Mockingbird Songs

There are very few books that I would give five stars to in a review, however Mockingbird Songs is one.

Cover of Mockingbird SongsR. J. Ellory is one of my favourite authors and I have enjoyed many of his award winning novels. However with his latest novel Mockingbird Songs I felt he had taken his writing to a different level due to the descriptive prose and the depth of characterisation.

This novel is set in a small town in West Texas and is essentially a tale about two brothers, Ethan and Carson, who have had a complex relationship from early childhood because of one parent favouring one brother over the other. The ill feeling that comes from this one-sided relationship simmers throughout their teenage years  and is further complicated as a result of their ongoing rivalry for their childhood sweetheart.

A powerful story unfolds, about keeping a promise no matter the outcome because of loyalty to a friend. A very dark tale, a tale of  revenge, hidden secrets of a lost daughter. At times it felt like a very long journey, a saga as well as a mystery.

Cover of I Know This Much Is TrueCompelling reading. R. J. Ellory hooked me in from the very beginning. I found this to be a ‘can’t put down’ novel and was very fortunate to be able to read it when I had time on my hands; otherwise there may not have been much done around the house for a few days and takeaways may have been on the menu!

Another absorbing read about two brothers is I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb. This story is about twin brothers, with one brother feeling totally responsible for the other and how that affects his life. I would rate I Know This Much Is True as a four star novel.

Are there any novels about siblings that you’d particularly recommend?

Giddying up

Cover for PurityAvid readers know that nervous start you get when you find out a favourite author has written a new book but you didn’t know about it. Or perhaps that’s just me. Addiction is the a-word that applies, not avid.

Anyway imagine my dismay when I noticed that Jonathan Franzen has a new book and I did not know about it. Which means there are four people ahead of me on the Holds list for Purity

So in order to help my fellow addicts (I mean avid readers) I am alerting you to the following books by popular authors on order at Christchurch City Libraries. Get your name down now and avoid disappointment. You’ll never be higher on the list.

Killing Monica by Candace Bushnell. Fiction or thinly veiled fact about Sex and the City? “If you think that you’re just cray-cray” says Bushnell. You be the judge.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Eat Pray Love. And Read.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. Paris, Pissaro, passion. Good old Alice.

The story of the lost child by Elena Ferrante. The fourth in the Neapolitan novels.

Above the Waterfall by Ron Rash. He’s not as popular as he should be. Now is the time to redress that.

Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs. Her 18th outing. She must be doing something right.

All the Stars in the Heavens by Adriana Trigiani. Adriana’s take on the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Cover of Killing MonicaCover of The marriage of oppositesCover for Speaking in BonesCover of Above the waterfall

Shifting points of view – WORD Christchurch 30 August and 7 September 2015

Shifting points of view gives you a bumper crop of sessions  from top writers and commentators. It’s WORD Christchurch’s part of the Christchurch Arts Festival and is guaranteed to warm the cockles of your enquiring mind.

There are five sessions on Sunday 30 August – it’s practically a mini-bookfest. Patricia Grace, Anna Smaill, Paula Morris, and Fiona Farrell are among the Kiwi writers on show, and also international writers Jesse Bering (talking about perversion, no less) and Suki Kim about North Korea. And on Monday 7 September there are two evening sessions – one on altruism, and one with novelist Sarah Waters – author of The Paying Guest and Tipping the Velvet. Blimey.

WORD authors WORD Christchurch authors WORD Christchurch authors

Our approach is to show off what’s on offer, but also to link to our catalogue so you can get reading. And book your tickets, because things do sell out! You can either pay $20 per session or buy a $115 Shifting Points of View pass, on sale NOW.

Here’s the programme in full:

Sunday 30 August

Cover of Chappy10am On Belonging: Patricia Grace and Paula Morris

…  Patricia Grace explores issues that permeate New Zealand history and society: racial intolerance, cross-cultural conflicts and the universal desire to belong. Spanning several decades and set against the backdrop of a changing New Zealand, Chappy is a story of enduring love. She discusses her work with Paula Morris, whose On Coming Home explores similar themes of nostalgia, memory and belonging …

Find works in our catalogue by:

Cover of The Villa at the edge of the empire12pm Imaginary Cities: Fiona Farrell, Anna Smaill, Hamish Clayton, Hugh Nicholson, chaired by Lara Strongman

Taking the Christchurch blueprint as a starting point, this panel will look at ways in which we imagine cities, either in fiction, in history, or in contemporary life; whether as utopias or dystopias, cities imagined or reimagined.

Find works in our catalogue by:

Cover of The Struggle for sovereignty2pm The Struggle for Sovereignty: Margaret Wilson

Margaret Wilson argues that the shift to a neo-liberal public policy framework has profoundly affected the country’s sovereignty and that New Zealanders must continue to engage in the struggle to retain it for the sake of individual and community wellbeing.

Find works in our catalogue by Margaret Wilson

Cover of Without you, there is no us4pm On North Korea: Inventing the Truth: Suki Kim, chaired by Paula Morris

A glimpse inside the mysterious closed-off world of North Korea, a country where a military dictatorship exploits the myth of a Great Leader to its own citizens, who are “imprisoned in a gulag posing as a nation”.

Find works in our catalogue by Suki Kim.

Cover of Why is the penis shaped like that?6pm On Perversion: Jesse Bering

Jesse Bering argues that we are all sexual deviants on one level or another. He challenges us to move beyond our attitudes towards ‘deviant’ sex and consider the alternative: what would happen if we rise above our fears and revulsions and accept our true natures? (Adult themes)

Find works in our catalogue by Jess Bering

Monday 7 September

Cover of The most good you can do6pm On Effective Altruism: Peter Singer, chaired by Eric Crampton

Effective altruism requires a rigorously unsentimental view of charitable giving, urging that a substantial proportion of our money or time should be donated to the organisations that will do the most good with those resources …

Find works in our catalogue by Peter Singer

8pm Crimes of Passion: Sarah Waters, chaired by Carole Beu

Sarah Waters’ hugely inventive novels usually have lesbian relationships at their heart, and are always set in the past, when remaining true to oneself came at great personal risk.

Find works in our catalogue by Sarah Waters

Cover of The Paying Guest Cover of Fingersmith Cover of The Little Stranger Cover of Tipping the velvet

From a blog to a vlog to a book!

The popularity of blogs becoming books has now moved to YouTube postings becoming books. If I was going to write a book about say “A day in the life of a librarian” (sure to be a bestseller),  I would do a series of You Tube posts or write a blog. It seems to be a surefire way of being noticed. Although how many people would be interested in my day is debatable?

There is now a publishing company – Keyword Press, that is solely involved in this medium.

Keywords Press is the first book publishing imprint specifically created for online video stars and their fans. Launched in 2014 in partnership with United Talent Agency, Keywords Press publishes cross-generational titles by the biggest and brightest online talents today.

This area of publishing is still developing but the library has bought some of these titles, and they are proving popular.

Cover of Grace's guide Cover of Lizzie Bennet Cover of A work in progess

Spec’ Fic’ in Chch

Spec Fic… what‘s that? Spec Fic is short for Speculative Fiction and was first used by R.A Heinlein in 1953 in a Library Journal as an umbrella genre for fiction about “things that have not happened”: science fiction, fantasy, horror, and all the bits in between. Spec fic is alive and well and happening in Christchurch as last weekend’s Spec Fic meeting to celebrate local Sir Julius Vogel awardees testifies.

Cover of The Heir of Night by Helen LoweAbout fifty people gathered in the Fendalton Library boardroom to congratulate four Vogel award finalists, two of whom won in their category. Beaulah Pragg, herself a published author, introduced the session and multi-award winning Helen Lowe who spoke about the importance of the genres and the place of awards. Fantasy, she told us, is probably the oldest literary device for talking about reality, as the myths and folk tales of hundreds of human cultures attest. While writers write for the delight of storytelling and because the stories demand to be told awards can still be tremendously affirming to those who frequently work in some isolation. Moreover, events like this demonstrate the importance of the literary community supporting and celebrating one another.
Read Helen’s keynote on her blog.

The best of Twisty Christmas talesThe first finalist speaker was Shelley Chappell, who was short-listed for both best novella and for best new talent. Shelley has a PhD in Children’s and Young Adults’ Literature from Macquarie University in Sydney but writes for all age groups. Many of her YA titles are re-tellings of fairy stories, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Rumpelstilkskin. Re-telling fairy tales, often with a twist, writing new ones, and exploring their development has become a fairly popular genre with several notable proponents such as J. R. R. Tolkien, Catherynne M. Valente and Jack Zipes.

Tim Stead has written a trilogy of book and seems well into the next trilogy. The ‘The Seventh Friend‘ was a finalist for Best Novel and have been warmly reviewed on Amazon. He was also a finalist for Best New Talent.

A.J. Fitzwater was the winner of the Best New Talent award, although she said that she’s been at it for five years so being called “new” was an odd thing to wrap her head around. She read us an excerpt from her latest story about to be published in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Issue 61 – “Long’s Confandabulous Clockwork Circus and Carnival, and Cats of Many Persuasions” which seems to have a ‘carni-punk’ setting so look out for that one. A. J. also spoke about her experiences at the prestigious Clarion Writers workshop last year where she underwent an intensive six weeks of tutoring and writing with top writers such as Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, Nora Jemisin, and Catherynne Valente.

Spec Fic displayOur final winner was Rebecca Fisher who won the prize for Best Fan Writing. Fan writing isn’t the same as fan fiction, but rather is awarded for blogging, interviewing, reviewing and other forms of writing about speculative fiction. She has a popular blog They’re All Fictional, guest blogs at various sites and is a top reviewer on Amazon so if you’re into the genres she’s one to follow.

Connecting with New Zealand genre authors and their work isn’t always easy, so events like this are really important. If you want to find out more about these great authors follow the links above and keep an eye on the Sir Julius Vogel Awards and the SFFANZ (for science fiction and fantasy) or other NZ book sites.

Bloomsday 2015

Cover: Ulysses by James JoyceToday is Bloomsday – 16 June. Back in 1904, James Joyce stepped out for the first time with Nora Barnacle, the woman who would become his wife. And in Ulysses, it is the day that Leopold Bloom kicks around Dublin.

The Guardian has a great article: Bloomsday: how fans around the world will be celebrating James Joyce’s Ulysses. Some people go as far in their celebrations as to indulge in the gastronomic horror  their hero Leopold Bloom partook of:

thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast heart, liverslices fried with crustcrumbs, fried hencods’ roes. Most of all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine tang of faintly scented urine

Cool to see Auckland’s celebrations rate a mention.

I am determined to read Ulysses this year. Part of my desire to is connected to Kate Bush. I love her song The Sensual World.  It is all about Molly Bloom, and is one of the sexiest songs I know. Kate originally didn’t get the rights to use Joyce’s words as she intended, but later the Joyce Estate relented and she re-recorded the song as Flower of the Mountain. You can listen to it on her Director’s Cut album.

I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish Wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

So I am going to do a personal Bloomsday today, and walk to the library and pick up a copy of Ulysses. Yes.

More Bloomsdays

Bloomsday 2014 (Robyn)

James Joyce is an author I regard with equal amounts of admiration and guilt. Admiration? His statue in Dublin and the jaunty angle of his cigarette holder in photographs. And I love a man (or a woman) with an eye-patch. Guilt? Ulysses languishing on my list of books I know I should have read but haven’t.

____,____ ____ circus on ____, (Paul)

I am just a bit too young to have dressed up as a woman to go to the segregated screening of Ulysses. Have read some but never finished Ulysses. But for an insight into Joyce I like Roaratorio.

Roaratorio, an Irish circus on Finnegans Wake, a John Cage classic is available online.

Bloomsday 2009 (Marion)

Ulysses has been surrounded by controversy over the years – it was banned in America from 1921 until 1933. The 1967 film directed by Joseph Strick was controversial in part because of the use of the “f word” and in New Zealand was shown only to gender segregated audiences! (It’s all true folks – I was there as bright eyed varsity student). I seem to have survived unscathed and managed to read my way through both Ulysses and the slighter (in size), but no less linguistically challenging, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Ulysses weighs in at over 600 pages.

Cover of The most dangerous bookCover of The Years of Bloom Cover of Ulysses

Happy 80th birthday Caxton Press

A Caxton MiscellanyThe Caxton Press is 80 today.  It was launched on 10 June 1935 by John Drew and poet/typographer Denis Glover to publish New Zealand literature. Leo Bensemann had a long and fruitful association as a designer and illustrator with Caxton. Most of the decade’s best writers were first published by the company. Caxton Press tells the story on its website:

THE CAXTON CLUB was a colourful group of students, writing enthusiasts and amateur printers which operated a small printing press in the basement of the University Clock Tower, Worcester Street, in the early 1930s. In 1935, renowned New Zealand literary figure Denis Glover, together with a partner, borrowed £100 for a new press and formed The Caxton Press. They set up in an old wooden shop at 129 Victoria St where they stayed for fifteen years.

In 2013, Central Library Peterborough hosted A Caxton Miscellany – a Christchurch Art Gallery exhibition (see our photos).

A Caxton Miscellany
A Caxton Miscellany, Saturday 16 February 2013. Flickr: CCL-2013 -02-16-IMG_3708

One of the gems of our digital collection are The Group Catalogues, 1927 — 1977 as printed by Caxton Press. You can see their exquisite work closeup in these digital copies.

Cover of 19521953 copy of The Group catalogueCover of 1955Cover of 1958Cover of 1965

More on the Caxton Press

Denis Glover, founder of Caxton Press, with Book Week display in Alexander Turnbull Library. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1963/3385/9A-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23233944
Denis Glover, founder of Caxton Press, with Book Week display in Alexander Turnbull Library. Further negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1963/3385/9A-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23233944

The Northern Frights

It’s wintertime and darkness is falling
Crime is thriving and the body count’s high.
Your neighbour’s dead
and your boss is in prison
So hush your mouth or you might die.

Cover of Last RitualsThis pretty much covers it if you read or watch Scandi Noir (Dark Scandinavian fiction) which, unlike those early raiders from Northern Europe, has quietly snuck into our consciousness. The translators have been busy and we’ve got Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish books and DVDs on our shelves for those keen to part company with their wits. Up to now my fave mystery writers have been British for a bit of the dastardly, but I love a bit of scarily dark and god knows these people seem to spend a lot of their time in deep blackness, so no wonder they’re good at maliciously murderous moments mostly occurring in the long, long nights. These days it’s Håkan Nesser, Jo Nesbø, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir, Karin Fossum, Åke Edwardson that have me peeking through the curtains, locking the doors…

Cover of Frozen TracksStieg Larsson‘s Millennium series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, etc) were the books that initially took me over to the dark side. In Swedish unsurprisingly the original title was Men Who Hate Women. Undoubtedly nasty, but utterly readable and unputdownable. There is a good reason they shot to number one in the bestseller lists. The main character, Lisbeth, a survivor, does her damnedest to balance out the injustices done to women in this series. I was rooting for her the whole way through. They’re violent but I still fully recommend them if you haven’t already been tempted. This despite being a complete wimp who would normally hide under the bed from such fiction.

Cover of The Girl with the Dragon TattooIf you don’t mind subtitles (and the brain adapts remarkably quickly to reading the screen and watching at the same time), The Killing could keep you awake for a while. But for me The Bridge is the best. Only two series so far. A body is discovered on the exact half way mark on the bridge between Sweden and Denmark, which brings in a police team from each country. Good characterisation of the cops and the villain, and the storyline moves well with twists enough for me to have accused all and sundry of being the murderer. I’m hoping like mad there will be a third. Excellent entertainment.

Not scary, but equally entertaining is a Danish TV political series, Borgen. Never dry, it’s a behind the scenes machination of several political parties and their leaders jostling for the best position and attempting to form a government after an election too close to call. Birgitte Nyborg, leader of one of the small parties, becomes the first woman Prime Minister of Denmark. A tough job and hard on the family life and relationships. She is dealing with crises, making policy, pondering who to trust, and handling the media. It certainly rang bells as we watched our various small parties jockeying to be the party that joins the big guys in Government. Compulsive viewing once you get who’s who, and what they want, sorted out.

Do you like your books and viewing slightly chilling and grisly? Is your current reading and watching becoming a bit tame? Fancy seeing something of Scandinavia (mostly in the dark)? Check out these titles and let me know what you think. Any other books / authors in the Scandi Noir genre that you’d recommend?

Festival made accessible

Catalogue search for Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami in audiobook formatAbout now you may be wondering what happened to your good intentions of reading all those interesting books by those fascinating authors you heard about at WORD Christchurch or missed out on hearing at Auckland Writers Festival. Never fear, a solution is near!

Listen to your festival favourites

You may have not enough hours in the day to sit by the fire and read your fill of festival authors but help is at hand. You need not miss out on this year’s Auckland festival headliner Haruki Murakami. Try listening to his work in an audiobook. We have him available in downloadable audiobook from Overdrive and on CD.

Catalogue search for Hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world by Haruki Murakami i n audiobook formatFill in your spare moments on the bus or in the car, or while you vacuum the house, rake the leaves or paint the fence, or while exercising the dog or yourself by listening to an audiobook. If you have had a particularly tiring day and find you’re too tired to read, rather than turning on the television, snuggle up in a chair with an audiobook and soon you will be relaxed. Having trouble sleeping? My mother swears by lulling English voices as a sure-fire cure for insomnia.

Often audiobooks and large print titles have no reserve list so while others are waiting for a print edition, get ahead of the crowd. Better still, even if there is a wait list downloadable audiobooks on Overdrive do not have a reserve charge.

Catalogue search for H is for Hawke by Helen MacDonald in audiobook formatOverdrive is one of our suppliers of audiobooks and ebooks. You can find all their titles in our catalogue.

As well as Murakami, you might also try Booker Prize-winning novelist Ben Okri whose novel The Age of Magic has been newly released and is available on CD. Sometimes the CD format can be limiting as it requires you to be stationary. Happily we have Helen MacDonald’s H is for Hawk as an ISIS audiobook that is a clever format which you can download to your laptop and transfer to your MP3 player, freeing you up to listen to it anywhere.

The thousand autumns of Joseph de Zoet in audiobook formatA standout from Word Christchurch was the charming David Mitchell. Your ears can ring with the sounds and atmosphere of old Japan listening to his exotic enthralling tale The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet on CD.

 

 

Large print – easy to read!

If reading is difficult at night when the light is bad, or because you struggle with print at the end of a tiring day spent staring at a computer screen, large print may be the answer! Why not try David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green or The Thousand Autumn’s of Joseph de Zoet or Xinran’s touching Miss Chopsticks.

Walliams in audio and large print formats

Book cover for Demon Dentist by David Walliams in Playaway formatNothing like a bedtime story so why not borrow one of our children’s titles by the hit author David Walliams in an audiobook format to lull your darlings to sleep? We have audiobooks on CD, preloaded mp3 players, and downloadable audiobooks for your enjoyment.

If you have a child who is yet to find their stride with reading a wonderful way to introduce the love of books is by reading along to an audiobook so why not borrow the book and the audiobook together? We have Demon Dentist as a Playaway, a preloaded audiobook in its own wee player. All you or your child has to do is press play and you can carry it around with you. Ideal for children who are always on the move.

If small print is an obstacle try these David Walliams titles in large print.

Catalogue search for Mr Stink by David Walliams in large printCatalogue search for Ratburger by David Walliams in large print formatThe boy in the dress by David Walliams in Large Print format

More festival goodies

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.