I received a shout-out from Landfall literary journal in their review of Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand, which I have a story in.
"Colloquial and casually brutal dialogue is deployed to devastating effect by Kathryn van Beek in ‘Women’s studies’. Working as a cleaner in ‘Femme Fatale’ to finance her university studies, van Beek’s protagonist vacuums as unobtrusively as possible around the workers and clients. In the process she witnesses scenes that are sometimes shocking in their strangeness."
You can read the full review here.
Thankfully, the Stevie Nicks of New Zealand's literary scene disappeared before I was able to prostrate myself before her leather boots.
The book launch for Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand featured wine and cheese, friendly people, lively discussion and Tracey Slaughter.
If you're not familiar with her work, here's a taster - the wonderful short story The Names In The Garden. And if you're up for something a little more adult, here's Postcards Are A Thing Of The Past, which was just named runner-up for The Moth Short Story Prize.
Tracey Slaughter isn't the only rock star I've been thinking about lately. Ever since I heard the news that Jenny Morris is being inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame, her song Tears has been repeating in my head. If you haven't seen the music video, do yourself a favour and check it out.
I've also been listening to the audiobook of Man's Search for Meaning by Psychiatrist and Holocaust-survivor Viktor Frankl. To lighten the mood I've been dipping into The Bachelor Australia, but unfortunately this season's more horror than romance.
Along with reading Bonsai I'm reading The Best American Essays of 2017. The most powerful so far is Eliese Colette Goldbach's White Horse. If you're interested, you can read it online.
I'm also branching out with my food choices. Over the weekend several Creative Hub alumni came out for a mini retreat and we spent our time writing, walking, getting feedback on our project pitches and eating wasabi KitKats.
It may sound as though I'm caught in a hedonistic loop of partying, reading and hero-worship. but I'm also making good progress towards my creative goals. I've written two first drafts of short stories, which I think is a good effort.
The drawing hasn't been going quite as well. I'm aiming to complete a Bruce book picture a week, but in the first picture the characters were smudgy and misshapen and I had to start all over again.
I'm also suffering from a severe case of impostor syndrome that's keeping me awake at night. The side of myself that wants to achieve as a writer appears to be at war with the side of myself that thinks I'm a munter for trying.
Perhaps the amount of good writing I'm reading is giving me performance anxiety. Maybe it's time to stop reading so much Tracey Slaughter and start scouring the 'world's worst books' lists. I hear there's a series about sparkly vampires I haven't read.
Thank you to The Creative Hub and Earthskin Retreat for the opportunity to undertake this residency.
Just when I thought my birthday haul couldn't get any better, a copy of Bonsai: Best small stories from Aotearoa New Zealand was slipped into my letterbox. My story Women's Studies is among the 200 or so short, short stories featured in the anthology, which also includes work by Tracey Slaughter, Leanne Radojkovich, Zoe Meager, Owen Marshall and many other of my favourite authors.
Also - how much am I looking forward to reading Baby, The New Animals and Hera Lindsay Bird?
2023 Burns fellow Kathryn van Beek has an MA from Victoria University Wellington - Te Herenga Waka’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She is a winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Prize. Her collection of short stories, Pet, is available as a podcast, and her work has also appeared in Overland, takahē, Newsroom, and the Sunday Star-Times. She lives in UNESCO City of Literature Ōtepoti Dunedin with her two rescue cats.