Win over $1000 worth of tasty reads

To celebrate NZ Book month, the online bookshop New Zealand Books Abroad has created one of the most fun competitions I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a treasure hunt and I was giggling all the time, trying to find the five phoney titles concealed among the genuine New Zealand published books.

Hop on to their site now and then email them your picks before 30 September.

It’s a great prize too – you could be the proud owner of all 25 Montana Book Award 2008 finalists (worth $1380). The winner will be advised in October.

Telling stories

Family stories can be fascinating – who doesn’t remember as a child hanging around hoping the adults would forget about you so you could hear all the things you didn’t completely understand but which you just knew were really interesting. It seems a shame then that family histories can be such dull, plodding affairs.

All that work on the research, all the secrets and intriguing facts uncovered and they can end up a mere welter of dates and names and places; a catalogue that may be useful and informative but that no-one really wants to read.

Future generations will be grateful to those genealogists who take the trouble to transform their family history into a readable narrative but it can be a daunting task for those who feel their writing skills are a little lacking. Wanting to know how to give shape and meaning to the results of all that slaving over a hot microfiche must be a trend if there are books on how to do it and so there are.

Writing family history: a very easy guide and Writing your family history: a New zealand guide should both be useful but for true hands on help with getting all that research down in a compelling manner come along to South Library in Colombo Street on Wednesday 17th September at 10 a.m.

As part of New Zealand Book Month Joan Currie of the New Zealand Society of Authors will be running a Writing  Family History Workshop offering tips on organising the material, bringing people to life, and setting them in place and time.

Cooks and books

I thought the three food writers involved in More Than a Pavlova Paradise more than capable of organising a decent feed and I wasn’t disappointed.

The ladies who lunch were out to do just that but there were a few men in evidence as well at one of the first events of the festival. NZ Book Month co-sponsored – the theme this year is Taste so it was a good fit and the Whittakers peanut slabs were a nice touch.

Kate Fraser, who does such a great job with Zest in The Press, was responsible for the Prawn, Grapefruit and Cucumber Cocktail entree, which she had to admit she had tweaked somewhat from the Highlander salad-dressing and tomato sauce dressed tinned shrimp dish of less than fond memory.

David Veart topped the table’s recall of Prawn Cocktails past with his reminiscences of working in a restaurant in Auckland where the patrons were given plastic corks to sniff and where the mixing of the dressing for the Prawn Cocktails was done by hand, or rather by arm in huge drums.

Richard Till confessed to feeling a bit of a fraud at a book event because of his vow to never add to the plethora of picture cook books, until going around and talking to people in their kitchens proved so much more attractive than real work.

His contribution to the menu, Mutton Backstraps with Scalloped Potatoes, Aoli and Green Vegetables, took him back to the days when as a restaurateur he found a butcher who supplied him with bags of mutton backstraps marked lamb fillet. And you heard it here first – Aoli is the new Highlander salad-dressing.

David Veart began his fascination with New Zealand cook books when he was researching his M.A. thesis on Maori market gardening in Auckland. He now has a collection of 600, arranged by his daughter according to the colour of their covers.

He is often asked if New Zealand has a national cuisine and thinks that if we do it involves the use of new ingredients in unusual combinations, like tamarilloes with meat, the use of offal (a necessity when the good bits of the animal got exported) and baking. According to Veart offal is back, with the nose to tail movement, so I was thankful that he was in charge of dessert, Lemon Delicous Pudding.

Proustian moments (yes, old Marcel was mentioned) abounded as the lunchers remembered cooks and books and all the occasions when people gather together to enjoy food and company, just as we did today.

What’s your favourite New Zealand book?

Whats your favourite NZ book?
What’s your favourite NZ book?

We are running a competition at the moment – you can let us know what your favourite New Zealand book is and go into the draw to win a book or book vouchers (conditions apply).

There are are a pretty cool and diverse range of choices so far – from Nigel Latta’s book of criminal insights Into the darklands to Station Life in New Zealand by Lady Barker.

Make sure you have your say – and have a look at the more than 50 events at Christchurch City Libraries for New Zealand Book Month.

Continue reading

Reading while you wait

Richard reading while he waits
Richard reading while he waits

Three in the afternoon is as good a time as any to meet a complete stranger in Cathedral Square. “I’ll be the one with shopping bags,” Bridget said. She was on holiday from Dunedin.

We were meeting as part of the Read while you wait flash mob. There was no mob involved, and certainly no flashing, but we were reading in public in a random act of literacy that spread its tentacles from Malaysia and spread via the internet. Kim Hill even mentioned it on Radio New Zealand National this morning.

Bridget, her daughter and friend Soni were there reading and there was a guy reading a comic book by the chess. Donna and I arrived a bit late to see Bridget, but read among the people. I rang Bridget after the event and she was having coffee in Ballantynes and wondering where all the school librarians were? Does apathy rule, she asked.

Bridget suggested we all “break out” in New Zealand Book Month and do some reading in public.

Richard and Isaac
Isaac and Richard

On the way back to the central library we spied a young busker doing his thing. Donna asked if he’d have his photo taken for the blog. He was very happy, as the crowds had been “pretty generous.”

I wrote down his name.
“Isaac”, he said. “Westenra.”
Good things can happen when you sit beside someone with a book and talk. Next time it would be good to have a few more along – you never know who you might meet.

Festival Quick Fix: Friday

Are you managing to keep up? Exhausting isn’t it? – and, possibly like you, I’m only following events from the comfort of my armchair here in Christchurch. We love that you love what we’re doing – thanks for all your feedback, some of which I’ve singled out below.

Today sees one of the best line-ups at the festival, but a few of our highlights are:

  • Addicted to the darkDonna has this on her must-see list. It brings together Duncan Sarkies, Luke Davies and Heather O’Neill with Festival creative director Stephanie Johnson chairing the session. “Like any good drug, dark literature makes you laugh and cry, makes you fly and pulls you down.”
  • Joyceis looking forward to An hour with John Burnside, who she says is one of Scotland’s finest poets and novelists, and who recently published his first volume of memoirs A lie about my father. As well as attending the session, Joyce will also interview Burnside today. “We’re from the same part of the world,” says Joyce, “so I’m keen to catch up with his news and views on the Scottish literary scene, plus discuss his latest novel Glister.”
  • Aucklandness – the team have instructions to go this session and try to understand what it all means, as Stephanie Johnson, Derek Hansen and Paula Morris discuss their love for Auckland through their writing, with chair Paula Green.
  • Then, to make our Garden City folk feel more at home, Lytteltonian Joe Bennett will ask Where do underpants come from? Here are some helpful links if you don’t know where Lyttelton is or where underpants come from.

As if that wasn’t enough for our loquacious litter of librarians today, they’re also planning to interview Thomas Kohnstamm, Karlo Mila and Junot Diaz, among others. We’ll have the transcripts here for you soon, but in the meantime, have you read our festival interviews with Tessa Duder, Sarah Hall and Mo Hayder? And don’t forget our festival webpage is a useful one-stop shop for everything about the Festival.

So, back to your feedback. It’s been great to receive all your comments, both via the blog and sent directly to us. Here are a few we’d like to share with you: Continue reading