- I passed the first part of my doctorate
- I was shortlisted for the Surrey Hotel Steve Braunias Memorial Residency
- My stories 'Good Dog' and 'Continuation of the Species' were selected for publication in The Valley Review
- I didn't win a residency ... but Mr Steve Braunias himself did describe me as "real funny and super talented" (evidence here)
What a strange, fun and stressful week it's been!
Although it sounds a bit like some kind of swearword, 'Complete MS' is actually an abbreviation of 'Complete Manuscript Assessment'. Being a recipient of the programme means being matched with a literary guru who reads your manuscript and provides feedback on your work.
This year thirteen lucky writers were beneficiaries of the programme - and I was one of them!
The assessment couldn't have come at a better time for me. I was putting the finishing touches on my short story collection, Pet, and it was exciting to print out the full manuscript, get it boxed up and send it off to Auckland, not knowing who would read it or if they would like the cut of my jib.
I included a brief cover letter for my assessor, asking for specific feedback on:
A few short weeks later I received a detailed eight-page report filled with suggestions and advice. I received useful feedback on the above points and many more. I also had a Skype meeting with my lovely assessor where we discussed the feedback in more detail.
As a result of the assessment I have a bit further to go before submitting my manuscript to publishers, but I have an eight-page road map to help me get there.
The changes I have made, or am making, include:
As a result of my Complete MS experience I feel confident that my collection will be stronger and more professional when I do pitch it to publishers. My assessor has also left me feeling hopeful that I am on the right track with my writing.
A huge thank you to my assessor, and to the New Zealand Society of Authors (who run the Complete MS programme) for this opportunity.
Find out more about the Complete MS Programme.
Meet the other 2019 programme recipients.
Over the next little while I'll jot down some of the ideas that the lessons are sparking in me. I am really enjoying being introduced to so many other great works and writers through Joyce Carol Oates. I think this course will also provide a lot of beneficial insights that will form part of my doctoral study.
Lesson one: Introduction
Lesson two: Principles of writing short fiction
That's a lot more homework than we had in the first session!
I am going to give myself a tick for the fifth exercise because I regularly seek feedback on my work.
I'll report back on the rest of the homework in my next MasterClass post!
It's been a delightful two weeks at Eramboo Artist Environment in Sydney Australia's Terrey Hills. I've written the final short story for my collection, Pet, and I've re-drafted a couple more. I put the finishing touches on the stories I co-wrote with Dunedin school children as part of the Little Landers programme earlier this year, and I've also done some work on a Port Chalmers project I'm involved with. So, it's been a pretty productive two weeks!
It's also been nice to have the chance to do some reading. I've read two and a bit books, Billy Bird by Emma Neale (a beautiful, inventively-written novel about a marriage in crisis - excellent), Evie's War by Anna McKenzie (a meticulously-researched young adult WWII novel - also excellent) and I've made a start on The Omnivore's Dilemma (absolutely horrifying, but also excellent).
I would highly recommend Eramboo to any writers or artists looking for a beautiful, affordable and inspiring environment in which to develop creative work. We've had the use of a studio bedroom with a little desk in it, and also the use of 'the teaching space' - a long, sunny room with desks, a couch and a well-stocked bookcase. There's also a gallery space, which I've been able to use as a Pilates space in the mornings. There are wallabies in the garden, along with an incredible collection of birds including kookaburra, cockatoos, magpies and our favourite, the cheeky butcherbird. If you're lucky, the friendly brush turkey might also function as your alarm clock by scrabbling around on the porch with its dinosaur claws.
Several artists have permanent studio spaces here, and everyone we've met has been welcoming and kind.
The township of Mona Vale is a relatively short drive away, and features an art supply shop, a great library (where you can do printing) and an excellent bookshop. Mona Vale beach is worth a visit, as is the glorious Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. It's also fairly accessible to central Sydney, and we spent a weekend in the city soaking up the art galleries and an opera.
A culture shock warning for fellow kiwis - I've never before stayed at a place where I couldn't just go for a stroll when I needed to stretch my legs. Eramboo is on a fairly busy network of roads with no footpaths, and we couldn't find any walks nearby. Having to get in a car to go for a walk was an adjustment - and the best walking spot we found was the National Park, which has a $12 entry fee. (Totally worth it, but not very sustainable for repeat visits.) Be sure to hire a car, otherwise you might find yourself going a bit stir-crazy.
However, we've still managed to see beautiful sights, have cultural experiences and do plenty of our own creative work - and we leave this beautiful environment feeling thoroughly inspired.
Thank you, Eramboo!
I've popped over the ditch to experience the Sydney winter for a couple of weeks (it's not dissimilar to the Dunedin summer!). I'm staying at Eramboo Artist Environment, which is a wonderful facility in Terrey Hills, near Sydney's northern beaches. I can't get over the incredible variety of birds here - and the incredible variety of creepy crawlies! Apparently the artists share this space with a goanna and a python, along with a magnificent kookaburra, a friendly butcherbird, several intrepid bush turkeys and the ever-present cockatoos.
Find out more about Eramboo Artist Environment.
While I'm here I'm completing what will (hopefully) be the final short story for my collection, Pet. I'll also polish up a couple of older stories, and do a couple of other writing tasks too.
Opening with award-winning story Emotional Support Animal (Sunday Star-Times), Pet is a collection of literary short stories. Each story peels a different layer of meaning from the word ‘pet’, and the collection addresses themes of captivity, animal attraction and pack mentality. The tone of the collection is contemporary and darkly humorous. The stories are not afraid to peer beneath the stone pillars of culture and confront what is wriggling beneath. Stories from Pet have been, or will be, published in Takahē, Fresh Ink, The Sunday Star-Times, Mindfood Magazine, Headland, Bonsai and Pot Roast. Kathryn is the ‘momager’ of one of New Zealand’s most famous pets, Bruce the Cat, about whom she wrote the children’s book Bruce Finds A Home.
I had a really special morning on Saturday reading Bruce Finds A Home to the kids at Blueskin Bay Library. We heard another reading about a lost cat needing to find its home, and some lovely volunteers from Dunedin Cat Rescue came along and talked to kids too. Then the kids coloured in some Bruce colouring sheets. They did a great job of colouring in the sky, with beautiful Dunedin sunrises making quite an appearance, along with a wonderful Matariki star cluster.
I bought a fundraising catnip toy for our cat Jager (Bruce's 'big sister', and also a rescue cat) and she's was absolutely delighted with it.
I was honoured to be asked to read at Ōtepoti's National Flash Fiction Day today, where a group of local writers celebrated the shortest day by reading some extremely short fiction - the winners of the Flash Fiction and MIcro Madness competitions.
I read the Micro Madness piece Donor, by Tim Saunders from Palmerston North. I chose to read Tim's piece because there were shades of human / animal connection, a hint of death and a sense of history and future all contained in 46 words.
You can read all of the top Micro Madness stories here.
The Micro Madness winner, Susan Wardell, read her winning story Tī kōuka to us.
I also had the opportunity to read Over the Fields from Ballyturin House, 1921, by Rose Collins from Canterbury. Rose won second prize in the flash fiction competition for her mysterious and haunting story about an IRA ambush in Ireland. Tim Saunders came third, and I really enjoyed his dark yet humorous story, T is for Tiger.
The full list of winners can be found here.
It was a real treat hearing so many stories written, and read by, so many different writers.
A huge thank you to the wonderful Iona Winter for organising the event. Thank you also to Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature, Otago University Press, Dunedin Libraries, the University Book Shop, and everyone else who contributed to the day. I'm already looking forward to next year's event!
This year the New Zealand Society of Authors AGM was held in beautiful Dunedin. I attended the afternoon sessions at the library - here are my rough notes.
To podcast or YouTube – getting your voice out there: Vanda Symon
Thanks, but no thanks – why agents turn people down: Chris Else
Getting the good word on copyright: Paula Browning
Te Reo in your writing – a when to, how to guide: Iona Winter
What a weekend! I was fortunate to attend three Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival events (I would have liked to have gone to thirty!) and I've had a wonderful time catching up with friends, meeting people and learning new things.
Gala Showcase: Distracted
The writers seemed a little distracted from the theme of distraction, but the evening was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Akala, John Boyne, Marcus Zusak, Clementine Ford, Tina Makereti and Chris Tse, and to be entertained by MC Michele A'Court. None of the writers really addressed 'guarding creative space amid today's digital noise', but instead spoke on their own passions and obsessions, which was just as interesting.
Point of view: workshop with Paula Morris
In this workshop we learnt how to choose and use a point of view to dramatic advantage. Here are some rough notes:
Short, Shorter, Shortest
With Paula Morris, Iona Winter and Michael Harlow. Chaired by Maxine Alterio.
This was a delightful event. Below, some no doubt very poorly-summarised notes:
I have already read Iona's wonderful book 'Then the Wind Came'. I picked up a copy of Paula's 'False River' at the festival, and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it.
A huge thank you to the festival team for organising such a wonderful series of events for Dunedin writers and readers.
My short fiction has been published in Headland, Hue and Cry, Pot Roast and Aerodrome. I'm an award-winning playwright and zine creator, and my play Indiscretions was published by Playmarket. I have contributed articles and creative non-fiction to The Spinoff, The Sunday Star Times, The NZ Herald and more. I also manage the social media for my cat Bruce, and I wrote and illustrated a children's book, Bruce Finds A Home, based on his exploits.