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.