I'm coming to the end of my writing retreat in beautiful Moeraki.
I spent the first day revising a long short story, the next couple of days writing a humorous short story, and over the past few days I've worked up ideas for something that might become a bit longer.
A writer friend of mine stayed with me for the last two nights and we had loads of fun sharing story ideas and going on missions to the Katiki Point lighthouse (didn't see any penguins but saw loads of seals) and small settlement the Kaika ... and out for dinner at Fleur's Place seafood restaurant (luckily for us, they also have an excellent vegetarian menu).
It will be great to go home but I'll really miss the sound of the sea, the incredible, ever-changing views, and the abundance of creatures - from the baby silvereye that flew inside my crib, to the goose I spotted wandering down to the sea and going for a dip, to the absurd numbers of rabbits (you might round a corner and see ten of them sitting completely still in a clearing, as though they're holding some kind of bunny freemason convention), to the spotted shags and oyster catchers and pied stilts ... and of course the kekeno (fur seals).
In the meantime, I have a challenge set by the owners of the place I'm staying in - to eat as many of the courgettes from the garden as I can before leaving.
I'm two days into a week-long writing retreat in a quirky little crib in the pretty fishing town of Moeraki, where I'm working on some stories for a new collection.
I've been writing a fishing story called Sea Legend, and I'm in the perfect spot for a re-edit, with a view out over the sea from the table on the porch. As I worked on the story last year I had research help from a skipper and a former fisherman. The fisherman has stayed in touch and I sent him a copy of the story yesterday. He read it and came back with a couple of notes on gutting fish, but also very kindly said, "The feel of the story seems to match the experiences I had, the banter etc."
Whew, I didn't read The Catch, Into the Raging Sea, The Old Man and the Sea, Song of The Sea, Last Man Off, Trawler and The Perfect Storm, and watch about 77,000 YouTube videos for nothing! (The Perfect Storm and The Old Man and the Sea are both excellent. As for the YouTube videos, there are so many crazy sea videos out there and they're just fascinating. There is some terrifying footage of ships struggling on huge swells. But this timelapse of sunsets and sunrises at sea is very beautiful and soothing.)
Today I started working on a curious little story inspired by a recent hedgehog rescue. Hopefully by the end of tomorrow I'll have a sense of whether or not it's worth pursuing.
I also had a chat with director Charlotte Wanhill about a possible second season of web series Misconceptions, and I submitted a funding application for support writing that second collection of short stories. Fingers crossed!
Here's a sneak peek at what I'm working on...
I often write about topics that alarm me – climate change, animal cruelty, inequality, misogyny. As a result, the overall tone of Pet was one of ‘unease’, and I would like my next work to be more uplifting. Delight is joyous, hopeful, seductive. Bad deeds are punished, good deeds rewarded, and the beauty of nature abounds. Mythical creatures such as the Canterbury Panther share the pages with everyday wonders such as Queen bees, spotted toadstools and wild strawberries. In these stories the ‘goodies’ usually win and the villains – including an inconsiderate netball player and a lawbreaking skipper – get their just desserts.
What a roller-coaster ride the past few weeks have been!
Changing Covid-19 alert levels put paid to my book launch plans - but luckily Newsroom (and No.1 Family Estate Wine) came to the party with an online book launch!
You can check it out here.
Sophia from Mary Egan Publishing (and dog, Gus) even recorded a special launch speech, above.
The Pet podcast is also available now! Thanks to OAR FM, Creative New Zealand and NZ On Air, the podcast is available via your favourite podcast app - and from the OAR FM website here.
Thanks to ace publicist Sarah Thornton, the books have been getting some great media coverage too. If you're interested, you can check out these articles:
Where to find a copy
If you'd like to get your own copy of Pet, you should be able to find it at your local bookstore. Otherwise, you can get it online from a number of outlets, including:
We've cancelled the Dunedin book and podcast launch for my short story collection Pet due to Covid-19 alert level uncertainty - but never fear, Newsroom has come to the rescue with an online launch, and there will even be goodie bags!
Yes, I have figured out how to have wine and chocolate at an online event!
The link to the online festivities will be shared on the night. Hope to 'see' you there!
Join the Facebook event for updates.
Above: If you think I look tired in this photo, you're right! It was taken the night the crowdfunding campaigns finished.
Thanks to the support of incredibly generous people from around Aotearoa and the world, my crowdfunding campaigns were successful and this month Bruce Goes Outside and Pet are both being released into the world!
With any luck, the book launches for both books will go ahead in both Dunedin and Auckland. Everyone is welcome to attend. Click the links below to find the Facebook events.
Bruce Goes Outside: Dunedin
10.30am Saturday 15 August, University Book Shop
Featuring face painting and colouring-in
5.30pm Tuesday 25 August, University Book Shop
Featuring wine, cheese, and performances from the Pet Podcast actors
5.30pm Friday 28 August, Time Out Bookstore
Featuring wine, cheese, and performances from the Pet Podcast actors
Bruce Goes Outside: Auckland
11am Saturday 15 August, Dorothy Butler Children's Book Shop
Featuring face painting and colouring-in
I think I must be the luckiest writer in the world because I have not one but TWO books available for pre-order now!
Music by bensound.com.
Lockdown was no barrier for award-winning Port Chalmers writer and illustrator Kathryn van Beek, who has two new books available for pre-order from Thursday 18 June.
“Lockdown didn’t make too much of a difference to me because I would have spent my evenings and weekends inside working on the books anyway,” Kathryn says. “Being a bit of a nerd worked in my favour!”
Both books will be launched in August in collaboration with The University Book Shop – but that’s where the similarities between them end.
Bruce Goes Outside is an illustrated children’s book. The second in a series about Dunedin’s most famous cat (Bruce, who has 74,000 online fans), the book shares messages of kindness and standing up for what’s right. The first book in the series, Bruce Finds A Home, was selected for the Little Landers Literature programme with The Highlanders, and is described by NZ Booklovers as “a wonderful addition to any child’s bookshelf”. Quality approved by the children at Port Chalmers School, Bruce Goes Outside promises to be just as delightful, and can be pre-ordered here on the Kickstarter website.
Kathryn admits she never thought a story about going outside would be so topical.
“After lockdown I think we can all relate to Bruce’s joy, fear and excitement as he explores the big, wide world.”
Pet is an illustrated collection of literary short stories that is definitely not for kids. Described by Steve Braunias as, “Hectic, chatty, very modern New Zealand, very, very readable,” the dark and humorous stories explore our relationships with children, lovers, and other animals. Pet can be pre-ordered here on the PledgeMe website.
Kathryn has been honing her craft as a short story writer for years – winning the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Short Story Prize along the way.
“It seemed strange not to acknowledge the global pandemic in the collection, so at the last minute I sneaked in a micro story about lockdown,” Kathryn says. “In a nod to all the birdsong I’d been hearing, I illustrated the story with a soaring welcome swallow.”
Kathryn says that both Pet and Bruce Goes Outside have been labours of love.
“I’d actually started working on Pet before my life was turned upside-down by finding Bruce as a day-old kitten on the side of the road almost five years ago,” Kathryn says. “I’m thrilled that I’m finally able to share both of these books with the wider community.”
Exclusive rewards are on offer for those who pre-order, including quality art prints and beautiful book plates (printed locally in Port Chalmers by DigiArt and Design). People can also choose to donate copies of Bruce Goes Outside to support the fundraising efforts of the Cat Rescue Network Dunedin, a charitable trust committed to helping stray and abandoned cats and kittens.
Get your copy
Bruce Goes Outside is proudly supported by Pet Doors R Us, Olive’s Kitchen’s Moggy Daily, and BlackCat Education.
Thank you to everyone who got in touch - about 150 people! Applications are now closed - I hope to get back to everyone within the next week or two.
I’m looking for actors / voice artists! My first collection of short stories, Pet, is being released this August – and I’m thrilled to have received Creative New Zealand funding to turn the stories into a podcast series.
About the book
Pet is a dark and humorous short story collection that explores our relationships with children, lovers, and other animals.
“Hectic, chatty, very modern New Zealand, very, very readable.”
About the podcast
The podcast will be made with Otago Access Radio in Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature. It will be available free via OAR FM and the usual podcast platforms.
Seeking actors / voice artists
I am looking for actors to read the stories for the podcast series. Payment is $25 per page, and the stories range from one to several pages long.
The podcast will be recorded at OAR FM, where social distancing and hygiene measures will be in place. The recordings will be undertaken in business hours during June and July.
In some cases it may be possible for actors to record themselves in home studios – however we would prefer to do the recordings in the OAR studio to ensure consistent quality.
There are 17 stories, I would love to have a wide range of different voices featured across the series – so if this opportunity tickles your fancy, please get in touch.
Expressions of interest
Expressions of interest can be sent to me at email@example.com. Please send me your name, contact details, and if possible, links to your past work. Please let me know if you are able to record in the OAR FM studio or if you would like to be considered for an off-site recording, and if so, what recording gear you have access to.
Not all of the stories are dark, but some of them do cover animal abuse and sexual violence. Please let me know if you are comfortable with reading darker stories or if you would prefer a lighter one. I will try to match each actor with the story that works best for them.
Photo by Sunyu Kim on Unsplash
An accomplished short story writer, Kathryn is the author of short story collection Pet, and the winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Short Story Prize.