Welcome to 'features'. This page showcases news items from the world of writing and includes interviews with authors.
I am waiting at the beautiful Tūranga central library in Christchurch for a ‘Best Picks’ session for the New Zealand Book Awards for Children. Hoping ‘Invisibly Breathing’ by Eileen Merriman will do well at the event in Wellington tonight. (7.8.19)
Here is the judge’s report for this year’s Takahē short story competition. There were many outstanding stories. (6.8.19)
I attended the Bath Flash Fiction Festival at Trinity College Bristol from Fri 28th to Sun 30th June. I’d need to write an essay to cover all the wonderful experiences I had: the readings, workshops, meeting vast numbers of people I ‘know’ online, and they they are real friends, and of course the legendary karaoke. Also, I had the opportunity to run a workshop and take part in a presentation about New Zealand fiction. Many thanks to Jude Higgins and the team. (5.7.19).
Coming up soon, the Bath Flash Fiction Festival. Should be fun, (8.6.19).
Many thanks to Sandra Arnold at Takahē for this review of ‘The Crazed Wind’. (19.4.19)
National Flash Fiction Day UK anthology list is out. So many friends are included, and this year, I have a story in there too. Thanks to Tino Prinzi and the team. (16.4.19)
Takahē Short Story Competition
We had about 187 short stories up to 2500 words long submitted to this contest. Judging has been a very informative experience. There are some astoundingly good stories in there. Results will be published in the August edition. (11.4.19)
My maternal uncle died on the 15th March 2019. Remembering how we would collaborate and write stories together, and how he supplied me with details about our family history. (11.4.19)
Kakima lies in a hospital bed. Her head rests on starch-stiff pillows that cradle her dreams.
Messages of love filter from around the globe. They come and go through crackling phones. They travel via ley lines and Internet connections. They are reflected through the eyes of the seventeen different Gods and their avatars.
Kakima drifts in and out of consciousness. She is sedated to keep her comfortable. When she speaks, her words are filtered through the haze of her sickness.
Kakima's hair is silvered with age, her beauty redrawn as befits the passage of time.
Fifty-five years ago, Kakima stepped from a boat into my life. I met my aunt through curtains of shyness, was told to call her Kakima − a father's brother's wife. She handed me a pink rabbit toy. Kakima knew how to make me smile.
Her family lived with us before moving south. I saw Kakima often. They visited us, or we went to them. I remember floor beds folded from checked blankets, long drives in a cream-coloured Austin Cambridge. Shared meals of khitchuri, unfamiliar and hard to stomach. Kakima added a pinch of magic and made everything palatable.
Later when troubled times took me away from my family Kakima was steadfast. Her hand-written letters came regularly, filled with the latest news and reflections of her past life in India. She showered praise when no one else noticed, her encouragement a welcome relief.
Kakima said I should start writing. When I asked her why, she told me it was because I shared a birthday with William Shakespeare. You didn't have to try hard to please Kakima. An accident of birth was enough.
I write this for her now. (11.2.19)
There are some intriguing titles amongst the long-listed entries for this year’s Bath flash fiction novella-in-flash award. One of mine is amongst them. (9.2.19)
This interview by Sandra Arnold covers how she co-founded ‘Takahē’ magazine in 1989, amongst other things. (9.2.19)
Here’s in interview on ‘Plains FM’ with Morrin Rout about the origins of ‘The Crazed Wind’ (Truth Serum Press). Thank you, Morrin (18.9.18)
That book’s been up to no good again.
Find out what it’s been doing here.
WORD festival Christchurch. I was lucky enough to manage a few days off work, so I could attend several events at our biennial literary festival. A highlight was 'Starry Starry Night' on Friday, with readings from Scottish poet Robin Robertson, a spoken word performance by UK YouTube favourite Hollie McNish and a description of how his latest book was almost something entirely different, by Auckland writer Rajorshi Chakraborti. Congratulations to organiser Rachael King on another outstanding event. (5.9.18).
Review of 'Plum' by Hollie McNish (Picador Press)
A delicious book that tickles your tongue as effectively as the fruit that gives the volume its title.
McNish is famed for her spoken word pieces. Some are satirical. Most are politically astute.
I was curious to see how her powerful rhythmic style translated into the written form.
Despite the faux naif simplicity, make no mistake, this work has been crafted with wit and intelligence.
In 'Plum' the author pays tribute to her younger self, the early writer, or the child-poet. This makes the work instantly relatable. For readers who wanted people to listen to them when they were younger, here is someone being listened to.
Most of the pieces are written in the first person. Those that aren't, retain a proximity to the narrator. Make no mistake, this is Hollie we are reading about, she tells us so in several places. We learn about her family, her insecurities, irreverence, her schooldays. There is teen love, sex, both safe and unsafe. We see how McNish saw herself as frozen in her youth, and how she despises the Disney enterprise Frozen. We are taken on a tour around her body. We learn while her daughter does, how the incumbent Prime Minister inserted his penis into the mouth of a dead pig.
Even if what we're reading is a fiction, the artifice is maintained effectively throughout.
McNish was the recipient of the Ted Hughes award in 2017. 'Plum' demonstrates why this writer deserves the accolade and many more besides.
Review of 'West' by Carys Davies (Text Publishing):
After reading Carys Davies' short story collection, 'The Travellers & Other Stories', I was excited to discover her debut novel 'West'. The work was completed with support from a Culman Fellowship at the New York Public Library in 2016/7.
I was surprised to find 'West' was a novella-sized slim volume. Yet it became apparent within a few pages, this story bears the weight and complexity of any novel. Davies weaves together the world inhabited by tangible characters with masterful ease.
The setting shows evidence of the author's careful research, though at no point is the story over-embellished with detail.
'West' follows protagonist Cy Bellman on a quest across the vast American continent in the early years of European settlement. He searches for gigantic creatures, the only clues to their existence petrified skeletons found by earlier explorers. Bellman's actions have consequences for his young daughter Bess, and ultimately to the man himself.
Davies narrates using multiple points of view, occasionally shifting to the omniscient, in a style reminiscent of Eleanor Catton's voice in 'The Luminaries'. The approach helps evoke a feel for the era.
The untitled chapters are short, but not stark. An epic physical and personal journey of this nature could lend itself to an extravagant word use, but Davies' language shows compression without lacking emotional depth.
What are the underlying themes? Is this a story about foolish quests, heroic exploration or apostasy? Is it a commentary on the consequences European settlement has for native inhabitants? Is it all of these things?
Read the book to find the answer.
You won't regret it.
Thanks to TSS Publishing and Sandra Arnold for this interview about flash and other related subjects. (23.8.18)
Thanks to Christchurch author Helen Lowe for this feature on 'The Crazed Wind' (Truth Serum Press) on her website. (20.8.18)
Heather McQuillan acted as M.C. Teoti Jardine provided karakia, We had readings from Mel Dixon and Monique Schoneveld following an Indian theme. Thanks to Fiona McLeod for the pictures.
'The Crazed Wind' (Truth Serum Press) had its launch at the University Bookshop tonight. (16.8.18)
Frankie McMillan from the Hagley Writers' Institute invited me back to the classroom today, so I could talk about the experience of heading out into the writing world, and how my novella-in-flash, 'The Crazed Wind' (Truth Serum Press) came to exist.
"The Crazed Wind" (Truth Serum Press), my novella-in-flash inspired by visiting my father in India in 2002 is now out. We celebrate the launch at the University Bookshop in Christchurch on Thursday 16th August at 5.30. Thanks to UBS, Matt Potter, Eileen Merriman, Nancy Stohlman, Deb Wiiliams, Mits and Bob Ghosh. (8.8.18)
Many thanks to Sue Reidy and the New Zealand Society of authors for a very comprehensive and helpful manuscript assessment for the novel, "Paper Prison". (8.8.18)
'The Crazed Wind', novella-in-flash, is available to order from Truth Serum press (28.7.18) : http://bit.ly/pbkWind
Thanks to Matt Potter at 'Truth Serum Press' for accelerating the release of 'The Crazed Wind'. There's some 'tasters' up on the TSP site. It should be available for purchase soon. You can read what other writers had to say about it here. (28.6.18, updated 6.7.18)
'Paper Prison' is recipient of a completeMS manuscript assessment from the New Zealand Society of authors. The assessor has yet to be selected. Thanks NZSA, Creative New Zealand and all the people who helped, especially Finn Justice Ghosh. Here is a feature showing the profiles of all the recipients. (26.6.18, updated 6.7.18)
Thanks to Ingrid Jendrzejewski for a little mention in this interesting interview, as she acts as judge for the TSS Flash 400 summer competition. (10.6.18).
Thanks to Matt Potter at Truth Serum Press, who is putting together my novella-in-flash, "The Crazed Wind". It should be available around August. Appreciate the feedback coming through from the various readers who are contributing "blurbs" to go in the book.
Here's what the book's about:
The Crazed Wind
When monsoon rains arrive, many people experience a temporary madness. Released from the oppressive heat and humidity that precede the reversal of the winds, they dance in the streets.
After being ostracised for many years, a woman who has lived amongst Europeans most of her life travels to India to be reunited with her father.
In The Crazed Wind, the narrator unravels the cultural incongruities that lead to exile. Father and daughter adjust to the reversal in attitudes, while the rain pounds down around them.
We step into the world of a proud old man and discover how his outlook is shaped by one of history's forgotten tragedies, the Partition of India in 1947.
In a series of linked stories we encounter a young bride who embroiders a flower but leaves one petal blank, sisters who can conjure silver and gold from thin air, cannibalistic fish, a woman who soaks her dentures in sherry, a bohemian uncle, medicine that tastes like fish, an embrocation for successful marriage, people who are really fruits and birds who are really people.
I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of Celia Coyne's mantra book at the weekend:
Celia Coyne is known for her short stories and flash fiction that have appeared in anthologies and on-line publications. She has also written or contributed chapters to non-fiction books in her specialist areas of natural history and health.
In "Essential Mantras for Everyone", Coyne branches out and creates a book designed to fill a gap in the market.
I came across this publication while searching for a gift for someone, and treated myself to a copy at the same time.
The tiny book achieves what it sets out to do, i.e.: to serve as a concise introduction to the use of mantras. It is accessible. Coyne's succinct descriptions allow the reader to be transported to a calming zone, where the mind is soothed and healed.
The author's stunning photography completes the package.
A perfect gift for someone whose life you want to enhance. (22.5.18)
I'm about a quarter of the way through a new novel called 'Echo Valley', which I began on holiday in Rarotonga at the end of last month. Based in present day Christchurch, with flashbacks to the earlier part of the century, 'Echo Valley' examines the dysfunctional relationship between two brothers. Currently at that stage where the flawed protagonist is running around in my head and demanding a little compassion. (20.5.18).
Been working with Matt Potter at 'Truth Serum Press', hoping to put together something that weaves angst, rain, personified fruits and vegetables against a backdrop of the Partition of India in 1947. Oh, and more rain. Lots of it. (May 2018)
Thanks to 'North and South' Magazine for placing 'Different Fathers' as one of the runners up in their short short story competition. Writer friends Sue Kingham (1st) and Zoë Meager (runner up) were also placed in this competition. Also 'Alternative Bindings for placing 'Way Out West' equal first in their short story competition. (11.2.18).
2nd February 2018: Excited to discover my story 'Different Fathers' has been shortlisted (short-shortlisted?) in the 'North and South Magazine' short short story competition. If you like Barry Manilow, you may or may not identify with this piece. Find out, if they decide the publish all the short listed flash fictions.
9th January 2018: Thanks to Jude Higgins for the mention in this interview about flash fiction in Smokelong Quarterly.
18th December 2017: I have reached that point where I'm two chapters away from finishing the first draft of 'Paper Prison'. It's quite debilitating, as all I want to do is stay at home and write, while all the timelines and threads and loose ends are floating about in my head. I have booked a day off work tomorrow, and hope I haven't forgotten vital facts like how old the various generations of the family of characters are in the different time lines. Hopefully, it contributes to the plasticity of my neurones, rather than making me into a neurotic wreck.
Thanks to Jude Higgins at Bath Flash Fiction Award for this interview about writing, hoarding and other stuff. (4.12.17)
Honoured to have been given the chance to judge a poetry competition for the South Island Writers' Association last night. Not quite sure how the rumour about my knowing anything about poetry arose.
Just over halfway through the novel 'Paper Prison'. (10.11.17).
Enjoyed reading at the Canterbury Poets' Collective on 18th October.
Truth Serum Volume II 'Wiser' available now. Includes my story 'Miss Palmerston'S Ring'. (13.9.17)
Thanks to David Wing t ZeroFlash for posting this chat about writing on your site.
Excited to have a piece in the Bath Flash Fiction Long list and forthcoming anthology.
As solstice approaches, it's time to enjoy brief stories to go with the short hours of (Southern) light or (Northern) darkness. My story 'Umnath' will be up on Flash Flood at 14.40 (BST) on 24th June 2017.
So pleased to see Eileen Merriman's novel 'Pieces of You' taking off into the world of Young Adult classics. 'Flash Frontier' interviews Eileen about the novel and the writing process here.
Also, read Dionne Cristian's article on issues covered in 'Pieces of You' in the 'New Zealand Herald'. 10.6.17
Jake Bailey's book, 'What Cancer Taught Me' was released today. Here is my review. (15.5.17)
Here's more about the new Flash Fiction on Helen Lowe's site.
Here's a link outlining details for Hysteria's flash fiction competition. Writer in residence Alex Reece Abbott invited people in the flash field to provide some suggestions to help authors submitting entries. (9.4.17)
There is a small rodent in my stomach doing backflips. I think it is called excitement. Never thought I'd have work on a long list of a Bath Flash Fiction competition. Their inaugural novella in flash competition long list was announced 21.3.17. I can't tell you which title is mine yet, but check out some of the cool titles in the list. Makes me want to read them all. :)
An odd week for creativity. The Port Hills fires have been raging, and then smouldering. Hard to critique, proofread or write when helicopters trailing monsoon buckets are flying past the window. (18.2.17)
Thanks to 'FewerThan500' magazine for this interview (1.2.17).
Many thanks to judge Dr. Abigail Favale, Aurore Lebas and the team at 'Brilliant Flash Fiction' for including 'The In-Tray, Five Thousand and Nine' in the shortlist for their 'Aftermath' flash competition. (27.1.17)
Congratulations to Sam Averis, web-maestro from 'Flash Frontier' on winning the Margaret Mahy award at the Hagley Writers' Institute.
Looking forward to the December 16 issue of Flash Frontier, featuring micro fiction up to 100 words, and a roundtable discussion with authors of the top three stories from June's micro features at 'National Flash Fiction Day'.
Early in the twentieth century, a young woman called Prativa embroidered a lotus, but deliberately left it unfinished. You can read the story about Prativa, my grandmother, in 'Long Exposure' magazine.
Seen the latest Flash Frontier?
Thanks to Patrick Pink for this interview at Flash Frontier.
Read the inaugural on-line issue of Takahē arts magazine here. I was honoured to be asked to submit for the guest fiction spot. Some contributors will be reading at the 'Twisted Hop' tonight. (10.8.16).
Congratulations to Eileen Merriman (see interview below), on signing a contract with Penguin Random House for her young adult novel "Pieces of You". (12.7.16)
New Zealand National Flash Fiction Day events are underway. Various celebrations across the country on 22nd June. Click here for the competition shortlist. Have a look at the "Micro Madness" entries too whilst you're on the site.
Shelby Allan is a student at Christchurch's School for Young Writers. She talks about her craft.
Vivienne Plumb was my supervisor at the Hagley Writers' Institute in 2014, and has kindly agreed to to be interviewed.
Tākahe magazine will be launching its first on-line issue in August. Meanwhile, I've been enjoying the April issue.
'LEAVING THE RED ZONE' earthquake anthology launched tonight, 29.2.16. Listen to editors Joanna Preston and James Norcliffe interviewed on RNZ at the weekend here.
Frankie McMillan, author, poet, teacher, speaks about her writing.
Flash Frontier open for submissions: the theme is "Dance".
Norman Bilbrough award winning author who has been published over many years talks about his craft.
Heather McQuillan talks about her project with migrant kids, and the importance of liaising with other writers in the latest interview. Click on the link below:
Here is the second interview, with PATRICK PINK. Patrick's work has frequently appeared in Flash Frontier, and several other literary sites. Click below for further details.
POEM IN THE PRESS
A decision has been made to stop publishing a poem in "The Press" in Christchurch. How do you feel poetry figures in everyday life for the general public
Click on the link below for more thoughts, and send a message via 'contacts' with your comments.
How do you feel poetry figures in the everyday lives of ordinary people? Dec 15.
Here is the first interview with EILEEN MERRIMAN. Eileen has been my critique partner for nearly three years. She is a talented writer and has enjoyed a great deal of success in recent competitions in New Zealand and beyond 30.11.15.
Click on the link below: