Short story ‘Rubbernecker’ by Michael Botur


by Michael Botur


All it takes to do a frontways flip is confidence, bro.

BMXing’s about looking forwards, not back. Back’s for fags, back’s gay. That’s why BMX is the shit, ‘cause bikes only roll one way, dead ahead. They’re badass. No brakes.Rubbernecker.JPG

You’re down at the Barrows instead of in PE, ‘cause you can’t look at the PE teacher and all her boobs and legs without boiling. The Barrows are, like, these mega-normous mountains of dirt where they’re building the new development, scraping out holes that fill with lakes after it rains. They’re not legit mountains but they’re big enough to make the diggers look like Tonka trucks. They make the clouds look like the cotton wool buds Dad’s girlfriend leaves in the bathroom when she stays over.

You stand on the seat and do some bunny hops. Your hands is bruised where they squeeze the bars. Your arms shake. The handlebars jolt. You bust through warning tape into, like, this area by the cliff where you’re not sposda be but you don’t look back.  Helmets are for snitches and you forgot to wrap your school shirt round your face so it’s a bandana and you get a feed of crane flies buzzing into your mouth but so what? The wind ruffles your hair, feels like Mum’s fingers. They reckon chicks is good at multi-taxing, and that’s 36% true, she’d be scratching your head at the same time as Tyse’s and pressing the iron on a teatowel laid, like, real careful over your best hoodie. She was spesh… Not spesh like Tyse, like actually spesh. She went away when it got real sucky at home. Tyse was full-on, she’d give him a action figure and he’d twist its head round til it snapped, like, five seconds after she’d just bought it for him. Mum snapped too.

There’s like this staircase of steps cut out of the mud with big bulldoze scoops, it leads down to the lowest part of the Barrows, the mud and lakes and reedweed, and you bump down some of the smaller steps, spilling dirt, braking heaps, trying not to get off and walk your bike, no rubbernecking, no backwards. Tyse woulda dared you to do a flip.

You hit the lowest point in the giant hole where it’s all slushy and lookin up, you see the supervisor, the Big Dude, resting his blubber on his shovel handle. He’s a real quiet, brown dude. You’re pretty sure he doesn’t know you bin watching him.

He’s the only other one who knows how come Tyse had dirt on his dick. They thought Tyse’d been fiddled with, like, sexily.



They sent you home ‘cause you bin acting up like Tyson, that’s how they said it. They expect you to be a total nerd now that Tyse’s bin tooken away. They reckon you bin changing, but that ain’t it: the rest of your world’s what changed. Stuff’s always diff if you look at it as you’re movin away.

If any of them teachers had given a fuck about you, they’d’ve asked you What’s up, Dare, and you’d’ve told them how the teacher saw Tyson’s name on the attendance roll and was like, ‘Funny, he should’ve been deleted by now,’ and you Hulked out, pulled the gap behind the whiteboard til it came off the wall. They bin fixing to suspend you anyhow, for selling Tyse’s Ritalin in the boys’ toilets, the pink ones, Tyse’s bestest colour.

On the way home you balance shit out. You rumble these little Boy Scout faggots in the alleyway, or Mormons or whatevs. Their junk mail says this bullshit about ‘Helping Out Our brothers in Africa’. Makes you red hot angus, that help-your-brothers junk. You knock the coins out of their hands and the little one drops his L&P and it foams everywhere. The bigger one of em starts crying and you think you’re gonna puke. The walls of the alleyway’s looking real close and your balls hurt like epic. Everything’s gay after the big faggot cries. The big one’s sposda be staunch.

The rusty chain squeals as you hoon off and leave the Girl Guide faggots behind you. This was kind of a dumb bike to borrow, it’s really slow, you needed your bro’s help on this one, he was mean at borrowin stuff.

It’s only when you get to the Barrows that you can breathe normal and the air tastes more smooth. On the bridge, you stop to throw some rocks at the ducks; you find a stick what looks like a boomerang and hiff it at the beehive and jump back on your BMX and boost. Tyse always reckoned Mum and Dad fighting in their bedroom sounded like bees, if you put your ear against the bathroom wall, this sorta violent hum, like a electric fence, or like with beehives, like how you can hear it’s around you and you only see one or two bees until you run right into them. That’s Mum and Dad beefing.

The hood falls off your head and there’s wind on your gums and you hold a wheelie for ages then slam it down and a whole wave of mud comes up and you’re like, ‘Random!’

You keep a eye on the sheds in the distance. Big Dude might’a heard. You’re not sposda be in the Barrows.

Secretly, in the pocket of your hoodie, is the L&P and pink straw. Your bros don’t know you come down here and sip L&P, ‘cause if they seen you and the pink straw… yeah.

Not that they’re your bros really… Not legit bros. You only get one bro in your life and if you could make a new bro out of mud, like a Golem bro, like on that movie, it still wouldn’t be the same.

You go around expecting peeps to arks you all the time, ‘What happened, did he get pedo’d for real?’  but if you look back to think about it, you’ll get hurt. It’s called Rubbernecking, you heard them say it on Police Ten 7 about peeps who crash ‘cause they shouldn’t’ve stared at a car wreck.

Up a newly-grassed hill you can overlook the hole they’re fillin in. It’s a monstrous-arse hole, bro, like the holes in Tyson’s gums after his teeth came out. The big hole-supervisor? You hate him more than anything but you feel stink for him trying to fill that hole in. Around it, they’ve seeded the dirt and the grass is like little green pubes on a shaved fagina. You pop wheelies, carve some decent ruts, and catch yourself lookin’ back to check no one’s eyeballing you. You don’t want no one to see you fuck up ‘cept Tyse. You pop a wheelstand, pull off a 540 even though all the pressure hurts tonnes on your split-open knuckles.

No one sees the 540. Well, Tyse probly sees.

Now they’ve nailed the wood and poured the concrete, they’re smoothing out the land, filling in the hole as if shit’s back to norms and this massive great, like, thing in your life wasn’t never even there. At the bottom of the hole, there’s this heinous clay-water. In the water is bugs and alien weeds and the mosquitoes is so thick you can hear em before you see em. That’s where Tyse drank his first beer, ‘til you told him that it was just a can you’d pissed in. They’ve built the skeleton of a bridge across the hole and they’re heaping earth around the foundations and stuff. It’s weird to see something as normal as a bridge stripped down to skinny bits of steel. You wonder if, under their overalls, all strong people look like that, uncoated and naked.

You wobble on the edge and whole plants stop and just their roots is stickin out. It’s deep down there and you stare into it, dead-on. Tyse was the first to lose a bike down there, you couldn’t believe that shit! He woulda bin sooooo busted, nine times outta ten, but you knew what he was thinkin: walk home, right, say somethin badass to Dad’s girlfriend, get her all riled up so’s Mum has to come home and have a family conference, everyone forgets about the lost bike: sussed. You could boost a new BMX easy-as, anyway, you might as well get a few in before they kick you outta school. Tyse was a brainbox, when he got his shit together, it’s just with his brain-thing…. Y’know, it’s hard for special needses to concentrate on spelling tests. He used to rark people up somethin fierce before we got split up.

As you start to tip, you stop pedalling and shit just floods into your head, like the brown water squeezed out of the mud as your tyres roll over it. You had to munt the springs on Dad’s bed to get to see Mum last time, jumpin on it, folding the mattress in half and that. Mum was pissed but she kept giggling into her hanky too, she seemed secretly happy Dad and his lady couldn’t sneakily root in the bed no more, and that she got the afternoon off work, and you and Tyse did your secret handshake under the table, like Mission Accomplished, bro. Didn’t get rid of Dad’s girlfriend though. FML.

The ground’s crumbling underneath you like a gingernut that’s been left in Milo too long. Your balls go cold, you knock the bike on its side. A meganormous, car-sized shelf falls into the hole, the big pit, these big chunks of dark, nasty earth like brown icebergs.

‘Do it Dare! Do it, Pussy! Puuussssy!’

There’s a ledge beneath you, a different kind of rock, where the cliff’s not as steep. It’s only like ten metres and there’s gorse bushes to land in.

‘Do it, Darek’

‘Shut up, dick. Take a chill pill.’

‘Wanna try one?’

‘Mum said you gotta take it. She said, bro.’

For a sec, the BMX is slippin out under you, then the world king-hits you and the handlebars go someplace else and it’s weird to see mud fallin slower than you.


This face like a Cookie Time with black chocolate eyes peers over the edge of the hole, sees you’re not dead, and vanishes.


The Big Dude’s got a winch on the back of his ute and he lowers it right down to the bottom of the hole.

He hauls your arse up outta there and sits you down and there’s this faggy paedo silence and you think he’s gonna say somethin about the broken window of his ute, which he still ain’t got fixed, then he offers you a smoke. He’s got a sausage roll in the chest pocket of his overalls and a smoke in his lips and there’s this shiny bit of sausage grease on the gold bit of his smoke. His back is like a rubbish bag full of pillow cases and framed photos, all corners sticking out of this round bulk, like Mum’s rubbish bag full of shit, and he blocks out the view. Could the Big Dude take your dad in a scrap? Dad’s pretty staunch, Tyse used to nut out some days and come at him with rakes and shit and Dad would turn away so his back would take the impact ’til the rake broke and Dad was covered in muddy rake-marks. Then Dad would put his hi-vis socks in the wash and make tea for us without sayin nothing, not dissing Mum, even.

You didn’t figure, watching the dude from ages away, that up close you’d only come up to his chest. His hand’s the size of a Frisbee, bro. It’s heavy and warm on your shoulders like a backpack with two scoops of chips in it.

You don’t look back at him as he marches you over to the work camp. Things here are pretty much done once they’ve cementalled the bridge legs and filled the hole in, so there’s like no workmen around. The sky’s bruise-coloured and the cold wind is the only person talking.

He makes you sit on the barrel, and you wait, drumming with your heels. He comes back with your bike and uses coffee from his own thermos to wash the dirt off your knees and it feels like a warm dog tongue and he scrapes your bike clean and lays it down on a tarp. The way he sets your bike down, real gentle, is like how Mum would put your hot, ironed laundry down outside your door when you couldn’t hear her knock ‘cause yous was playin GTA and Tyse was screaming about the pink cars. Him and pink, bro… the pink he nutted out over most was his diddle, he used to play with it all the time, like at the movies and church and shit.

They’re gonna fill the hole three-quarters, Big Dude reckons.  Leave a circliar lake around the outside. His words are the loudest thing in the whole valley, but there’s something munted about his talk, he sounds like a Downer. You’re surprised, for a second, that he even needs to speak, ‘cause yous two sorta had a understanding. They’ll chuck geese and swans and all that gay crap in the lake.

‘Like, a moat?’ you go, ‘Like a park?’ His big head wobbles. It’s already a park. Just leave it, bro.

You ask the big dude where you and Tyse is sposda practice your flips and he goes, ‘Chew should not be dooink dancherous fink.’ He can’t pernounce shit properly with his big lips and nose and ears, like he says ‘fink’ instead of ‘things’ and he says ‘chew’ instead of ‘you.’

He gets up and you think he’s gonna waste you and you close your eyes and lean away and your dick fills with piss but the big dude just hands you a Big Blak Sak. He’s got one himself and he starts fillin it with workmen’s rubbish, BK cups and smoke butts, pie wrappers and used-car ads and Miss June. He doesn’t say nothing. You groan and pick up a napkin with tomato sauce on it, and a Coke can, the horse pages, a random graph drawn on a page and lots of squares of broken window glass from his ute, and after you’ve filled a whole rubbish bag, he takes your bad hand, the one you used to punch the whiteboard, undoes a strap on his overalls, spits on your cut knuckles and wipes the black blood off.


Mum was being a total skank, she was paranoid, bro. Dad would never pash your PE teacher, Mum musta bin on crack, or had her period. Probly both. Mum was on edge all the time ‘cause it was usually her what took care of Tyse and she hardly got enough from the caretaker’s benefit and it stressed her out to the max, and on that day Dad’d psyched out at Tyse for making a moat on the lounge carpet with his L&P with the red food colouring in it when yous were playing Castle Baghdad and Mum came back with some shit about the bedseets bein folded the wrong way and ‘TELL ME WHO MADE IT’ and yous were hiding under the table filmin it on your phone and crackin up and Mum heard and yelled at yous to ‘Piss off And Don’t Come Back’.

You stopped your bikes out front of the Punjabi shop and you bought Tyse a L&P. He almost stopped crying, sucked the snot back down his throat. You went back inside the dairy and asked, without even swearing, for a straw (a pink one) and that stopped his tears better than any hanky.

‘Shot Dare,’ he went, licking bogies off his top lip. He looked up and grinned at you. His mouth was dark and pink except for his bottom teeth.

Wheeling past the hole, headed for the big shed, you dared him to do a front flip off the edge of the cliff and land in the bottom of the hole; he started giggling and touching himself.

If you rubbed the diesel smog off the glass and stared into the blackness of the workmen’s shed real hard, you could see calendars with titties on them. You had to hold Tyse back ‘cause he wanted to see so bad but there was only room on the oil barrel for just you. He wanted to see them titties so bad he pitched this stiffy in his pants that actually pulled the pants away from this stomach! He had to get off his bike and push, that’s how hard his stiffy was, bro! You shoulda seen it.

So, ‘cause there was no proper chicks around, Tyse and you builded this woman out of mud, but she looked too much like Mum so you changed the face. Tyse had this wig he’d found under Mum and Dad’s bed after Dad’s secret girlfriend stayed over, and he had it stashed down his pants and soon as you finished drawing the fanny on the mud-chick with your stick, Tyse put the wig on her and dropped to his knees and, like, started banging this mud-chick. Turns out you built her a bit short ‘cause Tyse’s knees was, like, touching his elbows, but he was into it, and you were like, Bro, you’re sick, so you stuck Miss March on the mud-head and weighted it down with a rock.

‘How is it?’

‘It’s dry’, he went, ‘Pass my L&P, Dare, pass it.’

He cracked it open and poured L&P on her fagina and banged it harder ‘cause she was frigid and, bro, he fully jizzed! There was even like a second spurt when he stood up! So, like, his dick was black with mud and he was spitting in his hand and wiping it off while you and him shared L&P through the straw.

‘Look, Dare, hur hur! Now it’s pink!’

‘You’re a full-on paedo, bro.’

After you’d had a go of the mud-woman yourself, Tyse started laughing at you, cause he said you were drinkin his jizz.

You were trying to karate chop him but he was too quick on the BMX, and anyways you were laughing too hard and it hurt your abs so you went, ‘Chill, I’m not gonna waste ya: you gotta do a dare instead.’

You dared him to smash the window of the ute ‘cause you’d seen smokes and a Playboy in it. Tyse hadn’t tooken his medication so he was game-as. He picked up this massive rock and busted the window and grabbed the big dude’s Playboy and boosted.

Honest, you wish you’d never dared him.

Thing is, the sides of the hole looked all good if you had time to straighten up while you were falling.  If you got right to the bottom of the big hole, you could run to the other side and it’d be way hard for the big dude to catch you.

So yous were biking around the outside of the hole, looking for a bit that wasn’t too steep to jump from. You were supposed to jump first, ‘cause you were his big bro.

The big dude rumbled up in his ute, lookin out the broken window, lookin pissed and you were like, ‘Bail!’

‘C’mon Darek,’ he went, ‘Just go forward,’ but you couldn’t find those hard structures in your legs, your legs was mud with skinny thin naked chopsticks in the middle. Just go over the edge, land on the side, ditch your bike, nick a new one later, no probs… plus the flip, you haaaad to flip it, else you were a fag.

But you couldn’t dare your little bro back, ‘cause that would make you a piker.

He pulled in front of yous. His big Ford was too massive to go around. He was halfway outta the cab quicker than any human shoulda moved, specially a dude as bulky as him. He grabbed Tyse’s handlebars and flipped him off like Tyse was just a spider or somethin. You thought he was gonna smash Tyse but he helped Tyse to his feet, and Tyse didn’t like that: Tyse just went for it.

The big dude was wearing that bright orange vest. Tyse was kickin holes in his fat orange guts, pounding and pounding, and the big dude was having a hard time holding him out of kickin range. Tyson screams when he’s having a proper spaz, and gets all this foam on his chin like bubble bath. I don’t think Tyse liked the colour of the big dude’s vest.

The last time Tyse had screamed like that was when Dad had said he’d had Enough. It was Just Coffee With The Boys’ Teacher, Dad’d went, but Tyse’d jumped on the bonnet of Dad’s car and ripped the windscreen wipers off and bitten them til his teeth folded and his gums went purple for like a whole month.

Tyse and the big dude were getting hella close to the edge of the hole and you cracked up when Tyse’s shoe clobbered the big cunt in the dick – he was fully gonna take him!  The big dude even stumbled back, but he musta done boxing or somethin ‘cause the dude had good footwork, you shoulda seen it, he caught his balance on the back foot, stepped forwards and – swear to God bro, you didn’t even see his arm – he grabbed Tyson’s fist and whirled him around like a tango, bro, not even telling him to calm down like the Teacher Aide woulda. But Tyse – not looking backwards, all full of mental – took another swing.

You don’t smash someone that’s holding onto you. Tyse shoulda knowed.

It was like someone’d hit the delete button, bro, suddenly Tyse just wasn’t there. You thought, just for one tiny second, Hang on bro – forget the dare. Cancel the dare, it’s too steep, don’t –

The big dude was already in his ute, flashing lights on top, rubbernecking and driving away.

That was the first time you jumped down the cliff – well, fell. Ordinarily Tyse woulda held you back.

‘It’s too slopey, Dare.’

The crumbly ledge hadn’t held him – he’d fallen through the gorse so his lips looked like squashed strawberries. Even though he had dirt in his eyes, he was lookin at you. His head and his body was facin’ completely different ways, he was rubberneckin, lookin back at you.

That’s what happens when your neck’s broke.



New to Northland: Writer Tracie Lark

Tracie aka The Literary Gangster is from NSW, Australia and has lived in Bali, Melbourne and now New Zealand. tracie photo.PNG

In 2013, she saw her writing come to life on stage as a finalist in the Solo Monologue Competition. In 2014, Tracie self-published her poetic musings in, The Longing & Other Fairytale Feelings, and she had two short stories published in Short and Twisted 2014 by Celapene Press. Tracie has appeared on ABC’s RN Earshot with a radio produced version of her ABC360 short story, Jean. She organised and coedited the Melbourne Writer’s Social Group’s 2016 anthology: Melbourne.

Tracie is a former writer of book reviews, theatre reviews, short stories, and travel articles for The Australia Times, and previously held the role as Editor for The Australia Times Fiction magazine. Tracie was invited as as special guest to participate the Scone Literary Long Weekend as part of a panel discussion with the topic ‘Keep It Short’ in November 2016.

Tracie’s first ebook, titled Hundreds and Thousands: A collection of one hundred word stories, was published on Amazon in 2016 and then later in hard copy. Tracie’s monologue Love Smoulders was performed at the Melbourne Fringe Festival in Love Kills 2017. She was adjudicator for the Upper Hunter Shire Writing Eisteddfod in 2017. She has a Graduate Certificate in Writing from the University of New England. Her day time job is a high school Indonesian and History teacher.

This link has more links, linking to linky things.

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100 word stories by Tracie Lark


Watercolour Painting

I bought the watercolour painting of the 1920s Melbourne streetscape in a downtown marketplace set at the back of an alleyway edging the very same street the painting featured. I enjoyed the irony of buying the picture there, and the lady in the silver scarf who sold it to me seemed amused. It was upon closer inspection later in my home as I hung the painting in my room, that I saw it; my face, plastered amongst the washed-out crowd, bartering for the very painting at hand. An amused wink laced the face of the lady in the silver scarf.

Published in Hundreds and Thousands: a collection of one hundred word stories on Amazon.


Tram Driver

He despises suits. And heels. His face is wrinkled deep like the tracks themselves. They are the years writing him notes so that he can remember to not forget. Forget what? Route 78? Route 67? He brakes and a suit and heels hover by the door, vibrating as much as the phones they carry. He presses for the door but sees the BMW coming fast and packs the doors shut. Heels swears. The suit glares in to the mirror. Sweat slides along the wrinkles on his face, smudging the notes left behind – forms new ones – so as not to forget.

Published in Hundreds and Thousands: a collection of one hundred word stories on Amazon.


A Love Story

Too impatient for the lift, he takes the stairs, the tail of his coat nips his heel as he swings his body around each corner railing between floors.

In his right hand he clasps a single flower.

In his mind he clasps an image of her face.

Honey eyes. Plush cheeks. Strawberry lips.

He will tell her he loves her.

The rooftop door springs open and there she is staring back at him, waiting for him.

Honey eyes. Plush cheeks. Strawberry lips.

“I love you,” he tells her as he places the single flower on the plaque beneath her photo.

Published in Hundreds and Thousands: a collection of one hundred word stories on Amazon and The Literary Gangster blog.


Lil’ Red

Nan was sick so I packed my bag and caught a train to visit her. On the train, a bearded stranger asked me where I was going.

To the hospital, my nan is sick, I told him.

That’s very nice, replied the man. You should take flowers.

I knocked on nan’s door and she summoned me with her gruff voice.

Nan, what large arms you have.

All the better to cure me, love.

But nan, you look like a pincushion.

A bearded doctor walked in.

I know, it seems I’ve never had this many pricks at once in my life.


Published in Hundreds and Thousands: a collection of one hundred word stories on Amazon and The Literary Gangster blog.



A Cottage On The Farm


A cottage on the farm. A wheelbarrow cradling herbs. Footsteps all sizes pressing the grass, trampling the garden. A tall cage housing a beautiful, white cockatoo.

Where’s dad, nan would call, followed by an echo of voices, much like a round and with cocky too. Where’s dad, where’s dad and a sharp screech. He’s in the loo, someone would call, it too would echo across the foot of the valley.

Dad passed away.

The wheelbarrow in the yard, cradling herbs. Footsteps of smaller sizes trampling the garden. Where’s dad? Cocky asks. The footsteps quieten.

He’s in the loo, nan calls.


Also published in Short & Twisted 2014 by Celapene Press and Hundreds and Thousands: a collection of one hundred word stories on Amazon.




Pub Talk

I wear my Australian Tattoo with pride mate, with pride but it doesn’t mean I’m a racist! I mean check this tat out here, it’s the Chinese symbol for strength. I got it so that when I fall in love next time, no shit-head guy will rip my heart out cos it’s in my hands now. So you’re Asian obviously, bet you’re smart. What do you do? Wait, let me guess. You work with computers, yeah? Must be your shout then, hey!

-Sure. Beer right? I’m assuming full strength. And would you like it served upside down like your tattoo?


Published in Hundreds and Thousands: a collection of one hundred word stories on Amazon and The Literary Gangster blog.




DOWNLOAD short stories by Tracie, 500-2500 words

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Hokianga author Susy Pointon releases new short story collection

Hokianga author Susy Pointon will release her new short story collection The Turn of the Tide: Te Huringa o te Tai – More Stories of the Hokianga in early 2018

The stories are based around the Hokianga and its harbour, legends and inhabitants.

Susy 2Dreamers: Nga Kaimoemoea – Stories of the Hokianga was Susy’s first collection and was published in 2015 by Steele Roberts.

Another of her projects is writing a book on the history of the Hokianga and the descendants of the Waitangi Treaty, supported by a grant from the Copyright Licensing Trust. There is also Appalachian Spring, a personal narrative and a memoir of her time in the USA, told through a series of short stories.

Susy writes for a living and conducts interviews about local history and Māori history. Born in Wellington, Susy lived in the USA for decades.

Her writing life began when, on the advice of her teachers, Susy set out to be a writer and illustrator of children’s books. She studied at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland, where she became seriously diverted by film-making and went on to enjoy a long career in film and television in New Zealand, Australia, Europe and the USA. Susy says she has, however, always maintained a parallel career in creative writing and has been published in numerous literary journals and short story anthologies in Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

Susy says she was three times a finalist in the Australian/Vogel Literary Awards and won the inaugural Annie Dillard Award for Creative Non-fiction in the USA in 1996. Since returning to New Zealand in 1997 she has had around 30 short stories broadcast by National Radio, some of which have been anthologised in Dreamers: Nga Kai Moemoea.

Her second collection of short stories set in the Hokianga, The Turn of the Tide: Te Huringa o Te Tai will also be published by Steele Roberts in February 2018. This will be followed later this year by a collection of personal essays, mainly set in the USA. She is also working on a novel set in Northland during the era of Treaty settlements and a history of the descendants of the Treaty in the Hokianga. If she can find the time, she will finally complete writing and illustrating her first children’s picture book about the God Pan. Susy supports her writing by documentary film-making, teaching in NorthTec’s Online Applied Writing Programme and at Hiwa-i-te-rangi, a school for young parents in Kaikohe.

Check out the following…

NorthWrite 2018 at NorthTec

NorthWrite is the annual literary gathering organised by Northland’s branch of the NZ Society of Authors. This year’s event begins on March 10. They’ve set up a Facebook event so click on through and book your tix.


NorthWrite runs from Saturday evening, 10 March, and through Sunday, 11 March. The Saturday night panel will be held at the NorthTec Apprentice Restaurant on the Ruamanga campus in Whangarei. Use Gate 3 (see map).  The workshops on Sunday will be held at the NorthTec Interactive Learning Centre, also on the Ruamanga campus. Use Gate 1.

NorthTec Map

The costs are as follows:

Saturday night panel:
All attendees $25

Sunday workshops:
NZSA members $75
Non-members $90

Registration opens 1 February. Lunch pre-orders will be available on the registration form. NorthWrite 2018 Registration Form


Review – ‘A Question of Blood’ by Ahipara author Karen Phillips

A fourth-generation farmer with no one to inherit his farm; a daughter concerned about her aged father going to Antarctica; college kids pumping gas; a clash of cultures in Turkey; an office cleaner who discovers something unethical in a file … These situations, and others the characters in Karen Phillips’ stories find themselves in, are familiar to us all. The ways they come to terms with them are explored with empathy and an understanding of human nature. a question of blood

About the author

Karen Phillips began writing in 2009, winning the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Novice Award that year. Since then her short stories have achieved success in other competitions and have been published in Takahē and Flash Frontier. She lives on a hill overlooking the beach at Ahipara with her husband, two cats, twenty olive trees and sometimes a big, black Labrador dog. This is her first collection of stories.


Catherine McNamara reviews the book

Each generation bridges a gulf between the generations before and after it and I would say that the baby boomer generation have had the most uncomfortable stretch yet. Their fingertips touch both survivors of economic depression and war at one end and babes of the constantly- connected, materially over-stimulated world of the 21st century at the other. Karen Phillips, in her collection of short stories, “A Question of Blood”, subtly references many of the attitude shifts over this time. For instance, I was relieved to find that a woman who was shunned by her community after falling for a married man in “Flame” had finally found happiness in her old age. The narrator of the story comments, “We were so hard on Theresa. It seems so unfair now,” followed by “Steve doesn’t answer and the words float in the silence of the car because that’s how it was.” Post-Weinstein we can see that the romantic vision of the scarlet woman, erring in sincerity and being severely punished for it, is coming from a much more innocent time and place than we currently inhabit.

Phillips shows us a range of the sort of people we might run into down the main street of small town New Zealand.  She gives us credible scenarios and multigenerational players in the kind of communities that don’t generally hit the headlines. Her use of dialogue in a story like “Crossroads” featuring Zoe and Dion, lets the soon-to-be dad Dion say it all with, “I work every hour I can get and I never go out with the boys and I never have any money with all that shit you’re buying.” Even with this, Dion is not demonised, just left to retreat to Australia while Zoe’s mum backs her daughter and quietly ensures that the story becomes one of triumph.

Family members work overseas and bring their own baggage into the stories; Paul in “The distance from home” and the absent Pete of “On their own”, who is looking for work in Perth. Pete is defined mainly by the negative space he has left in his young family and his loathing for the crows of Perth, “the early morning squawking of those ugly black birds”.  Paul returns to rural New Zealand after his mother’s death and his action of fixing a window at the back of the bach is loaded with the sadness of being away from New Zealand, inadvertently permanently. These stories carry some of the sense of dislocation that has come inevitably with increased opportunities and financial aspirations over recent times.

The last story in the collection is perfectly placed as it puts Phillips’ characters into perspective as temporary and hapless wanderers within a landscape which is enduring and enigmatic. This can be retrospectively applied to the whole collection, a reminder, perhaps, of our own mortality and unimportance. Phillips’ imagery of a peninsula in “warrior pose” heralds the story of a woman who has joined a walking group. Her own anxiety about events of the day as well as her recent move to be with her daughter’s family is both highlighted and marginalised. “That land erases everything it doesn’t want. If someone died there the body would just disappear.” The story serves as a classical reminder of our own mortality after the parade of small and worrisome scenarios throughout the collection. The coastal land of Tai Tokerau is recognisable in the last few lines “The bent knee of another ridge angles down to a small sandy beach, the only flat land visible. The beach is empty, access to it blocked by the rocky foot of land holding the heaving surf at bay.  The peninsula lies in warrior pose, protecting the teeming life within.”

Phillips’ stories stretch from one end of the generational spectrum to the other with a hard hearted grandfather of the title story contrasting with the acceptance and support shown around the birth of Zoe’s son Jason. Phillips sketches situations lightly and then leaves them, so that the reader is left with a feeling of having had a brief and intense connection to the heartland of our country. The personification of the bush covered peninsula at the end of the collection should give us pause to reflect on our own communities and what we ourselves bring to the table.


Catherine McNamara lives in Tikipunga and recently completed a Master of Creative Writing from AUT. Writing is currently on the back burner but reading is still very much in the picture.

Moneyland novel: young readers respond

Youngsters on Wattpad have been digging Moneyland, a novel created for youth readers in 2017 thanks to support from crowdfunders in Northland and beyond.

Head over to Wattpad, where Moneyland is free to read online chapter by chapter, and see the book from an audience’s perspective.

Some of the fan responses from Wattpad: 

“I thought it was a very good book. I liked the character progression of Eden, and I think your book was pretty accurate because most books are not realistic and everything ends up perfect.” – Anastasia_1019

“I just completed reading MONEYLAND. Loved the concept and also the the ending which is quite rare for me.” – RedheadNation201

“I personally thought it was brilliant!! I couldn’t put it down, the book came across as very realistic in the terms of what could happen if people were to be cut off from the outside world.”

– unicorn_sparkles99 


“I loved it ! I’ve been recommending it to my friends .I read plenty of wattpad books and none that I’ve chosen at random so far this month have left an impression and this one has. *time to fan girl a bit* Pretty sweet writing and I liked how your ideas came to life on the page. I hated people and then loved them […] A book that’s made me look and my friendships and freak out a bit but otherwise as I stated earlier.I loved it !!”

– reader Nai_Lanie 


“WOW! … I found the connection to real life, with politics and class systems relatable. The messaging around value/money and people, very deep! I shed a tear as Eden came to the end of her journey in the dome… You told the uncomfortable scenes vividly. It wasn’t obvious that something bad was about to happen, or at least how bad the death would be. I can’t read this stuff usually, I’m more positive and fluff haha, but the way it was written you couldn’t stop reading it!”

– Kelly Stratford


“I’m deffinitly absorbed in it now… It establishes the privilege or lack of that the characters have had most of their lives. Eden is very unlikable, thats what made it hard to get in to but once it moves forward you still hate her but you really want to know what happens next. Its intelligent to read and well written, each of the characters has their own voice and dont appear to fall under one tone of the “writers voice”. The mumshine thing is great. Makes me want to call my mum that. It has everything a young adult novel needs but its not shoved in your face. Like the love story goes in between side characters not the main one.”

– Aroha Bell

“I’m on chapter 40 now and i absolutely LOVE it!!! I really don’t know how it will end but the changes and struggle eden has endured is amazing. Having been a teen mom myself i really related to that but also could not imagine doing all the things she has done in that environment. Watson is so weird yet lovely but i hope he doesnt take hope and i hope eden and hope get to see mumshine again. I cried over omar!

Ahhh i just really love it and know no matter what happens it will be great! I am such a fan of your writing style and storytelling!

Loved it. Love it. Thank you for sharing!! I have been going through some rough stuff lately but having something good to read has helped a lot. I hope its okay i have recommended it to everyone i know haha! “

– Haley O’Connor


“Moneyland is a well-written, engaging and clever novel. As such, there is not much that needs to be improved on or changed. 

There are only minor inconsistencies with the novel. The story flows well and is written purposefully. The characters are well-developed and believable. The main character Eden follows the arc of a true protagonist […] Esther, on the other hand, is quite a contradictory character, who at times acts as in a caring motherly way towards the group, but at other times can be quite cruel. I personally found them to be slightly confusing, but they do not in any way distract from the story and the other characters.

The strongest part of the novel is perhaps the ending. It is clever and engages the reader well beyond the last page of the novel. ‘Moneyland’ is a novel that deserves to be published and should make the author proud of his accomplishment.”

– Irena Ljubobratovic 


#dystopia #biodome #money #moneyland #millionaire #dystopian #artificialintelligence #dictator #food #foodscarcity #starvation #featured

There has also been a recent review of Moneyland on Bobs Book Blog…

Moneyland by Michael Botur. Pub. 2017. 

This book for high school students and young adults will give you a bit of a jolt. The language is choice in places and it is about some of the most loathsome teenagers I have ever read about.

The scenario is a good one though. Take a group of teenagers, give them a million dollars each and put them under a glass dome world for a year to fend for themselves. Can they do it without imploding?

The novel starts with the words being spat out like the author was in a fit of pique and it keeps up a torrid pace. Eden is a teenager who wants to lose her virginity and get the million bucks and have a cushy life. She may very well get the first option but the cushy life is way off the mark.

All the characters are shockers. They bully, talk badly to each other, have no sense of direction, have no clues of how to organise themselves, have no loyalty and basically deserve what is coming to them. Did they have a choice? Well it is set in 2037 in a World dominated by robots and mechanical Artificial Intelligence beings. Most humans have no work and no future and divided into two camps – Mech lovers or luddites. Perhaps this is a dystopian future.

Ideas in this novel seem to be drawn from Stephen kings TV series The Dome and William Goldings Lord of the Flies with the language spoken by the characters much like Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange.

I did like the novel but English teachers are probably going to throw their arms in the air in horror. Check it out some will love it. It is totally irreverent.

Where you can get yourself a copy of Moneyland:

POEM ‘Rivers of Silver’ by Natalya Newman

The rivers ran with silver,
In the dwarven kings’ domain,
But then, but then,
The invaders came.

Far beneath
The places orcs creep.
A battle rages.
Blade against blade
Metal singing out in protest.
Magic burning holes
And killing many.
Wounding many more
In a struggle for victory.
Blood flowed freely
From the wounds that burned and bled.
The loss was great but surely,
Loss for a good cause
To ward off the invaders
That invade our humble home.
Our mines that we have worked on
For countless years and more,
Treasures untold in our caverns,
Gems and silver and gold.
But the invaders won out in the end,
Driving us from our home,
Now as we wander the lands,
We wonder the lands alone.
None would take us in and help,
None would save us.
So we built a shelter,
Which grew into a camp.
The camp grew and thrived,
And grew into a town.
The town was successful,
And grew into a fortress.
We grew and thrived as people,
And many years after,
We marched from our home,
Joyful, filled with laughter.
We then reclaimed our homeland,
As the invaders did before,
Those many years ago,
When the rivers ran with crimson,
Within the boundaries of our home.


“I have lived in many places and met many people. I used to live in England and moved to NZ around 7 years ago. I have live in Ararimu, Dairy Flat, Pirongia, and finally, Matapouri. Northland is a beautiful place and I have met great people here.” – Natalya Newman