Why do you stop reading a book?

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Recently I struggled to finish a newly published book of short stories, which surprised me, as it had received reasonable reviews. The storylines were okay, but weren’t dynamic, and the characters didn’t draw me in. I just didn’t like all twenty of the stories, apart from one.

I was bewailing my dislike of this book to a writing friend, who told me I’d love Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies, a collection of short stories, and lent it to me.

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The Elegance of the Hedgehog

We were thrust into level 4 Covid lockdown and I found myself without a book to read, and, libraries were closed. The thought of it! Thank goodness for Gabby, who said she would swap books with me. I put The Midnight Library (recently read) into a wee bag and walked (mask on) the few blocks to her letterbox and popped it inside. That afternoon, she did the same for me, and left The Elegance of the Hedgehog at my front door.

The title was intriguing. The setting was Paris, a favourite city. It didn’t take me long to start reading. Except the ruminating on Marx at the start almost made my head spin. But when the protagonist Renée introduced herself on page 15, I was hooked. 

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Editing: keeping it interesting

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A writer at work

I am currently in the process of reading through twenty-one of my short story manuscripts, following my reader’s track-change suggestions. As Suzanne is very good at her work, I mostly click ‘approve’, and keep scrolling for the next comment. I always re-read the work after this initial browse, in case I find any small thing I think will improve the flow, or a word which now seems inappropriate. Why would you change anything at this stage, you might be thinking? Well, it is because these stories span ten years of writing, and some of those early ones may still require more ‘tightening’.

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Procrastination: my middle name

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oz

Yes, well, Procrastination, I think, must be my middle name. That’s me above, procrastinating. A month back, I was anguishing over how to progress with my new novel, having written several pages and coming to a halt. So, I began collecting more background material, and that helped to a point. I wrote approximately one more page. I had begun writing in 1st person perspective, and was fairly happy with that choice.Then I began wondering whether 1st person would give me the depth of insight I wanted from other characters. So, I changed what I’d written to 3rd person, and stopped. Why? Because I decided to write an article about libraries back in the day. That’s awaiting an edit. Following that, I re-edited a collection of twenty short stories I’d written over the years. My reasoning was, why start a new story when I already had a novel-length book waiting in the wings? Good. Finally I was focussed on one thing!

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The Upper Hutt Library and me

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The delivery of crated books to the new library, September 1956

Since leaving my last post unfinished, I have been travelling in the South Island, and look forward to sharing those exploits next time. To recap, the last library photo shown was the disassembling of the old upstairs library in September 1956. The image above is the relocation of the new library in the main street: it is this reincarnation I would visit for many years to come.

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The Tally Stick

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Tally Stick: historical piece of wood scored across with notches for the items of an account and then spit into halves, each party keeping one. 

I had been aware of the stack of Carl Nixon’s latest book every time I visited Paradox Books, a terrific bookstore just across the road from my home. I had a backlog of books to read, and was at the end of that pile when I decided it was time that I took The Tally Stick home. And was I pleased that I did! 

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Now and Then

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It’s been full-on since my Wellington book launch; fielding enquiries regarding the purchase of my book while preparing for a second launch at the Depot Artspace where I volunteer. This is because I am not only author and publisher of my book, but also the promoter and distributor – jobs I am learning the skills for experientially. It’s been a learning curve, that’s for sure, but I am improving with each transaction.

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“The (almost) true story of a man called Jack” has its launch

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Circa Theatre, Wellington

I’ve been tardy with my posts but with good reason: totally absorbed with organising the launch of my book – The (almost) true story of a man called Jack. Last week saw me driving down to Wellington, where I had hired a venue; a convenient site for family and friends from around that region, as that is where my family is from, and the story was set. After messed up flight bookings we ended up driving the length of the island; not a long trip if you compare NZ with say, Australia or the US. But long for me, with the boxes of books in the back seat, tired, a bit anxious, but as keen as mustard to release my book to those who knew me well. Continue reading

What’s in a name?

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rbt

Clockwise from top: Jack, Kathleen, Colin, Beverley, James, Sophia

A relative of mine thought it strange that I would write my father’s story as fiction. It makes sense to me, I told her, as he was with us for just a few years, and I was looking back on our time together from many years later. What would the truth be, if I wrote the work as non-fiction? I had to call on my memory as a child to put together the essence of my father’s  life, and to also borrow my siblings’ memories to complement my own. It is known that memory is both fallible and selective and fiction is always based on some version of fact. Continue reading

I’ve pushed my manuscript into the ether

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bundled manuscript

It may seem relatively simple to write a novel-length work, and send it to a publisher for the printing etc, and sit back and wait until – voila, there the book is, all newly minted and looking gorgeous. It’s not quite that simple for a memoir-style book which requires images as well as text and this was something I’d not thought too much about as I focussed on the writing. Continue reading