of the 2012 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal and her most recent title, Dirt Bomb, has been shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards.

And now she has the dubious honour of being the first author I’ve heard speak at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2012.

Yes, I’ve made it to Auckland! It’s wonderful to be here.

The friendly taxi driver drove along evenly surfaced roads to our central city base right in the middle of – be prepared to read and weep – a fully functioning metropolis. I just had time to touch base with my colleagues before I realised I only had 20 minutes to get to Fleur Beale’s session.

“Turn right. You can’t miss it,” they called as I tried to exit through the fire doors. Funny how finding your way around tall buildings is confusing these days. Anyway, they were right. You can’t miss the beautifully designed and very central Aotea Centre. I made the session with five minutes to spare.

Fleur Beale spoke to a large audience of mainly young adults. She looked small on stage but her passion for her craft soon filled the space and the audience listened attentively.

She discussed her new novel, Dirt Bomb, the story of Jake who desperately wants to buy a car but has no money and is ‘allergic’ to the idea of getting a job.  The author explained how placing a challenge in front of your characters creates a story.

Fleur BealeShe stressed the need for accuracy in fiction to made a story believable. Not a car fanatic, she enlisted the help of her mechanic brother when she was unsure about the tricky technical bits. No motorhead would accept a story that confused a points differential with a points distributor. The publishers even got a designer who is a ‘real Holden expert’ to do the cover.

Fleur Beale then went on to talk about Heart of Danger which is the third part of her Juno of Taris series.

The story behind the invention of Taris, her dystopian vision, was fascinating. Fleur was due to meet a friend in New York in September 2001. Of course, events happened to prevent her travel but six weeks later she decided it was safe for her to go. She arrived in New York City on Halloween and the flight crew were all in fancy dress costumes but their underlying anxiety was palpable.

Ground Zero was still smouldering, flags and flowers were everywhere and there was a sense that New York was shut off from the outside world. This experience made the author imagine what it would be like to be in a place that really is isolated. The dome-covered island of Taris in the cold southern ocean was born.

I won’t give away too much about the fate of Juno in case you are yet to start the award winning series but if on completion you’re still curious to see how Juno’s romantic relationship ends, the author has published this extra tale online.

A lively question and answer session followed. Someone asked the Fleur Beale what advice she would give to young writers. She said to be an author you must read a lot and enter any competition you can to gain practice at writing to deadlines and word limits. She also recommended reading a book first for pleasure then again to examine passages that worked particularly well. It would certainly be worth examining Fleur Beale’s novels in depth. She’s doing it right, no doubt about it.

The strength of writing comes from nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs.

Neither here nor there

Festival “spine poetry” and cappuccino!

At Christchurch airport, with a coffee and some spine poetry, on the way to the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival.

Here are the books of  three authors I’ll be interviewing this week: Kathy Lette, Roddy Doyle and Jeffrey Eugenides. From the top down, their titles make a neat little spine poem:

The boy who fell to earth


The marriage plot

But there’s a whole lot of other great titles as well, how about:

The Woman who changed her brain



Getting excited now – and no, it is not just the result of one airport coffee!

Got any festival spine poetry of your own to share?

Christchurch music videos: Victoria – The Dance Exponents

… It’s a film clip, replete with fantasy 80s Christchurch night-life scenes, a doomed blonde, and a fresh-faced Jordan Luck as her saviour. The Arts Centre and deco apartments opposite feature as locations.



Search our catalogue for music by The Exponents.

Find out more about  NZ Music Month at Christchurch City Libraries.

Historical fictions

Hanging out for Book cover: Bring up the bodiesBring up the bodies, Hilary Mantel’s follow-up to Wolf Hall, I was interested to see an article on her “surprisingly successful” Cromwell novels in  The New Yorker;  successful because she “seems to have written a very good modern novel, then changed all her fictional names to English historical figures of the 1520s and 30s.”

But is this a good thing? I loved Wolf Hall, but don’t read much historical fiction any more, so what do I know.  Margaret Irwin was my favourite as a gal, which dates me somewhat. Colleagues and bloggers who are more expert readers of historical fiction didn’t like Wolf Hall because the voice was wrong.

Did Mantel commit the sin of foisting onto historical fiction the things we are most pre-occupied with now? In a review of Paula Morris’ Rangatira in the Autumn 2012 New Zealand Books, Nicholas Reid says that historical novels “are valuable only when they try to reconstruct the mentality of the past. Second-rate historical novels dress up modern characters in period clothes and have their heroes express conveniently those attitudes and opinions acceptable to us here and now, usually cribbed from modern history books.”

Reid won’t name the guilty, but he does like Rangatira, as well as Hamish Clayton’s Wulf, Owen Marshall’s The Larnachs, Charlotte Randall ‘s Hokitika Town  and Sarah Quigley’s The Conductor.

What historical fiction do you think escapes the trap of confirming what we already know?