Latest news from PenNorth – the newsletter of Northland Authors

Poetic Documentary

Past Present, the documentary about the poet and environmentalist Peter Dane, is now available on YouTube.
A former professor of English at Auckland University, Peter had survived the Shoah in England and Australia before he became a teacher and academic in East-Africa and New Zealand.
Peter spent the last years of his life as a poet and co-founder of Friends of the Earth in the Bay of Islands. In his poetry, unlike that of many (post-) modern writers, this revolutionary traditionalist celebrated form and beauty as means of realising and contemplating the limited and contingent, yet potentially transcendent and universal liberty of the arts.

Te Puna Women’s Refuge Critiquing Raffle

Lesley Marshall is running her annual Christmas raffle. The prize is a full novel critique (or the equivalent time in editing) in memory of Lesley’s son, with funds to go to Te Puna Women’s Refuge.
To enter, simply send a cheque (made out to Te Puna) to Lesley Marshall (Editline, 20 Beverley Cres, RD 9 Whangarei 0179), and she will put you in the draw. Alternatively, you can direct debit money into Te Puna’s account (Acc: 123101 0056429 00; name: Te Puna o Te Aroha Women’s Refuge) and let Lesley know what you’ve paid them so she knows how many chances to give you. If an overseas writer wants to enter they can donate to their local refuge equivalent. You can contact Lesley at editline[at]xtra.co.nz.
The draw is on 20 December. The critique is for a novel or any similar piece of work, and the winner can send it any time in the next year, either on paper or by email. The costs for entries are as follows:
One chance = $20; 3 chances $30; 6 chances $40; 10 chances $50; 15 chances $60.
The refuge gets very short of food during the festive season, though one year they used the money to create a children’s playground for the families there, and another year they bought clothes for the children. Whatever they use it for, rest assured you’re creating a lot of Christmas joy with your entries. These are people who have suffered hugely, and have often walked out of what should have been their safe, happy homes with only the clothes they stand up in. They really do need all our support. And Christmas is unfortunately the refuge’s busiest time.

Courage Day

The Empty Chair

November 15th was Courage Day – the day of the imprisoned writer. Our empty chair was in honour of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukranian writer charged with terrorism by a Russian court and sentenced to 20 years in a Siberian penal colony, which is the farthest place he could be sent from his home in Crimea. The charges were made up to silence him. Click here to find out how you can help more.

Northland Noteworthies:

  • Jac Jenkins has had a poem (untitled) accepted for publication in the next issue of The American Journal of Poetry, due out on New Year’s Day.
  • Di Menefy’s 1915 Wounds of War is to be translated into braille and turned into an audio book.
  • Kamala Jackson’s manuscript We Are One has been picked by The Literary Consultancy (UK) for their November showcase.

What’s On?

Creative Writing Workshop: From Inspiration to Publication

Practical Fiction Writing Advice and Motivation. Northland indie author Michael Botur delivers a down-to-earth four-hour workshop on fiction writing. Poets can attend too, although fiction will be the main focus of the day.
Where: Te Ahu Centre (Conference Room), Cnr Matthews Ave & South Rd, Kaitaia, Far North.
When: Saturday, 15 December 2018, 9:00am – 1:00pm with two short breaks.
Cost: $45, including writing feedback before and after the workshop.
Email mike[at]michaelboturwriter.com to book your ticket.

Poetry Events

FFP5 cover

  • Dirty Word Open Mic at Old Stone Butter Factory, Whangarei: Wed 12 Dec and Wed 9 Jan at 7pm.
  • Poets at ONEONESIX at 116 Bank Street, Whangarei: Thurs 20 Dec and Thurs 17 Jan at 5pm.

Fast Fibres Poetry Five available from fastfibres[at]live.com
$10 for one copy, $15 for two copies.

A full list of Northland writing events, opportunities and writers’ groups can be found here.


Classifieds

NorthTec Applied Writing Courses: Interested in writing picture books? Northtec will be offering their Picture Book paper just once in 2019. It starts in February and runs for four months. If you would like more information about the Picture Book course or any of NorthTec’s creative writing programmes then please contact Kathy Derrick (kderrick[at]northtec.ac.nz) or visit their website here.

Unclie glenn

Wanted to buy: Uncle Glenn and Me by Glenn Colquhoun illustrated by Kevin Wildman. This is a much-loved picture book but now my children are having children my only copy is in danger of being purloined. Lesley Marshall editline[at]xtra.co.nz.


Please send us any little bits and pieces that you think might be useful for our Northland members. This includes any writing services you offer, links to useful (or fun) websites that you want to share, writing jobs you hear about, or even a request for a copy of an out-of-print book. Priority will be given to fresh content. Please refer to the contributor’s guidelines for requirements.


Competitions and Opportunities

Best New Zealand Poems

Best New Zealand Poems (published annually by the International Institute of Modern Letters) aims to introduce readers to leading contemporary New Zealand poets.
Only poems or books of poems by New Zealanders published within the calendar year of the current collection are eligible for consideration.
Submissions must be received by 17 December 2018.

Fresh Ink, 2019

fresh ink

With the success of their first anthology in 2017, Fresh Ink: A Collection of Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand 2017, Cloud Ink Press is excited to again be taking submissions for the second in the series to be published in late 2019. The anthology will contain works across a range of fields and genres.
Submissions are open to all New Zealanders, who are either living in New Zealand or have a New Zealand passport, and will close on the 23rd of December.
For further details, visit the Cloud Ink Press submissions page.

NZSA Mentor Programme 2019 – open for applications

typewriter mentorship

Apply now to be mentored by an established writer, poet, playwright or graphic novelist.
The NZSA Mentor Programme accepts applications for the 2019 programme from 1 Dec 2018 to 1 Feb 2019.
The NZ Society of Authors Mentor programme 2019 seeks applications from writers and comic / graphic novelists looking for professional development, a safe space to discuss their work, intellectual community, role models, accountability and substantive feedback.
The writers and creators who gained mentorships in 2018 polished and refined their skills under talented mentors such as Paula Morris, Pip Adam, Geoff Walker and Vivienne Plumb. The NZSA Mentor Programme has an equally impressive group of mentors available for 2019.
This programme is made possible thanks to support from Creative New Zealand. This year, as part of our commitment to diversity, we have again tagged 3 mentorships for emerging writers identifying as Maori, Pasifika and Asian. Learn more…

2019 Calibre Essay Prize

Entry is now open for 2019 Calibre Essay Prize. Founded in 2007 and now worth a total of AU$7500, the Calibre Prize is one of the world’s leading prizes for a new non-fiction essay.
Entry is open to all essayists writing in English. They are seeking essays of between 2,000 and 5,000 words on any subject and welcome essays of all kinds: personal or political, literary or speculative, traditional or experimental.
Entries close 14 January 2019.

2019 Wallace Foundation Short Fiction Contest

This is a contest only for LGBTQI writers, offering an incredible opportunity to upskill and show your writing talent.
First prize is $1000 cash for the winning story, $500 for the runner up and $500 cash for the best writing from a promising young writer aged under 25.
The word limit is a maximum of 2000 words and should not be exceeded. Stories must exceed 1200 words. Entries will close Sunday 31 March 2019. Check it out…

For information on other competitions and awards check out the Calendar of Opportunities on your NZSA website’s members-only page.

From taking the piss to taking it seriously — Michael Botur’s self-publishing journey

Mike holding TRUE aloft 2mb
Author Michael Botur with his newest short story collection TRUE?

 

by Ayla Miller

With a raft of self-published short story collections, a teen dystopian novel and work published in New Zealand’s top magazines, newspapers and journals, Northland-based indie author, Michael Botur, knows what it takes to break into the literary world.

Now he is on a mission to share what he has learnt with other writers, in what can sometimes feel like an undervalued and over-crowded industry.

In the early days, Michael Botur was a leather jacket, boot-wearing angry young man, with dreams of being a rock star. It’s a far cry from the immaculately groomed professional he is today.

He also describes himself as; “Quite defensive, and if I felt left out of some group of people, I would satirise the group or come up with ways to be resentful of it. I was obsessed with satire, comedy and literature – Bill Hicks, Matt Groening, Denis Leary, Joseph Heller, Chuck Palahniuk, Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs etc. I was an angsty cartoonist for a while there, then a holier-than-thou vegan, I had a mohawk, briefly. It took years to settle comfortably into myself. Just becoming a reasonably-good creative writer, and good at speaking on a stage, took several years.”

His metamorphosis from alternative rocker to author began when he started writing — in his words — ‘crappy lyrics and crappy poetry,’ while at Otago University. It was this shaky beginning that inspired the frequently explored theme of conflict and male codes of violence in his stories.

“I was a little hell-raiser when I was about 18,” he says. “I got into trouble with the law for breaking things, smashing things, doing bad things with my car and drink driving. So sometimes the conflict was me against myself.

“Eventually, trying to make art became the main purpose of my day. It took years until my main identity in this world was as a writer instead of a tough guy with something to prove.”

He soon realised that sitting around waiting for his work to be discovered was not an option. The recent release and promotion of TRUE? – sixteen short stories of strippers, celebs, trysts, travel, virgins, Viagra, jail, journos, A-listers and Class A’s,  is evidence of this.

“At first it was a drag having to raise awareness of my work on my own, instead of people coming to me, but the reality is that we live in such a crowded world that if you sit around and wait for people to discover your work, they won’t. The chances of being ‘discovered’ are increasingly slim,” he says.

“If you get into the habit of being able to clearly describe and promote your work and stand up for it, then you have a skill set that can help in so many ways — not just in sales but in life.

“It also helps with keeping yourself going because if you don’t believe in yourself, then it’s agony when you’re typing away at your computer. There’s always that anxious voice saying, ‘Is it worth it? Is there any point to this? Will this be around in 100 years?’ “

To keep that voice at bay, Michael had to work up the courage to run another GiveALittle campaign to help fund TRUE? and watch a lot of Henry Rollins motivational videos.  One of the most useful videos Michael stumbled upon discussed the importance of performance and staying performance fit.

“Whenever possible I try to perform my words. Even if it’s just to a couple of people, which sometimes it is. You’ve got to stay fit when promoting and performing your writing because you never know when someone is going to ask you to perform something.”

Michael also interviewed actor Rob Mokaraka for a journalism story and found his philosophy inspiring.

Another thing Michael learnt along the way is how to balance what he wants to write with what people want to read.

“It’s like this. While 99 per cent of the publishing industry is not publishing dirty realism, which is a genre that’s a pretty good match for what I write, there’s one per cent of the industry that does. It has its own culture and code and fan base. You have to decide whether you want to be nobody in a big pool or somebody in a small pool.

“The major break through for me was two years ago when I got sick and tired, one night, of going through the process of trying to get a literary journal to publish each of my stories before it had a veneer of approval. Takahe magazine and Bravado are two journals which really empowered me for ten years and published tonnes of my early writing, and I’m grateful to them, but writers should learn that becoming competent is about achieving one million words, or 10,000 hours of writing – it’s not about gaining the approval of some editor.

“Take this, for example: at the start of 2018 I got kicked out of a short story competition because an editor wrote me a snobby letter saying; ‘It has come to our attention that you have already published your story on your blog.’ How ridiculous is that? A writer gets their opportunity taken away because they dared to be proud of their own work? That night I said ‘no más,’ I wrote a cool angsty blog about it then resolved to never again beg for the approval of people who don’t care about my work.”

As for making realistic characters, he says composite characters — characters with a blend of characteristics taken from people encountered in real life — are the way to go.

“If you’re writing a character taken directly from real life it can be too obvious. Writers need to know characters are the number one most important thing in fiction writing. Don’t waste time setting the scene or even describing in great detail what the person looks like. The character isn’t what someone looks like; it’s how they act.”

Of course, publishing a book on a budget sometimes requires authors to step outside their comfort zone, into areas they have less experience with, to design their own covers. To get the cover of TRUE? just right, Michael graffiti-ed his garage wall and turned his backyard into a swamp when removing it later with a water blaster.

“Every author could use some basic training in design and photography. Colour contrast and font are important. The cover has to give you a flavour of what to expect inside. This time I asked more people for their opinions.”

Despite the challenges encountered when going down the self-publishing road, a combination of passion and sheer determination is what keeps Michael going.

“Writing is hard, but it’s a great art to choose from. It costs next to nothing, and you can do it anywhere. You don’t always need a paper, pen or computer to do it and it’s incredibly versatile. Writing can also be turned into other forms of art. It’s a really practical medium.”

Get your copy of TRUE? from Unity Books in Auckland, email mike@michaelboturwriter.com or use the order form at NZShortStories.com.

 

Powerful advice on the craft of writing for world-leading authors.

Thanks to The Guardian for this creative writing advice content. 

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/feb/20/10-rules-for-writing-fiction-part-two

 

Elmore Leonard, Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Roddy Doyle, Helen Dunmore, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, Jonathan Franzen, Esther Freud, Neil Gaiman, David Hare, PD James, AL Kennedy, Hilary Mantel, Michael Moorcock, Michael Morpurgo, Andrew Motion, Joyce Carol Oates, Annie Proulx, Philip Pullman, Ian Rankin, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Zadie Smith, Colm Tóibín, Rose Tremain, Sarah Waters, Jeanette Winterson

 

Elmore Leonard

 

Using adverbs is a mortal sin

 

1 Never open a book with weather. If it’s only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter’s reaction to the weather, you don’t want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday, but it’s OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: “I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t like to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks.”

3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But “said” is far less intrusive than “grumbled”, “gasped”, “cautioned”, “lied”. I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with “she asseverated” and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances “full of rape and adverbs”.

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.

6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose”. This rule doesn’t require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use “suddenly” tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won’t be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”, what do the “Ameri­can and the girl with him” look like? “She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.” That’s the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things, unless you’re ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don’t want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing is published next month by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

 

Diana Athill

1 Read it aloud to yourself because that’s the only way to be sure the rhythms of the sentences are OK (prose rhythms are too complex and subtle to be thought out – they can be got right only by ear).

2 Cut (perhaps that should be CUT): only by having no ­inessential words can every essential word be made to count.

3 You don’t always have to go so far as to murder your darlings – those turns of phrase or images of which you felt extra proud when they appeared on the page – but go back and look at them with a very beady eye. Almost always it turns out that they’d be better dead. (Not every little twinge of satisfaction is suspect – it’s the ones which amount to a sort of smug glee you must watch out for.)

 

Margaret Atwood

1 Take a pencil to write with on aeroplanes. Pens leak. But if the pencil breaks, you can’t sharpen it on the plane, because you can’t take knives with you. Therefore: take two pencils.

2 If both pencils break, you can do a rough sharpening job with a nail file of the metal or glass type.

3 Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

4 If you’re using a computer, always safeguard new text with a ­memory stick.

5 Do back exercises. Pain is distracting.

6 Hold the reader’s attention. (This is likely to work better if you can hold your own.) But you don’t know who the reader is, so it’s like shooting fish with a slingshot in the dark. What ­fascinates A will bore the pants off B.

7 You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

8 You can never read your own book with the innocent anticipation that comes with that first delicious page of a new book, because you wrote the thing. You’ve been backstage. You’ve seen how the rabbits were smuggled into the hat. Therefore ask a reading friend or two to look at it before you give it to anyone in the publishing business. This friend should not be someone with whom you have a ­romantic relationship, unless you want to break up.

9 Don’t sit down in the middle of the woods. If you’re lost in the plot or blocked, retrace your steps to where you went wrong. Then take the other road. And/or change the person. Change the tense. Change the opening page.

10 Prayer might work. Or reading ­something else. Or a constant visual­isation of the holy grail that is the finished, published version of your resplendent book.

 

Roddy Doyle

1 Do not place a photograph of your ­favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.

2 Do be kind to yourself. Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph ­–

3 Until you get to Page 50. Then calm down, and start worrying about the quality. Do feel anxiety – it’s the job.

4 Do give the work a name as quickly as possible. Own it, and see it. Dickens knew Bleak House was going to be called Bleak House before he started writing it. The rest must have been easy.

5 Do restrict your browsing to a few websites a day. Don’t go near the online bookies – unless it’s research.

6 Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge, somewhere that demands travel or effort. Chances are the words that come into your head will do fine, eg “horse”, “ran”, “said”.

7 Do, occasionally, give in to temptation. Wash the kitchen floor, hang out the washing. It’s research.

8 Do change your mind. Good ideas are often murdered by better ones. I was working on a novel about a band called the Partitions. Then I decided to call them the Commitments.

9 Do not search amazon.co.uk for the book you haven’t written yet.

10 Do spend a few minutes a day working on the cover biog – “He divides his time between Kabul and Tierra del Fuego.” But then get back to work.

 

Helen Dunmore

1 Finish the day’s writing when you still want to continue.

2 Listen to what you have written. A dud rhythm in a passage of dialogue may show that you don’t yet understand the characters well enough to write in their voices.

3 Read Keats’s letters.

4 Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. If it still doesn’t work, throw it away. It’s a nice feeling, and you don’t want to be cluttered with the corpses of poems and stories which have everything in them except the life they need.

5 Learn poems by heart.

6 Join professional organisations which advance the collective rights of authors.

7 A problem with a piece of writing often clarifies itself if you go for a long walk.

8 If you fear that taking care of your children and household will damage your writing, think of JG Ballard.

9 Don’t worry about posterity – as Larkin (no sentimentalist) observed “What will survive of us is love”.

 

Geoff Dyer

1 Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. That stuff is for agents and editors to fret over – or not. Conversation with my American publisher. Me: “I’m writing a book so boring, of such limited commercial appeal, that if you publish it, it will probably cost you your job.” Publisher: “That’s exactly what makes me want to stay in my job.”

2 Don’t write in public places. In the early 1990s I went to live in Paris. The usual writerly reasons: back then, if you were caught writing in a pub in England, you could get your head kicked in, whereas in Paris, dans les cafés . . . Since then I’ve developed an aversion to writing in public. I now think it should be done only in private, like any other lavatorial activity.

3 Don’t be one of those writers who sentence themselves to a lifetime of sucking up to Nabokov.

4 If you use a computer, constantly refine and expand your autocorrect settings. The only reason I stay loyal to my piece-of-shit computer is that I have invested so much ingenuity into building one of the great auto­correct files in literary history. Perfectly formed and spelt words emerge from a few brief keystrokes: “Niet” becomes “Nietzsche”, “phoy” becomes  ­”photography” and so on. ­Genius!

5 Keep a diary. The biggest regret of my writing life is that I have never kept a journal or a diary.

6 Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.

7 Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I ­always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.

8 Beware of clichés. Not just the ­clichés that Martin Amis is at war with. There are clichés of response as well as expression. There are clichés of observation and of thought – even of conception. Many novels, even quite a few adequately written ones, are ­clichés of form which conform to clichés of expectation.

9 Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and, naturally, I don’t follow it.

10 Never ride a bike with the brakes on. If something is proving too difficult, give up and do something else. Try to live without resort to per­severance. But writing is all about ­perseverance. You’ve got to stick at it. In my 30s I used to go to the gym even though I hated it. The purpose of ­going to the gym was to postpone the day when I would stop going. That’s what writing is to me: a way of ­postponing the day when I won’t do it any more, the day when I will sink into a depression so profound it will be indistinguishable from perfect bliss.

Anne Enright

1 The first 12 years are the worst.

2 The way to write a book is to actually write a book. A pen is useful, typing is also good. Keep putting words on the page.

3 Only bad writers think that their work is really good.

4 Description is hard. Remember that all description is an opinion about the world. Find a place to stand.

5 Write whatever way you like. Fiction is made of words on a page; reality is made of something else. It doesn’t matter how “real” your story is, or how “made up”: what matters is its necessity.

6 Try to be accurate about stuff.

7 Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you ­finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die.

8 You can also do all that with whiskey.

9 Have fun.

10 Remember, if you sit at your desk for 15 or 20 years, every day, not ­counting weekends, it changes you. It just does. It may not improve your temper, but it fixes something else. It makes you more free.

Richard Ford

1 Marry somebody you love and who thinks you being a writer’s a good idea.

2 Don’t have children.

3 Don’t read your reviews.

4 Don’t write reviews. (Your judgment’s always tainted.)

5 Don’t have arguments with your wife in the morning, or late at night.

6 Don’t drink and write at the same time.

7 Don’t write letters to the editor. (No one cares.)

8 Don’t wish ill on your colleagues.

9 Try to think of others’ good luck as encouragement to yourself.

10 Don’t take any shit if you can ­possibly help it.

Jonathan Franzen

1 The reader is a friend, not an adversary, not a spectator.

2 Fiction that isn’t an author’s personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn’t worth writing for anything but money.

3 Never use the word “then” as a ­conjunction – we have “and” for this purpose. Substituting “then” is the lazy or tone-deaf writer’s non-solution to the problem of too many “ands” on the page.

4 Write in the third person unless a ­really distinctive first-person voice ­offers itself irresistibly.

5 When information becomes free and universally accessible, voluminous research for a novel is devalued along with it.

6 The most purely autobiographical ­fiction requires pure invention. Nobody ever wrote a more auto­biographical story than “The Meta­morphosis”.

7 You see more sitting still than chasing after.

8 It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.

9 Interesting verbs are seldom very interesting.

10 You have to love before you can be relentless.

Esther Freud

1 Cut out the metaphors and similes. In my first book I promised myself I wouldn’t use any and I slipped up ­during a sunset in chapter 11. I still blush when I come across it.

2 A story needs rhythm. Read it aloud to yourself. If it doesn’t spin a bit of magic, it’s missing something.

3 Editing is everything. Cut until you can cut no more. What is left often springs into life.

4 Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don’t let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won’t matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.

5 Don’t wait for inspiration. Discipline is the key.

6 Trust your reader. Not everything needs to be explained. If you really know something, and breathe life into it, they’ll know it too.

7 Never forget, even your own rules are there to be broken.

Neil Gaiman

1 Write.

2 Put one word after another. Find the right word, put it down.

3 Finish what you’re writing. Whatever you have to do to finish it, finish it.

4 Put it aside. Read it pretending you’ve never read it before. Show it to friends whose opinion you respect and who like the kind of thing that this is.

5 Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.

6 Fix it. Remember that, sooner or later, before it ever reaches perfection, you will have to let it go and move on and start to write the next thing. Perfection is like chasing the horizon. Keep moving.

7 Laugh at your own jokes.

8 The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.

David Hare

1 Write only when you have something to say.

2 Never take advice from anyone with no investment in the outcome.

3 Style is the art of getting yourself out of the way, not putting yourself in it.

4 If nobody will put your play on, put it on yourself.

5 Jokes are like hands and feet for a painter. They may not be what you want to end up doing but you have to master them in the meanwhile.

6 Theatre primarily belongs to the young.

7 No one has ever achieved consistency as a screenwriter.

8 Never go to a TV personality festival masquerading as a literary festival.

9 Never complain of being misunderstood. You can choose to be understood, or you can choose not to.

10 The two most depressing words in the English language are “literary fiction”.

PD James

1 Increase your word power. Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more ­effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it.

2 Read widely and with discrimination. Bad writing is contagious.

3 Don’t just plan to write – write. It is only by writing, not dreaming about it, that we develop our own style.

4 Write what you need to write, not what is currently popular or what you think will sell.

5 Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other ­people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.

AL Kennedy

1 Have humility. Older/more ­experienced/more convincing writers may offer rules and varieties of advice. ­Consider what they say. However, don’t automatically give them charge of your brain, or anything else – they might be bitter, twisted, burned-out, manipulative, or just not very like you.

2 Have more humility. Remember you don’t know the limits of your own abilities. Successful or not, if you keep pushing beyond yourself, you will enrich your own life – and maybe even please a few strangers.

3 Defend others. You can, of course, steal stories and attributes from family and friends, fill in filecards after lovemaking and so forth. It might be better to celebrate those you love – and love itself – by writing in such a way that everyone keeps their privacy and dignity intact.

4 Defend your work. Organisations, institutions and individuals will often think they know best about your work – especially if they are paying you. When you genuinely believe their decisions would damage your work – walk away. Run away. The money doesn’t matter that much.

5 Defend yourself. Find out what keeps you happy, motivated and creative.

6 Write. No amount of self-inflicted misery, altered states, black pullovers or being publicly obnoxious will ever add up to your being a writer. Writers write. On you go.

7 Read. As much as you can. As deeply and widely and nourishingly and ­irritatingly as you can. And the good things will make you remember them, so you won’t need to take notes.

8 Be without fear. This is impossible, but let the small fears drive your rewriting and set aside the large ones ­until they behave – then use them, maybe even write them. Too much fear and all you’ll get is silence.

9 Remember you love writing. It wouldn’t be worth it if you didn’t. If the love fades, do what you need to and get it back.

10 Remember writing doesn’t love you. It doesn’t care. Nevertheless, it can behave with remarkable generosity. Speak well of it, encourage others, pass it on.

Hilary Mantel

1 Are you serious about this? Then get an accountant.

2 Read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself. This book is about becoming a writer from the inside out. Many later advice manuals derive from it. You don’t ­really need any others, though if you want to boost your confidence, “how to” books seldom do any harm. You can kick-start a whole book with some little writing exercise.

3 Write a book you’d like to read. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? Don’t write for a perceived audience or market. It may well have vanished by the time your book’s ready.

4 If you have a good story idea, don’t assume it must form a prose narrative. It may work better as a play, a screenplay or a poem. Be flexible.

5 Be aware that anything that appears before “Chapter One” may be skipped. Don’t put your vital clue there.

6 First paragraphs can often be struck out. Are you performing a haka, or just shuffling your feet?

7 Concentrate your narrative energy on the point of change. This is especially important for historical fiction. When your character is new to a place, or things alter around them, that’s the point to step back and fill in the details of their world. People don’t notice their everyday surroundings and daily routine, so when writers describe them it can sound as if they’re trying too hard to instruct the reader.

8 Description must work for its place. It can’t be simply ornamental. It ­usually works best if it has a human element; it is more effective if it comes from an implied viewpoint, rather than from the eye of God. If description is coloured by the viewpoint of the character who is doing the noticing, it becomes, in effect, part of character definition and part of the action.

9 If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.

10 Be ready for anything. Each new story has different demands and may throw up reasons to break these and all other rules. Except number one: you can’t give your soul to literature if you’re thinking about income tax.

Michael Moorcock

1 My first rule was given to me by TH White, author of The Sword in the Stone and other Arthurian fantasies and was: Read. Read everything you can lay hands on. I always advise people who want to write a fantasy or science fiction or romance to stop reading everything in those genres and start reading everything else from Bunyan to Byatt.

2 Find an author you admire (mine was Conrad) and copy their plots and characters in order to tell your own story, just as people learn to draw and paint by copying the masters.

3 Introduce your main characters and themes in the first third of your novel.

4 If you are writing a plot-driven genre novel make sure all your major themes/plot elements are introduced in the first third, which you can call the introduction.

5 Develop your themes and characters in your second third, the development.

6 Resolve your themes, mysteries and so on in the final third, the resolution.

7 For a good melodrama study the famous “Lester Dent master plot formula” which you can find online. It was written to show how to write a short story for the pulps, but can be adapted successfully for most stories of any length or genre.

8 If possible have something going on while you have your characters delivering exposition or philosophising. This helps retain dramatic tension.

9 Carrot and stick – have protagonists pursued (by an obsession or a villain) and pursuing (idea, object, person, mystery).

10 Ignore all proferred rules and create your own, suitable for what you want to say.

Michael Morpurgo

1 The prerequisite for me is to keep my well of ideas full. This means living as full and varied a life as possible, to have my antennae out all the time.

2 Ted Hughes gave me this advice and it works wonders: record moments, fleeting impressions, overheard dialogue, your own sadnesses and bewilderments and joys.

3 A notion for a story is for me a confluence of real events, historical perhaps, or from my own memory to create an exciting fusion.

4 It is the gestation time which counts.

5 Once the skeleton of the story is ready I begin talking about it, mostly to Clare, my wife, sounding her out.

6 By the time I sit down and face the blank page I am raring to go. I tell it as if I’m talking to my best friend or one of my grandchildren.

7 Once a chapter is scribbled down rough – I write very small so I don’t have to turn the page and face the next empty one – Clare puts it on the word processor, prints it out, sometimes with her own comments added.

8 When I’m deep inside a story, ­living it as I write, I honestly don’t know what will happen. I try not to dictate it, not to play God.

9 Once the book is finished in its first draft, I read it out loud to myself. How it sounds is hugely important.

10 With all editing, no matter how sensitive – and I’ve been very lucky here – I react sulkily at first, but then I settle down and get on with it, and a year later I have my book in my hand.

Andrew Motion

1 Decide when in the day (or night) it best suits you to write, and organise your life accordingly.

2 Think with your senses as well as your brain.

3 Honour the miraculousness of the ordinary.

4 Lock different characters/elements in a room and tell them to get on.

5 Remember there is no such thing as nonsense.

6 Bear in mind Wilde’s dictum that “only mediocrities develop” – and ­challenge it.

7 Let your work stand before deciding whether or not to serve.

8 Think big and stay particular.

9 Write for tomorrow, not for today.

10 Work hard.

Joyce Carol Oates

1 Don’t try to anticipate an “ideal reader” – there may be one, but he/she is reading someone else.

2 Don’t try to anticipate an “ideal reader” – except for yourself perhaps, sometime in the future.

3 Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!

4 Unless you are writing something very avant-garde – all gnarled, snarled and “obscure” – be alert for possibilities of paragraphing.

5 Unless you are writing something very post-modernist – self-conscious, self-reflexive and “provocative” – be alert for possibilities of using plain familiar words in place of polysyllabic “big” words.

6 Keep in mind Oscar Wilde: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”

7 Keep a light, hopeful heart. But ­expect the worst.

Annie Proulx

1 Proceed slowly and take care.

2 To ensure that you proceed slowly, write by hand.

3 Write slowly and by hand only about subjects that interest you.

4 Develop craftsmanship through years of wide reading.

5 Rewrite and edit until you achieve the most felicitous phrase/sentence/paragraph/page/story/chapter.

Phillip Pulman

My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.

Ian Rankin

1 Read lots.

2 Write lots.

3 Learn to be self-critical.

4 Learn what criticism to accept.

5 Be persistent.

6 Have a story worth telling.

7 Don’t give up.

8 Know the market.

9 Get lucky.

10 Stay lucky.

Will Self

1 Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the preceeding day. This prevents those cringing feelings, and means that you have a substantial body of work before you get down to the real work which is all in . . .

2 The edit.

3 Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.

4 Stop reading fiction – it’s all lies anyway, and it doesn’t have anything to tell you that you don’t know already (assuming, that is, you’ve read a great deal of fiction in the past; if you haven’t you have no business whatsoever being a writer of fiction).

5 You know that sickening feeling of inadequacy and over-exposure you feel when you look upon your own empurpled prose? Relax into the awareness that this ghastly sensation will never, ever leave you, no matter how successful and publicly lauded you become. It is intrinsic to the real business of writing and should be cherished.

6 Live life and write about life. Of the making of many books there is ­indeed no end, but there are more than enough books about books.

7 By the same token remember how much time people spend watching TV. If you’re writing a novel with a contemporary setting there need to be long passages where nothing happens save for TV watching: “Later, George watched Grand Designs while eating HobNobs. Later still he watched the shopping channel for a while . . .”

8 The writing life is essentially one of solitary confinement – if you can’t deal with this you needn’t apply.

9 Oh, and not forgetting the occasional beating administered by the sadistic guards of the imagination.

10 Regard yourself as a small corporation of one. Take yourself off on team-building exercises (long walks). Hold a Christmas party every year at which you stand in the corner of your writing room, shouting very loudly to yourself while drinking a bottle of white wine. Then masturbate under the desk. The following day you will feel a deep and cohering sense of embarrassment.

Helen Simpson

The nearest I have to a rule is a Post-it on the wall in front of my desk saying “Faire et se taire” (Flaubert), which I translate for myself as “Shut up and get on with it.”

Zadie Smith

1 When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else.

2 When an adult, try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would.

3 Don’t romanticise your “vocation”. You can either write good sentences or you can’t. There is no “writer’s lifestyle”. All that matters is what you leave on the page.

4 Avoid your weaknesses. But do this without telling yourself that the things you can’t do aren’t worth doing. Don’t mask self-doubt with contempt.

5 Leave a decent space of time between writing something and editing it.

6 Avoid cliques, gangs, groups. The presence of a crowd won’t make your writing any better than it is.

7 Work on a computer that is disconnected from the ­internet.

8 Protect the time and space in which you write. Keep everybody away from it, even the people who are most important to you.

9 Don’t confuse honours with achievement.

10 Tell the truth through whichever veil comes to hand – but tell it. Resign yourself to the lifelong sadness that comes from never ­being satisfied.

Colm Tóibín

1 Finish everything you start.

2 Get on with it.

3 Stay in your mental pyjamas all day.

4 Stop feeling sorry for yourself.

5 No alcohol, sex or drugs while you are working.

6 Work in the morning, a short break for lunch, work in the afternoon and then watch the six o’clock news and then go back to work until bed-time. Before bed, listen to Schubert, preferably some songs.

7 If you have to read, to cheer yourself up read biographies of writers who went insane.

8 On Saturdays, you can watch an old Bergman film, preferably Persona or Autumn Sonata.

9 No going to London.

10 No going anywhere else either.

Rose Tremain

1 Forget the boring old dictum “write about what you know”. Instead, seek out an unknown yet knowable area of experience that’s going to enhance your understanding of the world and write about that.

2 Nevertheless, remember that in the particularity of your own life lies the seedcorn that will feed your imaginative work. So don’t throw it all away on autobiography. (There are quite enough writers’ memoirs out there already.)

3 Never be satisfied with a first draft. In fact, never be satisfied with your own stuff at all, until you’re certain it’s as good as your finite powers can ­enable it to be.

4 Listen to the criticisms and preferences of your trusted “first readers”.

5 When an idea comes, spend silent time with it. Remember Keats’s idea of Negative Capability and Kipling’s advice to “drift, wait and obey”. Along with your gathering of hard data, allow yourself also to dream your idea into being.

6 In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.

7 Respect the way characters may change once they’ve got 50 pages of life in them. Revisit your plan at this stage and see whether certain things have to be altered to take account of these changes.

8 If you’re writing historical fiction, don’t have well-known real characters as your main protagonists. This will only create biographical unease in the readers and send them back to the history books. If you must write about real people, then do something post-modern and playful with them.

9 Learn from cinema. Be economic with descriptions. Sort out the telling detail from the lifeless one. Write dialogue that people would actually speak.

10 Never begin the book when you feel you want to begin it, but hold off a while longer.

Sarah Waters

1 Read like mad. But try to do it analytically – which can be hard, because the better and more compelling a novel is, the less conscious you will be of its devices. It’s worth trying to figure those devices out, however: they might come in useful in your own work. I find watching films also instructive. Nearly every modern Hollywood blockbuster is hopelessly long and baggy. Trying to visualise the much better films they would have been with a few radical cuts is a great exercise in the art of story-telling. Which leads me on to . . .

2 Cut like crazy. Less is more. I’ve ­often read manuscripts – including my own – where I’ve got to the beginning of, say, chapter two and have thought: “This is where the novel should actually start.” A huge amount of information about character and backstory can be conveyed through small detail. The emotional attachment you feel to a scene or a chapter will fade as you move on to other stories. Be business-like about it. In fact . . .

3 Treat writing as a job. Be disciplined. Lots of writers get a bit OCD-ish about this. Graham Greene famously wrote 500 words a day. Jean Plaidy managed 5,000 before lunch, then spent the afternoon answering fan mail. My minimum is 1,000 words a day – which is sometimes easy to achieve, and is sometimes, frankly, like shitting a brick, but I will make myself stay at my desk until I’ve got there, because I know that by doing that I am inching the book forward. Those 1,000 words might well be rubbish – they often are. But then, it is always easier to return to rubbish words at a later date and make them better.

4 Writing fiction is not “self-­expression” or “therapy”. Novels are for readers, and writing them means the crafty, patient, selfless construction of effects. I think of my novels as being something like fairground rides: my job is to strap the reader into their car at the start of chapter one, then trundle and whizz them through scenes and surprises, on a carefully planned route, and at a finely engineered pace.

5 Respect your characters, even the ­minor ones. In art, as in life, everyone is the hero of their own particular story; it is worth thinking about what your minor characters’ stories are, even though they may intersect only slightly with your protagonist’s. At the same time . . .

6 Don’t overcrowd the narrative. Characters should be individualised, but functional – like figures in a painting. Think of Hieronymus Bosch’s Christ Mocked, in which a patiently suffering Jesus is closely surrounded by four threatening men. Each of the characters is unique, and yet each represents a type; and collectively they form a narrative that is all the more powerful for being so tightly and so economically constructed. On a similar theme . . .

7 Don’t overwrite. Avoid the redundant phrases, the distracting adjectives, the unnecessary adverbs. Beginners, especially, seem to think that writing fiction needs a special kind of flowery prose, completely unlike any sort of language one might encounter in day-to-day life. This is a misapprehension about how the effects of fiction are produced, and can be dispelled by obeying Rule 1. To read some of the work of Colm Tóibín or Cormac McCarthy, for example, is to discover how a deliberately limited vocabulary can produce an astonishing emotional punch.

8 Pace is crucial. Fine writing isn’t enough. Writing students can be great at producing a single page of well-crafted prose; what they sometimes lack is the ability to take the reader on a journey, with all the changes of terrain, speed and mood that a long journey involves. Again, I find that looking at films can help. Most novels will want to move close, linger, move back, move on, in pretty cinematic ways.

9 Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there’s prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.

10 Talent trumps all. If you’re a ­really great writer, none of these rules need apply. If James Baldwin had felt the need to whip up the pace a bit, he could never have achieved the extended lyrical intensity of Giovanni’s Room. Without “overwritten” prose, we would have none of the linguistic exuberance of a Dickens or an Angela Carter. If everyone was economical with their characters, there would be no Wolf Hall . . . For the rest of us, however, rules remain important. And, ­crucially, only by understanding what they’re for and how they work can you begin to experiment with breaking them.

Jeanette Winterson

1 Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.

2 Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether.

3 Love what you do.

4 Be honest with yourself. If you are no good, accept it. If the work you are ­doing is no good, accept it.

5 Don’t hold on to poor work. If it was bad when it went in the drawer it will be just as bad when it comes out.

6 Take no notice of anyone you don’t respect.

7 Take no notice of anyone with a ­gender agenda. A lot of men still think that women lack imagination of the fiery kind.

8 Be ambitious for the work and not for the reward.

9 Trust your creativity.

10 Enjoy this work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fiction writing by Kim Martins, Bay of Islands

Check out the writing of Kim Martins.

Kim has just been longlisted for the Raven Short Story Prize.

Kim placed third in the Whangarei Libraries Flash Fiction contest in 2017 and was longlisted for the Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize 2018 (Canada). 27 on longlist from a total of 300 entries.

Kim is Australian and lives in New Zealand.  She writes short stories, flash fiction and poetry. She took up writing in 2016 after working in Australian organisations for many years, followed by long-term consulting work in Italy and Bhutan.

Kim is a keen photographer and traveller with inspiration for poetry and stories often coming from her photos. She has a BA (Hons) in History and a BA LLB.  Her stories and poetry often have historical themes and she is working towards her first novel, set in Italy.

Her work is published in the Copperfield Review, Furtive Dalliance, CafeLit, Flash Frontier, Flash Flood Journal, Visual Verse & “a fine line’

 

FLASH FICTION

 

“Fallen Fruit” September 2016 Flash Frontier

http://www.flash-frontier.com/september-2016-motel/#fruit

 

“On Every Street” National Flash Fiction Day UK – Flash Flood

, http://flashfloodjournal.blogspot.co.uk/ 24th June 2017.

 

“They Came that Night” Third prize. 2017 Northland Flash Fiction Competition. Published in Flash Frontier, September 2017.

http://www.flash-frontier.com/2017/09/16/2017-northland-flash-fiction-competition/

 

Years and Years published by Cafe Lit Feb 24 2018 https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.co.nz/2018/02/years-and-years.html

 

No. 7704 published by CafeLit March 11 2018

https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.co.nz/search?q=7704https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.co.nz/search?q=7704

 

Avocado Days published by CafeLit April 11 2018

https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.co.nz/2018/04/avocado-days.html

 

When We Danced published by CafeLit May 11, 2018

https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.co.nz/2018/05/when-we-danced.html

 

Il Paolio de Siena published by CafeLit June 11, 2018

https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2018/06/il-palio-de-siena.html

 

The Carousel published by CafeLit July 11, 2018

https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-carousel.html

 

These Hands published by CafeLit August 10, 2018

https://cafelitcreativecafe.blogspot.com/2018/08/these-hands.html

 

The Rose Garden Flash Fiction Magazine August 9, 2018.

https://flashfictionmagazine.com/blog/2018/08/09/the-rose-garden/

 

POETRY

 

The Battle of the Hydaspes  

http://visualverse.org/submissions/the-battle-of-the-hydaspes/

Vol. 03 Chapter 11, September 2016.

 

The Glove Maker

http://visualverse.org/submissions/the-glove-maker/

Vol. 04, Chapter 1, November 2016.

Ellen Davis: “Emotion filled….beautiful expression! Thanks for sharing!”

 

 

Cartographia

http://visualverse.org/submissions/cartographia/

Vol 4 Chapter 10. 2017.

 

The Final Voyage

The Copperfield Review, Volume 16 Number 1 Spring 2017

http://copperfieldreview.com/?p=3244

 

Of this Land. Published in August edition of ‘a fine line’, NZ Poetry Society (2017) p17 online.

 

Lady of Margate Published in June 2018 Furtive Dalliance (US) Issue #2, Summer 2018

 

There is a Light Published in June 2018 Furtive Dalliance (US)Issue #2, Summer 2018

 

Anniversary Published in June 2018 Furtive Dalliance (US)Issue #2, Summer 2018

 

Caught Published in June 2018 Furtive Dalliance (US)Issue #2, Summer 2018

 

Gone To be published October 2018. of Barren Magazine (US) Issue #2

 

 

 

Northland Author Features At Book Festival

Northland Author Features At Book Festival

Whangarei writer Michael Botur is appearing at this year’s NZ Book Festival on November 17, following the launch of his fifth short story collection.

True?, launched October 10, is Botur’s sixth book and comes on the back of two well-received 2017 indie publications, Moneyland and Lowlife

Botur describes True? as “Sixteen stories of strippers, celebs, trysts, travel, virgins, Viagra, jail, journos, A-listers and Class A’s.” The genre is a branch of literary fiction known as ‘dirty realism.’

Auckland’s NZ Book Festival – now in its fifth year – is an annual event for independently published Kiwi authors to interact with other writers and publishing industry professionals.

Organised by children’s author Louise de Varga, the event features around 100 writers.

In the lead-up to the festival, Botur has been putting on creative writing workshops around Northland and Auckland. He’s also been blogging about the challenges of putting out an indie book on a shoestring budget.

Botur recently published an essay about the hits and near-misses of his indie marketing, including experiencing impostor syndrome and reaching the day of TRUE?’s book launch with the books still not ready for pickup. Other adventures on the road to publication included ruining his own garage wall to get the graffiti cover achieved as cheaply as possible, battling the winter weather to complete the cover photo shoot, and writing extra stories at the last minute so the collection could be marketed as containing ‘Sixteen stories.’

Botur ran a successful GiveALittle crowdfunding campaign this year in the lead-up to publication, with pre-sale donations covering much of the cost of the initial print run.

Botur will be performing readings from True? at Time Out Book Store in Mt Eden following the NZ Book Festival on November 17.

https://www.timeout.co.nz/upcoming-events/zcw9n8rr5pcnr9dmemkthl2r9p7c6x

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TRUE? is available at NZShortStories.com, Unity Books and The Piggery bookshop.  

Writer Vaughan Rapatahana: Former Kerikeri High Teacher Gone Global

By Michael Botur

Morrinsville writer Vaughan Rapatahana is a former Kerikeri High School teacher – and a Hong Kong writer, and a scholar who’s lived in the Philippines, and a poet published in France, and a writer for a Pennsylvania literary journal.

Brunei Darussalam, P.R. China, UAE and Nauru are in his CV, too… yeah, Vaughan gets around. Just get him started talking about his novel Toa, for instance (published in 2013).

Toa was based on life experiences. It was first called Messerschmidt… I used to have a Mark 4 Zephyr in my garage. I got that when I came back from Nauru in 1981, bought from a guy called Fred who owned a garage in Kaikohe… I was living in Pakaraka then. The house burned down. My Ngāpuhi wife was cooking chips in the kitchen, the whole house went up…I’ve now got another Mark IV with a numberplate Hippy 1 out in the garage, eh.”Rapatahana 2

Vaughan’s words seem to appear all around the world, and he travels as much as he can. If you have an interest in Kiwi creative writing, you’ve probably seen Vaughan Rapatahana’s name across dozens of publications, including his just-released novel called, er, Novel.

Born in 1953 in Patea, Vaughan, who is of Te Ātiawa and Ngāti Te Whiti ancestry, wrote a bit during the 1970s and 1980s, had a lull during the 90s, and returned with oodles of energy ten years ago. Since then, he’s been publishing poetry, academic text and fiction non-stop. Amongst other achievements, Vaughan has won the Proverse Poetry Prize, his poetry collection Atonement was nominated for a National Book Award in Philippines, and his writing has been published in French, Tagalog and te reo Māori. His poem Rangiaowhia has been shortlisted for the NZSA Canterbury Heritage Book and Writing Awards 2018. One of his proudest publications is 2012’s English Language as Hydra: Its Impacts on Non-English Language Cultures.

In between the Novel launch, the exhaustive appeal for reviews of Novel and working as a resource teacher, Vaughan has also been editing Ngā Kupu Waikato, a collection of Waikato poetry and has been contracted to write a third Poetry in Multicultural Oceania collection.

Money and time are restrictions for writers like Vaughan, which is why family are helpful. His daughter Pauline Canlas Wu – a tattoo artist in Hong Kong –  illustrated Novel, while wife Leticia Canlas helps too.

Vaughan takes a break from his day job for this interview, explaining that he is looking forward to retiring after November.

“I am now receiving the pension: I retire at end of November. I’ve got so many projects I want to go into… .”

It was 1977-79 when the then-24 year old taught in Kerikeri. Typical of Vaughan, he didn’t stay put for long. “That was after a year in the meatworks at Southdown, in between university and training college.” Vaughan recalls Kerikeri as, “a fairly Pākehā district.” He returned to live in Pakaraka and then Awarua, after working in Nauru.

At the time, Vaughan wasn’t aware of a nascent literary scene in Northland. “If there was stuff going on, I wasn’t much aware of it. I was starting to write myself. I got a couple of stories published in the NZ PPTA Journal.

“I remember going to see Sam Hunt and Gary McCormick up north about 1981. Sam Hunt definitely was an inspiration. We have since sporadically kept in touch, eh.”

Talk of the popular poet gets Vaughan namedropping contemporaries who have made a mark in NZ literature – fair enough considering Vaughan has been inside schools, universities and workplaces with David Eggleton, Roger Horrocks and James Norcliffe, and now sees a lot of fellow Waikato poet, Bob Orr. 

With the rate of creative writing that Vaughan publishes, one would think he has been going forever, but Vaughan feels it was only ten years ago that he came into his own as a writer.  “I wrote Messerschmidt – which became Toa – in the 1980s… I wrote a couple of crappy poetry books. The novel was written about 1986/87 then I stopped and got on with my life. Marriages, kids, going overseas, working, I thought I didn’t have much to say. It wasn’t until 2007/08 I started to return to writing and to getting poetry published.”

Vaughan says his books have “probably not” made a lot of money. “But I’m not in it for the money, mate.” He chose Rangitawa Publishing for Novel because “I’m not really a fan of going towards big publishers. If you look at my publishing history… many publishers are often middle class Pākehā and I come from a different more marginalised perspective.”

Vaughan says he is ‘ever the Outsider’ – a reference to the seminal book by Colin Wilson, whose literature Vaughan studied for his Ph.D.

Check out Vaughan’s fascinating work via the links below.

**

Writers Up North has one copy of Novel and one copy of poetry book ternion to give away. To win your copy head to Facebook @WritersUpNorth and post a rhyming quatrain about why you would like to win (and review) these books.

Links to some of Vaughan’s work

–         Novel at Rangitawa Publishing

–         A French profile of Vaughan’s work http://surledosdelatortue.free.fr/tourn%E9e%20vaughan/page1vaughan.htm

–         Vaughan on the NZ Electronic Poetry Centre http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/kmko/16/ka_mate16_lees.pdf

–          Vaughan’s New Zealand Book Council Writers File http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/Writers/Profiles/Rapatahana%2c%20Vaughan

– A recent Ka Mate Ka Ora academic article about Vaughan Rapatahana

http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/kmko/16/ka_mate16_lees.pdf

 

 

 

 

‘Finding Magic In Me’ by Haylee Ward

Haylee Ward has published the children’s book Finding Magic In Me and would like to share it. 

It’s about the healing power of unconditional love – that’s something we can all get behind. 

Want to read it? Click on through.

https://www.photobox.co.nz/1xC8C8A7/creation/5370053922?cid=puksecs001

“Previously I’ve struggled finding FUN kids books that express morals, how to be one’s authentic self, to truly love one’s self, non-judgement, finding passions and how healing unconditional love is,” Haylee says, “So I wrote “Finding Magic in Me. It’s worth reading until the end which is the powerful part.”

“I began writing Finding Magic in Me when we moved from the city to the country, living offgrid in a caravan with our three adventurous kids, amongst 10 hectares of land with two random horses. Initially we had no power or water. I used torchlight to write my storybook. Our family cleaned ourselves in the sea or refreshing waterfall. Did we need all those luxurious items in the shipping container? We worked out the most important thing is to love oneself and each other whilst loving experiences that are presented to you.”

Literature in Northland, NZ: Who’s writing up north? 

Literature in Northland, NZ: Who’s writing up north? 

By Michael Botur

 

Tiny Rawene hosts the Hokianga Book Festival on September 14, but Tai Tokerau’s biggest literary event of 2018 was NorthWrite. It was a two-dayer and held at Whangarei’s polytech (Northtec is the only place offering tertiary creative writing in Northland, although the classes are mostly online and many students are from outside Northland.)

Exciting new High Spot literary agent Vicki Marsdon appeared at NorthWrite; a queue of hopefuls lined up afterwards to pitch their manuscripts.

None of the NorthWrite presenters were Northlanders, which is one failure up here: the region’s writers don’t know each other well enough. There are literary fiction novelists, flash fiction writers, page poets, performance poets and playwrights, but they’re siloed and hardly interact.

The local branch of the NZ Society of Authors does what it can to welcome all types of scribe, and spreads its monthly meetings around the region – sometimes in pretty remote places like Ahipara (the next meeting is at short story author Karen Phillips’ place; those attending the meeting are asked to bring their slide-in plastic name tags from previous events “to help cut NorthWrite costs.”)

 

 

Mangawhai Kelly and her critters

One writer with no need of the NZSA, though is a member, is Kelly Ana Morey, who says that the NZSA, “administer a number of writing grants I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to,’ but admits she’s never been to a meeting.  Kelly Ana Morey

Kelly (born 1968) has published five novels and three non-fiction books over the last 15 years. When I speak to her at her Mangawhai home in July, she’s just ditched her museum research job and given herself what she calls “a self-funded six months’ writers’ residency at home.”

She’s happier at home, anyway, with her two Italian greyhounds, six cats, three horses, and two chickens. “I have a lovely warm sun-filled office and I can whip out in the middle of her work day and put a load of washing on or whatever. And I can go to work in my pyjamas, which is optimum work conditions for me really.”

Literary fiction doesn’t pay a lot, so she’s doing up a “big old kauri bungalow” to sell and make a few bucks, “and then I’ll probably do another. I’ve discovered I’m really good at living in chaos and builders’ noise.” After a two year break where she tried doing the commute down to Auckland to work at Auckland Museum as their oral history curator – “four hours there and back” – she’s returned to writing fiction. “The travel was killing me – I was going down twice a week and had short hours, but that road – SH1 – scares the living bejesus out of me.” Meanwhile, she’s writing 1000 words a day on an interwoven collection of urban Auckland Māori short stories from 1947 to the present day which she’s just realised is not dissimilar to her award-winning debut novel Bloom. “But with a taniwha rather than a ghost.”

Kelly admits she rarely attends literary events, ‘and I have said in the past that I would rather go to a horse show and listen to horse people talk incessantly about their horses than go to a book thing. But having said that, I haven’t been to a horse show for years which is pretty telling. I really need to get back on a horse.” Her ally in creativity is director/writer/actress Katie Wolfe who she’s known since high school. ‘We don’t talk about writing really, more about storytelling and we’re fascinated by the same fucked up things. We don’t see each other a huge amount, but it’s alway good when we do. But other than that I’m on my own – but that’s my choice.”

Kelly’s feeling optimistic about her own stuff when I talk to her. She’s excited her 2016 Phar Lap book Daylight Second might find an audience amongst North American horse-lovers when it’s published there by Harper Collins in November.

“Daylight Second is coming out in the USA on November 20th with Harper Collins USA. It’s taken a year to get me on the publishing schedule which is quite fast.”

With the weather starting to warm up she’s frantically getting a rough draft up and running before the tradies descend on her once more with their ‘infernal nail guns and Radio Hauraki” so that she can finish the house and sell it. To keep up the pretence of having cash flow she does a little bit of minimum wage waitressing, writes the occasional story for Stuff and does the odd bit of communications for NZ Thoroughbred Racing.

Roger Steele once created a writers map of NZ with only Kelly and Hone Tuwhare on it, she recalls. The map’s a whole lot busier these days if you factor in romance writers.

 

Mills & Boon & Maungatapere

Born Daphne Williams in Dargaville in 1939, Daphne de Jong has become one of the most-published novelists in the country, selling nearly 80 titles, all but three of them romance. She’s such a big part of NZ romance writing she has the Daphne Clair de Jong First Kiss Award named after her. She’s also known by the pen names Daphne Clair, Clair Lorel, Laurey Bright and – once – Clarissa Garland. That’s how it works when your books sell hundreds of thousands. Daphne De Jong

Daphne lived most of her life in the dairy town of Maungatapere, west of Whangarei. In 1978, Daphne got her first novel A Streak of Gold published by Mills & Boon and could soon afford to stop working as a librarian. Demand for writers at the time was strong. “During the 80s before the big crash, people were throwing money around – fortunately some of it got thrown in my direction,” Daphne recalls. It took just a few novels before she was attending massive Romance Writers of America conferences and meeting publisher Alan Boon himself. Back in Maungatapere, Daphne got her five kids to help with cooking dinners and ramped up her book production, putting out two 50,000 word manuscripts a year.

Daphne’s titles include His Trophy Mistress, Her Passionate Protector and, er, Carpenter’s Mermaid. “We don’t invent the titles for our books, unfortunately. The editors decide what they’re going to be called.”

Daphne says she’s become wary of talking about Mills & Boon “Because people like to make fun of it.” No one’s laughing at the success rate of the writing classes Daphne and friends used to put on in her Maungatapere home, however. They called it The Kara Veer School of Writing; the most successful graduate was Bay of Islands romance writer Fiona Gillibrand aka Fiona Brand.

“[Fellow romance novelist] Robyn Donald and myself used to do weekend tutoring… We lost count of the number of our students who successfully published after going through Kara Veer.”

Surprisingly, selling 80 books doesn’t make you Northland’s most successful fiction writer. The aforementioned Robyn Donald (born Robyn Kingston, 1940) has 500,000 copies of some of her books printed at a time. Look out for ‘Bride At Whangatapu’ and ‘One Night at Parenga.’

 

The small stuff

Flash sells nothing, but people go crazy for it anyway. Plenty of writers Bay of Island writers drive 80 minutes down to Whangarei for flash meetings where they hunch over a table in the public library. Some of the first proponents of the 2012 flash phenomenon were Northlanders. Flash took off nationwide after occasional-Whangareian Michelle Elvy and friends published the first Flash Frontier magazine in 2012 (Michelle has most recently been living on a boat in Tanzania, but has come back to NZ to launch Canterbury University Press’s 2018 Bonsai: small fictions).

 

 

Wild Side: Wild Sales

Ray Curle with Janet Balcombe

If you can publish from a boat in Tanzania, you can publish from anywhere – including Ruawai, a bend-in-the-road town 30 minutes south of Dargaville. There, Wild Side Publishing is becoming a pretty big deal. WSP took off in 2014 after meth memoirist Janet Balcombe met Ray Curle at a book convention. The two married soon after; WSP was their baby. Janet’s book The Wild Side was toured around the country from 2015 to 2018. Shortlisted for the Ashton Wylie Awards 2015, Janet’s memoir remains the company’s biggest seller and has helped sustain WSP. Ray brought to the company marketing experience from his background with Radio Hauraki and Christian Life magazine; Janet has done much of the writing of WSP’s best-sellers. Wild Side now distributes 45 titles and has published ten, primarily in the Christian publishing niche. “They’re mostly memoir, and all inspirational,” Ray tells me.

 

Profanities from Most-Published Poet

Not far from Ruawai you’ll find poet Sam Hunt. I caught him on the phone briefly between chopping kindling and doing interviews with mags like New Zealand Listener, promotion his new Potton & Burton poetry collection entitled coming to it (lower case, Sam tells me, though it doesn’t look that way on the cover). Sam, 72, begins in a cheery mood, having had some good medical news that morning. Having a journalist phone to ask him about his place in Northland writing kills his buzz, though. 

“I don’t call myself a writer for a start. I don’t sharpen my pencils at half past eight in the morning.”

“Writer and Wanker are fairly closely together. I’m not saying all writers are wankers. I’ve never called myself a poet, never called myself a writer. If I happen to be in Northland, I guess… .”

I attempt to ask Sam when he moved to Northland. “That’s a dumb question. 16 years ago. Actually I don’t want [my town location] being blasted around.”

Sam doesn’t interact with any Northland writers. “I’m not into that league. My closest friends around here are fishermen and boat-builders. I’ve got more in common with them, and musicians, than literary people. I’ve never found the literary scene interesting. I’ve published 28 books of poems, or 25 or whatever it is, I haven’t counted, but I don’t hang out in a literary scene.”

We talk about Vaughan Gunson, who lives in Hikurangi, north of Whangarei (Vaughan would love you to check out his website vaughangunsonwriting.com). Sam admires Vaughan but reeeeeally doesn’t enjoy being asked if he interacts with other Northland writers. “For fuck’s sake, Hone Tuwhare I did [know] but he’s dead. These writers, I couldn’t give a fuck. It’s like W H Auden when he took the chair at Oxford, I told students I don’t want to see your poems, if they’re any good I’ll get to hear them eventually.”

Sam finally thinks up one Northland writer he admires. He urges me – following more swearing – to check out Oturu School principal Fraser Smith’s children’s book Awatea’s Treasure – then demands to see this story and his quotes. Sam adds that he’s friends with Steve Braunias and will be following up if the draft of this story isn’t shared with him. I ask Sam one last time if he knows of any other Northland writers and Sam thinks of half. “Someone at Russell… someone Heke?”

 

 

Poetry – paper and performance

Vaughan Gunson worked with Michelle Elvy and poet Piet Nieuwland to put together one of Northland’s first zines, Take Flight, in 2011. Take Flight included adverts and arts reviews; it was 2013 before Piet Nieuwland went solo and published the first purely Northland poetry collection, Fast Fibres. Piet’s passion for poetry dates back to 1983 when he was inspired by Poetry Live in Auckland, which he would drive to from Kaikohe. “I never knew of other people from Northland,” Piet recalls. He interacted with Hokianga poet Christian Martin the largest city, Whangarei, was pretty much dead in terms of poetry at the time (except for the annual bachanalian Northland One Act Play Competition.)

Piet names Riemke Ensing (Dargaville), Stu Bagby (Te Kopuru) Peter Dane (Russell) and Kendrick Smithyman (also Te Kopuru) as notable poets from up north.

“There are probably more people than we can ever be aware of who whakapapa back to Northland,” Piet estimates. “There was Māori oral culture which goes back as far as you wanna go. That was not written down – it speaks through whakairo and carvings.”

Northland has a population of 180,000 people and just one town with more than 10,000 peeps. There are few groups and movements, but tonnes of solo people doing solo stuff. Kerikeri’s Bianca Staines has won two Purple Dragonfly Awards for Children’s Books; NorthTec creative writing head Dr Zana Bell has published six romance and young adult books; Peri Hoskins got his second memoir a bestseller on Amazon; and I’ll get told off if I don’t mention Diana Menefy, who has had success publishing young adult historical fiction through Scholastic and One Tree Press.

So yeah, nah, Northland’s got heaps, bro, heaps – but apparently not Sam Hunt.

STAY TUNED AT WRITEUPNORTH.CO.NZ FOR ALL NORTHLAND WRITING NEWS

Hokianga Book Festival Essay Award: Results

Kia ora Koutou – it was exciting to spend the day at the Hokianga Book Festival on Saturday . Rawene was a true bibliophiles’ paradise with every interest attended to, from poetry and  publishing, to illustration.

We were proud to host Susy Pointon’s book launch and the  Self-Publishing workshop run by Janine McVeagh, and were especially pleased to run the Far North Essay Competition , Small is Beautiful, whose prizes were announced on the day.  Thanks to our judge Dr Cathy Gunn, Associate Prof of Higher Ed at the University of Auckland, currently enrolled on the Masters of Creative Writing course at AUT and self-confessed bookaholic.

Six finalists were chosen whose works will feature in a publication to be released before Christmas: Janine McVeagh, Seabourne Rust, Mike  Bracey, Chelsea Karl, Sandy Myhre and Mark Carey.  Of these writers a single winner was to be c hosen but Cathy found it impossible to decide between two essays, each outstanding in their originality. One lyrical, poignant and self-reflecting, the other sophisticated, astute and incisive.  The awards were made to Mark Carey and Chelsea Karl. 

Check our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/No1Parnell for the award ceremony.

Nga mihi

Linda and Lynn