29 March 2009

All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens Reprinted / First Light

All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens, my poetry collection published in 2007, has been reprinted: a small reprint, but still, it's good to be in a position to do so.

In case you've yet to sample its delights, you can:

Here's "First Light"", a poem from All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens. I planned to read it in Christchurch a couple of weeks ago, but, to Joanna Preston's disappointment, ran out of time. Until I make an audio file of it, this print version is the best I can do.

First Light

First light on the new sea. Cows
crop hilltops turned islands.
Small boats sound the fathoms
over the family farm.

On sudden shores, survivors
gather to click and point. There's Aunt Edna.
There's her house, three china ducks
riding the morning tide.

Sky blue, smell
briny. Somewhere down there, graveyards,
urupa. The divisions, ancestral, cadastral,
that put a human stamp on land.

Aid is coming. Helicopters,
news crews, interviews and articles.
Grief and condescension. Coat,
blanket, a fusilade of cans.

Fog on devastation. Sudden eddies.
The drowned turbines of Te Apiti
blades still turning
mine the new and liquid wind.

25 March 2009

Voyagers Cover Released, Microsite Up

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, the anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry Mark Pirie and I have co-edited, is moving closer to its publication date: we expect it to be available in New Zealand on 1 June.

The publishers, Interactive Publications Ltd (IP) of Brisbane, have now put up both a mini-site and an orders page for the book:

The IP mini-site is now up at: http://ipoz.biz/Titles/Voy.htm

The IP Orders page is: http://ipoz.biz/Store/orders.htm

And here's the cover. (Voyagers authors: You are welcome to use the cover image on your own blogs and sites, but please also include both the IP links above, and mention when the book will be available in NZ.)

22 March 2009

SFFANZ Press Release: Finalists for the 2009 Sir Julius Vogel Awards Announced - Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Authors Nominated

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand is pleased to announce its list of finalists for the 2009 Sir Julius Vogel Awards celebrating consumer choice and excellence in science fiction, fantasy and horror. Eligible works are from the 2008 calendar year.

Christchurch author Helen Lowe, author of “Thornspell”, is one of the finalists in the category of “Young Adult Novel”. Other finalists in this category are Ella West for “Anywhere But Here”, Fleur Beale for “Juno of Taris”, Margaret Mahy for “The Magician of Hoad” and Glynne MacLean for “The Spiral Chrysalis”.

Young Adult works feature very strongly on this year's nominations. Helen Lowe and Ella West have also been nominated in the category of “Best New Talent”, while Glynne MacLean has also been nominated in the Novella category for “The Time Stealers”.

Auckland writer Nalini Singh, author of “Mine to Possess” and “Hostage to Pleasure” has been nominated for both works in the category of Best Novel. Hamilton author Russell Kirkpatrick has also been nominated in this category for his work “Dark Heart”, the second book of the Husk trilogy. Both authors will be attending Conscription as New Zealand Literary Guests of Honour.

For more information about Conscription — including how to obtain tickets to attend — please visit http://www.conscription.co.nz/ConScription/index.htm.

Voting for the SJV Awards will take place at Conscription, the 30th New Zealand National Science Fiction Convention, which will be held in Auckland, New Zealand over Queen's Birthday Weekend, 29 May - 1 June 2009. Conscription is taking place at the Grand Chancellor Hotel in Mangere. Winners will be announced after the Conscription banquet on the Sunday night of the convention.

A full list of finalists by category can be seen at http://sffanz.sf.org.nz/sjv/sjvNominations-2009.shtml. Other categories include "Best Short Story" and "Best Collected Work", with Tim Jones having two works in this latter category.

Tim adds:

If you check out the link to the list of finalists, you'll find several people with connections to this blog. One of them is me: I've been nominated both for my short story collection Transported, which you can buy online from Fishpond and New Zealand Books Abroad, and as the editor of JAAM 26, from which Darian Smith's fantasy story "Banshee" has also been nominated. Lyn McConchie and Helen Lowe also had work in JAAM 26.

Helen Lowe has been nominated both for her excellent novel Thornspell, which I read this past week, and as Best New Talent - and talented she surely is.

Pat Whitaker is another multiple nominee. I met Pat a few weeks ago and was very impressed by the energy and commitment he puts into his writing. And Regina Patton, nominated for her short story "The Derby", is a recent guest blogger right here.

It's nice to see other old friends and new nominated as well, among them Sally McLennan, Yvonne Harrison, Dan McCarthy and Maree Pavletich (the latter two for Services to Fandom - either would be a worthy winner). The best of luck to all the nominees!

19 March 2009

Reading Poetry at Madras Cafe Books in Christchurch (feat. North)

Last night, I was a guest reader, together with Fiona Farrell and Victoria Broome, at the first weekly session of the Canterbury Poets' Collective Autumn Readings Series at Madras Cafe Books in Christchurch.

I had a terrible cold, but a good time. I was going to post a full and judicious report, but I discovered tonight that Catherine of Still Standing on her Head had got there before me, so I am going to recommend that you read her excellent report. I'll just throw in a few additional comments:

  • I liked the venue. Madras Cafe Books does what it says on the label: There's a cafe, with seating inside and out, and behind the cafe, a bookstore. The food at the cafe was delicious (I was very bad and had a mocha slice), and although the bookshop isn't large, it has a good selection of interesting books from both New Zealand and overseas. Definitely recommended.

  • I was impressed by what I saw of the Canterbury poetry community (I'm not sure how many people came from out of town). There was a very good turnout, people were certainly friendly to me and seemed friendly to each other, and the standard of the poems read at the open mike part of the evening was high; there were many contenders for the prize for best poem from this section, won by Joanna Preston. It was great to meet poets I only knew by name or reputation, such as John O'Connor and James Norcliffe, as well as those I had met before - and I was especially pleased to be able to thank Fiona Farrell for including my story "Win a Day with Mikhail Gorbachev" in Best New Zealand Fiction 4.

  • It isn't easy to read poetry to an audience when you have a sore throat. I was surprised my voice held out; I guess adrenalin got me through. Hardest of all the poems to read was "North", from my first collection, Boat People. I do the Yorkshire-y bits in a variety of Yorkshire accents, and it isn't easy trying to sound like the Clitheroe Kid when your voice is threatening to give way. Maybe I'll put up an audio file one day, but in the meantime, here is North, inspired by my visit back to the land and accents of my birth in 1989 - with apologies to Harvey Molloy, who has had to put up with my lame renditions of accents not entirely dissimilar to his when he's heard me read this poem.


On Ilkley Moor
I parked me red
Ford Laser hatchback
and gazed to the north.
Rain and smoke stood over Wharfedale.

It was all in its appointed place:
stone houses and stone smiles in Ilkley
the wind on the bleak
insalubrious bracken.

I was waiting for memory
to make the scene complete:
some flat-vowelled voice out of childhood
snatches of Northern song.

For memory read TV:
Tha’ve broken tha poor Mother’s heart
It were only a bit of fun.
Bowl slower and hit bloody stumps.

Tha’ll never amount to much, lad. In cloth cap and gaiters,
car forgotten, I pedal down the hill. Hurry oop
or tha’ll be late for mill. Folk say
I’ve been seeing the young widow Cleghorn.
Well, now, fancy that.

In my invented character
I trail my falsified heritage
down the long, consoling streets.

15 March 2009

Enamel: The First Issue of a New Literary Journal

Emma Barnes, in addition to being a fine poet herself, is the editor of the new literary journal Enamel. The first issue of Enamel has just been published, and I'm pleased to say that I have two poems in it: "The Penciller" and "Nightlife".

Emma starts her editorial by saying:

When I decided to start Enamel I naively placed the word pro-feminist in my call for submissions. At the time of writing I phrased it as a slight bias toward pro-feminist literature. Little did I know that this would cause a dearth of submisions from anyone who didn't identify as a woman. Tumbleweeds rolled across my inbox.

Well, Emma seems to have dealt with that tumbleweed problem (you can probably turn rolling tumbleweeds off using a hidden option in Gmail), because there are some fine poems in this first issue of Enamel - although it's true that not many of the poets are of the masculine persuasion. The poets represented in this issue are Johanna Aitchison, Anna Forsyth, Tim Jones, Miriam Barr, Jennifer Compton, Helen Heath, Reihana MacDonald Robinson, Andrew Coyle, Meg Davies, Elizabeth Welsh, Ruby Mulholland, Meliors Simms, Lori Leigh, Marcia Arrieta, and Helen Rickerby.

On my first, quick look at the issue, poems that stood out for me included "Extravagant Promises" by Meliors Simms, "Useful Cupboards" by Jennifer Compton, and "Nothinghead" by Helen Rickerby. But that's just on a first look: I am sure there will be more when I take the time to look again.

Emma is selling hard copies of Enamel through TradeMe for a price between $10 and $15. PDF copies are available for a donation. And if you're interesting in contributing, the next issue of Enamel is due to be published in March 2010.

11 March 2009

Reclaiming Gravity: The Birth of a New Zealand Writers' Association

This is a guest post by Regina Ripley Patton. Ripley Patton lives mostly in her head but occasionally comes out to enjoy the scenery of the remote hills of the South Island that rise around her home. She writes speculative fiction because truth has always fascinated her more than fact. Her work has appeared in AlienSkin, Quantum Muse, The Lorelei Signal, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Flash Fiction Online, Reflection's Edge, and the new Wily Writers website for Speculative Fiction Downloads. She currently has a science fiction story in the running for a Sir Julius Vogel Award for best short story. You can find a window into her mind and writing at http://rippatton.livejournal.com.

Reclaiming Gravity: The Birth of a New Zealand Writers' Association

No one warned me I'd be weightless in New Zealand. It is one of those assumptions we make wherever we go. Gravity works. When I moved to the South Island in August of 2006, I expected particles of matter to attract one another just as they always had.

I am a writer particle, a speculative fiction particle, to be exact. Speculative fiction, for those unfamiliar, is the current umbrella term for the collective genres of science fiction, fantasy, horror, magic realism, paranormal, and all the blends of and in between. Basically it’s the writing of those who love to "wildly speculate". That's me.

In the Pacific Northwest of the US, where I come from, there were quite a few particles like me. These particles collected in masses through writers associations, workshops, frequent conventions, and other various joyful excuses to bump into one another. Because the particles were many, and close together, their pull on one another was fairly strong, producing a fine, heady gravity. I rarely felt as if I was going to just float off into space alone, never to be seen again.

And then I moved. Now, don't get me wrong. I love my new country with its sheep, and inspiring scenery, and sheep. I was thrilled to be here, and one of the first things I did was sail off searching for like particles to bump into. Whee!

First, I looked up speculative fiction writers organizations. I found The New Zealand Sci-Fi and Fantasy Writers Association (NZSFW). Its website had not been touched since 2000 and a quick poke with a stick revealed it to be decidedly dead. I continued my search for weeks, shuffling through the lifeless and abandoned websites of New Zealand speculative writers who had died, moved to Australia, or simply floated off into the void, never to be heard from again. I began to grow lighter. I bought heavier shoes, weighted my pockets with stones, and avoided the open sky, but if was obvious to me that my weightlessness was growing worse by the day. Without other like particles to pull on me, it was only a matter of time before I became just another minuscule speck lost in the great blackness of space. Gravity had betrayed me.

One particularly light day, when my husband had tied my safety tether to the clothes line so I could hang the wash, I had a revelation. There had to be other particles like me out there somewhere, clinging desperately to their own small chunks of New Zealand. If I could just find them, shake them loose, encourage them that they weren't alone, then collectively our gravity would increase. The more particles I could find, the more pull we'd have to attract even more particles. It didn't matter if there were only a few to start. If we bumped against one another, and stuck it out, eventually gravity would be restored to us all.

And so began a search, a quest, if you will, to find speculative fiction writers in New Zealand who wanted to network, develop a writers organization, and not only gain some weight but possibly throw it around sometime in the future.

As of now, there is a core group of eleven such particles, including myself. We include a mix of genders, ages, genres and geographic locations. Among us is Lee Pletzers, the founder of Masters of Horror, myself, a Sir Julius Vogel Nominee, Grant Stone, an acceptee to the Australian Horror Writers Association 2009 mentorship program, Marie Hodgkinson, the editor of Semaphore e-zine, Anna Caro, a member of the 2010 Con committee, and the rest are just as talented and dedicated. This last weekend we decided on an official name (yet to be revealed) and will be moving forward in developing an organizational charter.

And if you're interested, we're still looking for core members. The more particles we get, the easier the load and the heavier the gravity. Our plans are to take our time, grow this thing well, and burst onto the scene in a Big Bang sometime in early 2010. Anyone keen to give up their weightlessness should contact Regina Ripley Patton at give(underscore)a(underscore)rip(at)yahoo(dot)co(dot)uk

Either way, if you are a writer of speculative fiction in New Zealand, we hope to support you through a quality writers association in the near future.

In the meantime, write with one hand, and hang on to something heavy with the other.

09 March 2009

An Interview with Sue Emms

Sue Emms is the fiction editor of Bravado magazine, and also a novelist and author of short fiction. She made a big splash with her first novel, Parrot Parfait, and subsequently published her second novel, Come Yesterday. I interviewed her recently about her past and current writing, her plans for the future, and the bubbling literary scene in Tauranga.

You've had two novels published to a good response, Parrot Parfait and Come Yesterday; you had a story included in The Best New Zealand Fiction: Volume 3; and you're the fiction editor of Bravado magazine. But would it be fair to say that things have been a bit quiet for you lately on the literary front, and if so, would you mind saying why?

Two things happened at more or less the same time. Along with fellow writer and editor Jenny Argante I was asked to create a writing programme for the Waiariki Institute in Rotorua. We first created a Certificate in Creative Writing, developed it to Diploma level, and added manuscript mentoring. I must have written about 400,000 words for the courses, and it’s been great fun - plus we’ve had excellent feedback from writers who have taken part (always good), but it has been time-consuming. I’m hoping to cut back from course development to just tutoring and mentoring this year, to allow more time for my own writing.

At the same time, things were going to custard on a personal level. I was nursing my mother through a long illness and, a few months after her death, my brother was diagnosed with brain tumours. I cared for him until his death, which arrived far too quickly - only 5 months from diagnosis. I was left fairly shattered, to be honest, and unable to write anything that I’d consider fit for publication. It was all personal, cathartic stuff. Now, a year or so down the track, I feel I’m coming to a place where I can write for publication again.

When did you first start writing fiction, and what made you decide to become a professional writer?

When do writers begin writing … that’s a question! Formally, I made a start in the mid 80s, and even had some successes, but then I had a crisis of confidence and gave it all away. In 1998, I decided that the dream hadn’t died, and I was going to give it a go: if I failed, so be it. Why fiction, and why professional? Because I love reading, love nothing better than falling in to a fictional world that feels more real than the one I live in. I love the act of crafting a body of words so they make sense; because of all the things in life I can’t do, writing is the one I can.

Who are some of your favourite authors? Would you say that these are the authors who've had the most influence on your own writing, or do you have a separate set of influences?

Ah God. Favourite authors … I’m a gourmand when it comes to authors, not a gourmet. Worse, I am fickle. I fall in love with an author, and out again. But some enduring writers are Thorne Smith, Anne Tyler, David Brin, Kate Atkinson, Anna Quindlen, Janny Wurtz, Elizabeth Berg, Jasper Fforde and dozens of others depending on my mood. I’m not sure if any have had a specific influence that I can identify - I’ve never set out to write like anyone else. But sometimes I write something or get an idea, and am aware there is a subconscious nod to a previous writer. My work in progress is A Man of Many Lives about a man who has half-a-dozen skeletons for company. Thorne Smith wrote a book called Skin and Bone. That has to be an influence.

Other influences? Life. Because I’m the kind of person who is always trying to make sense of it all - I know, that’s the path to madness, but still. Doesn’t stop me trying.

I have never been to Tauranga — shocking, I know! – but there seems to be a vibrant literary scene there, with Bravado one of its most visible manifestations. Has the Tauranga literary community been an inspiration to you — or perhaps I should ask, have you been an inspiration to it?!

It’s fair to say it’s a two-way street, a kind of mutual generation of vibrancy. Jenny Argante is probably one of the driving forces around here. She’s the ideas lady - and I’m the one who putters quietly away behind the scenes. Having said that, I dropped out of the scene to a great extent with my family considerations.

Bravado is heading for its fifteenth issue, which is a considerable achievement — and it does keep getting better and better. How does the Bravado crew manage to do it?

We share ulcers! LOL. Keeping a lit magazine going is not easy. But we’re all passionate about writing and writers, and believe implicitly that writers need to be read. That’s our driving force. A great love of writing and writers.

What do you regard as the highlight of your writing career to date, if there has been a single highlight?

I don’t think there’s been a single highlight - I could say “my first novel” and it was, of course, a great moment. But writing is an accumulation of words to create something meaningful and in the same way, writing achievements are an accumulation of small things. Yes, I’m delighted every time a story or poem of mine is published, or placed in a competition, accepted for an anthology or broadcast on radio. The success of Bravado pleases me. My aim is to publish more books, and when that happens, I know I’ll be kicking my heels. But there is something about the day-to-day craft of writing that is enormously satisfying to me. If it wasn’t, publication wouldn’t be worth it.

Although you are best known for your fiction, you are also a poet, and there are some of your poems on your web site. Do you envisage writing more poetry in future, and who are some of your favourite poets?

I have written poetry, and I would like to write more but am very aware there is a large gulf between good poetry and bad. I have a lot of bad stuff tucked under the bed where it shall stay for ever and ever amen. In the hands of a craftsman, though, poetry is astonishing. I make a point of reading as wide a variety of New Zealand poets as I can. I don’t know that I like to name favourite poets - but Cilla McQueen, Allen Curnow, Kelly Ana Morey, Elizabeth Smither, Sue Wootton, Anna Jackson and Glen Colquhoun are just a few poets I’ve read and enjoyed recently.

If you're willing to reveal them, what are your current plans as a writer?

The last few years my focus has been writing non-fiction in the form of creative writing tutorials. I’m happy with what I’ve done, but I’m missing fiction, and my big plan is to get back to writing it every day. I have two novels in progress, A Man of Many Lives and Council of Fools. I aim to finish those by the end of the year - to first draft status, anyway. I also have a completed novel, The Kindred Stone, which was accepted for publication but never made it to paper as the publisher, Hazard Press, fell over. I would like to find a new publisher for this manuscript. I’m keen, also, to compile a collection of my short stories. Not sure if there’s a real market for them but, at the moment, I have stories scattered far and wide. For my own satisfaction, if nothing else, I like the idea of creating an anthology of them.

It would be fair to say, I guess, that I want to put fiction writing back to the centre of my life and just see where it takes me.

05 March 2009

Mo' Better Blues

A while back, I mentioned the apparent absence of female lead guitarists in rock music, and wondered why, when so many leading violinists (for example) are female, this was the case. It turned out I was looking in the wrong place. Through a circuitous route, starting by reading an article about current Allman Brothers guitarist Derek Trucks, I discovered the blues guitarist, singer and songwriter Susan Tedeschi, and went from her to discover Sue Foley and blues-influenced but wide-ranging Serb Ana Popovic - all of whom I mentioned in my previous post, though these links are to different performances.

But wait, there's more: Deborah Coleman, Debbie Davis, Kelly Richey, and from the unlikely blues stronghold of Finland, slide guitar queen Erja Lyytinen. I used to listen to a lot of 60s and 70s blues-rock, but had pretty much moved away from the genre of music in recent years. Now, via the combined magic of broadband and YouTube, I can see and hear so many great blues and blues-influenced musicians of the past and present that it has really sparked my interest again. Discovering these excellent female guitarists is a wonderful bonus on top of that. But why, oh why, aren't they better known?

02 March 2009

Borges in Spain, Extreme Weather Events, Interviews, JAAM 27, and Summer Flings

Borges in Spain

My brief review of Jorge Luis Borges' Selected Poems has been reprinted in the Spanish/English online literary magazine Yareah.com, in their fifth issue, which focuses on the intriguing and apt combination of Borges and the Kabbalah.

This is the third issue of Yareah I have seen, and they are always interesting. Yareah is keen for more contributors, and if you do contribute, you get a rather nice online profile on their site - so, if you are intrigued, check them out.

Extreme Weather Events Reviewed

Mike Crowl has posted a review of my first short fiction collection, Extreme Weather Events, on his blog. Mike chose EWE as the book to take with him on a recent visit to hospital - as you'll see from his blog post, I did suggest that EWE wasn't the ideal post-op book, being quite dark and all, but he got a fair bit out of it all the same.

Author Interviews: 2008 revisited, and my first interview for 2009

Within the next week or so, I'll be posting an interview with New Zealand author Sue Emms on my blog. I will be aiming to run roughly one per month this year, assuming enough willing victims fall into my net. In case you haven't seen them, or are feeling nostalgic, I ran interviews in 2008 with the following authors:

Helen Lowe
Harvey Molloy
Helen Rickerby
Jeanne Bernhardt
Tania Hershman
Lee and Nogi Aholima

JAAM 27 Reminder

A wee reminder that submissions for Issue 27 of JAAM magazine, edited by Ingrid Horrocks, close at the end of March.

Things I've Been Enjoying Lately

A carefree late-summer selection ...