Countdown to National Poetry Day 2015

National Poetry Day 2015 logoPens to paper (or fingers to keyboard)! There is only one month until National Poetry Day on Friday 28 August. Several poetry competitions are currently open but with submission dates that end in the next few weeks (with winners generally being announced on National Poetry Day).

There are several nationwide poetry competitions this year as well as one for Christchurch poets.

Nationwide Poetry Competitions

Christchurch Poetry Competition

Hagley Writers’ Institute National Poetry Day Competition – Open to current and previous students at Hagley Writers’ Institute. (Submission Dates: 25 July – 7 August 2015)

Christchurch Poetry Event

0800 Muse – Kickstarting the poem: A public workshop to get you in touch with your muse. Open to all. Meet at 1oam for morning tea. The workshop will run from 10.30am-12pm, followed by the announcement of The Hagley Writers’ Institute National Poetry Day competition winners and celebratory readings from competition winners, Frankie McMillan (judge), Kerrin P Sharpe, Christina Stachurski, Bernadette Hall and more.

Date: Saturday 29 August, 10am – 1pm

Place: The Writers’ Block, Hagley College, Hagley Avenue.

Bookings: Registration required. Register by August 27th. For further information and workshop registration contact Morrin Rout, Director – Hagley Writers’ Institute. email writers@hagley.school.nz, (03) 329 9789 or 021 046 4189

Poetry Resources

Need inspiration? Check out our poetry resources

2015’s Community Read with local author Rachael King

Community Read 2015 Magpie Hall

2015: One book, one community

Magpie Hall by Rachael King

This August, Christchurch City Libraries invites you to read, share and discuss Magpie Hall by Rachael King.

Unlimited copies of the Magpie Hall eBook will be available to borrow for the whole of August from our Wheelers eBook platform! Thanks Wheelers and publishers Penguin Random House.
Reserve now.

Take a walk with us on the dark side, as we explore family secrets, taxidermy, Victorian tattooing, and Gothic novels.

I absolutely loved this book. It had a wonderfully familiar setting in the Canterbury foothills somewhere, mixing family history mysteries with the pressures of modern life. I was spellbound.

Magpie Hall by Rachael KingFind out more

Community Read 2015 author talk

Book Chat, Tea and Tales with award-winning author Rachael King
Friday 7 August At South Library
11am to 12pm

Community Read 2015 Performance

Join the Court Jesters as they improvise themes from Magpie Hall
Friday 7 August at South Library
7.30pm to 9pm

For more information phone (03) 941 5140

Remembering a wonderfully wacky Word Witch

Margaret Mahy 1936-2012

Three years ago today Margaret Mahy our favourite award winning author, writer, librarian, mother and grandmother died.

Take time to remember.

Read MM picture books – here’s a few to get started with …

Down the back of the chairBoom, Baby Boom BoomDashing DogBubble TroubleA Lion in the MeadowLeaf Magic

Young Adult reads

The changeoverKaitangata Twitch24 HoursThe Tricksters

Get to know MM

Margaret MahyMarvellous CodeNotes of a Bag LadyMy Mysterious World

Do what Margaret enjoyed – read, walk around the garden and have a sleep (apparently she could do this quite easily). Don’t walk down Cambridge Terrace though, or at least make sure your trousers stay up when you do.

Have a MM lunch – a salad sandwich made with wholemeal bread and cheese and tomato and lettuce and spring onions, and avocado and hard-boiled egg and anything else handy.

I’m going to remember Margaret by driving over the winding hill to Governors Bay and then wandering along the wiggly track at the bottom of the road. I won’t be alone. I’m taking a dashing dog, a bubble trouble baby, a gaggle of geese, a couple of mixed-up pirates, a librarian, a three legged cat, a boy with two shadows, a tin can band, a dragon, a lion and of course a witch.

Our procession will be one of nonstop nonsense, full of mischief and mayhem. A magical way to remember Margaret Mahy.

 

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:

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

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?

Anna Smaill – from a writing musician to a musical writer

Meeting Anna Smaill is almost like a scene from a modern James Bond movie. Hurrying up the stairs of Aotea Centre, she is not aware that I am following right behind her. Once inside the lobby, she reaches for her phone. Before I can say hello, the phone in my pocket starts to ring. Anna slowly turns around, puzzled, still holding her phone close to her ear. We find ourselves in an awkward moment. We don’t know what to do with our hands – greet each other or turn off the phones. Looking at each other, we burst out laughing, leaving the phones to echo around the lobby.

Cover of The Violinist in SpringEven though Anna published her debut novel The Chimes at the beginning of this year, she is definitely not a new name in New Zealand literary landscape. Her poetry featured in Best New Zealand Poems in 2002 and 2005, as well as numerous journals and magazines, before it found a permanent home in her first collection of poetry Violinist in spring (2006). Despite her dedicated academic pursuits – Masters in English Literature (Auckland University), Masters in Creative Writing (IIML, Victoria University of Wellington) and a PhD (University College London) – she never felt entirely suited for academic world. Most of all, she enjoys writing fiction. “It’s because it draws on all parts of me and it’s fun.” She quickly adds how “really really hard” it sometimes is.

The ChimesHer musical background has evidently marked not only her poetry but also her prose. Themes and style of The Chimes, dystopian novel set in alternative England, stem from the idea of music as an overpowering and navigating force of reality. An immense musical instrument, the Carillon, controls lives of remaining population. Brainwashing happens regularly with Matins, which tells “Onestory” – the only acceptable truth about the “Allbreaking”, the fatal discord, that broke with the past (now refered to as a “blasphony”) and established the present order. This is followed by violent erasing of – not only personal but collective memory as well – at Vespers with the Chimes. Among “memoryloss”, people who have suffered incurable damage, and “prentisses”, workforce which helps maintain the functioning of this complex musical tyranny, run by the Order, are outcasts. They forge for the “Lady”, a metal substance out of which the Carillon is made, and hold on to their “objectmemories”, the only remnants of their previous lives and selves. These enable them to trigger and nurture their personal memories.

The main character of the story, Simon, is a young orphan, who joins the pact of outcasts and soon realizes he possesses a special talent, that might change everything. With its unique style, which draws from the music, myriads of themes, relevant to a present day, and a clever narrative this work holds a reader in a grasp of perplexity and amazement until the very end.

I met up with Anna at Auckland Writers Festival to talk about her work, her life and The Chimes – of course.

Lives of people in The Chimes basically depend on their memories. What are your first memories of books, reading or libraries?

We used to go religiously to the library on Friday nights with my family. But I used to go to the library every day on my own after school as well, so it was almost like a second home for me. On Friday night we actually got the books out and we had a big red sack that we filled with books. I remember coming home and feeling reassured and excited. It was a bit like coming home from a supermarket after you just bought enough food for the week – only that I had enough reading material for a week. I was a total bookworm. Also, my family didn’t have a television.

Cover of TintinWe, children, were really lucky as our parents read to us a lot. I do remember the frustration before learning to read. I was trying to get my sister to read out Tintin comics for me. I also remember wishing to escape to my room to be able to read in peace during children’s parties. I found reading much more exciting.

Libraries are – just like museums and galleries – treasurers of collective memory. What is your opinion on cutting down library fundings, which is becoming a real fashion all around the world?

It’s a worrying development. People have a right to access literature. I do see it as a worrying sign. Although here in New Zealand libraries are so much part of the community, they are used by a broad section of the community and they feel very vital. In the UK, it didn’t feel like they were being that well used. There is more time to go to the library, here in New Zealand. In UK people are time-poor.

What has brought you to writing? Where does the need to write stem from? Is it just the fear of letting memories slip away, as you mentioned in a post on your web page, or are there any other inner motives and impulses?

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.

Continue reading

The Art of the Novel

It’s 8:15 on Sunday morning and there’s already a queue of at least thirty people waiting to get into the free ‘Art of the Novel’ session. It’s not due to start till 9am and by the time I’m half way through my coffee the line stretches round the corner and out of sight. The room seated 350 people and it looked pretty full by the time everyone was sitting down!

I sat between a very serious aspiring novelist and a group of younger chattier aspiring novelists. The men behind me were also deep in a conversation about writing and almost everyone had note pads.

Enter our three novelists. Stephanie Johnson from New Zealand, Emily St John Mandel from Canada, and from England came David Mitchell, wearing a pair of bright pink stripey socks, so I was immediately taken with him. His work is amazing too, of course, but the socks!

Cover of Station Eleven Cover of The Writing Class Cover of The Bone Clocks

The session was roughly broken up in to three parts, the ‘pre-writing’ stage, the writing itself, and then the editing and publishing stage.

“Research is great procrastination,” Stephanie Johnson said, as the three of them talked about building up their knowledge before (or just as often, during) their writing. For her latest novel, Station Eleven, Emily spent a lot of time on survivalist forums, which was fascinating, but a little scary.

David Mitchell’s ideas for his next book circle around his head like planes in a holding pattern, waiting to come down. He seems to have a very organised mind, or at least his mental organisation system resembles a kind of organised chaos. Whenever he finds a second hand book he thinks might be useful for one circling plane or another he’ll buy it and store it away, with a bookshelf put aside for each potential novel.

David and Emily both agreed that they would get so sick of working on old novels that the thought of starting a new one was terribly exciting! The new ideas can get very flirty and pushy, so it’s a matter of keeping them under control while you slog through the final days of your current project.

Some great bits of writing advice came out of the session:

About letting ideas sit and stew:

“You do need composting time. It’s good to have at least a part time job that forces you out into the world to pretend to be a normal.” – Stephanie Johnson

“I have to write the novel itself to figure out where the novel is going… it’s an incredibly inefficient way to write a book really.” – Emily St John Mandel

About fear, and challenging yourself by stepping outside your comfort zone:

“I want to know that I’ve bitten off more than I can chew this time.” – David Mitchell

“I try not to think about the audience when I’m writing. Which audience member would I pick anyway? I write the kind of thing I want to read.” – Emily St John Mandel

“When you’re really writing and it’s going well, the experience shouldn’t be too different to reading, or knitting.” – Stephanie Johnson

On editing:

“Sometimes I retype my entire draft, or read it all aloud. A ‘random page edit’ is a great way to pick up mistakes, print out and pick up page 3, 250, 180, whatever, and you’ll find all sorts of errors that you won’t notice if you read your story in order.” – Emily St John Mandel

“I don’t try to make it perfect the first time, that first draft is just about bringing a thing into existance.” – David Mitchell

On writing odious characters:

“When we’re being odious ourselves, remember, we self justify. Have your villains do the same.” – David Mitchell

“No one is one hundred percent odious all of the time, or if they are, they came by it honestly.” – Emily St John Mandel

By ten o’clock it was clear that the audience would have stayed much longer but it was time to move on, or rather, move out into the signing queues for some quick one-on-one writing advice.

For the writers among us, do you have any writing advice to share?

The Quotable Auckland Writers Festival

Here are some of favourite quotes which I managed to write down during the Auckland Writers Festival. I was struggling to rank them in a list from best to awesome, but you can judge them according to your own taste and preference.

“Reality is a bit more than we think it is.” Ben Okri

“The only limit with your story is imagination.” David Walliams

“If people read their authors, it’s their richness.” Ben Okri

“My stories are always unpredictable to myself” Haruki Murakami

“You feel like a magician when you write.” David Walliams

“I’m writing books for my people, not for my country.” Haruki Murakami

“Good thing is that people are writing books about what we’re doing wrong.” Charlotte Grimshaw

“I like the audience to have their view of the songs.” Hollie Fullbrook

“It is important to try and inspire those ones who don’t read, to read.” David Walliams

“Truth can hurt, but not knowing can hurt more.” Alan Cumming

“Curiosity is willingness to step in somebody else’s shoes.” Atul Gawande

“We don’t love our past enough to bring it into our present.” Aroha Harris

“History is one of the most powerful colonizing tools available. Especially if you are writing it from your point of view as a hero.” Aroha Harris

“More knowledge from parents to children.” Xinran

“We are in an age, when a move from home is a mythic experience.” Anna Smaill

“Everyone has an amazing story to tell.” David Walliams

“Remain yourself. Your experience is the most interesting. Be what you are.” Alan Cumming

“Hearts get broken over the breakfast table.” Anton Chekhov (only present in spirit and quoted by Hollie Fullbrook).

“You should always have a picture of a 100% boy, even when you have 78% husband.” Haruki Murakami

What I realized transcribing these quotes is that some of them are deeply embedded in the context of writer’s work or their life experience. But what makes them so beautiful is their universality. Everyone can interpret them in their own way.