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LitCrawl 2016 with Sue Wooton & Maggie Rainey-Smith

With Sue Wootton (left) and Maggie Rainey-Smith (centre) at the 2016 LitCrawl after-party

While you’re waiting to find out the make-up of New Zealand’s 52nd parliament, here’s something to while away your time: planning which events to go to in this year’s LitCrawl. The Crawl itself is on the evening of Saturday 11th November and I’ll be in a session called ‘I’m Making a Sign’ with Marianne Elliot, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Rhydian Thomas and Rachel Stewart, at Pegasus Books in Cuba Mall. Here’s the full schedule. I have the usual problem of wanting to go to everything, which is not a bad problem to have.

Intrepid organisers Pirate and Queen, aka Claire Mabey and Andrew Laking, have outdone themselves this year with an exciting range of associated events, like the ever-popular ‘Women of Letters’ and various LitCrawl Extended sessions at the City Gallery, including a Flash Fiction workshop with Irish writer Jan Carson. Can’t wait!

 

LitCrawl Hashigo Zake

Getting ready to read with Gem Wilder, Emma Barnes and Chris Tse at LitCrawl 2016, Hashigo Zake.

On a dimly related note and while I think of it – I’ve had a number of short stories/ flash fiction pieces published online recently which can be found at these links:

Silas and Luke’ at Takahe

‘Spindrift’ at Flash Frontier

‘The Visit’ at Reflex Fiction

 

 

I’ll be reading a very short story at the pretty flash Thistle (3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon) and so will some other writerly Wellington folk. It happens on 22nd June 2017 aka National Flash Fiction Day – the shortest day for the shortest stories. Might see you there!

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…and here is the breakdown of fiction published in New Zealand in 2015, by the gender and ethnicity of the authors (as far as I can make out).

In terms of gender, women dominate in the fiction stakes, with 44 fiction books by women published in 2015 (59% of titles) compared with 30 men (40%). The ‘Other’ category refers here to a book jointly authored by a man and a woman.

Here is the pie chart:

gender fiction 2015

In non-fiction, the proportions are reversed, with 13 titles (62%) by male writers and 8 (38%) by female writers (see below). So it kind of balances out. If you add fiction, non-fiction and poetry together, 82 titles were by women, 83 by men and one by both. Yay, right? (Note: I’ve left out a few categories, like Drama and Criticism, but included Letters & Autobiography).

NZ Non-fiction by gender

An analysis by ethnicity, however, tells a miserable little tale indeed.  Here is the pie chart for fiction:

2015 fiction by ethncity

Yep, that’s right, with 68 titles, Pakehā writers got 91% of the pie; Māori writers and Asian/Indian writers got 4% each with 3 titles apiece and Pasifika writers got 1%, with a single title (ie Albert Wendt wrote a book).

By way of comparison, in 2014, 88% of fiction titles were by Pakehā writers, 7% by Māori writers, 5% by Asian/Indian writers and none by Pasifika writers.

And for non-fiction, 85% of titles (18 in total) were written by Pakehās and 5% (1 title each) by a European/Jewish writer, a Māori writer and a Pasifika writer.

Non-ficiton by ethnciity 2015

How do I know what ethnicity everyone is, I hear you cry. Well, I don’t know for sure. I visit at least 3 websites (author pages and so on) and look for clues. So there may be some undercounting. If a writer does not describe themselves as Māori, Asian or Pasifika and does not mention an iwi affiliation, I have counted them as European/Pakehā.

One last pie: all fiction, non-fiction & poetry titles for 2015. 90% of titles were by Pakehā, 4% by Māori and 2% each by European/Jewish, Pasifika and Asian authors. What a lot of pie…

All titles 2015

For the record, I’m female and Pakehā (I was born in the UK and grew up in England, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand; I’ve lived in New Zealand since I was twelve.) Two of the books published in 2015 were mine.

I put this analysis together because it matters to me. Fairness matters. Having a national literature that represents our national population matters. Being able to read a diverse range of voices matters. Also, I’m curious (in more ways than one) and like playing with spreadsheets 🙂

My source for the books published in 2015 is the Journal of Commonwealth Literature. Previous posts on this subject can be found here:

https://janisfreegard.com/2017/01/07/nz-poetry-2015-by-gender-ethnicity/

https://janisfreegard.com/2011/07/29/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-part-2/

https://janisfreegard.com/2012/04/03/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-2008-2010-4/

https://janisfreegard.com/2013/03/23/poetry-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-an-occasional-series/

https://janisfreegard.com/2014/10/19/poetry-and-gender-in-new-zealand-publishing-the-latest/

https://janisfreegard.com/2015/12/30/poetry-published-in-new-zealand-by-gender-ethnicity-to-2014/

https://janisfreegard.com/2016/02/08/nz-fiction-non-fiction-by-gender-ethnicity-2014/

52 Men

Sometimes I buy a book and find myself wishing I’d written it (while at the same knowing I couldn’t, because, well, I’m someone else and I can only write the way I write – disappointing though that can be when I was hoping for something more like Jeanette Winterson or Haruki Murakami).

Louise Wareham Leonard (New Zealand-born but mostly New York-based) is one of those writers whose books I always wish I’d written. I loved her novels: Since You Ask and Miss Me A Lot Of and I’ve been just as impressed with her latest work,  52 Men (published by Red Hen Press).

52 Men is a series of vignettes involving main character Elise’s interactions with different men, followed by a longer piece concerning disturbing events from her childhood and teenage years. The vignettes would each stand alone as flash fiction, but together they form a mosaic of Elise’s life, each encounter building our understanding of her as a person. So you get the depth of character development you might expect from a novel, but in a series of snapshots. It’s an interesting technique and it works. In further crossing of genres, the author describes 52 Men as autobiographical fiction, which I take to mean somewhere between the remembered and the made up.

But wait, there’s more! Louise Wareham Leonard invited other women to record a short piece of their own writing about men and launched a series of podcasts.  The recording I contributed (I Meet A Man in a Bar) was based on a piece I wrote twenty years ago and recently rediscovered. You can listen to 52 Men the Podcast on Soundcloud.

Fancy some Brooklyn-inspired writing? Next Friday 25th November 2016, I will be reading from ‘The Year of Falling’ along with the excellent Maggie Rainey-Smith and the fantastic Jenny Bornholdt at the Brooklyn Deli (199-201 Ohiro Rd, Brooklyn, Wellington, NZ). There will be music from Wellington band The Brooklyns and wine & food from the Deli. Hope to see you there!

 

This Saturday, I’ll be at LitCrawl. If you’re in Wellies, you should be too.

I shall be reading at Hashigo Zake 25 Taranaki St at 6pm with the stunning line-up of Chris Tse, Gem Wilder and Emma Barnes.

Here’s our blurb:

When you write from a minority perspective, whether it’s your sexuality, your gender, your mental health or something else about you, there’s an expectation you’ll perform those parts of yourself.

We choose what parts of ourselves we offer, reveal and share. We decide what we gift of ourselves to the audience. We’re not just queer writers. We’re writers. We’re not just genderqueer writers. We’re writers. We’re not just mentally ill writers. We’re writers. We’re all of these things and none of them. Come along to hear some writing loosely organised along non-heterosexual lines across genders and experiences.  We’re wrapping up ourselves as gifts and we’ll rip the paper too.

Featuring Chris Tse, Janis Freegard, Gem Wilder and Emma Barnes.

There are rumours  that at least one cape may be involved and I can neither confirm nor deny the possibility of a hat. But hey, if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are are many other exciting LitCrawl options to choose from and you can read all about them here:

http://www.litcrawl.co.nz/litcrawl.html

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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.

Alice Spider swallows a goldfish 001

Swallowing a “live goldfish” (mandarin orange segment out of a tin).

Vigil 001

Vigil

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?’

One pill Mt Cook grafitto

Interestingly, this graffito appeared some years later at the spot where our flat used to be. Another Alice at the site, with lyrics from Grace Slick’s (Jefferson Airplane) ‘White Rabbit’.

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.

Janis & Spike in box 001

Whole baby beans, whole baby carrots, whole baby kitten.

 

It’s National Poetry Day in New Zealand on Friday and there are poetry events across the country. Here’s the full calendar of events and a link to the Facebook page.

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/

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Te Rerenga Wairua / Cape Reinga

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