My Brilliant Friend

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I may have not read My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante if my friend Liz hadn’t passionately recommended it to me. I was down at the library to borrow it immediately. My reasons for haste were because I was going to stay with her in a couple of weeks and I wished to be prepared for the discussion about books and writing I knew we would have. Liz and I met as young teens, at school in the sixties, two clever but disaffected kids. Not unlike Lia and Lenù the main characters in Ferrante’s book, the first in her Neapolitan series, Book One: Childhood, Adolescence. Continue reading

If I hadn’t been keeping to my deadline, I would have…

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My sister Kath, Dad and me

I would have written more posts of an arty nature if I hadn’t been so busy keeping to a different kind of writing deadline. For those new to my posts, I began a story about my father a couple of years back and I was never diligent in keeping to the schedules I set myself. Well, finally I decided that enough was enough (see my post, Deadlines, Oct 25th). Yes, it’s true, an amazing thing, for I have been keeping to that self-set deadline, of finishing the draft of a novel by mid-January. I have found the going sluggish at times, not with the writing itself, but with the research and detail I need to keep this story authentic. Continue reading

From a novel to film to performance

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I read Owls Do Cry by New Zealander Janet Frame (1924-2004) when I was in my twenties. Not that that is remarkable. What is remarkable is her personal story, which translates into fiction through much of her work, and this novel is no exception. The setting is the coastal town of Oamaru where the ‘Withers’ family face many hardships, including money problems, mental health issues, a disabled child, death, and grief. It is a profound book, touching and disturbing, for when Frame writes about ‘Daphne’s’ experiences in psychiatric hospitals, she is speaking of herself. There are passages which float between the lucid and the wild but Janet Frames’ writing carries the reader into these worlds using  unique and brilliant prose. Continue reading

Off the page and into print

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typingI know many authors who have tried publishing their writing through various online sources, and have found the experience, difficult, tedious and frustratingly slow. It needn’t be that way.

It is my pleasure this week to welcome guest blogger Holly Dunn, who works in the world of writing, books, and independent publishing. She is just the person to help if you are thinking about publishing a book, whether it be a novel, short stories, essays, memoirs … Continue reading

A great idea does not always deliver a great outcome

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Hebei province by BenBenW licensed CC BY 2.0

I have already mentioned how much I enjoyed  Madeleine Thien’s book Do Not Say We Have Nothing (see post 29 July) but what it stirred in me was not just the plight of its characters and the awful choices they had to make, but the strength of the love which bound people together despite their dire circumstances. It reminded me of a novel that someone I know intimately wrote a few years ago, but left untouched, as she struggled to think of a way to correct the structure.  Continue reading

What should have been on my bookshelf.

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‘Do Not Say We Have Nothing’  is not a title supported by my new bookends, sadly enough, but it was on loan from my book group. The author of this moving novel is Canadian Madeleine Thien, and I am pleased that I was given the opportunity to read her work.

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Reading someone new to me

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My husband bought this book for me, having read a review online praising the writer. I have read many collections of short stories in my time, including the likes of  Katherine Mansfield, Doris Lessing, John Steinbeck, Janet Frame, Raymond Carver, and Alice Munro. Until I unwrapped the book and read the cover, this was the first time I’d met the author. Continue reading

Murakami

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Haruki Murakami

I have begun the year reading through the backlog of books which has been accumulating beside my bed. One I was keen to get to was the hefty tome of Haruki Murakami’s recent book, Killing Commendatore. But I let it sit, while I read one of his I’d been given earlier as a birthday present; Men without women. This book features seven short stories, plucked from various collections. It contained the wonderful prose and  wit, which I’d come to love from this great Japanese author. I have read a number of his novels and have kept all the titles I’ve read.  However, If I hadn’t been given a publication of his as a present years ago, I doubt that I’d have plucked one from a shelf. I like reality, the known; whereas Murakami is unafraid of having his characters venture into very different realms, and he has managed to entice me into those worlds, through his mesmerising prose.

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Setting the record straight.

coverLast week I had a folder of artwork returned to me from a publisher who was moving premises. It was the first book I had illustrated, and I never expected to see the illustrations again, as royalties were paid in advance, thus becoming the publisher’s property. I had enjoyed drawing the illustrations, which were of a young Vietnamese New Zealand girl. However, I had always held a gripe about the finished cover, showing an image which was not what I actually drew. I had drawn two images of the girl inside the plane, one at the beginning, minus the box, and the other at the end holding the box. Both images I drew with the girl’s eyes shut. So what had happened here? Continue reading