Why would one read a literary magazine in the time when novels are still the hottest form on the scene? Because reading a literary magazine is like being young and ready to fall in love every day fresh. You can pick up the read you fancy, and if you realize you made a wrong judgement, you can very easily let it go, because – guess what? There is another one waiting for you when you turn the page. No hard feelings, no strings attached!
Takahē is a New Zealand literary magazine published in Christchurch and has been on the scene since 1989. Its core repertoire consists of short stories, poetry and art by New Zealand writers and artists, and often extends to essays, interviews and book reviews. The magazine is a good starting point for emerging literary talents and offers a place for their first public appearance along with established writers.
Takahē is published twice a year in a print form (in April and December) and as an online issue in August.
One of the prevailing themes of April 2016’s issue is motherhood, or the biological and relational obstacles preventing motherhood. Lucy-Jane Walsh (These Things Happen) brings a fresh insight into a life of a young woman who cannot have a child but forms an unusual friendship with someone else’s (at the same time it cleverly captures the nuances of the craziness and obsessiveness of modern parenthood). Suvi Mahonen in Little White Crescent dives into details of medical checks and scans of a pregnant future mother, while much more darker side of deficient pregnancy comes to life in Meagan France’s Grace.
The other topic that floats up to the surface is – of course – love, or various forms of love and its cousins (David Hill’s On Special, Melanie Dixon’s The Cottage, Sarah Penwarden’s Mirror Ball, Rupa Maitra’s Eve).
The second topic that recurs is writing (The Celtic Gift by Juliana Feaver and Kate Mahoney’s Flight from New York).
As far as the dating goes, I would definitely revisit Nathan Bennett’s Washed Up (only Birdling’s Flat can inspire such weird yet beautiful story about the relationship you don’t come across very often), Melanie Dixon’s The Cottage (with a witty perspective on a rather sad ending of a romantic weekend), Michael Botur’s This is God’s House (complex and unusual relationship narrated in dynamic slang and persvasive style) and Bev Wood’s Ode to Gallipoli (lyrical meditation on peace with an elusive narrator).
What can offer a better shelter to love than poetry? In this issue it comes hand in hand with its ancient partner – death. Under the mindful study of surrounding the pain of passing reveals itself (The Hospice Room by Robert McLean, Rachel Smith’s Light and Shade) and so does singularity of existence through proximity of death (Sarah Penwarden’s poems). How presence and absence are both immanent to love is evoked by Julie Barry in You are now not. Iain Britton’s verses from Calling go further and transcend into cyclical time: binding with ancestors in order to stand, singing in order to weave people together, emerge past and present.
Love can be destructive as well. Venus fails to pursue her artistic calling because she makes the same mistake again – i.e. falls in love (Jenny Powell’s Marlene Dietrich in Gore for the Gold Guitar Awards). The answer to her problem is hiding in sea snails – as Kirstie McKinnon points out they will teach us about letting go.
More existential orientated poems will explain why it is always good to keep your passport on you – or begin at the end (Frieda Paz in Road, map, direction, begin), otherwise you might end up stuck on the bridge – like a subject in Julie Barry’s Preposition of place. Liang Yujing offers a new metaphor for life – heavy school bags on young pupils and big black mouth of a primary school devouring them. Can we escape? No, as Mary Cresswell proves in her poems, adequately pairing themes of artistic and existential crisis (or blocks) with old troubadour’s poetry forms. But as Julie Barry points out in her Grapefruit, the weight of humanity is too much for one and only branch we live on anyway. And this is not all, I am leaving other joyful jewels for yourself to discover!
Takahē regularly offers essays on art and latest book reviews. April’s issue will be of a special interest to Christchurch readers, as it brings to focus Lisa Walker’s revolutionary jewellery (written by curator Felicity Milburn), which can also be seen as an exhibition in Christchurch Art Gallery – Te Puna o Waiwhetu until the 2nd April 2017.
Being a wonderful relic means I still thrive every Saturday morning when I browse through the good old printed paper while sipping the first morning coffee. These days, I am paring this ritual with an early evening one which includes wine and Takahē. Both combinations are perfect and correspond well to each other. I urge you to try them both.
2016 has seen the publication of a bunch of great and interesting New Zealand books, with plenty of strikingly attractive covers. Here are my picks for New Zealand’s best book covers of the year:
Number one is Mansfield and me: A graphic memoir by Sarah Laing, published by Victoria University Press. The cover, as drawn by Sarah, is a thing of beauty. It also draws you into the compelling counterpointing of Sarah and Katherine Mansfield – the very heart of the book.
Here’s what Sarah had to say about her cover design:
It’s quite a different proposition designing your own book cover as opposed to designing for others. I had a couple of other options but it was pretty easy to settle on the one I liked the most. I took Mansfield’s profile from a famous 1915 photograph, and tried to draw my own to match it. I wanted to echo the vase/profile illusion, and also to have us facing each other, when, in so much of the book, our stories run in parallel. Later in the book, Katherine and I share a cup of coffee, and I used to print from my coffee cup as a motif in the background.
Well, for my second book, I asked Elliot Elam to draw me a picture, though I didn’t know what the picture should be … Maybe more importantly, a stranger is picked out of the anonymous crowd and made knowable. Without getting too lofty… in a way that’s what I wanted to do with this book of essays: attempt an impression of things that otherwise would have rushed by.
Ashleigh Young [my editor] has a friend called Russell Kleyn who is a really great photographer and she set me up with him. I had quite a different idea; I have quite a funny portrait of myself and I wanted a really Dorian Gray thing, where there was a portrait of me holding a dorky portrait of myself, but it actually didn’t turn out that well.
He saw this yellow raincoat in this weird attic I was living in and he just wanted to take a few photos of that, so it was kind of a random shot. But I really like the way it turned out and that it obscures my face. What I told him was that I kind of wanted [it to have] an Yvonne Todd vibe about it – feminine but also a bit creepy and off.
Fergus Barrowman, VUP publishers comments on the triple victory:
The books make the covers (that is, if the books weren’t great and successful no one would be noticing the covers); all three were ferociously art-directed by the authors with only gentle pressure from the publisher.
So my three picks for best book covers also happen to be books I loved inside and out. They also are all published by Victoria University Press. So I think I can officially say it – VUP gives good cover. They have cannily produced postcards to show off them fine looking jackets. Next stop, VUP badges and tshirts??
A Christchurch book that deserves a special mention is a picture book produced by C1Espresso, and edited by owners Sam and Fleur Crofskey. Let’s take a walk looks at Christchurch places before and after the earthquakes. It was written by Nicole Phillipson, and the exquisite illustrations are by Hannah Beehre. The design and layout – with all its fascinating fold outs – is by Alec Bathgate & Tahlia Briggs.
The cover of the Gecko annual is a zingy orange red with a dash of gold on the cover. But it’s the contents that are a symphony of beaut design work. Have a look at Kim’s blog post for some pics from inside the annual. It’s a stunner.
We’re so excited about the eagerly-awaited publication release of Annual from Gecko Press (edited by Kate De Goldi & Susan Paris). Annual is a real game-changer as the first publication of its kind in New Zealand.
Annual is a 136-page smorgasbord of stories, comics, satire, how-tos, poems, games and puzzles aimed at 9-12 year old children – and their families.
There’s a dictionary of crazy words that come in handy on car trips, a sophisticated ‘spot the similarity’, a found poem from school newsletters, a maths-nerd’s memoir full of tricky logic puzzles, and top-class fiction that spans Christchurch Botanic Gardens in the 19th century, the loss of a brother, a Kiwi beach holiday and a board game.
Kate De Goldi, co-editor of the Annual from Gecko Press, could see there was a “hectic” trend in children’s writing – popular books for children such as those that are slapstick or fantastical or series titles (think Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Captain Underpants). She says that while these books are great, the current market does not run in the favour of more nuanced, complex books.
Inspired by, and harking back to memories of children’s annuals in the UK like Bunty The Books for Girls, De Goldi reminisces that “Annuals were like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag – you always see something new every time you opened one.”
Annuals were full of literary miscellany – a home for practitioners, writes, emerging talent. Kate remembers being given annuals for Christmas and how for some children it may have been the only book they got in a year so it was something to be savoured and enjoyed all year long.
With Annual, the editors set out to “reimagine an iconic book format for today’s young readers.” Lorde, Taylor Swift and “selfies” are in there. Indeed one of the charms of Annual is how it manages to reference pop culture yet still feel nostalgic.
Christchurch writers, illustrators and artists showcased
Speaking of nostalgia, it’s evident Kate De Goldi has a soft spot for Canterbury. Born and raised here, a Christchurch connection appears throughout Annual in various forms: From local writers such as Gavin Bishop, Ben Brown and Renata Hopkins to the street art of Christchurch in a commentary on Wongi Wilson’s Whare & Whānau (2014) in Spray Can Renaissance.
Due to the CBD’s rebuild, Wilson’s mural, that was on the corner of Tuam and Manchester streets is barely visible now, making this snapshot of a certain time and place more poignant.
We asked Kate to tell us more about the inaugural Annual:
Kate, how did the idea for Annual came about?
For some time I’d been bothered by the fact that there seemed to be a dearth of good, original New Zealand reading material for readers between 8 to 12, the reading group that American publishers/booksellers call ‘middle-grade’ (between ’emerging’ readers and young adult readers), roughly between 8 and 12 years. Additionally, I was sorry that there were no publications anymore for emerging writers for that age group to publish short form material.
One day a couple of years ago while I was out running round the hilly streets of Wellington and thinking about these things, it suddenly occurred to me that an Annual – a miscellany of stories, comics, poetry, articles, art, puzzles, games etc – would be a great solution to both of these issues. By the time I’d finished my run I’d thought of two people who could help make it happen – Julia Marshall, the publisher for Gecko Press and Susan Paris, the editor of the School Journal.
Why is this ‘Annual’ so significant for New Zealand?
As far as we know there’s never been a New Zealand publication like this for New Zealand children. This is the first publication of new, commissioned material across a variety of forms for this age group. It’s also the first publication to draw contributions from such a wide range of writers and artists – well known writers and illustrators for children, but also new writers and artists or writer/artists who usually produce work for an adult readership.
Annual is also an attempt to broaden the notion of what is allegedly ‘suitable’ for children. We believe that the 9-12 age group is a very sophisticated readership, one that’s hungry for different kinds of reading – fiction, non-fiction, graphic material, and great art – so we’ve commissioned work that is varied and substantial and with real literary merit. But the editors (Susan and me) have a pretty developed sense of the absurd, too, so we wanted the Annual to have funny – even silly – contributions as well as solid stuff.
Tell us about your childhood memories of annuals?
I grew up in a house full of books, including a wide range of very good children’s books. Comics were kind of frowned on, though – but I loved them… I read them at other people’s houses whenever I had the chance.
All the well-known British children’s comics of that post-War period (Girl’s Crystal; Princess; Rupert; Beano, Bunty, to name some) also had an Annual (a kind of bumper issue of the comic) published in time for the Christmas market. As a non-comic household we tended not to get the Annuals either – except one year when, for some reason, my sister Clare got Bunty. She was 8 that year, but claims she was still reading that Bunty Annual until she was 18. I believe her – the thing I noticed about annuals was that they seemed to last forever…every time you picked up a well-thumbed, familiar annual there was somehow always something you hadn’t noticed before and were very pleased to read.
When we were first thinking about our annual we knew we wanted it to be like that – a gift that kept on giving. It’s roughly aimed at a 9-12 readership but we hope that those readers will keep on dipping in over the years; and we’re confident there will be both younger and older readers – and adults – outside the designated age group who will enjoy many of the contributions between the covers.
How did this annual come together?
Once I had the annual idea I contacted Julia Marshall who was immediately very keen on the idea of Gecko Press publishing a miscellany of this kind (Gecko’s catchphrase is ‘curiously good books’). Then I contacted Susan Paris, who is a good friend, but more importantly has 12 years experience commissioning and editing the New Zealand School Journal a publication embedded in the history of children’s writing and illustrating in New Zealand and which is in many ways like Annual – miscellany of varied forms, but for use in the classroom.
Susan and I began by dreaming up ideas for stories, poems, articles etc and then worked out who we thought would be the best writers and artists to work with those ideas. We needed to come up with the ideas ourselves to ensure a balance across the annual – different moods (sad, funny, silly, reflective); different settings (urban, rural); gender and cultural balance; different forms (realist, fantasy, historical etc). We worked hard to match our ideas with the right artist/ writer…for example, we liked the idea of a ‘found’ poem composed entirely of lines taken from school newsletters. We asked James Brown to have a go at that – we knew he was great with different poetic forms. We approached writers and artists who we knew enjoyed working within certain parameters but who could still make the piece their own.
Commissioning was just the first stage – we edited all the work for publication and worked with Gecko Press to find illustrators for many of the pieces. It was particularly interesting for me – a tyro* in this regard – to see a project of this size right through from inception to publication. Every aspect of the process was fascinating – and quite consuming…debating the best sequencing of all the contributions, debating the title and cover, the color of the cover…and more. And finally there’s spreading the word ahead of publication – talking to librarians, booksellers, teachers, any prospective buyers – preparing the website to go live. (* Tyro = beginner or novice).
Kate, you say that Annual is meant to be enjoyed by ‘backwards browse.’ What does that mean?
This was new to me – Julia told us that people nearly always explore a book, especially a volume of mixed material, from the back to the front.
It’s perfectly true. I do it myself, though I’d never noticed…and we’ve enjoyed watching people pick up Annual and check it out by fanning the pages from back to front. That’s good from our point of view – the first piece they see, then, is Naked Grandmother, the board game which is pretty entertaining. A ‘backwards browse’ will find you flicking through an annual until you fall on what you want to sink yourself into.
Annual’s cover is quite subtle compared to the treasure trove inside. Was that intentional?
Yes, that was intentional – the title written vertically and two lovely drawings by Gregory O’Brien…the chirping bird kind of heralding something good to come. And then there’s the color – a radiant orange.
We wanted the cover to be a striking design (that’s the work of Spencer Levine who also designed the interior) so that the prospective reader would be drawn to pick up Annual – and then begin the ‘backwards browse’ through the material between the covers – which is rich indeed, a real feast for the eye.
What is your hope for the book?
Firstly, I hope the book finds its way to the readers we had in mind when we were working on it – all those readers between 9-12 who are smart, curious and hungry for new material. I hope that readers outside that age group will check it out, too. I hope especially that it is bought by school libraries – that way Annual can reach readers who may not otherwise come across the kind of material inside.
We hope that Annual becomes an annual publication! We’re working on the second volume now and hope that we can keep on producing for as long as there’s an audience…We hope to keep on finding new writers and artists and giving them a platform to publish. We hope, too, that NZ writers and artists for children aspire to be published in Annual, that it builds an audience among practitioners as well as readers.
Kate, you’re very prolific. What is your next project?
Susan (Paris) and I are well launched on the commissioning of Annual 2 – which is huge fun…We meet twice a week and spend hours talking and pitching ideas to each other, refining them and working out how best and who might turn them into gold.
Are you a Wonderful Relic? I am. But how do I know? I first came upon the term in one of Johnny Moore’s columns in The Press (Friday 19th August 2016). He had the following to say:
I pay myself less in my business by generating an income elsewhere – writing for the wider Fairfax audience on the Stuff platform and for those wonderful relics who keep the whole boat afloat by continuing to buy and read the physical paper.
As I was sitting up in bed at the time – sipping my morning tea and paging through said newspaper (to which I subscribe), I think we can safely say that I am a Wonderful Relic. And I love it, so much better than being an Old Age Pensioner, a Gold Card holder or a University of the Third Age wannabe.
But don’t assume you have to be old to be a Wonderful Relic. Some people are born that way – and a lot of us seem to end up working in libraries. Check your Wonderful Relic status in this little quiz:
You subscribe to a newspaper or a magazine (1 to 2 points)
You also buy books (1 point per book)
You go to Literary Festivals like WORD Christchurch (1 point)
You read poetry (1), write poetry (1), read your poems in public (off the scale Wonderful Relic – allocate yourself as many points as you like.)
You keep a paper diary (1), you keep a journal (1), you draw in both of them (off the scale Wonderful Relic – see above)
You love stationery shops – after libraries, they are your favourite places (1 point each)
And it’s not that you disdain the use of eResources, you can download eBooks using OverDrive, use PressReader, take courses on Lynda.com and play around on Photoshop with the best of them. But when push comes to shove, at heart Wonderful Relics are aesthetes – we like things to look good, we are tactile in our approach to life and that may be where technology falls short for us.
This morning I heard, yet again, the dull thud of my morning paper hitting the front door. I remembered Johnny Moore and his reference to Wonderful Relics keeping the whole publishing industry afloat and as I took my first sip of tea I thought, it’s OK Johnny because like all the other Wonderful Relics: I will go down with this ship!
Christchurch Zinefest 2016 is happening on Sunday 18 September, 11am to 5pm at Space Academy / Kadett (371 St Asaph Street). I spoke to one of the Zinefest organisers, Alice Bush – a graphic design student at University of Canterbury. She’s been making zines for four years. As well as going to Christchurch Zinefests, Alice went to Wellington Zinefest last year.
Tips for Zinemakers
Don’t feel intimidated by what is out there already!
Start making, not worry too much about what you’re making. Know that it will be accepted in a community. I think that all zines are valid – no matter how hi-fi or lo-fi they are.
At the moment, I’m really into Riot grrrl feminist type stuff. What she said by UC Femsoc is a great feminist zine. Filmme Fatales from Melbourne is another great read.
I always love a good funny zine as well, batshit weird … I saw a zine in New York dissecting Home Depot as an art store. There was one at Wellington Zinefest called “Sock review”, which was pretty awesome.
I like zines because they can be anything that you want them to be, no matter how weird your idea is.
Zine culture in Christchurch
There is Zinefest once a year, but that’s about the only event we have at the moment. The zine culture has been laying low, and the Zine Library that was in the Darkroom disappeared last year. I’m trying to build up the culture a bit more, getting people involved and doing more stuff.
Space Academy has started having zine nights. The culture is there, but it is not as big as in Auckland and Wellington. It’s hard to do creative stuff in Christchurch when everything goes into rebuilding.
Zines and the Internet
People used to make fanzines and send them to their friends, now fan-culture has moved on to the internet and there’s not really any need for zines in that culture anymore. It’s interesting to see zines or digizines on sites like Issuu. It is for magazines, but I’ve seen tons of zines up there.
I’ve been reading this article by Bryce Galloway. He’s been involved in zines for a long time. In the early 2000s it started being closed off, and away from the outside world and the Australian and American zines. It’s good when people put their stuff up on the web, because then everyone can see it. You’re getting your work out there to everyone.
Zines and libraries
I visited the Wellington zine collection when I was there. Zines have always been away from the mainstream way of publishing, and it is interesting that they are now in that context of the library.
Zines have been made since the 1920s. They started with sci fi, fanzines, and poetry. I’ve been trying to track down things from that era, most of it is in America. So it’d be great if the zines we make now will last to influence and encourage aspiring zinemakers in the future. I’m all for archiving things and making sure that things last.
The Sunday Fringe at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival was at one of my favourite new Christchurch places – Space Academy / Kadett Cafe in St Asaph Street. It’s just such a pleasant space to be in – great hot drinks, yummy food, AND an exhibition of The Smiths posters.
I was keen to go to this session, being a magazine lover from way back – raised on Twinkle, Tammy, and Misty comics, then Mizz, Q, Select, NME, British Vogue … Also, the library has just launched a magazine uncover – huraina.
The panellists on How to start a mag are eminently qualified to talk MAGAZINES: Debbie Stoller’s mag-baby is BUST (up to issue 100), Luke Wood (Cheap Thrills), and Duncan Greive from online mag The Spinoff (via Real Groove). The session was ably chaired by RDU’s breakfast host James Dann.
In the world of magazines, the tension between quality content and business/advertising/the Web is massive:
Don’t sell your soul to the advertisers. Magazines can become deformed by demands of the advertiser and fat with ad pages.
The culture and the capital are never going to be compatible.
How on earth do magazines make money?
How do you sell magazines when there are fewer bookshops and less people buying mags?
Why would people buy content they can get free on the web?
NZ Herald and Stuff are both trying to be gossip sites, magazines, and provide serious news. The broken economic model dictates incoherence.
A world without intelligent discourse gets you Trump and Brexit.
Who wants to advertise to smart, funny feminists? Turns out – no-one.
So why make a magazine when it’s all against you? The big driver is PASSION. As Luke Wood said:
As a designer I guess I do fetishize the object. Somehow when it is in print, it is more archived. I believe in the content that we’re publishing.
And the experience of reading a magazine is different to consuming “weird snackable crap” on the internet. Debbie Stoller said:
It’s the quality of the time that you spend with it. It’s a more quiet focused time – it sticks in your memory more.
I can’t finish with mentioning this rather splendid quote from James:
Magazines smell really good; the Internet doesn’t.
Eat. Sleep. Read. Scott Pack’s t-shirt made a nice statement and I felt an immediate affinity. Eloquently introduced by Tracy Farr author of The Life and loves of Lena Gaunt, this could well turn out to be one of my favourite sessions. Scott Pack could quite easily give up his day job and become a stand-up comic, a lovely British self deprecating humour always wins me over.
Changing the title of the talk to How to accidentally become a publisher: A story in 10 books is a crowd-winning way to lead us through his career in publishing. It turns out that Scott Pack is a bit of a risk taker who surprisingly listens to Radio New Zealand, (but more about that later). The books he uses are varied and prove a clever way to describe career highlights.
Scott Pack left Waterstones where he had worked for about 10 years and became involved in The Friday Project. Ebooks have taken off by this point and bloggers were also starting to make their mark. Tom Reynolds had been writing a very popular blog about his life as an ambulance driver, so The Friday Project were the first publishers to turn digital on its head and publish a digital format ie a blog into a print format book. It became a best seller, and as we know the rest is history as there are now any number of blogs becoming books.
White Noise was used to highlight the National Radio story. Scott Pack suffers from tinnitus and finds it much harder to get rid of the white noise sound when it is quiet at night. After trial and error he came upon the solution of listening to Radio New Zealand, which gave him something good to listen to but because it wasn’t necessarily British or local he could also go to sleep and not get too caught up in the interviews as he would with a British made programme. This led to his next book The Life and loves a Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr. He heard it read on Radio New Zealand, loved it, contacted Tracy and ended up publishing her along with Fiona Kidman and Damian Wilkins all in the space of about 5 months.
The Wisdom of Crowds was a nice lead into one of Scott Pack’s latest venture Unbound – kickstarter (or crowdsourcing) for books. The curators of the site put up a chapter of a book that has been submitted by a writer that they think shows some merit. As a reader you get to like a book and give the amount of money that you think it is worth to the kickstarter or crowdsourcing site. If the book raises enough money it is published and you get your name in the back of the book. Authors can also offer other means for you to support them – a chef for example who is trying to get his/her book published could (for a price) to come to your house and cook you dinner.
Lastly he talked about and area that he is obviously passionate about. He is on the hunt for lost, forgotten or out of print books. The Iron Chariot by Stein Riverton was apparently the 2nd best Norwegian crime novel of all time. (Why 2nd best no one seems to know) but it is long out of print and has now been translated. Scandinavian crime is still a ‘thing’ and he hopes it will sell well.
Plenty of food for thought, this was a great session for aspiring writers…and I think there were a few in the audience, but it was also highly entertaining and informative for those of us who just love books and enjoy listening to someone who shares their enthusiasm.
In the 1980s I was very involved in feminist politics, a lot has changed since those times. We are on the cusp of the first American woman president and women are in some positions of power, but are our lives any better for this? Many women are choosing to remain single, to concentrate on their careers but still get paid less than men. Dieting and body image are the mainstay of most women’s magazines, and we seem increasingly obsessed with celebrity culture. So how does a feminist of many years manage to create a magazine that remains relevent to today’s feminists?
Debbie Stoller, is co-founder and editor of BUST:
the magazine was one of the founders of ‘girlie feminism,’ a third wave feminist strategy which re-evaluated and embraced traditional feminine activities.
“Girlie feminism”?? Really? My old feminist bones are creaking at such terminology, but then I find myself nearly choking when Debbie Stoller declares that Martha Stewart is her third favourite feminist! Later on she announces that her first and second are Madonna and Courtney Love. I don’t get it. However what I do get is that the women’s movement has always been very good at putting the boot in, we haven’t been good at vigorous debate and this has been to our detriment, so with this in mind I am doing my best to remain open, the old timers in the 70s and 80s believed change would come through politic but Debbie Stoller believes that “mainstream media is where change will happen”.
So what is BUST like? It is full of women comics, musicians and actors saying positive feminist things. Tina Fey is a good example, recounting being asked “isn’t this an amazing time for women in comedy?” and I was like ‘I don’t know is it?’ Do I make what Will Ferrell makes? No.” Feminism via BUST now includes cooking, crafting, creating a wedding, interesting sustainable clothing, sex and travel. There is no evidence of body shaming or articles on the Kardashians.
Feminism via BUST is palatable, it means the magazine has managed to get to 100 issues and that is impressive, as Debbie Stoller says “there’s not a lot of money in feminism”, keeping the magazine going must have been tough at times. I came away from this session with a mind full of questions, one hour was not nearly long enough, feminism and what it stands for is a debate of unending possibilities and BUST is challenging our foundations.
This event got off to a good start – interviewer Paula Morris dropped all her notes on the floor but said it didn’t matter anyway as she had managed to flush her specs down the loo of the Air New Zealand flight from Auckland the night before. John Freeman guffawed. And we were off!
It’s National Poetry Day and they both read a favourite poem. Freeman’s was one that he had first seen on a train in the New York subway. It is by Tracy Kay Smith who is a young writer and a Pulitzer Prize winner. Freeman (former Granta Editor and currently owner of his own literary journal Freeman’s) says of her writing: ‘when you read her work, you start to think that this is the only way those words could be arranged’. He loves poetry and writes it himself. It started as a way to get dates, but the poems were bad and he suffered the simultaneous rejection of his poetry and himself!
Here are three things you might not know about John Freeman:
He is a middle child – ‘the overlooked one’.
He went to Quaker schools and a Quaker campus. He holds their ideals in high esteem – especially their anti-war stance.
When he can’t sleep he watches drag racing videos on YouTube!
He calls himself ‘a professional child athlete’ who really only started reading in earnest in his late teens. And what did he read? Three hugely formative novels were: Neville Shute’s On the Beach; George Orwell’s 1984 and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.
As for what he wants for his new venture Freeman’s, he is very clear that he wants it to be about the stories that we tell each other, as opposed to being yet another journal about the act of writing. He is constantly astounded by the number of young writers (many of whom he lectures) who want to write and earn money from writing but won’t subscribe to a journal – arguably the best starting point for any aspiring writer. ‘For the price of a few beers …’ he says wistfully ‘they could invest in their own future’.
It was a great session, relaxed and densely packed with new ideas and lovely words. Time to get my copies of Freeman’s signed. And let the truth be known, this was not the first time I had met John Freeman. Six years ago at Auckland Writers Festival in 2010 when he was the editor of the prestigious Granta literary magazine, I bought a Granta as a gift for a friend. He’d just been berated by a festival goer for using bad language, so without hesitation, when he signed my copy he wrote: ‘To Allison, All the best (insert rude word) morons love this book, hope you do too.’
Canadian Elizabeth Hay has to write about what means most to her. In her latest book His whole life, she writes of the close mother-son bond. As the marriage comes apart, the mother-son bond deepens. In her earlier novel Late nights on air she revisits her years as “An old radio hack”.
On the publishing scene
New Zealand authors will sympathize with her comments that publishers aren’t always aware how much Canadians interested in Canadian tales. Publishers want books to be set outside Canada with an eye to foreign sales.
“He knows he’s not the smartest guy in the world” unlike Harper. He’s done some things like the Montreal Gay Pride march, does he overdo it? – Sometimes. Under former president Harper, Canada was very tar oil sands orientated. Under Trudeau it is different – landscape and environment is at the heart of the country now.
On the landscape
You can’t live in Canada without having a sense of it because there is so much of it and a need of landscape which is at the heart of our writing”.