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Wednesday 24 September, 2008
Truthinescity in Titirangi
Book Events | Filed by Kathy

A thousand blessings rain upon the head of long-term LeafSalon faithful Curtbutnotshort: he has manfully ignored a ridiculous workload in order to bring us this - a thoughtful and smirkworthy insight into his Going West festival last weekend. Thank you, Curt - it's made this Kiwi cultural exile very happy.

My weekend at Going West was interrupted with tempering the PA at Eden Park (but was unable to dampen Wellington supporters) and paternal duties [Curt is a sound engineer, and yes, father, in real life - Ed.], however I did manage to lap up Friday evening and most of Saturday’s events.

The festival opened with Karlo Mila giving the Allen Curnow reading: a soliloquy on poetry and the death of a king. Her observations were punctuated with photographs: vivid images of fire lining the route of the funeral procession and the passion of the proceeding riot – scores of children kneeling by the roadside in formal attire, a lone child succumbed to the heat and occasion, Tongan dignitaries wrapped like Californian rolls.

Chris Price then presented the keynote address on the increasing prevalence of 'truthiness' (statements that sound true but which have no basis in fact) in both journalism but also literature. Whilst there can be little argument that truthiness is an unwelcome guest in news reporting its use is more ambiguous in literature and the blurring of fiction and history/biography appears to be at the bleeding edge. I personally was unfazed by James Frey’s outing and remembered having a good laugh on LeafSalon at the posts of Norma Khouri doing a Winston.

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Comment by mary mac ~ September 25, 2008 03:55 PM

Great post Curtbutnotshort - trouble is it stops half way through a word! I am hanging out for more… or perhaps you literally did stop there to head off to the rugby.

Comment by Islander ~ September 25, 2008 05:37 PM

O bugger- why does curtbutnotshort's coverage of “Going West” all is good for those of us who now dont go to litfest things stop short?

Comment by Kathy ~ September 25, 2008 06:01 PM

Sorry guys, temporary glitch - fixed now. Refresh your screens and all will be well. The problem is that LeafSalon is now so venerable that the software we set it up with is on its last legs and the whole site is full which leads to these kinds of drop-offs.
Gird your loins for the end. Really.

Comment by Islander ~ September 25, 2008 08:01 PM

And enjoyed/appreciated the reportage-cheers!

Comment by maggie ~ September 27, 2008 08:29 AM

Curt, the noise you were trying to dampen wasn't coming from Eden Park, it was coming all the way from people like me in their living rooms in Wellington.

Thanks so much for continuing the “Westies' Lament” on behalf of Kathy who couldn't make it.
What an enviable, elecletic mix of cultural offerings from the 'Going West' Festival - it doesn't sound like the usual literary festival filled to the formal front rows with grey bobs… oh whoops, if I didn't use the magic shampoo, I'd be one too.

Definitely sounds like a festival to get to (next year!).

Comment by Chris Price ~ October 23, 2008 11:26 AM

I thought LeafSalonistas might like to know that the 2008 Going West keynote address (with some extra material not included on the night) is now available on the New Zealand Book Council website here:

Farhad Manjoo's recent book, True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-fact Society (John Wiley, 2008) provides a discussion that ranges well beyond the confines of literature into politics and the media, and is particularly good on the role of the Internet in destabilising earlier notions of reality or 'truth'. Here's a quote from his introduction: 'Political scientists have characterised our epoch as one of heightened polarisation; now… the creeping partisanship has begun to distort our very perceptions about what is “real” and what isn’t. Indeed you can go so far as to say we’re now fighting over competing versions of reality. And it is more convenient than ever before for some of us to live in a world built out of our own facts.' With both US and NZ elections looming, it makes for thought-provoking reading.

Inga Clendinnen's excellent essay ‘The History Question: Who Owns the Past?’ (Quarterly Essay, Issue 23, Black Inc., 2006) is also well worth hunting out. She does a great deconstruction of Australia's unofficial anthem, 'Waltzing Matilda', along the way…

Comment by Renee Liang ~ December 4, 2008 03:00 PM

Hi Curt, thanks for your review - it was a fabulous weekend! I'm curious though - you mentioned in your review of the “China Down Under” session that “All appeared to want to be considered as kiwis with a proud Chinese ancestry rather than the other way around.”

Why exactly is this a problem? We were born here: that makes us Kiwis, writing from a Kiwi point of view. The extra addition of our Chinese ancestry adds an interesting twist, and it certainly seems to be the part a lot of people want to hear about, but it certainly isn't all we write about.

When we met beforehand to discuss the session we all agreed that we should respond to our brief by talking about our work as writers rather than as Kiwis of Asian descent. Our “discomfort”, as you saw it, of “having to question (our) ethnicity and its role in (our) writing, is more a product of our wish to be considered as writers first, on our own merits. This is not to say that we ignore the role our ethnicity plays on our writing - which locates us both 'inside' and 'outside', a great place to be creatively.

Comment by Islander ~ December 8, 2008 11:59 PM

Renee Liang - the exact reaction occurred when Maori writers (we are both NZers & Maori, but readers from other backgrounds were most interested in the taha Maori) first were being published.
Well, i guess our literary nation will grow up. Soon.

Comment by Islander ~ December 9, 2008 12:03 AM

Renee Liang- the same reaction occurred way back in the 1970s when Maori were first being published. Obviously we were NZers as well as Maori but…may literary ANZ grow up soon!

Comment by curtbutnotshort ~ December 9, 2008 01:18 PM

Renee - you reiterate my point. I see you as a writer first. I felt that the emphasis of the questions should have been on the groups work and how your cultural heritage had influenced the creative process but instead the discussion frequently returned to the process of being Asian in NZ. That is what diappointed me.

Comment by curtbutnotshort ~ December 9, 2008 01:18 PM

Renee - you reiterate my point. I see you as a writer first. I felt that the emphasis of the questions should have been on the groups work and how your cultural heritage had influenced the creative process but instead the discussion frequently returned to the process of being Asian in NZ. That is what disappointed me.

Friday 19 September, 2008
An ex-pat Westie's lament
Book Events | Filed by Kathy

I’ve had a few goes at this – it’s been really hard. For the first time in seven years, I’m not going to make it to the Going West Festival and I'm taking it hard. Wah! But two trips home from Sydney in a year is more than enough for the family wallet unfortunately…

But I have to be strong, and alert readers to the literary delights on offer. As usual Murray Gray, Naomi McCleary and the rest of the Going West team have come up with a programme that’s pure kiwiana, mixed with bracing, left-of-centre intellectualism; a bit like eating a meat pie with a very serious single malt whisky in your right hand (maybe a finger or two of Lagavulin, Murray?).

I would highly recommend lashing out and getting a whole weekend ticket – time would be the only issue because for the money it's a steal. A measly $150 gets you into all sessions, plus Friday evening supper, two lunches plus morning and afternoon teas. And it’s always so cosy, sitting down to eat and chat to clever people in the lovely Titirangi surroundings with like-minded literary enthusiasts (or pouncing on your literary victims while they’re halfway through their quiche, if you’re anything like me). God, I’m going to start crying in a minute. No, really.

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Comment by maggie ~ September 20, 2008 12:27 PM

Kathy - welcome back! They're calling Leafsalon “fitful” in the latest IML newsletter. We now need someone with the same passion as yourself for the Westie's Weekend Festival to report back on all those Sundance-style meat pies washed down with a bit of Dally wine.

C'mon…. don't be shy. Leafsalon is a bit like Coronation Street - no-one admits to reading/watching it, but they seem to know what's happening in the latest episode.

Comment by Kathy ~ September 20, 2008 11:04 PM

Fitful schmitful. I've never pretended otherwise. I like to think it's like a long-term marriage – as long as it's good when it happens, what's the problem? Anyway, I'm not sure I like the implication of 'no-one admits…' Is anyone pretending not to read LeafSalon when in fact they do? What the…? I'm under the impression that people are queuing up to admit it. We got a Booker Prize winner, a shit-hot Sydney publisher, the un-labelable Greg O'Brien and various other luminaries commenting on the last post, and I just know Bill reads it quite openly. However - yes Maggie, it would be utterly delightful if someone would send us a post-Going West de-brief.

Comment by maggie ~ September 21, 2008 12:24 PM

I can tell you're not a closet Coro girl like me Kathy.
If we're gonna do a roll call, then here goes.
Two best first book-ers..(Rachael and Mary), a sassy crime writer selling off-shore (Vanda), an Accountant from down South (we're waiting for his first novel)… and then the Six-Pack winner Henry, the roving reporter from the Manly Arts Festival and… moi (no show without Punch)…
not to mention Curt, Kingi, Tania, and what's happened to the rest of you?

I was just trying to stir the luminaries into action, and I'm glad to hear Bill reads us, and yes, Greg and Sophie sure did up the ante.

And I too, look forward to a report from the Waitakere's.


Sunday 07 September, 2008
Literature for the literary
Opinion | Filed by Kathy

Sophie and GregMany thanks to Maggie Rainey-Smith for contributing to LeafSalon in an article inspired by two recent literary events. The speakers were worlds apart in their opinions, but Maggie wonders whether there might be a middle ground. Maggie is the author of About Turn (Random House, 2005), and Turbulence (Random House, 2007).

I thought it would be interesting to compare Greg O’Brien’s Janet Frame Memorial Lecture which opened NZ Book Month on Sunday 31st August, and another event that I attended just the day before – a luncheon with Sophie Hamley, an Australian literary agent from the Cameron Cresswell Agency. Both were thought-provoking, and both were about the world of the writer.

Greg talked about the ‘laboratory’ versus the marketplace. His lecture was all about the idea that the art of writing and being a writer is separate from that of being a published author. He quoted Roland Barthes in saying ‘the author performs a function, the writer an activity’. To demonstrate the difference between writer and author, he used the example of Janet Frame choosing to not publish certain works during her lifetime - she was happy to be the writer rather than the author of those works (although one could argue, perhaps she knew they would be posthumously published? I’m intrigued by that idea, because it seems to me that being published and acknowledged as a writer was central to whom Janet Frame was).

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Comment by Islander ~ September 8, 2008 08:14 PM

Maggie, this is a wonderfully thought-provoking post.
I've been wrestling with the writer/author dichotomy for a couple of decades.
I am a writer (I've been one since I was 7 and pasted together my first written work.) I am an author (I have 7 published books)…but what an author is supposed to be & do is now determined by market-driven factors with which I am not at all comfortable-

Because I do not fit in with the 'author' (or academic) categories, I find myself in the outsider role. And that role has an honourable Scots title, 'makyr', and an honourable English title, 'storyteller', and an honourable Maori title 'kaipurakau'- I think of myself, work with my work, from all 4 perspectives-

Comment by greg o'brien ~ September 9, 2008 08:57 AM

Alas, doing something like the Janet Frame Lecture didn't give me the time or space to cover everything. I dealt mostly with poetry and non-fiction (non-non-fiction!)—the areas I am closest to.
Maggie Rainey-Smith is definitely a worker in the literary laboratory! She doesn't need me to tell her that!
During the seven years I convened a poetry workshop at Victoria University she was one of the really inspiring, original writers who came through. I admired her immensely back then, as I do now.

Comment by Chris H ~ September 9, 2008 10:14 PM

A very perceptive and well-thought-out article, Maggie. The conflict between 'literary' and 'commercial' is a complex and thorny issue.

I'd say that this is also one of the very few occasions where a middle ground is not a weakened compromise and is actually desirable. If an author can craft something of genuine beauty and insight that touches a chord in popular hearts as opposed to CNZ commitees, then s/he has succeeded.

I felt that Cormac McCarthy had managed this with “The Road” - as indeed has our very own Islander.


Comment by Unthank ~ September 11, 2008 10:42 AM

I agree the the laboratory model is what makes for interesting writing, but if what is written, however wonderful, isn't going to be read it is never going to be literature and, really, may as well not have been written (as far as anyone other than the author is concerned (and even for them too: without a readership and incisive critical response, the writer is just playing in their room)). If Brod had burned Kafka's manuscripts as he had been requested, yes, Kafka whould have been a 'writer', but as far as I am concerned, as far as literature is concerned, he may as well not have been. Why aren't works of transformatory literary experiment by New Zealand writers reaching readers? Wherein lies the insufficiency? Are the writers not producing them? (I don't know (I can't see them (but maybe they're just locked in their laboratories))). Is there insufficient demand from readers for interesting, challenging writing? Are publishers (or distributors or publicists or bookshops) to blame for not recognising either the supply or the demand (or both) for such writing? I don't know, but unless the discoveries in the laboratory, the wondrous progeny of the literary test-tubes, somehow reach the body of readers they are not literature in the full sense of the word and there is little point to all that writing. After all, it was only the publication of penicillin that made its discovery worthwhile.

Comment by Kingi ~ September 11, 2008 12:49 PM

Yes - an excellent post indeed. As a copywriter for cash, and a storyteller for the love of it, I can certainly identify with the writer / author split. What I'm willing to write and what I'm willing to put my name to are often different things.

The sentence in this post that really struck a chord with me was “The publishers, no doubt, are passionate about books, but also have to respond to the marketplace – it seems non-fiction subsidises fiction.” My experiences would agree with that comment and I'd even push it a step further. When I worked in a bookshop a few years back - it was the high-turnover and high-profit stationery that helped to subsidise the slower moving books… ergo it might be said “The Pen is mightier than the Word”.

Comment by Unthank ~ September 11, 2008 06:24 PM

A writer is someone who writes. Anyone who can write can think of themselves as a writer and can “be” a writer. This is not to say that the writer is any good at writing, but they might be. An author is a writer who has been selected by readers (through the agency of a publisher) to be read. This doesn't mean that the writing is any good, that the selection is any good, or that the published books that make those writers into authors are any good, or that readers' reading is any good, but any or all of this might be the case. Writers to whom being an author is of paramount importance may increase their chances of becoming authors, but then again they may not. They do not increase their chances of becoming good writers, and may well decrease these chances. We certainly need writers to concentrate on their laboratory work, and we need the results of that work to be distributed by publishers and appreciated by readers (including writers in other laboratories). What are the impediments to this happening?

Comment by Islander ~ September 11, 2008 06:47 PM

Ooo ah Unthank - an 'author' - by your definition- is some writer selected to be published - and therein lies the majority of our complaint (to quote.) Self-publishing is now - more than ever before- a viable option for a lot of writers…
may I point out, politely, that 'readers' are a considerably larger population than 'book-buyers'?Many of my family & friends read my published books before they are published.

Comment by Unthank ~ September 11, 2008 08:58 PM

“Lightning is not seen from one place only, but from everywhere” (Te Kooti o Rongomai).
Yes, self-publishing, for what it is worth, can make a 'writer' into an 'author' (a work is 'set' and some copies may find readers (though I would suggest that, with the media and publishing comglomerates' current grip on the 'marketplace', self-publishing is generally less viable than any time I can remember)) and yes, distributing copies of a work to family and friends can be nice as far as it goes (though Soviet era samizdat distribution is the only example I can think of in which this method of finding readership has served any literary end), but the issues, as I see them, are 1) How can more interesting writing be done?; 2) How can readers be made more receptive to interesting writing?; and 3) Who controls the means of distribution (publishing), whose ends does it serve, and how can a means of distributiton be reclaimed/found/made to connect the interesting writer and the interested reader (making the 'writer' an 'author' in the process, incidentally)? The writer/author dichotomy, in my opinion, is a false dichotomy (and I don't think Barthes meant it as a dichotomy but, as I have suggested, as two ways of looking at the same person (activity: what the person actually does; function: their role as producer of works read (somehow) by readers. (I might say, though, Barthes is seemingly always careful to make it uncertain what he means (less ideas! more thought!)))). If writers are going to get all huffy about what badge they're going to wear, they're hardly going to be changing the world in the way it needs to be changed: better writing reaching more people.

Comment by Unthank ~ September 11, 2008 09:08 PM

Oops!! The quote is of course from Te WHITI o Rongomai. I don't know how I made such a dumb clumsy and embarassing error. I couldn't quite stop it as it was sending itself. Sorry, everybody (living and dead)!
I should always read through what I write. (100x)

Comment by mary mccallum ~ September 12, 2008 11:57 PM

'I would assert that literature , in its truest, purest sense, cannot and should not be thought of as a marketplace — even if it does almost invariably have to leave home and go off to market, hopefully to contribute somethingto the upkeep of its maker.' GREGORY O'BRIEN, Janet Frame Memorial Lecture.

A terrific post, Maggie, thank you. I missed the lecture due to a sick child but have downloaded it off NZ Books Abroad (thanks Louise.)

Greg's speech is inspiring I think because it is a call to remind us to aim for brilliance, to take risks, to be 'absurdly ambitious' and to pursue writing for its own sake. He says: 'far better that writers aim for largeness of vision, dynamism and risk, and then fall short…' He was talking about writing awards there, but the comment applies as much to the 'marketplace'.

Pure writing may not have a place in the market, but then again it might. It's good to be reminded, really good, that publishing is only one measure of the value of the work we do as writers. That we have to also look beyond that gateway,,,,

I think the writer you refer to with the book as 'product' is me, Maggie. What I meant is the published novel is the product of a publisher and the publisher should regard it as such. There is a commercial imperative there and the book deserves to be believed in, marketed and promoted like any other product.

My novel (The Blue) is a novel written with publishing in mind. For a while there it was a crazy hybrid of poetry and prose with a nebulous plot. I believe thinking of it as something I wanted published placed demands on it which made it better.

I think anything benefits from having demands made on it (people included) otherwise they can be come self-centred and ingrowing and often irrelevant. Literature is partly about having a readership ( as someone else commented here) because then a relationship between writer and reader is established and the work becomes something else again.

I do believe that pure literature created in the laboratory is a vital part of a writing culture, but at the same time it's not necessarily better than that made through messy sex between the writer and the marketplace.

Comment by Sophie Hamley ~ September 16, 2008 05:20 PM

Thanks to Maggie for attending the talk and for writing about it - if nothing else, it reminded me that talking can become writing if someone is there to record it!

I wanted to comment on the 'defined marketplace' - this is something I exist in as an agent, but not as a reader. My own reading tastes are all over the place, but as an agent I have to run a business and, more importantly, get my writers published. As much as I'd love to believe I could champion certain works (mainly fiction) and hopefully influence the market to change, I have to expend most of my energy just trying to keep up with what the market is demanding. And for me 'the market' is publishers and booksellers, who take their cues from book buyers (rather than from readers whom, as Islander pointed out, are not necessarily the same people). To be honest, I'm flat out - I suspect all agents are flat out - just trying to keep up with that. Most of the time it works; sometimes it doesn't. The times in which it doesn't are usually the times when I've taken on a book out of love and belief but have failed to meet the market. And then the author is disappointed because they're not published - not because they're not a good writer, but because they haven't written something that the market wants at that time.

I also agree with Islander that self-publishing is an increasingly viable option; the internet has made this more feasible than ever before. I'm not too worried about the death of the publishing industry as a result - there are some books that will always go through publishers and booksellers, and there are some that won't. What will become increasingly interesting is how authors/writers use the internet, in particular, to create a readership for themselves and then decide whether they still want to be published 'conventionally' or not.

Comment by Unthank ~ October 23, 2008 03:36 PM

Every work springs out of the potential for that work to be written, but the potential for that work to have been written differently, and for it to yet be written differently (perhaps quite differently), does not perish with the realisation of the work: it persists within the work, dormant, unseen, unrealised. Under strict laboratory conditions a group of literary researchers have subjected the first chapter of ‘Great Expectations’ to a range of conditions, constraints, reframings and exogenous forces in order to extract a sample few of the countless other Expectations that Charles Dickens made possible without realising.

Monday 18 August, 2008
The Midnight Oil
Off Topic | Filed by Kathy

dahl.jpgIt's about time we heard from our guest blogger Henry Feltham, so luckily, here he is. Henry is holed up in deepest darkest Dunedin, trapped in a virtual world, wondering if he needs to leave it in order to get rid of the lump in his gut. Intrigued? Then continue, dear reader …

A long time ago I went to the launch of a book by Ingrid Horrocks, called Travels with Augusta. It was held at Unity Books, where she used to work. She stood there, slightly to the right of the counter and talked about the way she had written her book, which traced her journey guided by a great-great-aunt's memoirs. The story of her travels through the same region. A lovely idea, that made for a lovely book. What sticks with me, though, is something else, something random: the image of Ingrid pronouncing – as though forever settling some long-standing argument – that it is impossible to write while working full-time. Her resignation from Unity was apparently prerequisite to her standing there, once more, with her book in her hand.

I have little or no control over the facts and fragments my brain hugs to its bosom. Facts sometimes gain an utterly irrational precedence – I remember the number of descendents a single pair of rats can have at the end of 12 months (as many as 15,000), or that Georgia O'Keefe died a few days before her 100th birthday, or that potassium is an important chemical in synaptic memory function. These are not important facts. They're just stuck in my head. Likewise, people say things that linger in my mind far beyond their import or reason – for the longest time I believed I could only write three hours a day, because Roald Dahl (pictured) said three was his limit. I'm not sure I even have this right, but that's not the point, is it?

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Comment by maggie ~ August 19, 2008 09:45 AM

Oh Henry… welcome back! How lovely to read your blog. I find myself, since the sale of our business in March… un-employed, and so, one could say, with time to write - but alas, the more time I have, the less time I seem to have.

But, I've found the perfect excuse in the Booker short-listed novel 'The Lost Dog' - one of the characters quotes Renoir, who evidently said, when castigated for procrastining and not painting …something along the lines of “You have to collect a lot of good firewood if you want a roaring fire.”

I now tell my family when they enquire about my third novel…. that I'm out collecting firewood - actually what I'm really doing is scrunching up a lot of paper on which to rest my kindling and I need some jolly good fire-lighters.

T.S. Elliot had a full-time job and then again Jonathan Franzen took was it thirteen years to write “The Corrections”, or perhaps it was seven… I loved the book, but you have to say… crikey.

Get cracking Henry, we're waiting for both of your novels.

Comment by maggie ~ August 19, 2008 11:39 AM

Whoops, I mean, get “crackling”…

Comment by Mark Hubbard ~ August 19, 2008 12:14 PM

Interesting blog. My fear would be if I stopped the full time job, it would not fix the procrastination problem with writing; I'd just be not writing, and destitute. Although dumping the day job would be nice in every other respect.

Regarding Maggie's firewood metaphor, then I've now got a bonfire ready to go, just need match, or, more truly, a kick up the …

Slightly off-topic, but first Frame in the mighty New Yorker, and now a poem from C.K. Stead (I wish they included writer details) -

Comment by curtbutnotshort ~ August 19, 2008 04:52 PM

A perfect lost consonant Maggie.

Currently have Simon Hertnon's word list by my bedside and “velleity” comes to mind - to care about something but not enough to do anything about it. Probably too harsh but the word has so much resonance in my life.

I would err towards Roald Dahl's philosophy, Henry without drifting in to Frantzen's length. Or skip the novel and we could have an anthology of leafsalon blogs.

Comment by maggie ~ August 20, 2008 07:44 AM

Oh Curt… I'll keep this short… crackling was an afterthought.

Nice talking to you three lads, and thanks Mark for the link to C.K.'s, KM inspired poem.

Comment by mary mac ~ August 20, 2008 08:33 AM

Great post Henry - lovely to see Ingrid's book mentioned. Of course she's working full-time now and trying to put a poetry collection together - going mad in the process I think.

I remember Nigel Cox talking about how he'd get up at 5 or thereabouts and write for two hours, then go to work, edit it briefly (when other people would read the paper) before diving into his full-time job (at Te Papa).

Love the quote about collecting firewood, Maggie. It echoes a post on my blog this very week about the importance of looking out of windows - must be all this sun after the rain - and writers start justifying the art of procrastination…..

Have a squizz:

Comment by zelda ~ August 20, 2008 03:50 PM

I had also heard the line that you can't have a full-time job and write a novel, BUT I thought it was Jeffrey Archer who had said it. Hmmmmm….. or maybe he said you can't have a full time job and write without a team of ghost writers …..
Thanks for a well-articulated blog entry - let us give thanks for the agony and the disatisfaction and the mush and the cleaning of bathrooms, floors and windows, and the gazing out the (newly cleaned) window and the brief rays of sunny joy at a well-turned phrase ….

Comment by Tania Roxborogh ~ September 4, 2008 10:14 PM

I teach full time, am battling (with my husband) to raise two decent children and I write (two books out this year). People are constantly asking me how I do it. Below is my recent response:
“People often ask me how I fit writing novels and books into my already packed life and I guess I’m surprised at the question: I look around and see people who play golf or rugby, go fishing or fix motorbikes. These people are also like me: they have full time jobs, are parents, are involved in their community. So, my answer usually is: because it’s my passion. Reading and writing are two of the best things I like doing. Because of this fact, I make time in my life to ensure that I read lots of books and I write as often as I can.”

Everyone has a different writing personality. I guess if I had more time, I would write more (might even be a better writer) but I think I'm doing okay with one or two books published a year (my first book was published in 1995 and this latest in number 23) .

The other issue, of course, is, I do appreciate the salary I get from teaching as it enables me (along with husband's) to pay the mortgage, support my mother and endulge my children with things like music lessons.

It would be nice to be a regular receiver of tax payer funded CNZ to give me a six month holiday to write.

Comment by Islander ~ September 6, 2008 06:29 PM

…forum down again…

Friday 01 August, 2008
Time to head out
Book Events | Filed by Kathy

newpoets.jpgMy attention was caught this week by the upcoming poetry event this Monday 4th as part of the Writers on Mondays series in Wellington. Whilst sipping a glass of wine from Te Mata Estate, you can listen to no less than five poet laureates doing their stuff – Michele Leggott, Jenny Bornholdt, Bill Manhire, Elizabeth Smither and Brian Turner. Plus there's the launch of poetry CDs by Bill and Jenny and the brilliant Kate Camp is master of ceremonies. What's not to like! It’s at the National Library Auditorium, corner of Aitken and Molesworth Streets, at 5.30pm.

And how serendipitous - just as I was writing this, an email popped through from Christine O’Brien at Auckland University Press with more poetic snippets: after the runaway success of their books Classic and Contemporary New Zealand Poets in Performance, Jack Ross and Jan Kemp have now edited another collection of poetry entitled New New Zealand Poets in Performance, (pictured with gorgeous cover by Sara Hughes, $45). This will complete the New Zealand Poets in Performance trilogy. It collects the work of 28 young and mid-career poets working from the ‘80s to the early 2000s such as Anne Kennedy, James Brown, Emma Neale, Glenn Colquhoun, Jenny Bornholdt, Robert Sullivan, Olivia Macassey and Kapka Kassabova. There are more than two hours of poets reading their own work on the two accompanying CDs.

Editor Jack Ross will be appearing at Poetry Live in Auckland, incidentally, next Tuesday 5th August, 8pm at the Classic, 321 Queen St. Entry by koha.

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Comment by morrin Rout ~ August 3, 2008 10:40 AM

Was interested in your information about Carole Beu's event with the drag queens. Some years ago the Divine Miss Joanne Clarke who is part of the Women on Air team in Christchurch, and a woman by choice, published a marvellous cook book called 'Never trust a Skinny Cook'(Hazard Press). It was a great success not only for the recipes but also for the gorgous photos of Joanne in her many spectacular outfits

Comment by heather mcpherson ~ August 3, 2008 10:02 PM

Congratulations to Janet Charman, winner of the Poetry prize…& may the misogynist NZ Books reviewer gnash tooth & claw.

Comment by Islander ~ August 4, 2008 07:34 PM

Heather, I ceased buying “NZ Books” some years ago - they'd become tediously irrelevant, and many of their reviewers were batshit ignorant about what they were reviewing (the management seemed to think a 'controversial' (read adverserial) review would be good for the magazine…readers fell away in droves-

but, because I relish Janet Charman, among many other ANZ women poets (and not a few of the men-) would it be possible for you to scan & post the mysoginist's review? We all can use a good giggle eh?

Comment by Tim ~ August 8, 2008 09:41 AM

Well, I've read Janet Charman's book, and unlike Islander, I subscribe to NZ Books and have read McNeill's review. It's plain he doesn't like the book (“relentlessly tedious”, etc) though the single quotation in his review from the poems is to demonstrate Charman's (albeit “occasional”) strengths as a poet. I found the review abrasive in the manner it takes Charman to task for rehashing liberal orthodoxies, but “misogynist”? McNeill seems to me to side with Charman politically; his objections are (as a reviewer's should be) aesthetic ones.

Thursday 24 July, 2008
Op Shop
Book Awards | Filed by Kathy

opportunity.jpgPoor old LeafSalon, limping along. Blessings, as David Howard would say, to all our loyal readers who in the face of deafening silence from Sydney keep sending emails and ringing the alarm bells when the forum goes down. It's back up, and we love all three of you.

We do keep an ear to the Tasman however, and I felt I must just pass a fleeting comment on the Montanas. I sneaked about a little to see what everyone else had to say first – had to scroll down for half an hour to find what Bookman Beatty said about them – he’s posted about 900 articles since then and the results only came out yesterday. What the hell’s the man on? I remember that kind of feverish intensity from the glory days of Leaf. I give him another six months, tops, before he peaks and spends the rest of his days eating muffins and staring dully into the middle distance in self-imposed exile like me.

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Comment by maggie ~ July 24, 2008 08:23 AM

I've been on a twelve-step programme, weaning myself off blogs, but have allowed myself to keep two… Leafsalon (of course, I'm a loyal girl) and Beatties Book Blog, and so when I took a peek this morning (just in case), I was pleased to see that Kathy is back on the ball.

Yes, indeed, congratulations to all the winners.

The Montanas are certainly a showcase for the quality and range of writing talent in NZ and I'm a big fan of Charlotte Grimshaw who is a towering talent (writer and reviewer)…I'm also a fan of Alice Tawhai (a most private and elusive local writer) whose writing is highly original and very gritty and fresh and it's good to see short stories starring when you think of our KM heritage.

Of course we're all thrilled for “our” Mary, and as you say, a fantastic first novel award, but even more wonderful, the readers choice - because after all, it is the readers who matter most. And that, has to be hugely satisfying for Mary who has told me this has given her great confidence in getting on with her second novel - the woman is prolific with her writing and reviewing and blogging - we (her local friends) have decided she doesn't sleep.

There were some other impressive debut works (Susan Pearce, Sarah Laing for example) who didn't quite make the finals but surely are worthy of mention.

Ah, Michele de Kretser (loved 'The Hamilton Case' - I too have “The Lost Dog' in hardback sitting by my bed, but instead I've just finished 'The Clothes on their Back' by Linda Grant - do not be put off by the title - I feel her publishers let her down hanging the story on such a feeble title… the book is much more meaty and worthy than a clothes rack - far too flimsy for the interesting plot in my opinion. My book group discuss it tonight, so I'll see what they all think.

AND….I'm almost on the last few pages of “A Novel About My Wife” by our Emily (I only say “our” because the Poms seem to claim her)…. oh wow… it is compelling, dark, gritty, fascinating and she is just a clever, clever woman - sometimes it's a bit clever-cloggy (only margionally) and you sort of feel a bit battered, but mostly, it is absolutely riveting and you feel amazed at what she has achieved and utterly absorbed in the story and a bit in awe of her craft. Anyone currently in the middle-class late motherhood syndrome will find some great humour amid the darkness - well anyone whose ever had kids really. She has an acute eye and ear for the nuances of London life and relationships. Actually, although very different, it reminds me in some ways of 'Foreign City' by Charlotte Grimshaw.

Well, you can see, after my 12-step programme, I'm not entirely cured….

Comment by Kingi ~ July 24, 2008 02:30 PM

Yep - Charlotte has a scary amount of talent. And still young, too. I also enjoyed 'A novel about my wife' - in whatever way tragedies are enjoyable. I think Perkins' work is improving with time and I was really impressed by how she tackled the narrator. Maggie - look out for a new book by Laura Solomon - I think it's a collection of short stories - which you may enjoy too. She's been offshore for a while but she's back (Nelson i think) and she's drawn some good reviews + has been compared to Perkins + praised by none other than Maurice Gee. I'm on a 12 step plan for blogs too - but Leaf Salon still draws me back in. I enjoy the intelligent insights and it gives me a much-needed book fix while at my other job. Besos, Kingi.

Comment by Islander ~ July 24, 2008 08:08 PM

Congratulations Mary! Excellente!
I thoroughly also approved of “Wetlands” and “Te Tau Iho” winnings.
I have tried to read Perkins and Grimshaw but - they fail to connect with me as a reader.
But “A Nest of Singing Birds” is a real treasure - amd buying more copies!

Comment by mary mccallum ~ July 25, 2008 01:22 AM

How do you do it, Kathy? You're one of the best book bloggers around. Such style, such economy, such wit. WASTED, in my opinion, on interpreting muffin recipes (or only that — muffins by all means, but leafsalon posts, too).

Thank you to you and everyone else who's said nice things here about The Blue's success at the Montanas. I was on an adrenaline-high for three days but have been brought down to earth by the demands of my unemployed teenage son and the other two (they've already started 'helping' me spend the prize money.)

But yes, as Maggie says, I am hurtling back into novel no. 2. It's a good feeling too. Something about all that adrenaline. I realise one other thing has helped me here — especially in finding the voice for this novel — and that's reading Grimshaw's Opportunity. It really is a magnificent collection and her first person voices are brilliant.

Keep posting Kathy!

Comment by Islander ~ July 28, 2008 09:47 PM

According to my very experienced op-shopping sisters - op-shops are where the treasures are to be found!

Wednesday 11 June, 2008
Montana moans
Book Awards | Filed by Kathy

Montana Book AwardsCrikey, the crapola has hit the fan over the Montana shortlist this year. It usually does. But first: LeafSalon’s heartiest congratulations to all the shortlisted authors, especially Mary McCallum, LeafSalon erstwhile guest blogger extraordinaire!

The biggest moan this year is that there’s only four on the fiction shortlist when there’s usually five. (And shock, horror – they’re all women – a coincidental turnaround from last year, when they were all fullas.) Lynn Freeman, convenor of judges, has defended the controversial shortlist by intimating that the four top books were of an order of merit well above the rest of the 35 entries. This is of course a decision which is up to them as judges (and as judges go –universally maligned, thankless and foolhardy – in my opinion they are pretty damned well-qualified ones).

If I were judging, and was of the passionate opinion that four books stood out well above the rest, I can imagine that I may not want to ‘dilute’ the golden perfection of the all-important ‘Montana Shortlisted’ sticker. I sure as hell don’t think that awards should be given merely to boost sales, even in our frail literary economy.

But if I were a bookseller or publisher, or most certainly an author, I can imagine that a decision to close the shortlist at four could start with being described as pompous and work its way through infuriating all the way through to downright unpatriotic, a measure bound to dilute nothing but sales in a small and desperate market.

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Comment by Chris ~ June 11, 2008 07:09 AM

Two corrections to the post, Kathy. First, Luminous is Alice Tawhai's second book not the first. Second, as I understand it, the rule excluding dead authors is not new. The rules were changed for the 2007 awards to allow dead authors, hence Janet Frame's win in the poetry, and were changed back again for this year.

Comment by Kathy ~ June 11, 2008 09:33 AM

Oops, thanks Chris. Post in haste, repent at leisure. You're dead right. In retrospect, we should have made much more of a fuss last year about Janet. That was kind of outrageous.

Comment by maggie ~ June 11, 2008 10:46 AM

Ah Kathy, and Chris, it's good to have a couple of voices from across the Tasman. What a little literary pool we inhabit here - but if the Judges are right, it is either an exceptionally talented literary pool (that's the best scenario), or, it is a very weak pool and only four were good enough to stick their heads above water.

But, what can we say, but huge congratulations to “our” Mary (McCallum), to Alice Tawhai, Laurence Fearnley and Charlotte Grimshaw - the only one of which I haven't yet read, being Laurence Fearnley, but I shall rectify that and I'm a big fan of both Charlotte and Alice as well.

It seems to me that blogs are a great way to let the steam off and let people have a say, but let us not detract from the winners and their outstanding achievements.

I'm one of those writers who published a novel last year and it is interesting to read a bookseller and a publisher lamenting the loss of sales to the imaginiary “fifth” book - what about all of us other losers (possibly not even nominated) whose babies only get a short moment in the sun?

Of course we have to have winners who inspire us to achieve - and that is what this is about.

A fifth book surely could have been 'Drybread' or, Sarah Laing's debut short story collection.

It looks as if Mary's book, being the only “first” novel is perhaps a stand-out winner of the best first novel, and so there is no point in having a short list if she is already the winner by default (clever girl) being in the real finals list. So, whichever way it goes, she should be a winner (perhaps twice over)….

Well, I for one am green with envy, but salute her achievements.

Comment by PJKM ~ June 11, 2008 11:29 AM

Mary's novel HAS to win Best First Book of Fiction, as Rachael pointed out on one of the message boards, hence the absence of a shortlist. (Congratulations to Mary, by the way.)

I don't know how discussing this issue detracts from the shortlisted books in any way. The criticism seems to be directed at the judges, who were supposed to select the five best works of fiction for the year for the shortlist - and did not.

Comment by FredP ~ June 11, 2008 05:10 PM

Hi Chris and Kathy

Commenting on the comment - The rules were changed for the 2007 awards to allow dead authors, hence Janet Frame's win in the poetry, and were changed back again for this year.

I think the case is that authors who have been dead less than 2 years have always been able to have their books submitted and that has now changed to allow no dead authors. I don't recall any special rules being bent in favour of Janet Frame. FredP

Comment by Pamela ~ June 12, 2008 04:03 PM

A correction is due here. If the Montana rules were changed in 2007 to allow dead authors, it was nothing to do with Janet Frame. The Montana rules have always allowed for the entry of a book published within 2 years following the author's death, and Janet Frame's The Goose Bath (2006) already qualified because of that (she died in 2004). So the 2007 change did not affect her eligibility, nor that of Nigel Cox, who also won prize money.
In fact since 2004 at least three dead authors have collected Montana prize money so it seems unfair to me to single out and criticise Frame's win (which in my opinion was a well justified and long overdue recognition of her extraordonary gifts as a poet.) Her prize money went to her charitable trust which added the amount to a grant given to the NZSA.
As for the fiction shortlist - Frame's Estate and her publishers had no intention of submitting the posthumous novel for the fiction prize. Towards Another Summer was written long ago and was not in the production pipeline when she died. But she was working on the poetry project at the time of her death, and had authorised the edit and written the poems, and her book qualified under long standing rules.

Comment by Rachael King ~ June 15, 2008 01:00 PM

Any reason I can't see a link to the forum on this page anymore? Anybody else have that problem?

Comment by Chris ~ June 16, 2008 01:50 AM

Well spotted on the links bar on the right - we had a server glitch which I've now fixed.


Comment by Islander ~ June 20, 2008 09:58 PM

the Forum has fallen down-

Comment by Kathy ~ June 20, 2008 10:56 PM

Yup - sommat wrong wi't site all right. Sorry, but Chris is the techno guru here and he's away until Monday - in the South of France, the dorty basturt. Hope you can all hold out until then. Practice your accents while you're waiting?

Comment by Eleanor ~ June 21, 2008 02:47 PM

You people were featured in the Listener today. At least Kerre Hulme and Bookman Beattie were quoted.

The complaining is getting out of hand, really. The Montanas are supposed to recognise exellence in NZ literature, they are not an advertising company that wants so sell as many books as possible regardless of quality.

Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it is getting annoying the way everyone seems to think that it's their DUTY to nominate those books even if they didn't really think them up to it. Maybe the books were good, maybe they weren't, but the Montana people have made their decision and they should stick to their integrity.

Comment by Islander ~ June 22, 2008 06:18 PM

Booksellers NZ run the Montanas- Eleanor, are you a wee bit slow on the ramifications?
And WTF reads the Listener these days?

Comment by Chris H ~ June 22, 2008 11:00 PM

“Sounds a bit harsh” if folks want to talk about who made the list and who didn't?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm sure I've read media and blog coverage of other awards - such as the Oscars, the Grammys and even Pop Idol.

But of course our precious Montanas are different, and we should all keep our mouths shut. And bow down to the all-encompassing knowledge and wisdom of the huge numbers of highly qualified judges involved.

Comment by Mark Hubbard ~ June 23, 2008 09:45 AM

I didn't know this forum was still going :) Has the 'other site' disappeared for good, or is that just a technical glitch?

Of course the Montanas should be debated: that's just healthy and inevitable given the diverse nature of artistic endeavour, and the subjectivity involved.

And good luck to Mary. (I must Google when the awards are to be announced). Does anyone have a link to the original 35 entries in the fiction category?

Friday 30 May, 2008
Sydney post-fest
Book Events | Filed by Kathy

pollan.jpgIt's been a long time between postings for this ex-pat. Here's an extra long rave to make up for it (which may or may not be a good thing).

The dust has settled – two weeks ago for youse fullas, but only just here in Sydney, as writers wind up their extra few days holiday and head for home, and the venues are packed down. Yes, I’m on about our respective literary festivals, the Auckland and the Sydney.

I did get the Auckland brochure and it seems Sydney got the sloppy seconds in quite a few instances. I’m ashamed to say, after years of reading NZ writers almost exclusively I hardly recognized anyone on the terrifyingly huge Sydney listing, and instead yearned to be at the Auckland festival cosying up with ma homies. The only Kiwi over here was a lonely Laurence Fearnley. Nice to read Mary McCallum's highlights from the Auckland festival (scroll down here).

However, having missed out on two of the international heavyweights I a) knew of and b) would have kind of liked to see (Jeanette Winterson and Anne Enright), I rattled my dags on a glorious Friday morning after dropping the kids at school, jumped on the Manly ferry and pootled over to the festival for the day. From Circular Quay, there’s a brisk, spectacular ten-minute walk around the harbour, past the Museum of Contemporary Art and under the Bridge to get to Walsh Bay – a seething cauldron of culture at the best of times, with theatres abounding and cafes and restaurants by the truckload. I was already feeling good.

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Comment by mary mccallum ~ June 1, 2008 08:58 PM

Hey lovely to see you in full and fabulous flight again Kathy. I looked at the programme for the Sydney Festival and it gave me a headache. You have my admiration for tackling it, and coming up — as always — smiling! And thanks for the mention of my — by comparison — lean offerings on the Auckland Festival. The Christchurch Libraries did some amazing interviews with authors like Junot Diaz which are online. And Bookman Beattie did his usual comprehensive tackle. Take care.

Comment by maggie ~ June 3, 2008 08:14 AM

Hello Kathy - I agree with Mary, it is wonderful to have you back in full flight. But yes, isn't it odd, that we live so close, and we hear so little about Australian writers (apart from Tim Winton and Kate Grenville) but you can now keep us more up to date!

There has been an upsurge of personal writer blogs by otherwise regular bloggers on Leafsalon which may have diluted some of the content on this lovely site but I guess that is what they call progress.

I for one, miss the “collegial” feel that Leafsalon generated, but of course, I peek at the blogs, and one could become quite scattered and distracted if this continues…

Comment by Tania Roxborogh ~ June 3, 2008 06:55 PM

Not the place but couldn't see a way in.
Anyway, wanted to comment on the recent CNZ funding round. Feeling peeved and disorientated.

Comment by Henry Ep. ~ June 5, 2008 11:10 AM

Ah, Kathy, so true, so true … but how to KNOW that what we're putting forward is for the best … tis the rub. And one I've struggled with on these very pages, no less. haha. It is a serious question. And perhaps requires a little prescience. A little of the sci-fi in all of us? Anyway … an Australian writer I think is neglected these days, but unjustly (kind of like Shadbolt in NZ), is David Malouf … what a fantastic prosist …

Comment by maggie ~ June 9, 2008 10:44 AM

Henry - indeed, your posting about Hone was a real tribute, and I didn't intend to censor or censure you… just responding to my own responses. And this is what I like about Leafsalon - the literary collegiality…( if that's the right term ?) - a chance to air your opinions, disagree and affirm and generally have a say or express something your feel passionate about.

An on-line Bloomsbury… or an on-line Esmonde Road for some of us wanna-be's and the other's who already are-be's.

Cheers - and here's to the Montana's tomorrow - imagine all those authors holding their collective breaths.

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