I was extremely lucky to be selected as a writer for the 2021 Dunedin Writers & Readers Festival, and have spent a magical few days immersed in reading and writing. Here are some brief and rough notes from the sessions I attended...
Women, Past & Present - What do they have to tell us about the future?
Shona Riddell, Steff Green, Hannah Parry and Angela Wanhalla spoke to this theme, in a session hosted by the wonderful Majella Cullinane. The speakers were all excellent. Angela read some moving letters from the wahine of our past, who had petitioned eloquently for social change. At the other end of the seriousness spectrum, Steff Green delivered hilarious imagined 'I'm a feminist, but' moments of badass historical women.
Seeds of Poetry workshop with Emma Neale
It seemed as though Emma could have continued setting us exercises all day, and I think we would all have stayed all day if we could have! I'm certainly no poet, but this was an engaging and inspiring session.
NZ Crime - What's going on?
Rob Kidd spoke to guests Jared Savage and Steve Braunias. A funny and edgy session filled with tall tales.
Some (no doubt poorly-recorded) pieces of wisdom from Steve:
"People want to tell you their stories"
"Writing is difficult - you are led on by a lovely mirage. Ripples in the air lead you toward a pond, which is a good sentence. I write one sentence at a time, from beginning to end, one sentence after another."
"Crime is often a series of mistakes."
The writers were asked if they are inspired by crime fiction authors - Steve said he is inspired by Patricia Highsmith, in particular, her book The Blunderer.
Steve told a fantastic story about how he clings onto courtroom walls like a lizard, and gave us hilarious and poignant insights into the life and times of Colin Craig.
Writing romance in the 21st century
Nalini Singh, Steff Green, Jayne Castel and Susan Sims discussed sexism, business, favourite tropes (reverse harem, enemies to lovers, friends to lovers), hated tropes (secret baby) and much more in a joyful session that had me wanting to join the Romance Writers Society of NZ immediately. (Also, I want to know more about tropes!) The authors spoke of their joy of writing, how the genre romance is all about hope and emotion, and how it gives readers the opportunity to feel the feelings of falling in love. They also provided some good tips for avoiding carpal tunnel (mechanical keyboards and compression gloves were recommended).
Rocketing to Fame
A wonderful conversation between Becky Manawatu and Lynn Freeman. Becky read a draft passage from the novel that she is currently working on. It was excellent.
Story Time Double Decker Bus
My session! I was paired with the incredible Swapna Haddow in Olveston Historic Home where we read stories to two double decker busloads of children. Meanwhile, Emma Wood and Melissa Boardman read stories from the other stop at Railway Station Atrium. Afterwards we all came together to hear songs from Kaitrin McMullan. Heaps of fun!
Decolonisation - Activating Allies
This powerful and challenging session had me rushing out to buy the Imagining Decolonisation book afterwards - but it had already sold out! Not to worry, I picked up Remote Sympathy and Oink instead - and I'll come back for Imagining Decolonisation later.
Thank you so much to the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival organisers, supporters and volunteers for such a fabulous event.
I'm excited to be participating in two iconic Dunedin events - the Fringe Festival and the Writers Festival! The MEOW Poetry Evening promises to be an evening filled with cat poetry and cat art (entry is by donation to Dunedin Cat Rescue), and the Story Time Double Decker Bus will be a wonderful morning for the young and young at heart.
MEOW Poetry Evening
Dunedin Fringe Festival
7pm, Thursday 25 March
Otago Art Society, Dunedin Railway Station
View the Facebook event here.
Story Time Double Decker Bus
Dunedin Writers Festival
9am, Sunday 9 May
Departs Dunedin Botanic Garden
Climb aboard the Story Time Double Decker Bus for a Sunday morning adventure with your wee ones, with stories galore read by Melissa Boardman, Emma Wood, Swapna Haddow - and me!
View the event details here.
Image by Nicole Pankalla from Pixabay.
Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival write-up: Zine Scene, Introduction to Gecko Press, Picturing Words and Wording Pictures, It’s Personal
What a weekend of fan-girling and inspiration! It kicked off at Friday’s Zine Scene where one of my niece’s zines (about a boy trying to hold in a fart) had been shortlisted by Kate De Goldi and Paul Beavis. Although the event was aimed at kids I got heaps out of it too. Paul said, “Work small, work fast and don’t be afraid to throw things out,” and Kate talked about the importance of noting down all those moments you experience and thoughts that come to you and referring back to them for writing ideas later. Paul also told the story of getting Mrs Mo’s Monster published. It took him seven years and involved many, many rejection letters and re-workings. He managed to make this terrifying story funny and inspiring!
Saturday was a glorious Port Chalmers morning, made all the better by Julia Marshall of Gecko Press who gave a talk at Port Chalmers Library. It was wonderful to get better acquainted with Gecko books, which are primarily translations of the best of the world’s non-English books. Julia talked about the difference in tone in tenor of books that come from other countries, including trends towards more ambiguous endings and heavier themes. Julia is a fan of the ‘triple twist’ in a story – neatly illustrated by a deliciously pared-back book about a girl following a line that is being drawn by her older brother. (Gecko is currently running a PledgeMe which you can check out here.)
Then it was into town where I picked up Rants in the Dark by Emily Writes (promptly devoured and already lent to a mum friend) and Can you Tolerate This by Ashleigh Young which I cannot wait to read.
Picturing Words and Wording Pictures featured three writer / illustrators: David Elliot (who happens to live just down the road from me and who was gracious enough to let me visit his studio a while back), Paul Beavis (who had really impressed me at Zine Scene) and Sarah Laing (total goddess). These three giants had some excellent tips to share. Paul talked about 'three' being the magic number. He said you could break almost every spread down into a ‘beginning, middle and end’. He also spoke of the power of using a triangle as a composition device. David said he gets intrigued by characters and keeps drawing them as he develops them. Sometimes the characters hijack his story ideas and he follows them where they want to go. Sarah recommended working in a cinematic style – letting the images tell as much of the story as possible.
Today I went to It’s Personal featuring Adam Dudding, Ashleigh Young, Sarah Laing and Hera Lindsay Bird. Adam said he admired first person journalists and he believes that intimate or quirky details make writing interesting and honest. He also said that divulging some less-than-flattering secrets about yourself can make you feel better about sharing other people’s stories.
Key takeaways for me – keep up the journal work... and consider getting some graphic design training!
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.