A little more about the writing side of life

Vivienne Lingard & Caroline Barron

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.

The memoir of my father

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…

My book of short fiction

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.

The last from the back of the cupboard.


Gus Gull, gouache, on smooth illustration board

Yes, a continuation of the sea creatures I illustrated for the Save Our Seas book I wrote about three posts back. To recap, I was asked to sketch cartoon characters, paint small scenes, draw a myriad of sea creatures, and a few coastal scenes.I have chosen not to put all the remaining images in here, as it would make the post too long, but I hope you like the cross-section of artwork I’ve selected for this one.

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More from the back of the cupboard


This week thought I’d show you some illustrations from the other book I mentioned last week – Eco-Rangers Save The Planet: Earth-friendly missions for green kiwis, written by children’s author Maria Gill. This book is A5 size, and could be slipped into a back pocket. It’s full of ways young people can think about the their environment and finds ways to keep it healthy. I was asked to draw the two main characters first, and make the boy and girl a bit funky. The book was aimed at young teens, so I looked through a great Taschen book on recent illustrations to get an idea of styles. My work would be grades of back on white, with green and blue being the background print colours.

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From the back of a cupboard …


Whale: gouache on illustration board

Some years back, and before writing took hold of me, I illustrated several children books. One was Save Our Seas, by author Maria Gill, who tells a story about the marine environment in New Zealand, based on logbooks from Sir Peter Blake’s New Zealand voyages. I was especially pleased to be asked to illustrate this book, as I love wildlife. And I had around fifty separate illustrations to do.

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It won’t be long before the book comes out but…


Promo photo of me at home with books, of course.

I’m really happy to report that my book is now at the printers; I have managed a couple of days doing absolutely nothing except walking and being a slothful version of myself. Oh yes, there was the slightly stressful ‘having my photo taken’ exercise for publicity purposes. I had an idea of how I’d like the scene to be, but do not like having my picture taken. Thanks to my photographer daughter, who knows just what to say to relax the shoulders and get that grim mouth show a slight smile, worked her magic. I really do like the end result. Thank you Lara.

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Elizabeth and I met at High School, and have been friends ever since, and I am very pleased to be telling you about her recipe book Capers, not just because she is an exceptional cook, but because this recipe book is different from the usual. It is a kind of memoir, with each recipe marking a particular time, and meals shared with family and friends, in settings that span the globe.

She writes so well. For example, when describing the ‘casually impressive starter’, Bruschetta, Red Peppers and Cannellini Beans, as ‘Minimal, like a Paul Klee painting, with clean flavours and interesting textures’. We follow Elizabeth as she takes us to Jerusalem, and we walk down Salah al-Din Street to Damascus Gate where the village women gather with their wares and we breath in the fresh scents of mint, basil, tomatoes, cardamom… Yum.

That’s just the first recipe. With a story on one page and the recipe nearby, I turned the pages, enjoying the stories and the recipes created from my friend’s memories. In one, she observes her mother gorgeously dressed for a special party, holding aloft a tray of Choux savouries, her skirt, a field of poppies swirling. I’ve never made Choux savouries, but now I shall – using Elizabeth’s recipe, of course.

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An interesting encounter

Whenever I read a regular post by someone from Brittany, I am immediately taken back several years, when I met two men from that region. I had been staying with a friend in the fabulous Villefranche-sur-mer, on the southern French Coast, when she suggested we visit some nearby gardens she had spotted in a tourist magazine. Hanbury Gardens. Old, and of historic interest. The images looked beautiful, so I said “why not?” and we planned our trip for the next day, Saturday.

Me on left, all ready to go.

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Procrastination: my middle name


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 painting that found its way to me

Oil, by John Frederick Lingard Fowlds.

I was thrilled when my brother phoned a few weeks back to ask If I would like a painting of our Dad’s. It is an oil of the Hutt River looking towards the far hills and had hung on various walls of houses my mother had lived in since my father’s early death. When she died ten years ago, the painting came into my brother’s possession, and now, it has found its way to me. There is mention of this painting in my recent book The (almost) True Story of a Man Called Jack.

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A trip to the Naki: 1

oznorWith our lockdown almost over, Kerry and I got busy organising the trip to New Plymouth we had planned months before we’d heard the word Covid. Now were were in level 2, the government was urging Kiwis to travel within their own country; to help kick-start our local tourism industry, which had suffered with the border restrictions to overseas visitors. New Plymouth is within the Taranaki province (the Naki to Kiwis) and has many attractions. The most famous being its superb mountain; a mountain I’d only spotted from a distant road, or when I’d flown over the cone capturing a terrific birds eye view in a photo. Meaning always to go and walk around the foothills – sometime. That time had arrived! Continue reading