It’s not often you get to attend the launch of a book written both by a local debut author but also by someone barely into their twenties. Book publishing is a competitive business and the path to publication can be slow and dispiriting (for those that make it there at all), so it’s an impressive achievement at any age.
All the Other Days is a book for teens, first written when Hartley was still a teenager himself. He was encouraged in this by his Shirley Boys’ form (and English) teacher who spoke at the launch, as well as by his family. While there were many subsequent years of hard work on the manuscript, interrupted by a degree in Psychology and a foray into teaching, it’s a testament to the positive influence the right teacher at the right time can have for many people — and also how the work of one author is built with the support of the community around them. A glance at the acknowledgements at the back of a book can give an idea of just how big this community can be.
Hartley is clearly passionate about bringing an authentic voice to Young Adult literature, particularly an authentic male voice which he struggled to find in his youth. (Should’ve asked a librarian.)
Many teens struggle with mental health during adolescence, on top of the usual mix of first love, dealing with school, and potentially problems at home, so being able to connect with characters having a similar experience can be a lifesaver. I have yet to read All the Other Days so can’t speak to the validity of the comparison, but the themes remind me of Will Kostakis (by coincidence another author who broke into publishing very young). If you’re looking for an exciting new addition to YA fiction then put yourself on the waiting list, because it’s looking like All the Other Days is already shaping up to be a big hit.
Create your own theatre scene! Start with a simple shoebox as your stage and craft your creations. You may like to enter your creation into our library competition and be in to win a
family pass to the matinee show of The Nutcracker at the Isaac Theatre Royal in November. Browse libraries and times for these sessions.
Looking for something to do during the October holidays? Then come learn about the sea through story, games and craft – there’s something for everyone! Have you got what it takes? Are you up for the challenge? Recommended for ages 5 to 15. FREE. Bookings ARE essential, please phone 941 7923.
Get creative using Lego and discover the process of producing animated movies. Plan a story themed on being kind to our world, create a set and craft your own movie using stop motion photography.
Ages: 8 to 12 years
Minecraft Game Zone is a 3D gaming experience that involves creating your own virtual world and interacting with others online. To really enjoy this programme, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of Minecraft. Book in for a two hour session and play to your heart’s content.
Ages: 8 to 12 years
A STEAM holiday programme with an emphasis on sustainability and recycling. Children will explore environmental issues with a focus on connecting to the planet around them using books, interactive activities, digital media and craft. Come along to listen, participate and create.
Ages: 5 to 7 years
Do you love music and like the idea of making your own, using an iPad? Pitched at a beginner level and using Garageband, you can make your own adventurous
soundtracks to match our awesome themed video clips of space, nature and cats.
Ages: 9 to 12 years
Children may be enrolled in two programmes only. If you would like to enrol your child in more than two programmes he/she will be placed on a waitlist and notified closer to the start date as to whether or not there is place available.
Christchurch holiday programmes and workshops
The following organisations regularly run holiday programmes or workshops for kids or teens in the October 2018 holidays.
Going on a Bear Hunt – Tuesday 2 October (approx. distance 1km)
1pm – 2pm; 2pm – 3pm Walter Park Playground, Hills Road, Mairehau, Christchurch
Bring the children down to the park for a swishy swashy, splashy, sploshy, squelchy, muddy, experience. Great outing for the younger walkers and their families. Gumboots essential. Find out more.
Gruffalo Explorer – Wednesday 3 October (approx. distance 2.3km)
Start anytime between 10am and 1pm (event finishes at 2pm). Bottle Lake Forest Information Centre, 100 Waitikiri Drive, Parklands, Christchurch
Young walkers can become mouse to explore the deep dark woods on this self-guided walk featuring storytelling and Gruffalo craft activities. Find out more.
Pukeko Stomp – Tuesday 9 October (approx. distance 1.5km)
Start anytime between 10am and 11.30am to finish at noon. Halswell Quarry, Kennedys Bush Road, Kennedys Bush, Christchurch
Shake your tail feathers as you skip, walk, hop and stomp your way around Halswell Quarry to find Perky the Pukeko and friends.
SCAPE Season 2018 Opening: Hellers Family Fun Day Saturday 6 October 10am to 2pm
Margaret Mahy Playground, 177 Armagh Street, Christchurch
Join in the fun at SCAPE’s festival of colour, flair and ambitious new ideas – it’s all free! Hellers will be on the barbecue serving up a free sausage for everyone! Entertainment from the renowned Christchurch Pops Choir. Everyone is welcome at the family day to kick off six weeks of free public artworks popping up in spaces around Christchurch. Free art activities, giveaways and a great bunch of people getting the first glimpse of SCAPE’s new artworks in the spring sunshine. Find out more.
Check out Christchurch City Council family events for more kid-friendly goings on in the school holidays.
Things to do, and places to go in Christchurch
Some of these venues are free, but others have a entry fee. There is more information on their websites.
This WORD Christchurch Festival session brought together American author, Ted Chiang (whose novella, The Story of Your Life, became the acclaimed film, Arrival) and kiwis Whiti Hereaka (author of YA novel Legacy), and Michael Bennett (author, with Ant Sang of graphic novel, Helen and the Go-go ninjas). What, I wondered, would the writers of such temporally transformative works have to say on the topic?
As it was, I was feeling a little like I’d slipped forward in time myself – I woke up that morning to discover that it was September already. How had that happened?
In fact, the first question made reference to James Gleick’s aforementioned book – Ted Chiang disagreeing with Gleick’s assertion that The Time Machine by H. G. Wells represents the first example of a story featuring time travel, and that Wells is the originator of time travel in that sense. Rather, he feels that time travel tales are more a modern take on a prophecy story, a common tale since ancient times. The fact that story prophecies always came true was a reflection of the ancient world’s belief in fate. Your destiny lay ahead of you, and no matter what you might do to try and change it it would always find you. If there was a shift, Chiang believes, it was one away from believing in fate towards believing in free will.
This is something you can see in a story like Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Ebenezer Scrooge, having travelled to a possible future, escapes his fate by changing his ways. He exerts free will and the course of his life is altered. By comparison, The Time Machine’s protagonist doesn’t engage with the possibilities of time travel at all, moving through time but not making any attempts to alter its course (which, now that I think about it, is kind of the point of time travel stories, by and large).
Michael Bennett and Whiti Hereaka both made comments as to the importance of prophecy in Māori culture. And Bennett pointed out that Māui himself fought time, slowing the sun to extend the length of our days.
When asked about the pervasiveness of the genre, Bennett reflected that we all understand “the unfairness of time” and deployed a rather splendid extended metaphor of the time as a river – we have not choice but to flow with the current, which at certain times in our lives seems too slow, though as we continue along we try to slow it down, looking for the eddies that might delay our arrival at our ultimate destination.
Chiang’s motivation for writing The story of your life was, through the character of Louise, exploring an aspect of human nature “the knowledge that in the future comes great joy and great sadness and coming to accept that both things lay ahead of her”.
Hereaka’s reason for writing a time travel story grew out of her desire to tell the stories of soldiers in the First World War’s Māori Contingent – she hadn’t previously been aware of this part of our history and wanted a way to share it, moreover she wanted to have those characters speak in their own voices, not via a modern one. Later on, in response to an audience question about creating voices from the past, she says that her theatre background helped but it also took some research, reading novels of the time, oral histories and where available listening to recordings.
She also had a really interesting perspective on the relationship between the writer and the reader saying:
I believe writing books is an act of manaakitanga – welcoming people into your world.
When asked about their favourite time travel stories Hereaka admitted that television was her go to – series like Life on Mars and Ashes to ashes as well as Doctor Who (Jon Pertwee was her Doctor but the imminent arrival of a female Doctor is something she’s really excited about). Bennett, somewhat unsettlingly, admitted to reading Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five at the tender age of ten, and it has remained a favourite. Chiang favoured the movie Back to the future which he says is “a Swiss clock of plotting” for which he has “immense affection”.
The craft of storytelling was highlighted by an audience question about the constraints that time travel places on the story. Bennett confirmed that not making it too hard for the reader to follow can be a concern. And Chiang pointed out that Time Travel as a device is “the universal acid that will dissolve any container you put it in” in terms of story. Suddenly your protagonist’s problems can be fixed by going back in time and doing it again. For that reason Time Travel stories usually have some “rules” or constraints applied to them to stop the easy fix from occurring. And no, these constraints may not hold up to close inspection – but you’re only looking to suspend disbelief for a time, to tell a story.
Hereaka was in agreement with Chiang on this saying:
That’s what stories are… It’s about solving problems and humans finding out what it is to be human.
When asked if they could time travel what they think they would do, Hereaka said that period dramas sometimes make her wish she could live in another era but she’d come to a realisation – “no, you wish you were rich”. So wherever she goes in time she wants to be well funded.
Chiang doesn’t think that “there’s any period in history that I would be better off in than right now” and that trying to change history at all is not a good idea as you can’t have any confidence that the changes you make would work out.
For fans of sci-fi and time travel fiction this session gave some interesting insights into what these kinds of stories can tell us about ourselves, and the challenges they pose to the storyteller. A session that I’m happy enough to have spent some forward travelling time in.
Today I sat amongst a crowd of young girls, clutching their favourite horsey books – some even with their riding helmets on – to listen to Stacy Gregg and Soraya Nicholas telling Horse Tales at WORD Christchurch. I expected to enjoy myself, but I didn’t expect to feel myself brought to tears!
Stacy, in her wonderful, silver stiletto boots, told us the moving story of Princess Haya, the girl behind her first based-on-a-true-story book, The Princess and the Foal. Stacy had been in the middle of writing the Pony Club Rivals series when she saw a newspaper story about Princess Haya of Jordan, president of the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, and knew that she had to write about this courageous, gutsy girl. At first she had thought of adding her as a character in the series she was writing, and tucked the newspaper clipping away to refer back to. But as she thought about the Princess, she soon realised that Haya needed to have her own book. And so The Princess and the Foal came to be.
I first read Stacy Gregg’s books years ago, beginning with Mystic and the Midnight ride, which I gave to Miss Missy for Christmas. And I enjoyed reading the Pony Club Secrets series along with her, as I added each new book to her shelf. I hadn’t gotten round to reading all the more recent books, but believe me, as soon as I get home, I’ll be raiding her Stacy Gregg shelf, and reading The Princess and the Foal.
Princess Haya is the daughter of the Lion of Jordan, whose mother was killed in a helicopter crash when Haya was just 3 years old. And of course the little girl didn’t really understand what had happened, and thought that it was all her fault. She had lost her mother, and her father was too busy ruling his country to be able to spend much time with her, but he saw how sad and lonely she was becoming, and gave her a new-born motherless foal for her 6th birthday. And Princess Haya’s life found new meaning. By the age of 13, she was riding at international level, and she went on to become an Olympic show jumper.
I can’t wait to read it! I can’t wait for The Fire Stallion to come out either! (It’s on order already, so you can place a hold).
I’m also exited to read Soraya Nicholas’ Starlight Stables books. Although at 15, Miss Missy may be getting a bit old for these stories, I know that a few years ago, she would have just loved them! Soraya, also in shiny metallic shoes* – gold this time! — loved reading pony stories as a kid, and read the authors I read, like the Pullein-Thompson sisters, and dreamed of one day writing the kinds of books she loved to read. Just as much as the exciting excerpts from her books, I enjoyed hearing of her determination to become an author, even though people sometimes laughed at her dream. “Dream big” she told all those horse- and book-mad girls. Don’t let people who lack faith in you stop you from going after your biggest dreams.
What could be a better message than that?
*These two authors are definitely the most stylish of children’s authors, as Kate De Goldi said in her introduction.
Go YA brought together three writers for young adults – Juno Dawson, Whiti Hereaka, and Yaba Badoe – to read from their novels.
First to read was Juno Dawson whose latest novel Clean is a confronting depiction of heroin addiction and withdrawal as told by a teenage socialite, Lexi Volkov. Paula Morris described Clean as being about “the lure of self-destruction” and the teenage pressure “of being something they’re not”. She compared Lexi’s narrative to that of real-world figures in the media who struggled with addiction such as Peaches Geldof.
Paula Morris had previously warned the audience that there would be some swearing and Juno Dawson jokingly referred to Clean as “degenerate filth” before beginning her reading. Lexi’s choice of language as she lashes out at the world challenged the 12+ rating given to this ‘family’ event. Lexi speaks directly to the reader, sharing her every thought and feeling. As a result, it was a performative reading. Juno Dawson rolled her eyes, pouted, and screeched, as she read from the opening chapter in which Lexi – waking from a night of partying and heroin in a car – realises that her brother is admitting her to a rehabilitation clinic away from the familiar lights of London.
Our second reader was Yaba Badoe whose novel, A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, was described as an “exploration of our rich inheritance of myth and legend, pain and love”. A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a magical realist novel about a young girl, Sante, whose family attempted to migrate from Africa to Europe by sea but were killed when the ship was purposefully sunk. Sante, washed ashore in a chest laden with treasure, is rescued by Mama Rose and becomes part of her travelling circus. She yearns to know more about her family’s story. Yaba Badoe read from a later passage in the book in which Mama Rose begins to tell Sante about her origins. Like Clean, A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, has serious themes, this time human trafficking and migration. As Sante recalls seeing brown bodies washed up on a beach and herself being thrown aboard as an infant, it’s hard not to recall the images of the body of Alan Kurdi, a young victim of the refugee crisis and human trafficking. Yaba Badoe spoke more on magical realism and migration during ‘Yaba Badoe: Fire, Stars and Witches’.
“History is moulded by the those who tell it” Paula Morris told the audience before Whiti Hereaka took the stage. She read from her newest novel Legacy which is about the experiences of the Māori Contingent during World War One and where their stories sit in that ANZAC narrative that strongly permeates New Zealand culture. The protagonist of Legacy, Riki, is drawn to the idea of enlisting in the army. Each generation of his family has enlisted and his mother shares with him stories of his great-great-grandfather who fought in Egypt in World War One as part of the Māori Contingent. Whiti Hereaka’s reading highlighted the theme of legacy as Riki ruminates on his likeness to this legendary family figure and the repetition of the war through its commemoration. The reading ended with a cliff-hanger as Riki read a text revealing why his girlfriend has been avoiding him and stepped straight into the path of a bus on Lambton Quay.
This drew a big gasp from the audience and started off question time with a request to know if Riki survives. Whiti Hereaka cheekily held the cover up and plugged the UBS stall in the foyer for those who needed to know what happened next.
There wasn’t much time for questions. The first question asked the authors how they created their characters. Juno Dawson remarked that she “sometimes has to spend more time devising the character” but sometimes they come to her fully fledged, like Lexi did. Yaba Badoe similarly remarked about Sante: “Once she came to me, it was really fun writing her. I loved her company.” Whiti Hereaka admitted that she’s a “bit of a creeper” and sits at the back of the bus with her headphones in, but not listening to anything, to eavesdrop on the conversations. It’s great way to capture the voice of young people and pick up new slang. Juno Dawson commented that voice is the most powerful part of a character development and once you have that voice and you can firmly say that your character wouldn’t say or do something, you know you’ve got it. In this way characters are like “imaginary friends” or “voices in your head”, she laughed.
The second question from audience was about writing for adults versus young adults. Yaba Badoe told the audience that her editor defines YA as “12 to 120”, that it’s writing for anyone and everyone. She remarked that YA is a “marketing term” and novels such as Catcher in the Rye and Jane Eyre, generally put in the basic of (adult) ‘classics’, could be considered YA. Sadly, we ran out of time to continue unpacking this question. What is (or isn’t) YA was the subject of a university course I took so I was a little disappointed not to be able to hear more about the authors’ thoughts on it. However, if these selections of readings are anything to go by, YA isn’t afraid to tackle complex topics and is about discovering your voice and place in this often-difficult world. I would highly recommend picking up these authors’ books and giving YA a Go.
Ant Sang has worked on a diverse range of projects, ranging from solo novels such as Dharma Punks and Shaolin Burning to collaborative projects such as working on bro’Town, or their most recent collaboration with screenwriter Michael Bennett on graphic novel Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas. Writer and comics fan Tracy Farr questioned Ant on his artistic process, the ideas behind his works, and his progression as a cartoonist.
How does he translate someone else’s words into pictures (as in Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas)? Through reading the script, trying to get a feel for the characters and the world and what that looks like, and doing a lot of sketches. This can take time because they aren’t his creations, having to figure out what his connections are to the characters. This is often an evolving process — for example, Helen at one point had a shaved head, but Ant joked that she looked a bit too Charlize Theron in Mad Max and so her hairstyle changed.
When asked about his decision to include strong female characters in his work, Ant seemed understandably baffled.
I didn’t set out consciously to do it… I write a lot of Asian characters because I am Chinese, but I didn’t set out to represent them, it just felt natural. I’m very interested in where you fit in the world, what makes you comfortable in your skin, as I always feel like an outsider. In pākeha culture I’m conservative, coming from a Chinese background, but I’m a weirdo in the Chinese community. I’m looking at how we find ways to fit in.
This comes through in his exploration of martial arts and training in his novels, as a transformation physically, emotionally and mentally — “How you get from one state of mind to another is really interesting to me.”
Regarding his use of colour, it all comes down to practicality. The Dharma Punks was in black and white because in the 90s most cartoonists were photocopying their comics — “We’d exchange tips on which photocopiers in Auckland produced the purest black with no smudge lines” — whereas Shaolin Burning was intended to be sold in bookshops and therefore required a more subtle shades of grey approach. Helen and the Go-Go Ninjas is in colour due to the go-ahead from the publisher, which suited the vibrant and hopeful Helen. Similarly the decision to tailor the story to young adults came from the publishers, who thought it suited a teen audience. Ant and Michael bounced some ideas off each other and Helen became an environmental activist rather than an unhappy wife.
Ant’s next project will be smaller scale, a futuristic dystopia featuring a young character on the run being hunted down by a sinister group. Something to look out for!
Much like Juno Dawson’s fiction, this talk covered a wide range of topics, from her latest novel Clean — a realistic look at heroin addiction and withdrawal through the lens of its socialite heroine, Lexi Volkov — to her shared love of the Spice Girls with interviewer and fellow Young Adult author Karen Healey, to Doctor Who and Juno’s upcoming tie-in novel featuring the new reincarnation of the Doctor played by Jodie Whittaker.
Asked about the genesis of Clean, Juno talked about her own experience with drug education as a teen (similar to the sex education talk in Mean Girls), her stint travelling around teaching teachers how to deliver sex and drugs education, and her research into what leads people into addiction. From speaking to a range of participants in the 12 steps programme she found that what they all had in common was that they could trace the seeds of their addiction back to when they were in their early teens.
When I was a teenager people we knew were starting to experiment with drugs, and we couldn’t help but notice that they didn’t die. You take drugs and nothing happens, you don’t take them and immediately end up on the streets. That’s how you become addicted: it’s a slow process, addiction creeps up on you and you have this constant sense of unrealistic optimism, that you’re in control. You’ll think it’s fine until three or four years down the line when it’s not.
From drugs to girl power: What made the Spice Girls such a revelation for so many young people? “They were five ordinary girls who got out.” Rather than the refined, polished pop stars of today, the Spice Girls looked like the local girl gang scrounging for cigarettes outside the fish and chip shop. Aspirational but in a relatable way. Identifying as a presenting male fan of the Spice Girls wasn’t easy, however, and it was then that Juno began to opt out of the mainstream and gave up on the notion of being a boy.
What about the phenomenon of male authors being praised for writing about teen girls while female authors get sidelined? Juno had two responses, one being support for more platforms and publishing deals for authors from minority groups – “we need those voices, those are the people who’ll do it the best, who’ll have that authenticity” — but also as a writer the job is literally to imagine what it’s like to be other people. “Otherwise we’ll all be writing memoirs until the end of time.” A lot of the praise for male authors writing female protagonists also stems from the idea that those experiences are difficult for someone else to imagine, as opposed to the default of straight boyhood which anyone could identify with. “It’s frustrating when male authors are disproportionately praised… That said, a lot of the big names in YA are people like Judy Blume. I feel very privileged to write under the legacy of women like her.”
Speaking of identifying with the other, what’s it like writing about the alien, two-hearted traveller in a magic police box?
I always imagined myself (and still imagine myself) as the companion. The companions are the audience discovering the universe, the Doctor is actually the sidekick. The Doctor should always be a slightly unknown quantity. Fans [reading my book] will quickly recognise that Jodie Whittaker is still the Doctor, there’s no difference — it’s the same character as the thirteen men who have played this alien. If you can’t handle her being the Doctor then you’re going to struggle with the notion of fantasy as a genre.
Is it a Young Adult author’s responsibility to provide hope in their books?
Sometimes we react to triggers, but is it fear of tackling something, fear you might need to change something in your life? Or is it putting you in danger? Is reading this book going to damage you? You need to decide for yourself whether you’re just scared (in which case the book might help) or you’re in trouble and aren’t in a place to read it.
That said, Karen posited that addressing difficult topics in fiction can make it easier to discuss, Juno agreeing:
It provides just two of three degrees of separation so you can deal with real things in a safe space.
Kate De Goldi writes fiction for all ages and reviews books for print and broadcast media. Her most recent novel is From the Cutting Room of Barney Kettle. She is co-editor, with Susan Price, of the children’s anthology Annual 2.
What are you looking forward to doing in Christchurch?
I’m looking forward to seeing Christchurch in the spring – particularly the cherry blossoms on Harper Ave – and to having a run or two up the back roads of Tai Tapu.
What do you think about libraries?
I think libraries (and their librarians) are the beating hearts of our communities – essential, enabling hives of connectivity and possibility. I was formed and nurtured by the Christchurch library system and feel great love and gratitude for it.
Share a surprising fact about yourself.
I am a devastating chess player. Kidding.
Kate De Goldi’s sessions at WORD Christchurch Festival 2018
Each year, ahead of the announcement, a Read Aloud Day takes place, and some nominated authors and illustrators head on tour around the country to speak to primary and secondary school children about their work, to share insights about their process, and spark a new generation of writers and artists. This year, students in Canterbury got to hear from the following speakers: Fleur Beale, Sophie Siers, Suzanne Main, Joanna Grochowicz, Alison Ballance, and Gavin Bishop. The events were presented by: New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults in association with WORD Christchurch and Harcourts Gold.
A dramatic teen-view of the Christchurch earthquakes. Lyla is at the mall when the big quake strikes. Having lost touch with her friends and family, she finds her way home through a crumpled city. The long days and weeks that follow bring new challenges, and Lyla works with others to help with the clean-up and opening their home to those in need. A vivid insight into terrifying events and the impact on those who experienced them.
This story will be close to home for Cantabrian readers, but Fleur Beale gave an unlikely introduction to her book by advising some people in the audience not to read it! She offered this word of warning for anyone for whom the earthquakes are still a difficult memory. She said she had to do a lot of research for a story about the earthquakes to be believable to her readers so she collected real stories from people she knew about what had happened to them during the quakes and incorporated them into her book.
“There’s nothing like real life for putting into a book… but you still have to make it work to fit into a story.”
Beale’s advice for young writers:
“Be prepared to murder your darlings” was her advice. By this she explained that you have to be willing to let go of some of your work in the editing and redrafting process. She says its traumatic but necessary to bin stuff. For this you need to let your writing sit a while and come back to it. With an established writing career spanning over 40 books, you can trust her word on it.
The enthralling and harrowing true story of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition, with evocative photographs, and illustrations by Sarah Lippett. An exciting story following the ill-fated Scott expedition to the South Pole. Scott’s team battles storms, killer whales, extreme cold, and a changing frozen landscape, even before they get off the boat. The reader can almost feel the cold and gnawing frostbite in this riveting reimagining of the horrors that this group of brave and resilient men endured as they battled the elements to follow their dreams and their leader.
Christchurch City Libraries were fortunate to host Joanna in the libraries last year. Her book contains well-researched and compellingly told tragedies set in inhumane places and recount the resilient, perseverance and curiosity in human endeavours.
Joanna was a hit with the audience of school children and brought the historic subject of lesser known yet interesting characters from Scott’s South Pole expedition to life, such as the photographer and the chef. Herbert Ponting who had the important job of keeping a visual record of their Antarctic journeys. In one riveting story, an encounter with killer whales nearly stranded him on the ice.
Thomas Clifford, the expedition chef, had to cook 3 meals a day for 25 men for a year – without fresh food like fruit, vegetable or usual meats like chicken. Instead he served penguin and seal, which horrified the children in the audience and would be illegal today. But they need a fresh source of meat to get vitamin C to avoid scurvy. Reports tell us that “seal liver curry was a favourite among the men”.
When Michael overhears some men plotting to kidnap a student at his school, he and Elvis decide they must prevent the crime, even if it is his sworn enemy Angus who is the victim. A series of misadventures and wild assumptions see them zipping across town by bike, staking out the school painters and breaking a few rules. This fast-paced romp will keep the reader wondering until the very end.
When Suzanne Main described her childhood devoid of technological devices like the internet and smartphones – and gasp – no ‘Fortnite’ – there was a sound of shock and horror from a good portion of the audience. And what’s more, she says “TV was only in black and white!” So, for entertainment, she read and read and read. Authors like Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl were favourites and she laments that there wasn’t a lot of New Zealand writing back then. She loved to read so much that she barricaded herself in her room to avoid siblings interrupting her.
If she loved reading so much, why did it take her so long to become a writer she wondered? She said school back in her day didn’t put emphasis on creativity but rather getting the right answers so she focused on maths which was ‘black and white’ whereas writing is neither right or wrong. Suzanne has been an accountant most of her career but about 10 years ago she realised the desire to be a writer was buried deep inside her. She joked that it is a bad thing to be creative if you’re accountant – and such a sense of humour is a feature of her stories too.
She says as a child she was held back by shyness, being timid and a lack of confidence. By sharing this with the audience, she hopes that others who feel like she did won’t let it hold them back:
“Creative writing is like putting a tiny piece of yourself in the world for people to judge and criticise, which is hard for shy people. My fear was that I would suck” but, she advised the students in the audience, “you have to risk being rubbish when you are trying something new. Put aside your fear of not being good – you’ll become good if you put in the time and effort and determination even if you’re not good at it. Something you’re not good at today, you might be in the future.”
A gentle story about a sad little girl and the horse she bonds with, which will sit with the reader long after it is finished. Sensitive pastel illustrations work well with the text, setting the emotional tone, and reflecting the themes of patience and grief. Layered with meaning, the story deals with complex emotions in a thoughtful way, giving readers a sense of hope that life will get better.
Sophie advised aspiring writers of the old adage to place your stories in an environment you know well, to help create more authentic stories. For her, this is the farm with her many animals, such as the horse that features in her story about dealing with grief, The Gift Horse. She talked about the reasoning behind writing a sad story. When something has happened to you, reading other stories about similar situations can help you understand your feelings. On the other hand, if you haven’t had a particular bad thing happen to you, maybe it has happened to someone you know or might happen to you in the future so it fosters empathy and understanding by reading about it.
Sophie has also recently published another book Dear Donald Trump that takes Trump’s idea of building a wall and translates it into the bedroom of two brothers in New Zealand who aren’t happy sharing a room. Letters to Trump from the younger brother debating the merits of the wall fill the book as the “great idea” of a separating wall is revealed to be not so great after all. This book makes a great read-aloud to school children and generates conversation about conflict. It is a lovely use of a topical political discussion translated into domestic family life.
Author and illustrator Sophie Siers engaging with readers, alongside a collection of her books, most notable her series about Allis the tractor.
From the cold waters of Stewart Island to the warm tropics of the Pacific, New Zealand’s great white sharks are tracked by scientists seeking answers about these magnificent ocean predators. In this book, vivid descriptions and plentiful photographs capture the excitement, demands and rewards of tagging and tracking great white sharks. They demonstrate how a career in science can lead to all sorts of adventures, and how sharks and the marine environment deserve our respect and protection.
Alison Ballance is a zoologist, diver and wildlife documentary maker. She has written 29 books and dived with 14 kinds of sharks. She even has a shark named after her from Stewart Island. She says that electronic tagging has revolutionised mankind’s understanding of sharks. She says that electronic tagging has revolutionised mankind’s understanding of sharks. She showed us a map of ocean waters with the travel lines showing where specific sharks have travelled. There are websites you can track individual sharks on their journeys. Despite advanced technology, she says that there are still many questions left unanswered about sharks. Perhaps the next generation will find out more answers? Certainly many children have a fascination with sharks, as the audience’s keen questions about her team’s close calls with sharks proved.
And the winner is….
Aotearoa: The New Zealand Story written and illustrated by Gavin Bishop, published by Puffin, Penguin Random House, honoured as the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year (it also won the Elsie Locke Award for Non-Fiction).
This wonderfully bold and abundant book, large in format and scope, takes us from Aotearoa’s prehistory to the modern day with stories of the people, places and events that have shaped us. The dramatic and detailed illustrations, with taha Māori integrated throughout, are complemented by minimal text providing context and inspiration to find out more. A book for every home, school and library.
Known for Mrs McGinty, The House that Jack Built and original stories and retellings of Māori myths, this accomplished author and illustrator nonetheless felt panic set in once he accepted the publisher’s challenge to produce an illustrated 64-page history of Aotearoa. Since he couldn’t include everything, he realised that “this book will be about as much as I leave out as what we put in.”
“We were told a skewed impression of the history of Aotearoa at school”
he says, and Bishop’s work in this book helps rectify the misinformation he was given in his childhood. He talks about the importance of his work being checked by historians and Māori language experts. Māori brought with them their idea of the creation of the world, so Bishop covers Māori myths and legends in the book as well.
Researching other topics ranging from the influenza epidemic to WWI animals, Bishop was constantly astounded and overwhelmed by what he learnt in his research. In creating this book, he says:
“it made me think about where we have come from and where we might be going.”
Before and after: Gavin Bishop’s showed the audience how his illustrations take shape.
The New Zealand Book Awards Trust have teamed up again with HELL Pizza to encourage school-age children to read more. Their reading programme runs through schools and libraries nationwide. Christchurch City Libraries is again offering this reading challenge reward system.
One of the reasons why I love the WORD Christchurch festival so much is that it includes something for everyone, not just the stereotypical literary festival attendee that you might be picturing in your head. The programme itself can be overwhelming, however, so our new Tūranga Youth Librarians have narrowed down their top picks that might be of interest to young adults. Student rush tickets will be available on the day of events for $12 with student ID, and there are plenty of free options too.
Inspiring Writers Secondary Schools Day Free! Register to hear science communicator Laurie Winkless, YA author Juno Dawson, poet Hollie McNish and Australian author and hip-hop artist Omar Musa present at the University of Canterbury, free for Christchurch secondary school students.
Free! Features three YA authors reading from their latest works, introduced by fellow YA author Paula Morris. Whiti Hereaka won praise for their first YA novel, Bugs, and will be reading from their new time-slip novel Legacy. Juno Dawson (writer of teen non-fiction and dark thrillers) also appears in Juno Dawson: Gender Games, where they will be chatting with local YA author Karen Healey about Doctor Who, writing, and gender; and Yaba Badoe will be reading from A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, a novel involving magic and growing up in the circus. (Hear more in her panel: Yaba Badoe: Fire, Stars and Witches.)
Bad Diaries Salon $10/12 Everyone has written a diary once in their life right, but have you actually kept your diary and cringed over it as you grew older and “wiser”? Bad Diaries Salon will feature local and international writers reading from their diaries on the theme of risk. Original and unedited this session will be both funny and uncomfortable (in a good way).
The Christchurch Poetry Slam Finals: $10 Competitive poetry is a pretty weird concept, but absolutely worth checking out. Poetry slams are generally a pretty bold and boisterous affair, and this one will be extra special — not only are there some exceptional young poets coming out of Christchurch at the moment, but the guest poet will be USA/NZ slam legend Carrie Rudzinski. (Alina: A bit further afield, but you can also check out Slam Poetry in Waimakariri featuring some talented students from local schools.)
Kā Huru Manu: My Names Are the Treasured Cloak Which Adorns The Land Free! Kā Huru Manu is a Ngāi Tahu digital atlas which records the Māori place names and histories of the Ngāi Tahu rohe (tribal area). I heard Takerei Norton speak about the history of this project at a conference for librarians last year and really enjoyed it. It was interesting to hear about how place names and their meaning were recorded in the past (often incorrectly) and I was blown away to learn that so much of our landscape has a story. This should be a great talk for those interested in New Zealand history, geography, and digital technology.
FAFSWAG: Vogue! Free! Something a little bit different. Manu and Tamatoa from the House of FAFSWAG are running an open workshop on voguing. You’ll learn the five elements of vogue femme – catwalk, hand performance, duck-walk, floor performance, and spin/dips. It sounds like it’ll be a fun time! Manu will also be on the panel for Comfortable In Your Skin (koha entry), where queer people of colour will be discussing their writing, art, and activism.
Nanogirl: Cooking with Science! $15 Dr Michelle Dickinson aka Nanogirl takes you on a scientific journey through the kitchen. Her recipes are science experiences you can eat! There will even be the chance for the audience to volunteer to take part in experiments. Grab a copy of Nanogirl’s The Kitchen Science Cookbook from your local library and give a recipe a try!
The Nerd Degree $17/19 A fantastically funny panel show which records a live podcast every month on a different theme and featuring a diverse bunch of nerdy comedians. For the WORD Christchurch festival, host Brendon Bennetts will be challenging the wits of four writers for our amusement.
Ant Sang: Dharma Punk $10/12 You might know Sang through his work on the TV series bro’Town or his graphic novel Shaolin Burning — if not, his latest comic features a woman kidnapped by time-travelling ninjas, so that seems like a pretty good place to start. If you’re a fan of graphic novels or animation/illustration, head along to his session with Tracy Farr.
You Write Funny Free! This promises to be a barrel of laughs, featuring readings from visiting writers and poets on humorous subjects, MC’d by our very own librarian by day, poet/comedian by night Ray Shipley.