Stories in a Flash

Do you have a fear of commitment or a very short attention span? Does the prospect of reading a thick novel fill you with trepidation? Are you one of the many who never finished The Luminaries?

Then Flash Fiction might be just the literary genre for you.

Flash Fiction, which can also be described as Short Short Stories, is fiction of extreme brevity. How extreme? A whole narrative might fill only a page or two, or even less. The writing is succinct and suggestive, often leaving the reader to fill in the gaps.

National Flash Fiction Day

A local celebration of National Flash Fiction Day, ‘Flash in the Pan’ is planned on 22 June, 6pm – 8pm at The Twisted Hop and will include author readings from Owen MarshallRachael King, James Norcliffe, Fiona Farrell and others.

The winners of this year’s National Flash Fiction Day Awards will also be announced and the ‘Norton Flash Fiction International Anthology’ will be launched. Attendance is free and the event is open to everyone, readers and writers alike.

For more information on this event visit the National Flash Fiction Day NZ website or Facebook page.

Read Flash Fiction

It’s kick-off time – celebrate with some great soccer books

FIFA U-20 World Cup TrophyThe FIFA U-20 World Cup has kicked off and will run until 20 June. Quite a few of the games are being played in Christchurch so you could even get along to watch a game or two.

The tournament is held every four years and there are teams from all over the world competing, including Hungary, Nigeria, Uzbekistan, Honduras, Brazil and of course New Zealand.

We have heaps of books in the library about football (or soccer as it widely known), from learning how to play the game to stories about soccer.

To find more about soccer try these:

For more information about the FIFA U-20 World Cup see their website.

Naughty Knitters

Cover of Knit your own kama sutraHere’s how my Winter Word Association works: Winter; Wool; Knitting; Afghan Squares – no, wait, tried that three years ago and the dog died before he got his little blankie.

Time for a new knitting direction.

Sex Sells and it was inevitable that knitters would eventually want to sex up their hobby. And that’s where Knit Your Own Kama Sutra steps up to the crease, providing us with teeny tiny little knitted figurines that contort themselves into naughty positions. I’ll say this much for it, you’d have to be a pretty skilled knitter and be going easy on the mulled wine for these little sex fiends to avoid getting their knickers in a twist! Oh, and best of all, the author goes by the name Trixie Von Purl.

Cover of WTF KnitsIf, however, you have taken a religious vow to resist the temptations of the Kama Sutra, there’s still WTF Knits into which to delve. Author Gabrielle Grillo has been scouring the net for four years to bring you weird knitting projects to sate your jaded appetites. If you come from a family that is squeamish about rude words, bodily functions and black humour, for heaven’s sake don’t make the mistake of leaving this little beauty lying around on the cross-stitched footstool in your boudoir!

Cover of Novelty KnitsAlthough my final recommendation looks wholesome enough, there is nevertheless something covertly creepy about it. Novelty Knits has patterns for thirty-five sweaters with large motifs ranging from coiled snakes, bananas and even a boiled egg (I am not making this up). Joanna Lumley loses her grip on glamour wearing two of these sweaters. These are the sorts of sweaters you knit in the first fervour of love because no one told you they are the kiss of death to any fledgling relationship.

But let me stick one final needle in the mix here: Could it be that knitters are weirder, wilder and more perverse than needle workers? Or are there Sexy Sewers out there as well?

Urban Living Wall: engaging new interest in conservation

Kia ora – Danny blogged in March about the Innovative collaboration and a Living wall. This post comes from Elizabeth Guthrey of DOC and she updates us on what is happening with the Urban Living Wall

The Urban Living Wall was launched on Friday 8 May at the corner of Cashel Street and High Street in Christchurch. This green wall is revolutionary; native rocky outcrop plants are housed in 3D printed planter panels made by schools in the area, with design and production led by the Fab lab Chch.

Urban Living Wall

This project is a unique opportunity for schools, communities, companies and individuals to be involved in some of the public spaces in our city. Students are able to learn how to use 3D printers whilst producing something for a tangible project that can be appreciated by the wider public. Some schools are even getting the idea to design their own and follow this concept for a small living wall on their campus.

This project also invites individuals and companies to make a donation towards a 3D printed planter panel with our PledgeMe campaign running until Monday 8 June.

The wall also includes wooden panels for plants to grow over. A felt material from a recycled wool carpet underlay by Cavalier Bremworth was also cut and sewn to make larger planter pockets, with the same swooping design as the rest of the wall. These turned out to be fast and cheap to make, and anyone can easily make these kinds at home with a sturdy sewing machine. We are yet to see how well they perform in retaining water in the hydroponic mix. The launch marks the establishment of the first 8 metres of wall, which will be continually added to until it covers 20 meters of the fence structure.

Urban Living Wall

The South Learning Centre has been a contributor to producing the 3D printed planter panels with their 3D printer.

The Urban Living Wall is a collaborative project between the Department of Conservation, Christchurch City Council, Auckland University Institute of Technology, the Fab Lab Chch, Christchurch Schools and communities. Join in and pledge a planter!

Elizabeth Guthrey

Etched in Pain

Chronic pain is one of many invisible disabilities – invisible, that is, unless you suffer from it, or are close with someone who does. The statistics are quite bad; according to the Chronic Pain health report from Arthritis New Zealand, as many as one in six New Zealanders will suffer some kind of chronic pain in their lives. Some of it is permanent, some of it is debilitating. Some of it reshapes your life and you have to find new ways to live in order to survive it.

‘Etched in Pain’ was a session at the Auckland Writers Festival where two New Zealand authors, both who suffer from chronic pain, came together to talk about their pain and their inspiration to write about it.

Cover of 'Giving Yourself to Life'Deborah Shepard began to write when a friend handed her a journal. She had just had surgery for her sciatica and was in severe post-surgical pain, but line by line, day by day, she began to “write through the fog” of pain till she had the start of her book, Giving Yourself to Life.

Written in diary form, Giving Yourself To Live goes back and forth between now and the past, telling the story of her growing up in Christchurch, losing family members when she was very young, the earthquake and the years that followed, and how through all of it she was compelled to write to stay alive.

Deborah spoke softly, gracefully, her words gentle. Writing was also about regaining something personal from her childhood. We grow up into a noisy world; we take on so many responsibilities; we forget to stop and look at the world; we’re too busy. The pain made her step back into something quiet, and she likes that quiet.

Cover of 'How Does it Hurt?'Stephanie de Montalk, who has written several poetry books, comes to us now with How Does It Hurt, her creative writing thesis that explores her own pain as well as the relationship between writing and pain in our literary history.

Both writers stood at podiums, which “you’ll understand if you know anything about back pain,” as sitting can be so painful. The podiums served a dual purpose – they made the invisible pain visible. It made me think a little more about how chronic pain makes you reshape the world around you to make it livable, physically, as well as spiritually.

And sometimes it isn’t possible to change the physical world enough to make the pain bearable, and that’s where art comes in. Chronic pain has been a part of art history for a very long time.

There is inspiration to be found in the lives of others who have suffered and have pushed through the suffering to make art. One quote that rang true with Deborah was from the painter Edward Burne-Jones, who suffered not from chronic pain but depression:

“If I can only work – it has saved me always – saved me through the most miserable times.”

Frida Kahlo started painting in pain, her life was marred by it from the age of six, when she contracted polio, followed when she was in her twenties by a terrible car accident that broke her spine in several places. She never recovered from this, despite over thirty surgeries, and suffered chronic pain which she expressed through her art for the rest of her life.

Matisse, too, suffered chronic pain as well as recurrent panic attacks. Art pulled him through even as he was bedridden with cancer pain. His art changed after his illness, but he felt that his illness had allowed him to liberate his true self.

The writer Stephen King talks about writing through the pain after his car accident in his book On Writing. Writing helped him forget himself, and separated him from his pain.

Cover of 'Frida Kahlo Song of Herself'  Cover of 'Henri Matisse, the cut outs' Cover of Stephen King's 'On Writing'

Deborah spoke about the importance of survival writing. “I understood the true meaning of invalid when I wasn’t writing. I felt invalid. Writing nourished me.”

She spoke of the importance of finding a method appropriate to your own self to help ease your distress. Writing gave her a focused mind, provided an opportunity to pause and reflect on her priorities, love and friendship and kindness. She wanted a book about people plowing through, living side by side with the pain, and though she felt quite vulnerable putting her personal account out there, she is pleased she did, and has almost finished the draft of her second novel.

Stephanie’s pain was something else, caused by a fall in 2003, her injury so rare and obscure that only three surgeons in the world were diagnosing it, and all their medical investigation proved fruitless. Stephanie talked about the invisibility of chronic pain, how friends doubted her pain because they could not see it, and the overriding assumption that chronic pain is mild. Her pain led to a sense of social isolation; all around her understanding and empathy were limited in a society that demanded stoicism.

“Someone needed to stand up and say something.”

This sense of isolation led her to seek out other peoples lived experiences, to validate herself and other sufferers and somehow ease the exile. The literature’s contemplation of permanent pain was marginal; there were plenty of self help books and books written by doctors but few written by people who were suffering the same way Stephanie was. No professionally written book has helped her. And though there are plenty of fictional accounts of characters suffering, the problem is that the narrative seems to demand that in the end, they recover.

What Stephanie found as she delved further into research was that chronic pain is silently reaching epidemic proportions. Silent, because would anyone other than a sufferer want to read their stories, to really understand? She wondered if writing a memoir of her own pain could really do the subject justice; chronic pain has many complex and diverse faces, everyone suffers individually. Besides, there would be no straightforward narrative, because it wouldn’t be a recovery story.

But she continued to write, even though she had to write lying down, sometimes through a haze of pain medication, and fatigue. It had been seven years since her fall, but the emotional and social impact of long term pain needed to be acknowledged somewhere.

“Someone needed to stand up and say something” became “I needed to stand up and say something.”

Stephanie then read an excerpt from ‘How Does it Hurt?’ on her thoughts before surgery, and then there was some time for questions. “Is there release from the pain in writing?” one audience member asked.

After a moment of thought, Deborah spoke: “Yes, there is a moment of release from the pain.” She also spoke about how steady routines, especially those involving her garden and nature, did help her stay peaceful in the midst of rasping pain.

Stephanie’s answer was more blunt: “No. The pain is always there. I am pushing back against pain constantly.” There was no relief, but there was some easement at the sight of a book. The thought that she was looking at carefully chosen words on a page would help, a little, with the pain.

After questions, a representative from Unity Books stood to present Stephanie de Montalk with the Nigel Cox award for her book How Does It Hurt, to great applause from the audience.

These women were two of the strongest people I met at the festival, and I really admire them. Few people in history have ever said that writing is easy, and writing through constant pain must, I can only imagine, be another level of difficulty altogether. Congratulations to them both for their achievements, and I am sure that their contributions will help ease, if not the pain, then perhaps a little of the isolation suffered by so many among us.