Cool stuff from the selectors. What more could you ask for? Food, Cats and Storytelling

CoverDavid Wiesner And The Art Of Wordless Storytelling
This is definitely a book for someone who has an interest in children’s illustration as it contains well-researched and far-reaching essays on the history and development of book illustration as an art form.

David Wiesner is of course the focus, and I enjoyed revisiting his wonderful illustrations. I remember sharing these books with my children, all of us having varying viewpoints about what was happening, delving deeper into each illustration with each reading. This is a beautifully produced book.

CoverFrom the sublime to the ridiculous! Crafting with Cat Hair is the sort of book you just have to have a look at because it is so unlikely. Taking itself completely seriously, this book gives you in-depth instructions on how to use your moggie’s fluff for felting crafting pleasure.  Perhaps if you are so inclined, it could be a way to immortalise your feline friend.

CoverFood Fights and Culture Wars
Chomping away on my couple of pieces of dark chocolate, it was interesting to read about the violent past of chocolate. The chocolate we eat today is barely recognisable as the cacao that was produced by the early Mayan people.

Cadbury (whose Dunedin factory is set to close next year) was founded by Quakers. Their desire to fend off slavery underpinned the chocolate trade. Filled with beautifully reproduced pictures from the British Library, this is a fascinating romp through history and food.

On Love and Art and Maps

On our very first date my husband and I discovered that we share a love of maps.  In retrospect I can see now that we were coming from completely different planets, so to speak. His the planet in which the words “Cadastral” and “Great Circles” featured majorly. Mine the planet of the isolated farmhouse at the end of the road and my desire to visit it. But we both still find maps beautiful and own several sets of topographic maps. We have kept quiet about this bond, until now that is. Because Art and Maps are IN.

A Map of the World According to Illustrators and StorytellersTelling your life story through maps is the new therapy de jour. A great place to start is with a beautiful book entitled A Map of the World According to Illustrators and Storytellers. This book plays down accuracy in favour of getting the message across. Eighty-nine creatives map out their lives and their places. The variety of approaches is gobsmacking. One of my favourites is the Happy Planet Map on page 212. It may inspire you to look at your surroundings, and your life, and create your own map of how you feel about them.

Mapping ManhattanAnother take on maps and art and life  is Mapping Manhattan A Love (and Sometimes Hate) Story in Maps by 75 New Yorkers. Here random New Yorkers were given simple, identical outline maps of New York and asked to tell their story of this city in any way that they liked. Seventy-five posted back their offerings to Becky Cooper who put them together into this fascinating little book. She says of this initiative:

Maps and Memories are bound together, a little like songs and love affairs are.

Making Art from MapsIn Making Art from Maps, the author Jill Berry starts from the belief that we all love maps. She loves them and she also loves art. These two loves started gelling somewhere along the way and resulted in this book where Jill and forty-one artists take maps and do astonishingly transformative things with them. This 2016 book would be a useful addition to the library of anyone who likes playing around with paper.

And closer to home, Even Smith’s Journal recognises that the day of the map is upon us in their online magazine of January 04 2017 with an article entitled Retro Maps of Modern Cities. The idea behind this approach is to treat maps as art and not just as guides to places.

So, if you’ve tried journalling and failed; succumbed to colouring-in and now sit with several partly completed books; and possibly even resorted to adult join-the-dots books (and please let this be just a very few of you) – but still you feel hollow, still your life mission has not been revealed to you, then let it be known that Mapping Your Life is the trending new thing.

More about maps

 

Tell me a story

I recently had the opportunity to attend a storytelling workshop by Te Reo Wainene o Tua. It was a great event and attendees got to think about Māori storytelling, stories in general and who has the right to tell stories.

Stories are essential – without them nothing really has any meaning. But stories and meaning and knowledge are being lost all the time.

We were honoured to have Charles Te Ahukaramū Royal as one of our presenters. He spoke about how the exact meaning of some words to describe Māori types of story has become unclear, and how he is trying to reconstruct this meaning by analysing stories.

Te Reo Wainene o Tua booklet
Te Reo Wainene O Tua: Kei Te Waipounamu, 7-10 Mahura 2016 booklet

In a similar vein I heard Paul Tapsell talk at National Digital Forum in 2013 about using digital channels to connect Māori in urban areas back to communities and places they are associated with.

This shift from urban to rural made me think about how in Britain, where I am from, there was a huge move in population to growing cities in the Industrial Revolution. What was lost in terms of communities and shared heritage that was never recovered? What have I lost?

A book that I read a couple of years ago that has really stayed with me is Paul Kingsnorth’s The Wake. It really isn’t an easy read. It tells the story of the aftermath of the Norman Conquest (it’s never the Norman Colonisation, is it?), 950 years ago this month. 1066 is a huge watershed in British history and sometimes what came before gets a little lost. The north of England resisted and were savagely put down in the ‘harrowing of the north‘, and sometimes I wonder if the region has ever truly recovered. There really is a reason the north remembers.

The Wake reminds us of the human impact of the conquest and provides a glimpse of an older world going back into pagan times.

So, stories: they connect us to people, places and culture – both our own and ones we are learning about, they get lost, they get recovered, they can be very ancient, they lead us to different places, they make us think, they make us.

More about storytelling

Ivan Coyote: Talking across boundaries – WORD Christchurch

Ivan Coyote
Ivan Coyote (Image supplied)

When the WORD blog team put their hand up to cover different sessions at WORD Christchurch, I was fortunately alone in choosing both “The Storyteller” and “Black and Blue Storytelling” with Ivan E. Coyote. As the event continued and audiences enjoyed the stories, people kept coming back for more and more. By Sunday morning, “The Storyteller” session was sold out and WORD volunteers brought more chairs in.

Ivan hails from the Yukon, Canada and their stories are autobiographical, exploring family history and dynamics, gender identity, social justice and equality. At times self-deprecating, but with a good sprinkling of wit and humour so that the messages they are conveying are all the more powerful for being from personal experience. To deliver these messages in any other way, would perhaps come across as a lecture. Ivan has taken pains to point out that that is not their intention. In a Radio New Zealand interview Ivan explained that the medium they use is very traditional, whilst the subject matter is not. They write the story down and craft it before learning it, then once it is learnt, they are able to really tell it and tweak it and ad-lib for the audience. The result is a very natural, polished telling by a gifted raconteur.

Autobiographical storytelling requires a fine balance between truth and privacy. Ivan applies a strict set of criteria to their writing / telling. They ensure that the story is honouring and they thoroughly examine their own motivation in writing the story – for example are they trying to ensure that they have the last word? The essence of this is ensuring that they show compassion and that they “use their powers for good”. Ever since the sessions during WORD, I keep thinking what a great attitude and approach it is to aim to make everyone, even the most challenging person in the room comfortable and included. At the end of the day, why can’t we all just get along?

Ivan uses story to recount interactions with people with absolute attention to detail. “I’m not so much OCD but ATD – that’s attention to detail”. Through “Scars” we learnt a little about the mysterious world of a hand model, the map of childhood accidents and ultimately the effect of top surgery. This was moving for both the teller and the listeners. The humane telling elicits empathy, groans and sighs from the audience. On Sunday morning there was barely a dry eye in the room.

The session ended on a lighter note with Ivan telling a series of “literary doritos” short, bite-sized stories inspired by overheard snippets of conversation and a standing ovation.

Cover of Tomboy survival guideI asked Ivan if they intended readers to read their collections in order, as it seemed that Missed Her was intended that way. Ivan said that it didn’t matter although the Tomboy Survival Guide would probably be better if it was read in order. You read it here first…

Find stories by Ivan Coyote in the library catalogue

More WORD Christchurch

Black and Blue Storytelling – WORD Christchurch

Black and Blue Storytelling
Close confines at Black and Blue Storytelling

Black and Blue Storytelling at 27 steps brought me right out of my comfort zone. To be heading into Christchurch whilst stone cold sober and on my own on a Friday night after 10pm was a big thing for me – but there aren’t that many opportunities to hear adult storytelling. In my excitement I hadn’t really reflected on the name – black and blue storytelling in that some of the stories might be a bit risqué.

According to the host, Derek Flores aka ‘The Unicorn’, the aim of the evening was to conduct a social experiment to find “an inconvenient space and cram as many people as possible inside”. It was hot, or as the Unicorn described it “toasty” and the vibe was becoming a lot more like hot yoga – we were achieving weightloss through storytelling – yay!

To add to the surreal vibe, Mitchell the bar tender circulated bills to the people seated and unable to get to the bar. It is virtually a story in itself that, at the moment of Ivan E. Coyote’s introduction, Mitchell was trying to rest payment from them for Ivan’s bourbon.

Ivan had a simple message for the crowd in “A Cautionary Tale”. A tale involving a retro, blue polyester tuxedo, beer, ecstasy, air travel and inappropriate packing told with humour and panache. Don’t drink beer. We laughed, empathised and cringed together.

gender failureThis tale features in the book “Gender Failure” written with Rae Spoon, exploring their failure to fit into a gender binary world.

The Unicorn and Alice Canton wove an improvised tale that spun, as improvisation can into a surreal meander where the thread was almost lost until the Unicorn brought it all back together to a conclusion. The contrast between the crafted story and improvisation offered two very different oral narratives – a rare and welcome alternative offering in a literature festival programme.

More WORD Christchurch

My WORD – Anne on the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival

Ever since WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival ended on Sunday I’ve felt rather sad and a little lost. When I’ve been to other literature festivals I’ve been enthused, happy and have absolutely gorged myself on as many sessions as possible. Then they ended and that was that. WORD was different to that and also, for me, significantly different to previous WORD festivals. Let me try and explain how.

For me, WORD 2016 was like having my best friend visit for a full on weekend of anecdotes, reminiscence, political discussion and culture. Now they’ve gone back home and I miss them.

The main sessions which stood out for me were those related to feminism, short stories and storytelling. The sheer numbers attending the feminist sessions from Dame Fiona Kidman, Helene Wong, Debbie Stoller, Tara Moss and Barbara Brookes was heartwarming.

Book sale stand, WORD Christchurch
Books for sale at The Piano. Flickr 2016-08-24-IMG_2459

However, the absolute highlight of the festival, for me was the oral storytelling of Ivan Coyote. It is a rare thing to find oral storytelling events in literature festivals. It is, as the saying goes, “as rare as hen’s teeth” to find storytelling for adult audiences. But WORD programmed this to audiences who lapped it all up and hungrily asked for more. Oral storytelling is the one thing above all that I’ve missed since moving to New Zealand from the UK over 7 years ago. I hadn’t come across Ivan Coyote before, so my choice of their sessions was purely guided by the words “storyteller and raconteur”. My punt paid off as these sessions were fantastic. Like most storytelling events, they were just too short and that’s a great criticism to have!

So now, I have a few more books and collections on my shelves just like an album of photos to remember the weekend. Until the next time, WORD.

Storytelling is for everyone. Always.

Everything around us, inside of us and between us does – according to science – exist of atoms. That’s one way to explain the world. I prefer it the other way. I think it exists of stories.

The Story Factor The Storytellers Way Hooked Storytime

We are constantly surrounded by stories. We don’t just read them and listen to them in the news and books, we also see them happening around us all the time. We tell stories everyday even without realising. Kids telling us what happened at school. Neighbours recounting stories about their pets. Partners talking about work. Mums repeating stories about their babies. Builders amusing each other with builder’s jokes. Customers narrating about their childhood. Buildings, parks, streets echoing the stories of the past and present. Toys, pictures, songs and our favourite objects evoking our memories. Birds, trees and mountains unfolding tales of the land and nature. Who will I encounter today and how long will you be a part of my story? Will our stories thread together? Is it going to be amusing? Is it going to be sad?

Stories have many aspects and powers. They cure, connect, entertain, support, educate, clarify, inform, enrich, amuse, impress even sell! They connect us with total strangers. Whether we are able to relate to a story or not, they offer us to slip into somebody else’s shoes and see how green the grass really is on the other side.

Therefore – stories are not just for kids. Stories are not something that rests on the bedside table  and are evoked once every now and then, to lull someone to sleep. Stories are very much alive among us. Living in a city, where everyone has a remarkable story to tell, is – at least for me – very precious. We should remind ourselves more often that these stories are our priceless taonga. We should encourage each other how to nurture and share them.

Here, at Christchurch City Libraries, we are super excited about stories. We feel very grateful to be able to host the world-class storyteller Regi Carpenter (USA), brought to Ōtautahi by Story Collective. Regi will be holding a koha based workshop on Storytelling for children today, 12th May (South Library, Sydenham room, 4-5.30pm).

If you are not yet ready to take your storytelling skills to the next level and just want to submerge yourself into an exquisite storytelling session, come and listen to her perform tomorrow, 13th May, 7.30-9pm, at the Orange Studios.

If you are totally whakama, like myself, and prefer to contemplate about storytelling out of your reading settee, than you may like to browse through our books on storytelling. You never know – you might become the scintillating part of somebody else’s story on your way to the library.

Telling tales @ The Pallet Pavilion Story Festival

Join The Story Collective for a weekend of storytelling. Enjoy a wide variety of performances, participatory events, and creative workshops. The Story Festival start on the evening of Friday 14 March and runs until Sunday 16 March at the Gap Filler Pallet Pavilion, corner of Kilmore and Durham Streets.

The busy programme includes:

  • Opening night Friday 14 March at 7pm “a rich show of all types of stories, spoken word and live music galore”
  • Saturday 15 March: Creative workshops including a Kakapo tale and making felt kakapo, and lassooing a star.
  • Writers’ Panel with Rachael King, Gavin Bishop, Deborah Rogers, and Anneleise Hall
  • Storytelling dance, and Open Mic;
  • Family chill-out day on Sunday 16 March including the Christchurch City Libraries’ outreach team doing bicultural story telling at 11am, and tales from Christchurch’s Word Witch.

Stories at Pallet Pavilion
StoryCollective

It’s Babytimes

Central Library, Centre for the ChildSchool holidays are over and now the babies come out to play in our libraries. Every Monday to Friday, all over the city, under twos are having fun in our Babytime sessions.

Halswell Library is the latest into the Babytimes fold with  regular weekly sessions starting on Wednesday, 24  October at 11.00am.

Stories, songs, rhymes, fingerplays and other book related activities are delivered by a lively bunch of librarians.

For at home backup our Baby Rhymes page has a wonderful selection of rhymes you can learn and share with your baby, plus heaps of other resources you can find in our libraries. They are important steps for your child on the road to reading. We have lots of other information for parents of pre-schoolers and our experienced children’s librarians are there to help.

Why not check out a Babytimes session near you.

“Think Bill Bryson, But Only On Books”

CoverIn Outside of a Dog: a Bibliomemoir,  Rick Gekoski connects 25 books that have been special to him at different stages in his life. These books range from Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr Seuss to Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein and twenty-three others in-between.

Gekoski writes with remarkable candour and by the end of the book I felt as if he was a close friend. Which is why, when I encountered him in the lift at the hotel, I greeted him as if we were old acquaintances who were delighted to meet up again. Of course he doesn’t know me from a bar of soap – he must get a lot of that in his travels.

He is billed as being “The Bill Bryson of the book world” – I can only imagine how annoying that must be for him, but the truth is that this is a very entertaining book which is also certain to inspire you to make a list of the twenty-five books that exemplify your life. If you do decide to do this and then turn it into a book, Gekoski has this advice for you: “Find the right language to capture the form of life you are observing and participating in. Take some risks and above all, make it fun!”

In his festival event Gekoski spoke to John Carey and it was like being a voyeur in a gentleman’s club. It was as if they had quite forgotten that we were there. Carey spoke us through some of the stages in Gekoski’s life and the books that were connected to those stages. In his talk he revealed not only some of the authors whom he revered , but also a few who hadn’t impressed. He is no fan of Harold Pinter or Joan Didion and felt that Paul Theroux was one of the most difficult authors he had ever met.

When it came to book signing time, I asked him the question I had not asked in the session which is: why he is so uncomfortable in libraries. He replied “Because they give me an anxiety attack. I am overwhelmed by too much choice” and then he wrote in my copy of his book : “To Roberta who is better at libraries than I am!”