Over The Bridge and hanging upside down

Why do so many Kiwi YA authors seem drawn to dystopian novel writing? Do we need a literary canon to match our cinema of unease? Perhaps our geographical isolation breeds introspection of the post-apocalyptic kind.

I have just read two new ,very similar examples of New Zealand teen dystopias: The Bridge by Lincoln University researcher Jane Higgins and August by Bernard Beckett. The Bridge won the Australian literary Text Prize and rightly deserves such attention. Although the setting is pure cliche – a futuristic divided city where the haves and have nots battle for limited life-sustaining resources  – the first page grabs the reader and keeps up the pace throughout.

Nik, a privileged city dweller is smart, a mathematics genius; but strangely the military elite corps ISIS don’t recruit him along with his less capable friends. Before he can find out why, his school is bombed. The hostiles from across the river have taken the bridges and are intent on plundering. Nik finds himself commited to crossing over to their side to find his kidnapped friend.

August sings the same tune. Set in a futuristic city where some citizens enjoy privilege and others are shut out to scrabble for a living in the dust. But this is only revealed gradually through the conversation between a boy, Tristan and a girl, Grace,  hanging upside down by their seatbelts in a crashed car. Their relationship is slowly unfolded in flashbacks and serves as an illustration of the state of the world they live in. The boy is from a religious order, and this theme of religious regeneration in the face of social upheaval is in both books. Reminiscent of the religious extremism in The Handmaid’s Tale, many writers seem to find it hard to imagine a post-apocalyptic world without some vestige of  Christian belief systems.

Re-Draft: where publication is the prize

posterAre you passionate about writing? Always wanted to be published? Then Re-Draft is the competition for you!

This annual event for New Zealand’s teenage writers is organised by Dr Glyn Strange , director of the School for Young Writers, and judged by Tessa Duder and James Norcliffe.  You can submit poetry, stories, scripts or songs which are then judged.  Each entrant can submit up to three pieces of work. Successful writers will then be published in Re-Draft.

Here’s an excerpt  from a  poem written by Emily Adlam in last year’s edition of Re-Draft, The world’s steepest street:

It was not the same
Where are they, all my lost places?
I went back, but found only emptiness.
The smell was of cinnamon traces
instead of burnt varnish; the air
touched differently, as if it had learnt tenderness
for someone else.
The past was not on display in glass cases.
Maps and addresses are no use to me
and there is no convenient office
where I may reclaim my property.

Moving, moody, funny clever – there certainly is an abundance of talent out there.  Get your hands on a copy of ‘The world’s Steepest Street’, read it and re-read it, then write you own literary masterpiece!

Entry forms  can only be found in the back of the book  (which you can photocopy at your local library) or buy a copy through the School for Young Writers . Entries close 30 September 2011.

No shortage of short stories

As part of our 150th celebrations, there was a one-day short story competition held at the beginning of August. There was no shortage of entries, showing that the desire to write and get creative on the page is alive and well in our city. Competitors had to include four out of a series of Christchurch landmarks.

You can read the stories on library150.com. The winner of the open section was Nic Gorman and his ‘story’, Reasons for Voyaging, is available, as well as a selection of other entries. The winner of the youth section – Kerry Lane’s Sunday Afternoon – will be available after The Press has published it next Thursday.

It’s great to see the variety of styles in this fresh crop of writing. If you had to write a short story which Christchurch landmarks would you include? What would it be about? Boy racers? Office politics? Go on, get creative on a sunny Friday!