For Later: January 2017

For Later shelf is now more of a For Later library but somehow the Just Ordered list comes out and every week the shelves just grow.

These titles sneaked on recently:

Cover of Thug KitchenThug Kitchen (subtitle could cause offence). Gwyneth Paltrow loved it. Not sure if that’s a recommendation but I’m all for a bit of cursing with my cooking.

The Long Drop by Denise Mina. If Mina’s other books are anything to go by this stand-alone based on a real case in 1950s Glasgow should be good. Mina won the best-dressed and best hair competition held in my head at the Wellington Writers and Readers Week way back in 2012. I’ve followed her ever since and she’s never let me down.

England’s Dreaming by Jon Savage. Will one of the ultimate books on Punk be as good as it was in 1991? Or will it just be really sad? It’s fully updated and expanded so probably sad.

And there’s always room for a few “Friday night flickers”, good for a mindless page-through on a Friday night:

Cover of Fashion, art and rock and rollFashion, Art and Rock ‘n’ Roll by Jean-Charles De Castelbajac. Worth it for his name alone.

Domino Your Guide to a Stylish Home: Discovering your personal style and creating a space you love by Jessica Romm Perez. Sigh.

City House, Country House Contemporary New Zealand Homes by John Walsh.

Gardening in the best possible taste

Cover of Grow for flavourNothing makes my day like a “hold available” notification from CCL for a crisp new garden book, and this week I got my hands on a real gem. Grow for Flavour by James Wong (of Grow Your Own Drugs fame – not nearly as dodgy as it sounds) is a fresh ray of light in a forest of glossy gardening books that look pretty, but can sometimes be a bit guilty of repeating much the same information.

Don’t get me wrong, Grow for Flavour is very a attractive volume indeed (who can resist an author who photographs his Star Wars figurines in his garden shots?), but it’s not just a pretty publication. It’s full of interesting facts and innovative ideas for getting the best flavours out of your home produce.

Wong argues that much of our gardening ‘wisdom’ is based on (British) Victorian gardening practice – essentially the time when yield was beginning to be prized over flavour, a sad trend that’s come to its lacklustre fruition in our supermarkets today. This book is a strike back in defense of taste. It’s full of simple ways to boost flavour in all sort of fruit and vege crops – and the thing I love best is that all of its tips are firmly rooted in science. (You see what I did there?)

Yep, Wong is a scientist as well as a herbalist and a gardener, which means that his observations, remedies and treatments all have solid scientific research behind them – a nice change in this subject area, where solutions are so often presented without a lick of evidence stronger than “Well my great Aunt Hilda swears by it!”

It’s one of those books I think my partner secretly hates. Inevitably, when I get hold of a volume like this, his quiet evening will be peppered with interruptions along the lines of “Hey, did you know I hate coriander because I have the OR6A2 gene that makes it taste like soap and bleach?” or “Can I turn the laundry bin into a fungus farm?” It’s not uncommon for these exclamations to turn completely nonsensical, like “Aspirin and molasses on tomatoes? Genius!” (Well, it made sense to me…)

We’re well into planting season now, so grab a copy today. You too can be making inscrutable garden related exclamations in no time…

Librarians recommend: Books about Parihaka

There are a number of excellent resources available if you’d like to learn more about the 1881 invasion of the Parihaka settlement by Government forces, the aftermath and ongoing legacy of this event. Whether you want something that’s suitable for children, a fictional account or well-researched history on the topic, our library collection has got you covered.

For Kids

Cover of Remember that NovemberMaumahara ki tērā Nōema and Remember that November

This pair of children’s books written by Jennifer Beck and illustrated Lindy Fisher, with the Teo Reo translation done by Kawata Teepa. They look at what happened at Parihaka through the frame of a school speech contest.

I really like that they are companion volumes, with the same beautiful illustrations, and that the Gunpowder Plot and the climactic day at Parihaka both 5th November are compared and contrasted. The murderous intent of those who wanted, in their anger and frustration, to blow up the Houses of Parliament is juxtaposed with the calm and dignified passive resistance of the people of Parihaka. Simple but hugely powerful, these two books are a great introduction to a hugely important New Zealand historical event and hanging it off an event in British history creates another level of interest.

Fiction

Parihaka Woman Cover of The Parihaka womanby Witi Ihimaera

Written in 2011, this novel weaves fact and fiction together to tell the story of Erenora, a young woman living in Parihaka at the times of the invasion and land confiscation. It is also told from the perspective of a retired teacher, who is researching his whanau and comes across Erenora’s story.

Because of the two stories, and points of view changing, it can be a little tricky to get your head around at times, but I think it’s worth persevering. Erenora’s journey to the South Island in search of her husband, who has been taken prisoner after the massacre is a touching and descriptive and I learnt a lot about how life was for both Māori and Pakehā in those early years of our nation.

It certainly paints a brutal picture of the events of Parihaka and allowed me to get a sense of the injustice and upheaval during this not so proud part of our past.

This book can be found in both the Nga Pounamu Māori collection and in Young Adult, so recommended to YA readers looking for books for NCEA reading as well.

Parihaka in Art

Parihaka, the art of passive resistanceCover of Parihaka: The art of passive resistance

Parihaka is paradoxically one of the most shameful episodes and one of the most remarkable and enduring stories in New Zealand’s colonial history.

This ground-breaking publication brings together art, poetry and waiata from the past 100 years. It features over 100 artworks that explores the legacy of Parihaka and its leaders, Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kākahi. It draws on teachings and sayings of Te Whiti and Tohu, in Māori and English, many of which have been previously unpublished and are here now reproduced in full. Artists include Shane Cotton, Tama Iti, Tim Finn (with that classic song), Tony Fomison, Colin McCahon and Ralph Hotere to name a few.

This is a collaboration between City Gallery, Wellington from their 2000-01 exhibition, The Trustees of Parihaka Pā and Victoria University Press.

This was a winner of the 2001 winner of Montana New Zealand Book Awards

Parihaka in History

Ask that mountainCover of Ask that mountain

Originally published in 1975, journalist and historian Dick Scott broke new ground with Ask that Mountain. This book draws on official papers, settler manuscripts and oral histories to give the first complete account of what took place at Parihaka. This illustrated seminal work was named by the Sunday Star Times in 1995 as one of the 10 most important books published in New Zealand.

This will not be an easy read as events are recounted. There is violence and oppression but ultimately it is a compelling story of an important event in New Zealand’s past.

Parihaka album : lest we forget Cover of The Parihaka album

I have let quotes from the author do all the talking with this title.

“It is about the forgotten stories, blind spots and hidden corners that I encountered in the history-making about the Crown’s 1881 invasion of Parihaka Pā, a non-violent settlement in Taranaki. This invasion is one of the most troubling, significant and well-known events in the short shared history of Māori and Pākehā, yet is easily overlooked.” -Rachel Buchanan.

“The story of Parihaka did not end with the 1881 invasion or the 1907 deaths of its two leaders – Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi. It is difficult, impossible even, to find the place to put the final full stop to the story of this place, or the stories of many of Aotearoa New Zealand’s other trouble spots. Our world is saturated with the unfinished past, and yet it is so easy to be blind to it all, to pretend that the past is not really there at all and none of these disturbing things really happened. Open your eyes! Come with me on a road trip into the present past.” -Rachel Buchanan.

“After growing up in Taranaki, doing a Phd on Parihaka and now writing a book, I know a lot about the place but I’ve still got a lot to learn. Parihaka is a story that got under my skin I guess when I was a school-kid, but my biggest inspiration was the big art show at City Gallery in 2000-2001. It was awe-inspiring and I wanted to know more about a place that could inspire so much passion. Now, nine years later, I think I understand!” –Rachel Buchanan

Cover of Contested ground: Te whenua i toheaContested ground. Te Whenua i Tohea : the Taranaki Wars, 1881

Kelvin Day brings together eleven distinguished academics and historians who provide fresh and engaging insights into this turbulent period, much sourced from previously overlooked material, and a remarkable collection of photographs and illustrations. It includes the chapter A new kind of resistance: Parihaka and the struggle for peace by Historian Hazel Riseborough.

Cover of Te Whiti o Rongomai

Te Whiti o Rongomai by Danny Keenan

“People need to know what happened at Parihaka”, according to Kaumatua Rangikotuku Rukuwai.

This was the main motivation behind Dr Danny Keenan’s decision to write a book about the life of its prophet Te Whiti o Rongomai.

Inspired by his chats with Rangikotuku (Te Whiti’s great grandson) and his wife Ngaraiti over cups of tea at their New Plymouth home, Keenan revived the idea he had for the book back in the early 2000s. The book documents the roles both Te Whiti and fellow prophet Tohu Kākahi played in the creating the reputation of Parihaka as a place of peace.

The book details the events leading up to the invasion of 1881 and the arrest and imprisonment of the two men and is peppered with drawings from the time period, photographs, both old and new and accounts from people there at the time, and memories of whanau. It also traces the life of Te Whiti from Ngā Motu, where he was born, to his settling at Parihaka and his evolving sense of the injustices and disempowerment Māori experienced and his response to these.

This is a fascinating perspective of Parihaka. Author Danny Keenan has ancestral connections to Parihaka and the interviews he did with descendants whose oral histories of the injustices, shed a unique light on a history.

The book received a well deserved win in the  2016 Massey University, Ngā Kupu Ora Aotearoa Māori Book Awards.

More on Parihaka

Get thee to a bookshop for NZ Bookshop Day – Saturday 29 October

NZ Bookshop DayThis Saturday 29 October your mission is to visit your local bookshop. Choose to accept it!

It is the second official NZ Bookshop Day – a celebration to get booklovers pulses racing. Booksellers New Zealand are doing some cool competitions to get you into the NZ Bookshop Day spirit. Win $500 worth of NZ book tokens by sharing the bookshop love: Get a postcard from a participating bookshop, fill it out and hand it back, tell the bookshop just why you love it. And win book prizes on the NZ Bookshop Day Facebook page, and Booksellers NZ Twitter #nzbookshopday in the lead up to NZ Bookshop Day.

Here’s my NZ Bookshop Day to-do list (it’s a trifle ambitious but that’s a tribute to how much excellent stuff is on!):

  • Buy copies of Annual by Gecko Press for Christmas presents for the kids in my life.
  • Take part in Scorpio Books Lit Quiz (fingers crossed for a respectable showing).
  • Get the kid along to a Children’s illustration workshop to hone her My Little Pony and Powerpuff Girls drawing skills.
  • Hear Mr Yipadee in action at South City Paper Plus.
  • And of course enter all the comps with the goal of winning books and/or book tokens.

Christchurch events and competitions for NZ Bookshop Day

nzbookshop

Here are some of the competitions and Christchurch events as listed on the Booksellers NZ website:

Scorpio Books

Favourite book photo competition
Take a photo of your favourite book in an inspired location, post it on Instagram or Facebook with the hashtags #scorpiobooks and #nzbookshopday to win a $200 Scorpio Books voucher. Entries close on 31 October, winner announced 5 November.

12 favourite books for only $12 each on NZ Bookshop Day
Scorpio staff have gathered together 12 of their favourite books and for a special deal on NZ Bookshop Day, they will be $12 each. In store only. While stocks last.

Books in Schools
Make a purchase at Scorpio Books on NZ Bookshop Day and choose a Christchurch school to receive 15% of your purchase to spend on books of their choice!

Children’s Illustration Workshop – Scorpio Books, 120 Hereford Street
A free workshop on Children’s Illustration with Lynne McAra, the illustrator of Toby Goes To Grandma’s and Toby Goes Cycling. 2:30pm – 4pm. Suitable for ages 6 – 12. Limited spaces available, to book a space email: rachel@scorpiobooks.co.nz

Scorpio Lit Quiz – Scorpio Books, 120 Hereford Street
Hosted by Joe Bennett. Bring a team of up to 5 people to test your literary knowledge. $60 per table. 7pm. Spot prizes, drinks and nibbles provided. Limited spaces available. Purchase your table from Hereford St or phone 377 8462.

Readings from our Favourite Books – Scorpio Books, 113 Riccarton Road
Local authors share and read from their favourite books, in conversation with Chris Moore.
Browse and listen to all time favourite stories. 10am-4pm

The Original Children’s Bookshop Christchurch

Join illustrators Jenny Cooper and Helen Taylor instore between 11.00 and 1.00. Storytelling with Zac McCallum at 2.30pm. Spot prizes for the best costumes, download colouring competitions from the website.

Piccadilly Books

10am. Book signing and information session with Amanda Tiffen and Leigh Brown with their books A Life less Sugar and A Life Less Sugar Recipes.

Paper Plus

Mr Yipadee, a best-selling Kiwi children’s musician and author, making it big in the UK. His songs have messages of positivity and FUN and children LOVE him. He is coming home to help promote his new book Jingle Bells, Rudolph Smells, and will be singing a few songs and signing books. He will appear at the following Paper Plus stores:

All about NZ Bookshop Day

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Art, Science, and a bit of literarty

CoverCoverCover

The art of typewriting
Our Selector has always found creating a picture using type to be rather appealing so has enjoyed the 570 illustrations ordered into letters and numbers, punctuation pictures, interlocking words, animals, household objects, maps and texts.

An Astronomers Tale: A Life Under the Stars
Gary Fildes, Bricklayer and average guy,  had a secret.  Eventually he came out – and followed his passion to become an astronomer.

The Fall of the House of Wilde
A new and interesting slant on the many times subject of biography Oscar Wilde which puts him as a member of one of the most dazzling Anglo-Irish families of Victorian times, and also how the family were involved in the broader social, political and religious context of the times.

CoverCoverCover

Hankie Couture: Handcrafted Fashions From Vintage Hankerchiefs
Designs for that special doll in your life, or perhaps you will just enjoy browsing the pictures, I know I did!

Black Dolls From the Collection of Deborah Neff
Keeping with the doll theme, but from a totally differnt angle this book presents over 100 unique handmade African American dolls made between 1850 and 1930 from the collection of Deborah Neff, a Connecticut-based collector and champion of vernacular art. It is believed that African Americans created these dolls for the children in their lives, including members of their own families and respective communities as well as white children in their charge.  Stunning photography.

Outlander Kitchen
You’ve read the books, watched the TV series, now it’s time to cook Mrs. FitGibbon’s Overnight Parritch; Geilli’s Cullen Skink; Murtagh’s Gift to Ellen; Sarah Woolam’s Scotch Pies and Atholl Brose for the Bonnie Prince.

FESTA is for (book)Lovers

Amazing art and architecture ahoy! FESTA is on this weekend. But FESTA is not just about eyeboggling installations. Emma Johnson of FESTA and Freerange Press has some hot tips for people who are into books and ideas.

Talking Books

Saturday 22 October 2pm to 4pm at In Situ Photo Project, just outside of Scorpio Books, 120 Hereford Street

Talking Books
Freerange Press brings you Talking Books. Instead of borrowing a book from the library, why not select a passionate expert and pick their brains? You get a twenty-minute, one-on-one conversation with a human talking book. Email info@projectfreerange.com to book your conversation. Sessions are at: 2pm, 2.20pm, 2.40pm, 3pm, 3.20pm and 3.40pm.

Here’s your lineup of Talking Books:

  • One Good Thing About Music with Jesse Newman, former history of music lecturer, defunct record-store employee and amasser of records
  • Birthing Well: Essential Information with Julie Richard, midwife and educator
  • Drawing Life: Buildings, People and Places with Byron Kinnaird, Phd architecture student
  • Creative Cities with Coralie Winn, co-founder of Gap Filler
  • The Accidental Restauranteur with Emma Mettrick, owner of Twenty-Seven Steps
  • Loving the Recovery; Hating the Recovery with Barnaby Bennett, designer and publisher
  • How to Buy Train Tickets in India with Emma Johnson, editor and avid traveller.

Subscribe to the Facebook event: Talking books.

The Bureaucratic Love Session

Sunday 23 October 1pm to 4pm at Space Academy, 371 St Asaph Street

Freerange Press is running a symposium called The Bureaucratic Love Session (1-4pm, Sunday 23 October) at Space Academy, 371 St Asaph Street. Different voices come together to instigate and nurture a dialogue around the means and ends of institutions, asking the questions: Do institutions matter? And if so, how can we take better care of them? How can we help improve existing institutions in Christchurch, globally and in our own lives?

Subscribe to the Facebook event: The Bureaucratic Love Session

Book Launch: Freerange Vol. 11 Institutional Love

Sunday 23 October 4pm to 6pm at Space Academy, 371 St Asaph Street

This series of speakers is followed by the launch of Freerange Vol. 11: Institutional Love, which explores and advocates for a more nuanced and caring approach to institutions – fitting in with this year’s FESTA theme of making the most of the means we already have available to us.

Subscribe to the Facebook event: Launch of FreerangeVol. 11: Institutional Love

Book out and read in: FESTA - Tree Houses for Swamp dwellers
Book out and read in: FESTA – Tree Houses for Swamp dwellers, FESTA 2014, Flickr 2014-10-26-IMG_3228

PechaKucha Night Christchurch

Monday 24 October 7:30pm to 10:00pm at Christchurch City Council, 53 Hereford Street.

PKN_CHCH_29 line up includes:

Molly Van Hart// Project manager at Life in Vacant Spaces and fan girl of succulents// on making space
Hannah Watkinson// Photographer and curator// in situ
Lindsay Chan// Geospatial Extraordinaire// on the many murals of Christchurch
Summer Hess//Writer and Project Manager// the antidote is community

FESTA information

Read our interview with FESTA director Jessica Halliday: Imagining a different Christchurch – Jessica Halliday and FESTA 2016

‘Voulez-vous partir with me ….

…and come and restez la with me in France’ – so the Bill Wyman song goes.

Cover of Flirting with FrenchI love a good mixture of Franglish (or Spanglish for that matter).  Eventually, with examples of the above, combined with expressive mime, facial expressions and dexterous hand gestures you can get yourself understood.

My French teacher endured approximately seven years trying to teach me the basics of French conversation and grammar. His perseverance was rewarded when our whole family got lost in Caen at the beginning of our summer holidays ‘under canvas’ and, since I was the only one who had supposedly learned French, I had to locate our first night’s accommodation.

I had seen Maurice Chevalier, Alain Delon and Sacha Distel all speak fractured English on the TV and naively assumed that the majority of the French population could do likewise!!  Duh!!!

To my complete amazement I learned that every French person I accosted (in the street or even in their homes whilst having their family diner – I was desperate), with my pitiful ‘je suis perdu – où est le… hôtel??’, was met with a mixture of indifference or a rush of ‘gauche et droites’ which left me more confused than ever.

The same French teacher had also advised me that ‘gesticulating’ as a last resort might be the way to go. SO bearing this in mind, I bravely flagged down a passing police car and watched, horrified, when a Charles de Gaulle look-a-like stepped out of the Citroen with his hand resting gently on his holster and asked me (in French) what the problem was?  Well, for starters the gun was… Anyway, I managed to impart the necessary information and he quickly rose to the challenge. We were in our hotel 15 minutes later having witnessed said gendarme ‘tearing a strip off’ the hotel owner for turning the neon sign off that would have alerted us to the hotel at least 3 hours ago!

Cover of complete language pack italianAll library customers can avoid painful scenarios such as the above incident by utilizing, with the aid of their Library Card Number and password/pin, the eResource, Mango Languages.  There are 72 languages available (including American Sign Language). Clicking on the option ‘Building the Basics’ after choosing the language you wish to learn is a great way to start your linguistic adventures.

Of course, you can also:

et voilà…

Bonne chance! Buena suerte! In bocca al lupo! Lycka till!

Festival Faves – WORD Christchurch

A few of my favourite things at WORD:

  • Cover of His Whole LifeCanadians. Who would win the nicest people in the world smack down? Us or them? I think them. I’m going to read every book Elizabeth Hay ever wrote. And I might start reading a poem a day at breakfast time just because she does.
  • Ted Dawe’s shirt. Possibly Rata flowers and leaves, perhaps Pohutukawa. Either way very pleasing to look at.
  • The ‘question’ at the No Sex Please We’re Teenagers session that began “I’ve watched a lot of porno tapes…”
  • David Levithan’s inspirational Margaret Mahy Lecture. “We raise our voices, not shouting but singing”.
  • When writers I like like other writers I like. DCover for Another Dayavid Levithan likes Francesca Lia Block. And Feed is his favourite Young Adult novel.
  • When writers I like dislike writers I dislike (even better). Paula Morris just couldn’t get over kids reading The Five People You Meet in Heaven for school. I’m with you Paula; we’re going to Hell in a hand-basket.
  • Pondering on matters like why so many great writers are called Margaret: Atwood, DrabbleLaurence, Mahy,
  • Watching Toby Manhire have the measure of Bromhead at peak “I’m so loveably irascible” schtick.
  • Seeing Alex Casey who does The Real Housewives of Auckland power rankings for The Spinoff. A thrill. And good to resist the impulse to come on all fan-crone and tell her what a good writer she is.
  • Adding lots more books to my For Later shelf. 1108 and counting.

My least favourite thing at WORD:

Those who cannot tell the difference between a question and a statement. You know who you are. Or perhaps you don’t. Think about it people. Does the question take longer to ask than to answer? Then don’t ask it.

Father’s Day

CoverBring it on – I am prepared!!

On Sunday 4 September I will be armed with both a card and a small gift to celebrate the fact that I have a long-suffering but wonderful father.

When considerably younger I possibly needed a ‘mental jog’ about the impending event from my ‘constantly on my case’ mum, but in more recent times (a few exceptions aside when I was in different hemispheres and the dates were different), I have managed a card at the very least.

CoverMy last-ditch attempts during my self-obsessed teenage years must have been very taxing, but it sharpened up Dad’s ‘acting skills’ as he managed to look delighted when yet another ‘Brut soap on a rope’ appeared.  I hit the jackpot one year when I recycled a mother’s day present (who I found out was not a fan of ‘crooners’), and Dad became the proud owner of Francis Albert Sinatra’s ‘Greatest Hits’. That was indeed ‘a very good year’.

Fascinated since childhood by all things nautical – past, present and future – he has, since retirement, done a lot of reading courtesy of Christchurch City Libraries, ploughing through C S Forester’s ‘Hornblower‘ novels; Patrick O’Brien’s Captain Jack Aubrey works and recently Dewey Lambdin’s main character Alan Lewrie.

If transported through the medium of print or film back to the Golden Age of  Sailing albeit in the form of Egyptian wooden sailing Feluccas, Spanish Armadas, Tea Clippers, early Ocean Liners and Thor Heyerdahl‘s balsa wood ‘Kon-Tiki’ expedition you witness a totally captivated audience of one!

Many a Sunday night we sat down to watch The Onedin Line ; the Pater to appreciate wooden vessels whilst I watched a ‘period drama’ unfold and desperately hoped the seas wouldn’t be too choppy, NEVER having been a good sailor!!

The Christchurch City Libraries holds a wealth of information that keep fathers occupied and out of trouble – what can all its resources offer your Dad? Investigate all the possibilities – books, ebooks, audiobooks, films and report back (especially if I’ve missed a little ‘gem’ in the nautical line).

Oh, and the gift definitely isn’t soap-on-a-rope this time Dad!!

An Hour with Dame Fiona Kidman – WORD Christchurch

CoverFiona Kidman’s latest book All Day at the Movies explores what it means to be a woman in New Zealand. It’s an episodic novel  set over six decades. She explores where families were at and where they are going now.

Family is important to me as an only child I was often an observer looking in on families.

But she also says “I try not to put  my family into books”.

This novel was inspired by the sight of abandoned tobacco kilns.  Her father grew tobacco in KeriKeri and the memories of the Nicotiana scent drew her to setting her central character in the tobacco field of Motueka. The novel features a lot of pregnancies – as Owen Marshall observes, some more welcome than others.  One of her characters doesn’t know who her father is.

Fiona acknowledges pregnancy is a huge issue in women’s lives. She is an adoptive mother herself, and  acknowledges adoption was not handled well in the past.  Recently her novels are set around a central historical character – but in this novel she wanted to say something about politics, how decisions made in Wellington affect people’s lives.

Fiona has always been a political animal. She was part of the 1981 Springbok tour movement as explored in her novel Beside the Dark Pool. Exploring the social context her characters inhabit over the decades gives her a vehicle to say something about how Wellington decisions affect their lives.

Dame Fiona Kidman in interview with Own Marshall
Dame Fiona Kidman in interview with Owen Marshall

Looking at her characters as they deal with illegitimacy, estrangement, and abuse you may think she has a negative view of life and of men. But she says “I love men”. There are at least 5 positive men in the book, even though it may not seem that men come out well.

“I have had a lucky life” one of her characters says in the novel (and she observes it of her own life) which ends on an optimistic note. She looks at the circumstances of her characters and why things happen without making judgments. Authentic characters are important – how real people deal with things and how it affects them in 20, 30, 40 years time. Her characters become very real to her – they stand at the kitchen bench and come for rides with her in the car. By the time she sits down to write a novel they have their own voice which has to be listened to. Sometimes she is ready to let them go after a novel, and sometimes they don’t want to go away and reappear in another form like her character Jessie Sandal from Songs of the Violet Café.

Fiona has always been a feminist writer as is evident in  A breed of Women. She sees herself not as a woman’s writer but a writer writing for women. She first thought of herself as a writer as a 22-year-old in the 1960s. It was in an era when it was embarrassing to be pregnant. She had worked at Rotorua Library and moved to Rotorua High School library when she married her husband who also worked there. When she got pregnant, students remarked “Got her up the duff eh Sir!”, leading to a request for her to leave the school. Such were the expectations of the era.

She left and started writing – submitting a play for a competition. Her play evoked the comment that it must have been written by the dirtiest minded young woman in New Zealand.

I felt I did know stuff about being a woman that a middle-aged man in Wellington seemed not to know.

Fiona often struggled with expectations:

What am I doing sitting at the kitchen table, buying the kids clothes not preserving hundreds of jars and doing this.

She worked as a secretary of PEN and the NZ Book Council and hoped to help authors think of writing as working.

Her favourite genre is short stories but they don’t sell a lot of books and she loves poetry but working in other genres is necessary. She made as much money working in television in a month as writing in a couple of years.

  • Through working in television, she learnt to see as you would through the camera
  • through radio work she learn to listen especially to the silences
  • through journalism she learnt to ask questions

All have been useful in her writing work.  Poetry is not so much thinking about the audience more spontaneous.

Unsuitable Friends signed Signed by Fiona Kidman
Signed after all these years

Read more about Fiona Kidman from her official websiteThe Academy of New Zealand Literature, The New Zealand Book Council, and  Penguin Press.

Find books by Fiona Kidman in our collection.

WORD Christchurch