New Zealand writer Anna Smaill is on the Man Booker Prize longlist

We’re all very excited to hear New Zealand author Anna Smaill is on the longlist for the Man Booker Prize for her book The Chimes. I’ve read it, and loved it. It’s a dystopia, yes, and also timeless and full of history, music and atmosphere:

You can hear Anna talk in Christchurch at a WORD Christchurch session Imaginary Cities, on Sunday 30 August along with Fiona Farrell, Anna Smaill, Hamish Clayton, and Hugh Nicholson  (chaired by Christchurch Art Gallery’s senior curator Lara Strongman). It’s part of a Shifting points of view season in the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Masha interviewed Anna at the Auckland Writers Festival – read her interview Anna Smaill – from a writing musician to a musical writer:

The first impulse is the sense of time going past. It’s almost having the experience of pathos in the moment, having feeling of something happening that is already gone. I’ve always had very acutely this feeling of things being transient and ephemeral and I wanted to capture them.

I definitely think the impulse to write first came from that. Of course it is also a way of working things out for me. Just to process my experiences, work out what I think about things. It always seemed a necessary thing to me. And also it’s a great entertainment.

And just the other day Anna answered some quick questions.

Best of luck, Anna.

Chatting to authors

Roberta interviews Kathy Lette. Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2012, Aotea Centre.  Flickr, CCL-AWRF-2012-05-11
With Kathy Lette. Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2012, Aotea Centre. Friday 11 May 2012, Flickr, CCL-AWRF-2012-05-11

I bet this has happened to you: you’re reading a great book and you think – gee, I’d really like to interview this author. I did that for years before the day came when I sat opposite my first real  live author – absolutely scared witless and thinking – be careful what you wish for!

Here’s the authors I’ve interviewed (click on their names to read the full interviews):

Lionel Shriver: A 15 year old girl who changes her name from Margaret Ann to Lionel – just to pique her father – is not someone to be toyed with. This was my first interview ever at my first ever Literary Festival. I walked with heavy boots to her hotel, but I floated back on a little cloud nine. That was when I realised that there was nothing to be scared of, because authors love librarians!

William Dalrymple: He didn’t sit still for one minute in this interview held on the top floor of an Auckland Hotel. I had to chase him around trying to keep up with him. I was already nervous (he is a famous travel writer of books like Nine Lives – in Search of the Sacred in Modern India), and my uncertainties around the technology involved in getting the whole thing recorded were greatly exacerbated by Dalrymple’s restlessness. I start hyperventilating just thinking about it.

Kathy Lette: This interview really was like chatting to a good friend over a coffee. What a blast! Irreverent, sexy, fun, OK maybe a bit flippant. But at least she sat still!

Andrew Miller: Forever endeared himself to me by being the only author I have ever interviewed who asked: “How are things in Christchurch?” We were just post earthquake and the gap between life in Christchurch and life in Auckland made me feel so sad. His best known work is Snowdrops, a debut novel that made the Booker Long List in 2011. He was a pleasure to interview.

Roberta and Jeffrey Eugenides, Flickr, CCL-AWRF-2012-05-12
With Jeffrey Eugenides, Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2012, Aotea Centre. Saturday 12 May 2012. Flickr, CCL-AWRF-2012-05-12

Jeffrey Eugenides: that is correct – the Pulitzer prizewinning author for his novel Middlesex. Terrifying to interview. Read right to the end and you will know why. The photo says it all really. 

John Lanchester: One of those interviews that never really had a lift-off point. I was chatting to him about his book Capital – which I had loved. His Publishing Agent sat with us throughout the interview. What did she think I would do to him?

Laurence Fearnley: I am a big fan of this Kiwi writer. We bonded over a coffee at one of the WORD festivals. She really thinks about her interview answers. She gives you her full attention. I am so fond of her.

Roberta with NoViolet  Bulawayo, Christchurch WORD Festival 2014,
With NoViolet Bulawayo, Christchurch WORD Festival 2014, 30 August 2014. Photo by Roberta Smith.

NoViolet Bulawayo: A young Zimbabwean author who was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2013 for her novel We Need New Names. We chatted for ages. I had to ruthlessly edit what had been recorded to get this interview down to a reasonable length. So young, yet so wise (her not me!)

There’s no doubt that interviewing is nerve-wracking – I felt my stress levels rise just writing this blog!  But I would not have missed these opportunities for anything. How about you? Do you have an author you would like to interview?

Meet Kids Book Award Finalists at Shirley Library

Are you a young writer who wants to improve your writing? Do you love to meet authors and hear how they write their books?  We’ve got two events coming up at Shirley Library just for you!

On Saturday 8 August Shirley Library will be hosting some of the wonderful authors who are finalists in this year’s New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Karen Healey is a finalist in the main book awards and both Desna Wallace and Natalie King are finalists in the Children’s Choice Award. There are two events for kids and teens that you can come along to for FREE:

  • Writing Workshop with Karen Healey, 10:30am-12:00pm, Saturday 8 August – Join Karen Healey, author of While We Run, for a young adult writing workshop. Recommended for ages 10+.
  • Fast Track Fiction, 5:00-6:00pm, Saturday 8 August – Join Karen Healey, Joanna Orwin, Desna Wallace and Natalie King as they unlock the secrets of their success as writers. Recommended for ages 10+.

You need to book for both of these events but they are free. To book phone 03-941-7923.

You might like to read the finalist books from these wonderful authors so check these out:

Winners of the 2015 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals

The winners of the 2015 Carnegie and Greenaway Medals were announced on Monday in the UK.  Tanya Landman was awarded the CILIP Carnegie Medal for Buffalo soldier and William Grill was awarded the CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal for his debut picture book, Shackleton’s Journey They each received a medal and £500 of books to donate to their local library and William Grill also received the Colin Mears Award of £5,000.

Cover of Buffalo soldierCharley, a young African-American slave from the Deep South, is freed at the end of the American Civil War. However her freedom is met with tragedy after her adopted mother is raped and lynched at the hands of a mob, and Charley finds herself alone with no protection. In a terrifyingly lawless land, where the colour of a person’s skin can bring violent death, Charley disguises herself as a man and joins the army. Trapped in a world of injustice and inequality, it’s only when Charley is posted to Apache territory to fight “savage Indians” that she begins to learn about who she is and what it is to be truly free.

The judges said: Engrossing from the very beginning, the strong narrative voice engages the reader in the world described; perfectly conveying raw emotions without the overuse of sentimentality. This is a beautiful, powerful piece of writing that will remain with readers long after the last page.

Cover of Shackleton's journeyIn the last days of the Heroic Age of Exploration, Ernest Shackleton dreamed of crossing the frozen heart of Antarctica, a place of ferocious seas, uncharted mountains and bone-chilling cold. But when his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in the deadly grip of the ice, Shackleton’s dreams of crossing Antarctica were shattered. Stranded in a cold, white world, and thousands of miles from home, the men of the expedition set out on a desperate trek across the ice in search of rescue.

The judges said: This beautiful non-fiction book seems to effortlessly bring a modern and fresh feel to the story of Ernest Shackleton, whilst remaining traditional and classic. This is an exciting, quality book which provides a true experience and reminds us that it is the people, not the journey, that truly matter.

I haven’t read either of these books but they both sound really interesting.  My picks were More than this by Patrick Ness for the Carnegie and Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse, written and illustrated by Chris Riddell for the Greenaway.  There were certainly some great books on the shortlist and I’m sure it would have been a tough decision.

The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. The shortlisted books this year were:

The Greenaway Medal is awarded annually for an outstanding book in terms of illustration for children and young people. The shortlisted books this year were:

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.

It’s the Children’s Choice in the 2015 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults

The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults are trying something new this year with an expanded Children’s Choice Awards. Children in schools from around the country have been given the opportunity to select their own list of finalists for the 2015 Children’s Choice Award.  More than 6,500 children and young adults from 106 schools from throughout the country have selected their own finalists from the 149 books submitted for the Awards  It’s an awesome opportunity and something that I wish I had had the chance to do when I was at school. I think it’s a great list and it’s good to see the difference between the children’s finalists and those of the judges.

Voting for the Children’s Choice is open now and closes on Friday, 31 July. This year there will be a winner in each category. We’ll be reviewing some of finalist books and interviewing some of the finalist authors here on the blog. Go and vote for your favourite book now.

Check out the finalist list for the 2015 Children’s Choice Award:

Picture Books

Junior Fiction

Non-fiction

Young Adult Fiction

2015 LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards Winners

Cover of Conrad Cooper's Last StandThe award ceremony for the 2015 LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards was held at the National Library in Wellington on Monday 15 June. The LIANZA Children and Young Adult Book Awards are awarded annually by LIANZA, the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa, for outstanding books for children and young people.

Congratulations to all the finalists and the winners!  Here are the winners:

Grab a copy of these award-winning books at your library. To find out more about the LIANZA Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Awards check out our page on the awards.

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

Satirists at large – Steve Braunias and David Slack

Writer and editor Stephen Stratford (@stephenstra) (blogging at Quote Unquote) joined two of Aotearoa’s top satirists to discuss satirical writing at the Auckland Writers Festival. The aforementioned satirists:

And what a sharp-witted triumvirate they were.  Stephen kicked off with a great potted history of satire – Juvenal, Jonathan Swift, Private Eye, The Thick of it – into New Zealand’s own history – John Clarke,  A week of it – McPhail, Gadsby, A. K. Grant, Chris McVeigh (in the audience apparently).

He riffs a bit more:

Steve Braunias is the finest satirist Mount Maunganui has ever produced.

And not only that:

Fielding is the epicentre of New Zealand satire.

Steve Braunias explains his Secret Diairies. They have an inbuilt narrative:

I regard them rather pretentiously as motifs.

How do they choose their victims? David Slack says you don’t punch down, you punch up:

Who’s asking for it? Who apart from John Key?

Discussion turns to left wing /right wing satire, and Braunias wryly imagines:

Bomber Bradbury but with nuance and jokes, or Chris Trotter with a laugh track.

Cover of Madmen Cover of Smoking in Antarctica Cover of Fish of the week Cover of Civilisation

How do people respond to having the mickey taken? Unexpectedly well sometimes. David Slack ended up getting some work from Gareth Morgan:

Sometimes satire is a sort of LinkedIn thing.

and at the Beehive:

Every minister’s office is full of cartoons of themself.

We gained insight into writing satire. Steve spoke of:

long slow lugubrious magic … I don’t have a first draft, every line is written one line after the other.

There were SO MANY cracking anecdotes in this session – complaining letters from Judith Collin’s family, a tattoo of Paul Holmes,  upsetting Julian Assange, giving it but not being able to take it …

And as a finale, a well-deserved award for Steve:

Top stuff, satirists. As you were.

David Mitchell Über Novelist

Portrait of DavidMitchellDavid Mitchell uber novelist is addictive, it’s official.  Cloud Atlas stays with you long after you have read it, and makes you question the way the world works, what it could become and the part individuals play in that. The series of ethical journeys the characters traverse through the book explore how people prey on each other and corporations prey on societies. The themes of interconnectedness and cause and effect heightened by reincarnating the main character.

Cover of Bone Clocks by David MitchellNow after reading The Bone Clocks – only my second David Mitchell novel – I begin to see his recurring themes of power, communication or miscommunication and connectivity. The consequences of random and considered actions we all make on a daily basis underlies much of his work, such as Holly Syke’s young actions.

David says his work explores how random or crafted connectivity powers reality. His skilled craftsmanship blends several different genres into one great novel in The Bone Clocks going from the realism to futuristic and fantasy elements, sometimes it feels like you are reading several books at once. The different styles – together  with the different voices to narrate each section – mean you’ll need to keep your wits about you so you don’t miss that crucial references, but I’ll give nothing away.

This author really loves language. You see that he finds it an ally, a trusted friend, and it is a joy to read – but sometimes he criticises himself.  The character and novelist Crispin Hershey’s ideas make you think the author himself he is having doubts about novel’s structure, or is he just making us think?   You can imagine I am very excited  to see him at WORD Christchurch tonight (Sunday 17 May).

Fans can follow breadcrumbs to pick up on references to characters from other works, tying them together.  Search out his fan site for insights into his works.

Here are some clips: