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Dear Jeanette Winterson, I should really stop reading your books because sometimes I happen on that one perfect sentence that floors me and I can’t read on. A good simile can cause me to well up like a – um – well in a flood and I have to put the book down and lie quietly in a darkened room for a bit. At that point, I tell myself I’ll never write again, why bother, I’ll just stop now, because I could write all my life and never write something one tenth as good as that simile, so I might as well just wallow in my welling which is as much about feeling sorry for myself as it is about appreciating the beauty of a good phrase. I’m that shallow.
Dear Jeanette Winterson, sometimes all I read is one paragraph and then I sigh and put the book down. Sometimes I can only manage the first sentence. I have read the first paragraph of ‘The 24 hour dog’ at least a dozen times. I have read “He was soft as rainwater” (it’s not the same when I type it) a hundred. It’s better in the book. I have to read it in the book.
Dear Jeanette Winterson, I promise I am not deranged. At least no more than most people. I have a perfectly normal life involving a day job, a partner, a cat and a rough approximation of something that bears a slight similarity to a writing career. My offerings however are as mud next to your polished diamonds. (Or maybe not diamonds, on account of the dodgy labour practices, maybe rubies. Do you like rubies, Jeannette Winterson? Not that I’m planning to get you any.)
Dear Jeanette Winterson, I saw you at a literary festival in Dublin years ago where you were warm, engaging and entertaining. There was a book-signing queue afterwards, but there was no way I could have joined it. It’s true I tend to come across like a grinning idiot when meeting authors I admire, but that doesn’t usually stop me. I still haven’t decided about the queue at the forthcoming Auckland Writers Festival. I’ll just have to see how I go.
Dear Jeanette Winterson, I would happily buy your next note to the electricity company, should you choose to publish it. I am pleased I live on the same planet as you. Thank you, thank you, thank you a thousand times for all the words.
I couldn’t help myself. I had to go through the fiction list as well. Then the non-fiction. And what an interesting result. The 2014 list of New Zealand books (the latest available from the Journal of Commonwealth Literature’s annual round-up) shows that 44 (or 59%) of the 75 New Zealand fiction titles published in 2014 were written by women, significantly more than those written by men (who wrote 31 fiction titles, or 41%). If you take out children’s and young adult fiction, the gap narrows somewhat, with 56% of adult titles written by women and 44% by men.
I wondered if chaps were more likely to tackle non-fiction and this does indeed seem to be the case, with all 11 non-fiction books in 2014 having been written by men . It’s a little different when you add in Letters & Autobiography and Drama (see charts below). And if you look at the whole lot together, ie all titles excluding poetry, it was very even, with 50% by men, 49% by women and 1% by both (ie multiple authors).
Ethnicity is a very different story. I only looked at fiction for this. A massive 88% of fiction titles were by Pakeha authors, 7% by Maori authors (better than I was expecting but still less than the proportion of Maori in the population) and 5% by Asian/Indian writers. No Pacific writers had fiction published in 2014. Not one.
The usual disclaimers apply – for source and methodology, please see my blog on poetry titles .
2015 is feeling like the year of anthologies. I’m very pleased to have work in these three little beauties:
‘Sunset at the Estuary’ is a tribute to the late Dianne Beatson who, with her husband, Peter Beatson, offered writing space in a lovely house in Foxton, as well as founding the Foxton Fellowship. The book contains a selection of poetry and prose from some of the many writers who have benefited from their generosity, including Sue McCauley, Chris Else, Alison Wong, Adrienne Jansen and Mandy Hager. It’s published by Rangitawa Publishing and edited by Dorothy Alexander and Joan Rosier-Jones. Over the years, I’ve spent a number of productive long weekends with writing groups at the Foxton house, which I’m very grateful for.
Also released recently is ‘Of Paekakariki’ – poetry, prose and illustrations about (you guessed it!) Paekakariki. It’s edited by Sylvia Bagnall and published by Michael O’Leary’s Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop. Contributors include Roma Potiki, Dinah Hawken, Apirana Taylor, Sam Hunt, Frances Cherry and Leon Uris (who was stationed there during the war). I read my contribution along with many others at a very enjoyable launch in St Peter’s Hall.
Cover illustration by Alan Wehipeihana.
And finally, there is ‘The Poetry Bug’ from Parthian Press in Wales. It’s an anthology of poetry about insects, collected by butterfly expert John Tennent. The collection offers much humour and rhyme and the poets range from Horace and Virgil to Pam Ayres. Quite exciting to have my little cockroach poem from ‘Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus’ rubbing shoulders with offerings from the likes of Tennyson, Rossetti, Whitman, Goethe and Dickinson. Also, it’s in hardback, which is always nice.
The very talented Tim Jones has recently published a new novella and kindly agreed to a blog interview.
Congratulations on your new novella, ‘Landfall’. I can’t help noticing it bears the same name as a certain NZ literary journal. Is there a connection?
Connection, guv? That was right out – I deny that completely!
There is in fact a connection, in that both the title of the novella and, I believe, the title of the journal both refer to Allen Curnow’s 1942 poem “Landfall in Unknown Seas”, which was then set to music by Douglas Lilburn:
Simply by sailing in a new direction
You could enlarge the world.
… which is a not an attitude that finds much favour in the world of my novella.
What’s the novella about?
I think the blurb does a reasonable job of summarising that:
When the New Zealand Navy torpedoes a Bangladeshi river ferry full of refugees fleeing their drowning country, Nasimul Rahman is one of the few survivors. But even if he can reach the shore alive, he has to make it past the trigger-happy Shore Patrol, set up to keep the world’s poor and desperate at bay.
Donna is a new recruit to the Shore Patrol. She’s signed on mainly because of her friend Mere, but also because it’s good to feel she’s doing something for her country. When word comes through that the Navy has sunk a ship full of infiltrators, and survivors may be trying to make their way ashore, it sounds like she might finally see some action.
To get more of a flavour, there is also a sample extract you can read for free: http://paperroadpress.co.nz/2015/08/01/free-excerpt-landfall-tim-jones/
Sounds intriguing! What defines something as a novella?
The good folks who administer the Hugo Awards, who as I’m sure we’ll agree are the ultimate arbiters of all such matters, define a novella as a story of between seventeen thousand five hundred (17,500) and forty thousand (40,000) words
So, in Hugo Awards terms (a boy can dream!) “Landfall”, which comes in at a tick under 11,000 words, is actually a novelette – happily, however, it met the requirements that Paper Road Press was looking for when it called for novella submissions.
In less mathematical terms, I think of a novella as a novel on a restricted diet, rather than as a longer short story. Novellas are like novels boiled down to the main plot and a few central characters. In my case, there are two main characters and for the most part the action is confined to the same location over a short span of time.
How is writing a novella different from writing a short story or a novel?
It doesn’t take years and years to finish the bloody thing! (Well, that may tell you something about my experience to date of writing novels…)
Although, having said that, the seeds of this novella were in a short story called “Pilot” that I’d had several cracks at writing over the years without success – I had three different partially completed drafts lying around. Each of these was from the point of view of a single character, Nasimul Rahman. When Paper Road Press called the first round of submissions for their Shortcuts series of novellas, I had the idea of adding Donna, the second viewpoint character, and alternating their viewpoints throughout the novella – and that’s what made the narrative work.
I believe it’s going to appear in print soon, too. Who else will be in the print publication?
Paper Road Press are putting out all six novellas in the first Shortcuts series in one print volume entitled Shortcuts: Track 1 – and if you preorder by 1 November, there are a couple of prizes on offer! Check out all the details here: http://paperroadpress.co.nz/books/shortcuts-track-1-collection/
I understand there’s a second Shortcuts series forthcoming from Paper Road Press, too. They are a very active Wellington-based publisher putting out some great work.
Where can I buy a copy?
What’s next? Will there be more novellas?
I like writing at novella length because it allows for more complexity than a short story – and because, as quite a slow writer, novellas don’t take me the agonising amounts of time that novels do! So, while I’m currently trying to finish a poetry collection, I do intend to write more novellas.
I already have one unpublished novella, but it’s an the unusual niche of “(association) football romance”, a market segment to which the publishing industry hasn’t yet turned its full attention. If anyone hears about publishers looking for Mills and Boon of the Rovers, please let me know.
Thanks Tim! Best wishes for your writing!
Tim Jones is a fiction writer, poet, and editor. He is also the author of two collections of short fiction, three collections of poetry and one novel. He was co-editor of Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (2009) with Mark Pirie. Voyagers won ‘Best Collected Work’ in the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and in the same year, Tim Jones won the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature. The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry was published in 2014 and is co-edited by Tim Jones and P.S. Cottier. You can find Tim’s blog at http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.co.nz/
This is me with Mary McCallum (print publisher of the ‘Year of Falling’) and Penelope Todd from Rosa Mira Books (e-book publisher of ‘The Year of Falling’) at the Library Bar last night.
If you’d like a copy of the e-book, this is where you can buy it. The green $NZ12 button will take you to a Paypal link (you don’t need a Paypal account) and you can choose your preferred format there. And here’s the Q&A.
Many thanks to Penelope and Mary. Here’s to Rosa Mira and Makaro Press!
In further cybernews, one of my poems from The Glass Rooster is currently featuring on Tim Jones’ blog. Thanks Tim!
Well, I’m very happy to say that The Year of Falling is being made into an e-book, thanks to Rosa Mira Books, fine e-publishers of such titles as Slightly Peculiar Love Stories, which includes my short story, ‘Mill’.
To celebrate this, I shall be partaking in a quiet glass of bubbly at the Library Bar on Courtenay Place next Monday and it would be lovely if you could join me (clink clink!)
Monday 21st September 6pm – 8pm
Upstairs, 53 Courtenay Place, Wellington
Also, I was delighted to have two very nice reviews of TYOF last weekend. Siobhan Harvey, writing in the Dominion Post, said:
“Richly peopled and companioned by an absorbing plot, Janis Freegard’s The Year of Falling is a superb first foray into novel writing.” (full review on Stuff here)
and David Hill, in the NZ Herald said:
“Freegard controls a substantial cast adroitly, and makes you care about each one of them, even loathsome Randall and bubble-brained Bailey.” (full review on NZ Herald site here).
Feeling all fluffed up after that.
Recently some of my Alice Spider poems were chosen to be part of an excellent online anthology about Pukehau/Mt Cook. The poems were first published in the online journal Turbine in 2002 and reprinted in AUP New Poets 3 in 2008. This got me thinking about the various Mt Cook flats I lived in, back when I was in my twenties.
In 1985, I flatted in a two-storey house in Rugby Street by the Basin Reserve with three other people – different people at different times. There were parties. There were squabbles over who had burnt out the element in the jug. There was meatloaf, an alphabetised record collection and a weekly gathering around the television to watch Dallas. German journeymen would occasionally appear on the couch. A three-legged cat we called Tripod would wander in for a pat. One flatmate made great homemade Irish cream (similar to Bailey’s); another had a terrific recipe for marinated raw fish. A flatmate who cleaned for a law firm occasionally liberated a nice bottle of wine from the partners’ stash and brought it home to share.
Some years later, I was disappointed to learn our house had been bowled – along with three other perfectly good, sound houses – to make way for a Repco Autoparts store. Every time I walked past, I felt like pasting up a photo of the old place that said ‘LOST: Have you seen this house?’
My second time in Mt Cook came a few years later – a flat in Hankey Street with two other women. One stormy evening, a friend brought a kitten around, wrapped in her raincoat. She’d found him, apparently abandoned and half-starved, near the dairy. She already had cats of her own and couldn’t take in another. I hadn’t planned to get a cat, thinking I moved around too much, but I couldn’t resist this tiny, shivering, flea-infested bundle. My flatmate had spotted him previously but he was wary of people and she hadn’t been able to catch him. Now he was close to giving up.
I took him to the vet the next morning in a cardboard box that said Whole Baby Beans and Whole Baby Carrots. ‘Snatched from the jaws of death,’ the vet proclaimed, before pumping him full of antibiotics and offering a 50:50 chance of survival. He told me to keep the kitten warm and give him baby food. I took him to work in his little box (the kitten, not the vet), stopping at a pharmacy on the way for tinned baby food, Bone-Gro and a hot water bottle shaped like a cat. He spent the day under my desk at the Department of Conservation, good as gold, climbing out to eat his meals and back in again where his hot bottle water kept him warm. Workmates who might normally have taken a dim view of cats popped around during the day to see how he was getting along.
Over the next few weeks, he struggled back to health. I called him Spike. We lived together for nineteen years and I loved him.
The third time I lived in Mt Cook was in a flat in a block of four in Anderson Terrace. This time it was just me and Spike, my first time living (almost) alone. The only part I didn’t enjoy about being there was that my next-door neighbour worked shifts and I routinely woke up at 2 am when I heard his car.
Later, Spike and I moved to Mt Vic, then Berhampore and finally Vogeltown, where I promised him he’d never have to move again. He’s buried in the garden. I still miss him.
I will be reading at an event in Lower Hutt on Friday evening. Here’s more:
Poems of Place; Landscape Poetry and Open Mic
We live in a land of hills, river and sea. We experience wild changes in our weather and our remoteness affects who we are as a people in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Much of our literature and poetry reflects our unique landscape. This National Poetry Day event held in Lower Hutt will feature writers reading their landscape poetry and reflecting on what this means for them. There will be an opportunity during the open mic for people to read their own or their favourite author’s poetry on the subject of nature, landscape and the environment. Everyone is welcome, poets, poetry-lovers and those interested in the local environment. Featuring the poets Anne Powell, Harvey Molloy, Kerry Hines, Keith Westwater, Tim Jones, Adrienne Jansen, Kerry Popplewell, Keith Johnson and Janis Freegard.
Entry Details: Free. Open to all ages. Sign up for the open mic on the night.
Date/Times: 28 August, 7.30 – 9.30pm.
Location: St Marks Complex 58 Woburn Road, Lower Hutt. Opposite the Lower Hutt Library
Further Info: www.facebook.com/events/667972266672138/
A number of people have kindly enquired as to the wellbeing of ‘The Year of Falling’ and ‘The Glass Rooster’, so I thought it might be time for an update. I do feel as though I have released hand-reared orphaned wild things out into the world to seek their fortunes and I’m very much hoping they don’t fall into a ravine or get eaten by bears.
So how’s The Glass Rooster?
Thank you for asking. He’s been somewhat elusive lately, but is no doubt striding about happily somewhere looking for hens to impress. There was a sighting on Beattie’s Book blog in June, where Elizabeth Morton gave the book a very nice review which starts:
“Grab your knapsack. Pack for all conditions. Janis Freegard wants to be your travel companion, and she has a cross-country junket in mind. ‘The Glass Rooster’ takes you through forests and oceans, deserts and space, all the while chaperoned by the eponymous bird who ‘was nothing if not well-travelled’. An unlikely tour guide, perhaps, but he will strut and call and pose for photographs like the best of them.”
And what about The Year of Falling?
There have also been some lovely reviews. Emma Bryson on Beattie’s Book Blog, said:
“Quirky, funny and inspiringly touching, Freegard has a knack for writing scenes which are painfully human. I watched as Selina’s life start to drift away from her, and screamed in frustration as she ‘reasoned’ her way into further trouble. And I became a silent observer (albeit slightly tearful) as the stoic Smith dealt with the heart-breaking complexities of losing a friend, raising a child, and caring for a sister.”
“This is a story of searching for one’s self, trying to identify and then hold onto the important things, and finding a place to call home whether it be a physical place, or simply in your own head and heart. There is hope, forgiveness, joy and love. It is a wonderful story, I very much enjoyed reading it. I really hope this book gets widely read and promoted, because it certainly deserves to.
And Catherine Roberston said in the NZ Listener: “…the pace and assuredness quickly increase, building layers of tension and pleasingly ambiguous characterisations that hold interest to the end.”
I’ve also had some very nice emails, texts, Tweets and Facebook messages from people saying they’re enjoying the novel or were up all night reading it, or they really like one of the characters, which is exactly what any writer loves to hear when wondering whether anyone will ever read the book you spent years fretting over.
Where can I buy them?
Indie bookstores like Unity Books (Wellington and Auckland), University bookshops, Page and Blackmore (Nelson), Almo’s Books in Carterton and some Paper Pluses (like the one in Coastlands on the Kapiti Coast). They’re also available directly from AUP and Makaro Press and online retailers like fishpond.
I was chuffed to see both books squeaked into the Indie Top 20 list for 20 June 2015, which means I am on a list with Patricia Grace, Kate Atkinson, Anne Enright, Atul Gawande, Helen MacDonald and other great writers.
Many thanks to everyone who’s bought, read or plans to read the books, who’s requested them from their local library, reviewed them, rated them on Goodreads or told me they enjoyed them. Makes it all worthwhile.