Last week saw the Auckland Writers Festival very much alive in our city. I did not attend many events as the week was already flooded with other activities. I wish to write about one event though, of a discussion between Tracey Morrison (Te Arawa, Ngāi Tahu), a well-known New Zealand broadcaster, and Monty Soutar ONZM (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Awa, Ngā Tai ki Tāmaki, Ngāti Kahungunu). They talked about his latest book Kāwai, a shortlisted novel for the recent Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Monty has received commendations and awards for his scholastic achievements and work to raise the understanding of the history of Māori in many fields, and Kāwai is his first venture into writing fiction. If you are thinking that the discussion about his book might prove a little dry, or boring, you’d be wrong.
Author Archives: viviennelingard
Close to Home
This is my second attempt to sketch and write a blog this week, the first effort was not great – more wilting lilies. So, I decided to draw a fantastic tree for which Devonport (where I live) is quite famous – the Moreton Bay Fig. This large evergreen tree of the Mulberry family happens to be native to Eastern Australia. Lucky Devonport has many of these fabulous giants based around our library. They are so big they almost straddle the road, and I always stop and admire the amazing root systems which have tourists clicking their cameras. I became the tourist this day and took a photo while out walking. This will make a nice art project I thought.
I started sketching using a water-soluble graphite pencil, which has a nice thick, soft lead. My idea at first, was to make this a tonal wash sketch, using different techniques. I have tried using a white blockout lumocolor before, when there are considerable white spots in the texture in tree trunks, and would be too fiddly to leave so many bits of white paper showing, as I usually do. The blockout has worked well when I’ve used a straight watercolour wash. However, it doesn’t work that well with the water soluble graphite (for me anyway), as it leaves residual grain. So, I left the work to dry, and then tried to erase the extra pigment which had penetrated the white blockout. So now my work looks grubby, which is not unusual when I try using water! Never mind, the watercolour paper is 33gm Hahnemühle and can cope with heavy treatment.
I was reasonably happy with the top sketch but could see I had missed the proportion somewhat bottom left and top right. I did adjust that, and feel it is better. I also used a clean Staedtler eraser to lift off some of the unwanted tone. Done. But now, my task was to work more texture into the sketch, and to add limited colour. I used an 8B graphite pencil (not a water-soluble one) for the extra texture on the tree, colour pencil for the moss and the smattering of leaves. My conclusion is that maybe it’s okay to enjoy these magnificent trees while out walking, and forgo the urge to draw them – just saying.
An almost Still Life
Again, I have a vase of flowers on my table, lilies this time, which were resplendent for over a week. As the flower heads opened the colour went from a rich yellow to a lighter tone as the petals lost lustre. Yesterday morning I noticed how papery the petal tips were, then, oh no! they began to drop onto the table. A hasty trip to grab a watercolour pad from my art shelves; paint, pencils, brushes, pens and a jar.
A little more about the writing side of life
Three weeks ago I was asked to speak alongside author Caroline Barron, at the Auckland branch of New Zealand Society of Authors meeting. I was intending to write a short post on this earlier, but life, again, got in the way. Last week I was frantically writing as much on my novel as possible before visitors arrived, which meant I neglected everything else. And then, this week came around, and suddenly it was ‘all hands on deck’ to clear out our bedrooms as new carpet was due to be laid Thursday. The bedrooms are clean and vacated and the rest of the apartment looks a mess!
Now, here I am finding time to write a few words about the talk I mentioned at the start. Caroline Barron and I have written both memoir and adult fiction, and were asked questions by the chair Maria Gill, as a joint interview, about the similarities and differences in how we approached the process of writing in each of these genres. Maria, posed interesting questions, such as: What’s the relationship between honesty and good storytelling? Often Caroline and I said virtually the same thing, swapping the mic from one to the other to say our piece. With this question, I said “Honesty for me was being authentic; staying true to the ‘character’ in the memoir and presenting facts accurately.” This then led to the discussion of how important research is writing in either genre. We both agreed that research was essential for both.
We were asked if there were differences in the way we structured each form. I start with a timeline, which places scenes, or ‘happenings’ along the line, with the year each takes place. Another question was, how do you approach the task of deciding what to include or leave out in your memoirs or novels? And the ethical implications of writing about real people. With my memoir, I began the narration from the time I could recall events vividly, and ended with the death of the main subject. I stayed as true to all the main characters as was possible, and fiddled more with what occurred when. Again, research is required, such as; what politician was in power, what songs and programmes were popular. Plus the games, foods, sweets…
When writing about real people in memoir, it is necessary to let them know that you are writing something which may include them, but to soften this somewhat, I fictionalised the names of all my characters in the book. My family, which were the main group in my memoir, knew that the children were based on them. I had only two siblings to deal with here, and they were comfortable with my decisions (I believe), as I consulted them throughout. With fiction, I have sometimes based a character on someone I have observed, not actually known, whose characteristics, physicality, hair style or demeanour has taken my attention. But again, the characters; the setting and details of place need to be authentic, down to their mannerisms, quirks, speech patterns, etc. There’s that word again and one I can’t emphasis enough when it comes to writing interesting work which will capture a readers imagination.
It was great to speak alongside Caroline Barron that night. The audience liked what we had to say too; even saying it was a ‘stimulating’ session. Thanks Maria for asking us along.
Three stages of a drawing
I took some photos of a beautiful native Nikau palm while walking last week, which I felt compelled to draw as the bulb was large and particularly colourful. I needed a break from my writing, and the time to let new ideas gel, so I started the initial sketch yesterday and finished it today. Sometimes I wonder why I write or draw, as it often more difficult that first envisaged, or let’s just say, either art form can be hard work when in progress, but feels great when done. Similarly with the novel. You get an idea, sketch it out and keep going until the work’s finished. It’s just the tools which differ. The tools I used for this sketch are: artist-quality polychromos pencils. The colours: Apple green, permanent green, chrome oxide green, lemon cadmium, dark sepia, brown ochre, van dyke brown, Indian red, sky blue, and light grey.
All Sorts of Lives
Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) would be New Zealand’s best known writer of the short story. Thousands of students would have studied her in university; others would have read her just because she writes so well. I belong to both those camps. Katherine was born Kathleen Mansfield Beauchamp into a prosperous family, who lived in Tinakori Road, Wellington. She was bright, gifted in music and writing from an early age. But she felt a misfit in her family, thought her home ‘dull and claustrophobic’, and once she’d visited London as a teenager, yearned to live a liberated, and bohemian life, preferably abroad. She left for London on her own aged nineteen, became the writer she dreamed of being and never returned home. It is testament to her skill as a writer that we are still reading about her a hundred years after her death, and it is the book written to mark this centenary I especially wish to write about.
Visiting the past
The trip to Wellington last week catered for two needs; to see my friend Jayne, and to gather research for the book I am writing. Jayne and I met when I lived in the area many years ago. We had a lovely couple of days together, one of which involved Jayne offering to drive me around the areas I wished to research. So, we headed across town, through the ‘tooting’ tunnel and towards Lyall Bay – one of the places the protagonist of my novel lived in the 1970s. I’ve called her Marjorie and she is based on a very complex woman I used to know well. Back then she liked to be called Mother.
The artist and the wilted bouquet.
Sometimes the days are too filled, don’t you find? The past weeks certainly have been. There was the matter of extra people in the house, followed by my writing critique group Monday, which meant writing new scenes for my novel that I wished others to comment upon. Book Club was on Tuesday, and Wednesday I spent time with my daughter, as it was her penultimate day before departure. First thing today, I dropped her in the city, returned home and spent a number of hours cleaning up the place as tomorrow the plumber is coming early to fix our shower, and, someone is delivering a new bed. They are expected around 7am! And that’s early for a ‘retired’ ( or I should say ‘tired’) person like me.
Living with drama.
I mentioned in my last post that my daughter Lara was staying with me, as she is directing a show for the Auckland Theatre Company – opening night this coming Thursday. That is … if the shocking weather we are currently experiencing here doesn’t put pay to that. I could say, well it won’t be the first time a show has been cancelled, and some of you may even think, so what? I’ll give you some facts here: personal ones. My daughter is an actress and director of stage; whether it be a drama, comedy, or a play with music, as is the current show.
All people associated with theatre in New Zealand have had it exceptionally hard since Covid slipped through our borders. Every show starts way before the curtain goes up, with the programme planned, often years in advance, before the call goes out for auditions. With other careers, during Covid restrictions, many people were able to work from home, thus keeping some consistency of work flowing. For the performing arts sector; face to face auditions could not be held, which meant actors had to video their own audition pieces and send to the director or directors involved. And even if they were accepted for a role, there were no guarantees that the show would go ahead.
Little did we realise
My daughter was staying for a while as she is directing a stage show in Auckland, and suggested that she could mind Ninja, our tabby, should we wish to have a few days away. “Hawkes Bay,” Kerry and I said in unison and set about looking for accommodation. We booked a cottage in Clive, which is equi-distant between three centres; Napier, Hastings and Havelock North. Fabulous beaches, bike trails, wineries and food abound in this region – a five and a half hour drive from Auckland. The cottage was new though named Colonial, as it was built to look like the small wooden homes from the late 1800s. It was delightful, inside and out and the bed super comfy, especially since Ninja wasn’t hugging our space (don’t tell him).