Short Story Competition – Third Place

Congratulations to Anna Granger who came third in the NorthWrite 2018 Short Story Competition. Here is her story. The winner’s story is available here and the second place story is here. Judges’ comments can be found here.

The Promise
by Anna Granger

Last summer I found myself dreaming of Cristina. I’d see her floundering behind the breakers and I’d dive into the sea to find her, but she was always just out of reach, the current carrying her further away. And when I woke I could still smell the kelp and feel the salt stinging my eyes.

When the dreams wouldn’t stop, I went back up north. I took a bottle of cherry brandy and a few things in a bag and drove all day to get there. Now the winding road to the coast was sealed instead of sandy, and the pine forests were bigger and darker. In the reedy swamps, skinny dairy cows grazed strips between black-water ditches. Near the beach there were more houses than before. Most of the little baches, with their tiny porches, crumbly curtains and rutted sandy lawns, were gone, and around every corner there was another beige box with tinted windows and a gleaming four-wheel drive parked outside.

The beach store was still there, but the wooden porch was now a slab of concrete studded with faded umbrellas. The bay windows painted with ads for Meadowgold ice cream and De Reszke cigarettes were gone and the whole shop front was a sheet of salt spattered glass advertising takeaways and movies. I parked by a cluster of white plastic chairs and went inside. A lonely-faced woman was wiping the counter. I was the only customer. I was going to ask if she knew my Uncle Frank, if he still sold manuka chips, and firewood, and bags of lemons. If he still shod peoples’ horses and fixed their lawnmowers and drove the school bus, and if he still made wine. But instead I grabbed a local paper and some water.

 “I’ll have these, thanks,” I said to the woman. “And a packet of De Reszke.”

She stared at me. “What are they? Some sort of biscuit?” A trickle of sweat ran down her forehead. It was a mean trick and I laughed out loud, but I wanted to cry.

“Sorry,” I said, turning to leave. “I’m really sorry…”

Only the beach hadn’t changed, rolling away up the coast, looking like a distant memory.

 

Out on the back road behind the dunes I found the house still there. What paint was left on the weatherboards now hung in chalky white flakes. Purple morning glory spread over one wall and hops climbed up the veranda posts, dropping a curly green curtain over the front porch. The lemon trees were covered in shaggy lichen and grapevine rampaged over the sheds and fences. I called out, but I guessed nobody would come. And when the cicadas stopped for a moment there was nothing but the roar of the ocean and the empty feeling inside me. Nobody could be living here anymore. I kicked the gate. It swung open and I went in, for a last look.

Uncle Frank sat on a dirty orange sofa on the sagging porch. When you don’t see a man for half a lifetime, you can expect him to be changed. He was small and brown, wrinkled like the last potato at the bottom of the sack. His thick white hair was chopped short and sticking straight up. He wore ragged overalls with food stains down the front and cut-down gumboots.

I struggled to get my breath for a moment. “Hello, Uncle,” I said. He stared blankly at me, then leaned forward, little cloudy eyes squinting behind thick spectacles that were mended all over with grubby sticking plasters. I stepped closer and leaned forward too, then he grinned and I saw several yellow teeth.

“Ben! Is it Ben? Yes? Haha! Look at you now! It is good to see you, very good, very good!” He was trying to stand, so I jumped the step onto the porch and helped him up.

“Cristina isn’t here,” he said, taking my hand and getting to his feet with a grunt, all hunched up and twisting his head sideways to see me. “But come in, come in, and I will make us some tea.” His hand squeezed mine before letting go to grope for his stick leaning on the wall. He walked bent over at the waist, shuffling down the short hallway to the kitchen. I followed him and saw that everything was the same, but coated with a grey layer of dust. The ceiling was draped in black swaying cobwebs and the walls were dingy with soot from the coal range. I thought I should be smelling fried fish and lemons, but instead there was the stink of old clothes and garbage.

Uncle Frank leaned over the stone-chip sink bench, which was piled with rotting potato peelings, tea leaves and empty sardine tins. He filled a kettle, talking all the time. He said he couldn’t drive or go fishing or make the wine anymore, and that the store delivered his groceries every Friday. He didn’t notice when I replied, so I guessed he was deaf as well as pretty blind. When he said he hadn’t seen any of the family in years and years, I shouted that neither had I.

The table was covered with greasy newspaper and crumbs. The old photos of our gum-digging relations were still on the wall and Auntie Tina still looked out from a frame on the mantelpiece. That face had once seemed old to me, but now the woman looked so young. Cristina hadn’t been able to remember her mother and had said she didn’t care. There was a picture of Cristina too, dark-haired, sweet and sulky in her school uniform, the colours faded into orange, the way snaps from the seventies all ended up.

I carried the teapot and Uncle Frank brought two chipped cups and a bag of stained clumpy sugar. He told me that Cristina had not been back from overseas. “But she is very busy with her work,” he beamed. “Look, see the pictures here.” I looked at the well-thumbed photos of a smartly dressed and beautiful Cristina with a variety of glossy well-fed children, and the shoebox full of Christmas cards from Sydney. The last postcard was over five years old.

“Of course this house is for Cristina,” Uncle Frank continued happily, his battered glasses crooked across his purple nose. “Yes, it’s an old house. But it’s a strong house, a good house. And a happy place for children… You remember, every school holiday? Christina’s boys will come too! They will ride the pony and swim, and pick the grapes, just like you and Cristina. But some work is needed, you can see – a few boards, a bit of iron for the roof, and of course paint…” He trailed off with a shrug, and dug in his shirt pocket for a thin pouch of tobacco.

I didn’t tell him that the place needed more than a few repairs and a bit of paint, and that the grandchildren would have grown into tattooed six-footers with iPods and mobiles grafted to their heads, who would rather stick pins in their eyes than cut manuka, pick grapes and take turns riding a ghost pony. I didn’t tell him that Christina always said she hated the house behind the dunes, the constant wind and the relentless drumming of the sea. I didn’t tell him how she had despised him for his loud clumsy foreignness and smothering love. And how I hated her for hating what I loved.

I didn’t tell him about the room I shared with Cristina in a cold villa in the city, about the plans we made, about the fights, the lies and why Cristina went away. And I didn’t tell him I could see she was keeping her promise, and that she was never coming back.

A drowsy afternoon breeze ruffled the hops as we stepped down into the sun. We walked slowly across the yard and, passing the barn, I peered inside. It was packed with timber, machinery and junk. I said, “You’ve still got all your tools, Uncle, that’s good.” But I don’t think he heard me. At the gate I remembered the brandy and gave it to him. He took a while to read the label, then grinned and we shook hands.

Now I’ve fixed the saggy porch, and this is where we sit in the evenings. Me with my laptop and Uncle Frank with his big-print fishing diary. Sometimes I think the sofa should go – it’s a bit of an eyesore. But Uncle Frank is right – it really is very comfortable. And later, in that deep sleep that comes from hard work and homemade wine, I never ever dream of my cousin Cristina.

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Short Story Competition – Second Place

Congratulations to Greg Hall who came second in the NorthWrite 2018 Short Story Competition. Here is his story. The winner’s story is available here and the third place getter will be published next week. Judges’ comments can be found here.

Danny
by Greg Hall

A wise man told me that everyone carries a pig on their shoulder. The pig chatters in your ear, seeding doubt, trying to destroy you. I made friends with my pig long ago.

***

Danny comes to the window and peers out. His morning breath clouds the window and bounces off the glass. I have to back away. Then I point.

‘What’s that?’

‘That’s a truck, Dad.’

‘I can see it’s a truck, Danny. I heard it last night, or was it sometime this morning?’

‘Whatever, Daddy-o, it’s still a truck.’

‘And it’s still there, Danny.’

‘Yeah, it’s still there because it’s mine. I brought it yesterday.’

The pig wakes up.

‘Bought it – you bought it yesterday.’

‘Whatever.’

‘Why, Danny? Why did you buy a truck and – when you’ve answered that – how…? How did you buy a truck? You don’t have any money.’

‘Okay, fair enough, Daddy-o – two questions. Here’s the answer to the first question. I BROUGHT the truck because me and Tim and Nigel are starting a band and the answer to the second question is – hire purchase. I put five hundred down from the money you gave me and I’m paying it off.’

The pig says, ‘Oh dear.’

Option one is where I call him stupid, ask what the hell he was thinking and remind him again that he and I have an agreement – HAD an agreement – that he would not, under any circumstances, ever, just go off and do something on a whim. He will call me a control freak,  say that if I was so shit hot how come I’ve been fired from the bank, how come I’ve broken up with his mother and then – really, Dad, you’re just a fuckin’ failure and now you’re trying to turn me into one too. I tell him I was not ‘fired’ by the bank, I was made redundant and he says ‘whatever’. Then he storms out and gets drunk for the next three days and I have to go pick up the pieces wherever they land, which might be the police station or my ex-wife’s place or somewhere far away. Once I had to drive to Palmerston North.

So I stop and think about the other way.

The pig is disappointed.

‘Danny, I have a suggestion.’

‘Yeah.’

‘How about you have a shower and put on some fresh clothes and I’ll make breakfast.’

‘Scrambled eggs with toast, ham and coffee?’ he says.

‘Right.’

‘Sounds good.’

‘And then we’ll talk,’ I say.

‘Whatever,’ Danny says.

He appears as I’m spooning out the eggs onto the hot toast. The coffee is done. Two cups side by side, flat whites – along with DNA the only thing my son and I have in common.

‘Looks great, Dad.’

We eat, and drink coffee then we push the plates away. I get up and put them in the dishwasher.

‘Can you do another coffee?’ he says.

‘Let’s talk a bit first.’

‘Oh, okay, your rules, Daddy-o.’

I let that slide. ‘So, Danny, can we just unpick this situation a little.’

‘Uh-oh, a situation,’ he says. ‘Go on, Mr Tailor, unpick away, James – James Taylor – Tailor, get it?’ Danny laughs and sits back on his chair, arms behind his head, big grin on his face, waiting. I take a deep breath.

‘Before we get to the truck, let’s talk about this band.’

‘What band?’ Danny says.

‘Danny, come on.’

The pig whispers, ‘Take option one.’ I ignore it.

‘Which one – out of you, Tim and Nigel – plays an instrument? I’ve never heard you talk about playing music, so I’m just wondering about this band.’

‘Dad, we won’t get anywhere if all you do is dump on my ideas. Okay, so right now we may not be a band but after we’ve practised and had lessons and stuff, who knows?’

‘I’m not dumping on your ideas, Danny. If you and the others want to put a band together, then all power to you. What about instruments; where are you getting them, who’s playing what?’

‘We got, like, two guitars and a set of drums with the truck and we’re gunna experiment…See who’s best at what.’

‘How do you mean, “With the truck”?’

‘Well, the truck was two grand and the dealer said he would throw in the instruments and, by the way, Dad, quite a lot of other stuff.’

‘Throw it in?’

‘Yeah, well, for another two grand. It’s good gear.’

‘So, you owe four thousand?’

‘Nah, like three and a half because…’

‘Oh right, I forgot about the five hundred. So you and Nigel and Tim owe three thousand five hundred. About twelve hundred each, right?’

‘Well, right now it’s all in my name, so theoretically, I suppose, I owe it all and Tim and Nigel owe me.’

‘Danny, what about paying off the computer, like we agreed, and the course that you said you always wanted to do, at tech.’

Danny sits there, arms folded and looks at his feet. I lean forward on my chair. He pushes himself further back and stretches his legs.

‘What happened to Mum’s five hundred?’ I say.

‘Jesus Christ, Dad. You want a chat and it always turns into a fuckin’ interrogation, doesn’t it?’

‘Where’s the other five hundred, Danny?’

‘Look, it’s just, like, gone, okay? After we spent it and I realised that, yes, once again, in your eyes, I’ve totally fucked up, I thought, like, I’d better do something about this and that’s when we found the truck and the instruments…And that’s the plan, Dad. We’re gunna be a band and we’re going to, like, earn money and I’m going to pay you and Mum back because that’s what you want, isn’t it – money? You’re obsessed by it.’

I look down at my knuckles. Pure white and shaking despite the grip on the chair.

The pig whispers to me.  I nod.

There’s a knock on the door.

‘Saved by the bell, Daddy-o.’ Danny laughs and throws his hands up.

I get up to answer it. There’s a man at the door wearing a cheap suit and carrying a briefcase. ‘Mr Martin?’ he asks.

‘Yes.’

‘I’m Mike Mackenzie from Mackenzie’s, the second-hand traders.’

‘Right.’

‘Can I come in? I’ve got these guarantee papers for you to sign, you know, for the loan on the truck and the instruments.’

‘I’m not signing any guarantee.’

‘Oh, okay, well that’s no problem. I’ll just collect three and a half grand, plus an early repayment fee of five hundred, Mr Martin.’

The pig tells me to smash Mackenzie’s smug face in.

I take a deep breath. ‘Look, why don’t you just take the truck and the gear? It’s all out front.’

‘I saw that, yeah, but listen, we don’t have any interest in the truck. Your son owns it. He just owes us the money. Look, Mr Martin, seriously – this is what happens, right. You walk away. Your son owes four grand. It soon becomes five. You don’t make the payments, we take him to court. We get judgement and then what? It’s now six grand and he can’t rent a house, he can’t hire a car or get a power account, and he can’t buy a telly or a washing machine. No one wants to know him. He’s stuffed. Look at the guarantee, think about it. I’ll come back in a couple of hours.’

He hands me the papers. I stand very still then ask him to come in. He looks happy. We walk into the kitchen. Danny stands up. I tell him to sit down. I ask Mr Mackenzie to sit down. He does. He hands me a ballpoint pen and opens the document to the signature page and indicates where I should sign.

The pig whispers to me.

I look at Danny and smile at the memories of the last twenty years. I take the ballpoint pen and, holding it in both hands, break it in half and hand the pieces to Mr Mackenzie.

‘Mr Mackenzie,’ I say. ‘Mike. I’ve always thought that I had only two options when dealing with my son. The first and most used has been anger and abuse. The second, reason, discussion and tranquillity. Neither approach has worked, Mike. Now you’ve come into our lives and I see another way, one that I had never before now considered and I want to thank you. You see, Mike, you’ve made me realise that this is not, in fact, my problem. You’ve lent him a great deal of money in the expectation, both yours and his, that I would sign your guarantee and that the two of you would be protected. He from any responsibility and you from a bad debt. That’s the third option – right?

Well, here’s the fourth option. Mike, and it’s perfect. You shove your guarantee up your arse, and Danny, get your stuff – I’ll help you pack the truck.’

‘Now wait a minute,’ Mike says.

‘Dad, you’re not serious,’ Danny says.

‘Oh, yes he is,’ says the pig.

Short Story Competition – First Place

Congratulations to Sheila Blackburn who won the NorthWrite 2018 Short Story Competition. Here is her story. The second and third place getters will be published here over the next couple of week.

A Medical Definition
by Sheila Blackburn

Dementia:  the loss of mental ability severe enough to interfere with normal activities of daily living, lasting more than six months, not present since birth, and not associated with a loss or alteration of consciousness.

 

Words, words, too many words. They danced and skittered through his head, disappearing when he needed them only to leap into his mouth unexpectedly, when they shouldn’t be there, spewing forth with a life of their own, startling, strange and uncontrollable. Elusive meanings that careered away down dark alleys, hiding out of sight. He watched their eyes and knew they thought him mad, gaga, deranged, so better to keep quiet and float in that world of soft touch, smells, flashes of familiarity, fragments of memories, strings of disconnected consciousness. Repetitive movement soothing his head. Stroking the familiar patch on the arm of the chair. Turning the key. Easy and satisfying patterns that led away from the jungle of words and the harsh, demanding faces of the people he didn’t know. They assaulted his senses and scared him with their expectation of answers. He drifted in an amorphous universe spangled with briefly winking moments of understanding that died as quickly as they were born. Shining stars of memory glowing down through a life time of days. A universe of existence with an all-consuming black hole at its centre growing, swallowing life while he drifted ever inwards with no sense of place or time or purpose other than the fear. Always the fear. It consumed him though he couldn’t say why.  Waiting for that last, tiny, fragile spangle of star light to be consumed and then…stroke the fabric turn the key,  stroke the fabric turn the key, soft so soft…keep going, keep going.

 

Fuck, Fuck, Fuck. The smell of piss was strong and acidic, animal in its intensity. That stupid old cow did it deliberately. She’d have to drag her out of the chair and change her again! Sod it, she could just sit there and wait till someone else came. She’d done it twice this week already. Her eyes raked the room as she turned to go. Only that one in the corner and he wasn’t going to tell anyone. He couldn’t even remember his own name. If he wasn’t sitting there stroking the arm of the chair he was wandering round with that bloody key jamming it in the door locks then screaming at her ‘cos it wouldn’t come out again. Look at him! He was doing it now, stroking the chair like it was a fucking dog. It was creepy. He’d wear right through it in a few more weeks. She looked away. At least he didn’t piss his pants or throw things at you like that skinny bitch down the hall. Why did they have to be so bad-tempered? Like spoiled kids, they were. Throwing food around, shouting and screaming, talking gibberish then getting mad ‘cos you didn’t know what they wanted. She didn’t have time to run after them or sit and hold their bloody hands. Each day was eight hours of stripping pissy sheets, forcing tablets into gormless mouths and washing shitty arses. Her back ached from pulling up and lowering down creaking bodies. Her feet ached from going up and down the stairs looking for lost glasses, missing teeth, fucking hearing aids. Why bother? Waste of time talking to them. They forgot what you said before you were out of the room. She wanted to go home but she had agreed to do an extra shift. She needed the money. The pay was shit and without overtime she wouldn’t make enough to pay the bills. She felt sorry for some of them, she did, but she was tired and tomorrow would be the same round of shit and piss and puke and shouting and screaming and throwing and scratching and there was nothing she could do about it.  She was just doing a job ‘cos she needed the pay check. She left the room. So tired. It was all she could do to just keep going.

 

She slammed the car boot and spun around.

“Just go. I’m not telling you again. You’re going whether you like it or not. We paid a fortune for these lessons and for that bloody piano and now you think it’s boring. Well, just get in there and be bloody bored. I don’t have time for this.”

“You never have time for anything to do with me. It’s not fair. My friends don’t have to go to stupid piano lessons. Everyone else can… “And on and on and on. So young, so ungrateful, so entitled and so unaware of just how unfair life could really be.

She climbed back into the car and began to pull away. Through the rear window she watched her daughter kick her back pack before picking it up and moving away. Had her father watched her do the same thing? Had she been as selfish, as consumed by her own world that she hadn’t even seen how hard his life was? A sickly wife, a son who brought only trouble to the door, a daughter railing against the unfairness of being expected to help. Tears burning.  Breathe, breathe, keep it together.  Guilt, frustration, helplessness, duty, love, loss, anxiety, pain, fear. Her head roaring. Again, every visit, every time all over again. Wanting to go, not wanting to go. Watching for that illusive flicker of cognizance. Desperate for a thimbleful of the person who had once been a flood. Watching as he was wasted on parched earth that absorbed him without leaving a trace. Seeing him shrivel and dry. An inexorable march to nothingness. And what could she do? She was so busy – her husband, her job, her children, her life. Did he know he was lost? Guilt crawling across her skin. Was he terrified, grabbing for hand holds, screaming silent screams? Tears slipping down her cheek. Turning into the car park. He must hate her. She sent him here. She deserted him. Too many demands. She couldn’t do anymore. “It’s not fair.” No, it’s not fair, is it. She wiped her face. Go through those doors and smile. She put her feet onto the black tarmac and started to walk… keep going… keep going…

 

She sat across the table from him and smiled. Something scratched at his brain. Someone he should know? Say nothing …silence. Better than getting it wrong.

“How are you today?”

“Oh, you know.”  He trailed off, watching her face for the effect of his tentative step onto the tightrope of conversation. She smiled again.

“What have you been doing?”

“Oh… not much.” He paused, waiting, and the sound slithered into his mouth: “Fishing.” The word felt comfortable like well-worn fabric against his skin. “I went fishing.”

She nodded. “Yes, you always liked fishing. Sometimes you used to take Si and me with you. Do you remember?

Tumbling names. Si and Susan, Mary and Tom, who, when, where?

He looked at her waiting.

“What did you have for lunch today?”

“We had a nice pie. Mary makes a nice pie.” Mary, Mary. The word felt right. A key turn, opening doors, fluttering memories….  Mary, Mary quite contrary…. A picture of a woman in a garden.

“Good. And did you eat it all?”  Words spun in his head then slipped into place.

“Where’s Mary? I want to go home. Mary will be looking for me.”

The woman smiled at him and patted his hand. “Dad, Mum died years ago. You live here now.”

He looked at her, this strange woman saying incomprehensible things. The fear bubbled up in great gouts of blackness.

“Not. Not, no, my home, out out, Mary…” The words gyrated and danced in his head and forced their way out of his mouth in strings of dissonance. The tightrope snapped. He didn’t want her here saying those things.

He got up, turned and walked back to his chair in the corner, sat, and started stroking, letting the tactile burst of soft sensation fill his head and calm him. He didn’t like the strange women. He closed his eyes. His hand in his pocket closed around the key. For the briefest instant he knew what it was. He saw the home, the wife, the family, the life. He started to turn the key and was lost in the rhythm of the movement. Stroke the fabric turn the key, stroke the fabric turn the key… keep going.

 

His daughter watched as he settled into the chair. Both helpless. No more today. She turned to the door and kept going.

Judges’ comments can be found here.

Northwrite 2018 Competition – Judges Report

Results:

1st Place: A Medical Definition by Sheila Blackburn (Northland)

2nd Place: Danny by Greg Hall (Auckland)

3rd Place: The Promise by Anna Granger (Whanganui)

Highly Commended: Service Station by Stuart Lee (Auckland), and Foggy by Greg Hall (Auckland)

Judges Report

Thank you to everyone who entered the NorthWrite 2018 Short Story Competition. There were 69 entries, of which two were disqualified by the word count and twenty-three more on the first reading for obvious technical and stylistic issues. Another twenty were eliminated in the next reading because, although they were well written overall, they were lacking some components of great storytelling. There were some very good non-fiction stories but these couldn’t compete against the magic of the fiction entries. That took the pile down to twenty-four stories and over several readings these were filtered down to the final five. While we were able to give only three placings, there were two stories that were so close to being placed that we decided to give them both highly commended. These were: Service Station and Foggy.

1st Place: A Medical Definition 

This story offers a powerful, haunting glimpse into the reality of life. Despite the less-than-ideal presentation, the story has a strong narrative voice with fresh, believable characters, effective imagery, fabulous use of techniques and beautiful wording that grabbed both the judges and stayed with us well after the readings.

2nd Place: Danny

This story is a perfect snippet of family dynamics. It is based on a well-constructed, imaginative idea and flows beautifully, with skilfully placed humour, good characterisation, wonderful dialogue and a satisfying ending.

3rd Place: The Promise 

This story is a great example of ‘telling’ mixed with showing. The visual pictures created by the description places the reader firmly in the setting, the characterisation is good, the language used has an enticing rhythm and the ending links to the beginning in a satisfying way.

Thank you, everyone, for your stories. We enjoyed reading them and wish you all the best with your writing in the future.

Diana Menefy & Justine Payen.

Rae Roadley’s NorthWrite 2016 Highly Commended Entry

Rae Roadley was highly commended in the Northwrite competition with an extract from her novel, Have a Heart, which has now been published on Amazon and is available at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01JFBG4N6.

Rae’s highly commended extract follows. The winning story by Sun Lyoung Kim is available to read here.

Background to the excerpt …

The Omahu and Gunn families have been in conflict ever since Jack Gunn’s ancestors ‘stole’ Glory Omahu’s family’s land. When Glory sees her family’s taonga – pounamu and bone pendants, including a long-lost heart – in the Gunn homestead, she secretly swaps some for modern copies. When guilt prods, she plans to return them. Then Jack gives her a couple of pendants. In the following scene, Glory intends to give her father only the pendants returned by the Gunns, but to appease him also hands over a pendant she swapped – digging herself into deeper trouble.

The story continues …

With dinner dishes cleared, Glory smoothes the table cloth in front of her. “I’ve got something for you, Dad.” She glances at Auntie who knows one part of Glory’s story isn’t true, but will she believe the rest? “I heard through the grapevine that the Gunns had some artefacts from our family land – some pendants.”

“The heart?” Des jerks his chair and turns to Glory.

Glory edges away. She has to twist the truth or her story will unravel. “They found it on their land.” Glory reaches for the salt shaker and moves in tight circles. More lies.

“But it’s ours!” Des’s voice catches.

“Before 1976. It’s theirs.” Glory hopes her voice doesn’t give her away.

“I know the law,” Des huffs.

“And they’ve got other pendants, if you’d let me finish.”

“Good heavens. Right, sorry.”

It’s dead easy to make her father back down. “I’m in a position to make life difficult for Jack, but said I’d give up a couple of issues in return for a couple of pendants.”

“And he agreed?” Dahlia’s eyebrows arch. Has anyone ever put anything across her?

“Dahlia,” purrs Auntie, “You don’t realise the influence your daughter has. Her shop is a community gathering place and there’s talk she’ll be president of the business association.”

“Goodness.” Dahlia wriggles forward, like a child about to be told a fairy tale. But this is not a fairy tale, Glory reminds herself, not totally. And it’s about time her mother noticed her achievements. It was kind of Auntie not to say that some people don’t support the shop. Today she learned the new nurse at the medical centre is in a snit because Glory sells alternative health products. Glory can see her point.

“Taa daaa.” She places the bone fish hook on the table with a magician-like flourish. It’s similarity to Glory’s own fish hook has to mean something. Then she places the Tangaroa beside it.

“Ohh . . .” Auntie, keening as if she’s at a tangi, reaches into her bag for a tissue and whisks away fat tears. “You didn’t get the heart.”

“Well, um, the Gunns are attached to it …”

“It’s ours,” says Des.

“For goodness sake,” Glory snaps, exasperated, “it looks a bit like a souvenir.”

Auntie draws herself tall while Des says in an unfamiliar voice, “We don’t value our taonga based on looks, Glory.”

Glory’s eyes meet her father’s. His are dark and shadowed. She’s offended him. “I said ‘a bit like a souvenir’. It’s really beautiful.”

“The heart was given to our great-grandmother,” he says. “Grandma Maraea was devastated when she lost it.”

But was her upset an act? Maybe it was lost, or was Maraea so desperate to feed her family she really did swap the heart for food? Glory won’t mention that. There’s enough bad blood between the Omahus and Gunns. But why defend the Gunns? She’s not. She’s protecting her family.

“What’s wrong with these?” Glory indicates the fish hook and Tangaroa while fighting a temptation to drop the pendants she swapped onto the table. Would they shut them up?

Auntie picks up the Tangaroa. “It’s beautiful and precious.” She might be talking about any one of the hundreds of carnations Tom grows.

“I’ve tried to tell you about the heart,” grumbles Des in that way he has when Glory doesn’t show interest in her heritage. “If you knew its story you’d know its value.”

“The Gunns gave these to me. Maybe they’ll hand over the rest if I ask nicely.”

Auntie splutters with sarcastic mirth. “Why don’t I pop in and have a chat to Henry?”

Glory reaches to take the bone fish hook from her father. “Dad, if these don’t cut it, I’ll return them.”

“And exchange them for the heart?” Des’s words are submachine gun bullets – but he holds onto the pendant – tight.

Glory conceals a sigh. She’d expected him to be overwhelmed with happiness.

“They wouldn’t part with the heart. I did ask.” But her effort was pathetic. What if she’d pushed, really pushed? “Very sorry,” she offers with the smile that always melts her father. “Perhaps you could tell me the story.”

“Fat lot of good that will do.”

Glory stares agape. She’s never seen her father like this, didn’t know he could be like this. “Please?”

“I’ll tell her,” says Auntie, seeing Des set his face in a stubborn frown. “The heart belonged to our great-great-great grandmother Sarah, the daughter of a chief – Manuera. She was born in 1849 and in 1880 married a Dane who’d deserted a ship, here in Kaingatoi. Carl Solberg Christensen.”

“Quite old when she married, then,” says Glory. “Born 1849, married–”

“Thirty-one,” chips in Des, as Auntie and Glory exchange a knowing look.

“He’d been on a timber ship and had nicked something. The crew was going to lynch him. He took off and some Māori workers in a bush camp hid him – about nine miles away–”

“About half way to Crystal and Peter’s place?” asks Glory.

“Near the big bridge,” says Des. “They hid him in a steam boiler that wasn’t being used – and fed him. When the ship had sailed, they told him it was safe to come out.”

“Right.” Glory relaxes now her father’s also telling the story.

“All he had were the clothes he stood up in and his knowledge of boating.”

“And a violin,” says Auntie. “Our ancestors had never seen or heard one before. He entertained everyone and built them a dinghy and shaped timber into oars.”

“Which would have gone down well with Manuera – the chief. My great?”

“Four greats. Wiremu’s father.”

“And Sarah was Wiremu’s grandmother?” asks Glory.

“Yes. Anyways,” Des continues, “Carl became important, so important to Manuera, he said, ‘Carl, you belong to us. I want you to marry one of my daughters.’ Their first child was Maraea, born in 1881. Sarah died in 1897 – fifteen years after her marriage. Her headstone’s in the Kaingatoi Cemetery.”

“The heart?” asks Glory. “Where does it come in?”

“It was Sarah’s. Perhaps Carl gave it to her. No-one’s sure.”

“But the filigree? That must have come later?”

“Ahh, my daughter,” says Des, mellow now. “You are dead right. She married a Wiremu Omahu. No-one’s sure, but he may have sent the heart away to have that work done.”

“Perhaps to Auckland?” suggests Auntie. “We don’t know.”

“Two of Maraea’s sister’s also married Omahu brothers.”

“Perhaps not much choice?” suggests Glory.

“Perhaps strong, good-looking and intelligent men,” says Des, grinning. “And we also know the heart went to Maraea. But at one stage, she and Wiremu lost their house in a fire.”

“Dad, you told us that every time we wouldn’t eat our vegies. They cooked on corrugated iron and something caught fire.”

“Something like that.” Des grins. “Parents don’t always tell their children the truth when they won’t eat their veggies.”

“Dad!” Glory manages to sound indignant. “What’s the real story? Tell me.”

“There are two. One is that Wiremu upset someone who said, ‘Pay me or I’ll burn your house down’ – and he did. The heart was saved because Maraea was wearing it.” Des pauses, puzzled. “Guess she lost it later.”

“Guess so,” says Glory, playing along. “And version two?”

“That’s closer to the story I told you kids. They cooked on corrugated iron and the floor boards caught fire. The heart was saved because the kids had been playing with it.”

“And Maraea lost it later?” Glory repeats while thinking that Maraea might have been desperate enough to barter the heart. But wouldn’t the whanau have supported them?

“Exactly,” Des agrees. “Mum said that after Granny lost it they spent hours searching.”

Perhaps she was quite an actress, Glory thinks.

“If it was with us today, maybe your mother would be wearing it.”

Dahlia fingers her gold belcher chain. “If it’s anything like these knick-knacks, it’ll be very handsome. Glory, they’re a lot like the ones you sell, dear.”

“Mum, they are not knick–”

“My dearest Dahlia,” Des intones with a smile, “these pendants are not and never will be knick-knacks.” Then he turns to Glory, “Perhaps Jack will reconsider.”

Dahlia scoffs. “Don’t be ridiculous, Des.”

They sit in silence until Glory knows what she has to do. Her father has a special fondness for koru and Jack will never realise the koru in the cabinet is a copy. She reaches into her pocket, pulls it out and dangles the koru in a tantalising fashion on its fine cord.

“This was at the homestead as well.” Jack says white lies are okay.

Her father’s face softens and he smiles as he tentatively strokes the koru which appears to glow emerald in the evening light. Then he wraps an arm around Glory. “Good girl. You did your best.”

When Auntie launches into a waiata* Glory knows she’s done the right thing.

Tangi a te ruru,” Auntie thrills in a voice so clear Glory almost forgets to breathe. “Kei te hokihoki mai e, E whakawherowhero . . .” Kaingatoi Primary School kids have made this waiata their anthem. It was written to welcome home the Te Māori exhibition.

Dahlia dabs her eyes with her fingers. Glory can understand her father having a weep, but her mother?

Auntie’s voice fades. “The waiata’s about paths meeting and giving permission for things to leave. I guess the Gunns made an effort. In fact, it surprises me they’ve given us all these.”

“Guilt,” Glory says rather too quickly.

“I’m not surprised at all.” Des runs his fingers down the koru. “I’ll make sure all these taonga are loved and worn. Often in life, second-best turns out to be best.”

Glory will adopt this philosophy. She’s never wanted a shop that fits with conventional good taste, but she’ll adapt. And she lost her child, but never dreamed of having Sage in her life in such an intimate way.

“I can’t see myself wearing a koru or a fish hooky thing,” says Dahlia plaintively. “The heart, though, it sounds lovely.”

Glory pretends not to hear.

“The heart, if we had it, would go to Glory when she marries,” says Dad.

“Really?” Dahlia sounds like she’d put up a fight.

“How come?” Glory needs to get her father talking, to distract him.

He gazes into the distance. “The heart was given to Sarah as a gift from her husband. She began a tradition of handing it on as a bridal gift to the next generation. She gave it to Maraea – that’s when the gold was added.”

Dahlia looks distracted. History bores her. “The fish hook is like the one Auntie gave you, Glory.” She holds it against her chest, evaluating its suitability as an addition to her jewellery collection.

“Our iwi has produced many master carvers.” Des tips back his chair in the same way Jack did at dinner that night.

Glory has made him happy, but at what cost? She has to return the fish hook and pray the new koru won’t be spotted. But right now Glory needs to do something she’s never done before: listen. Soon her father is telling stories. Glory learns where her ancestors launched their waka, the paths they followed to the beach, the places they had hāngi, the sacred places they stored kūmara. He talks about the land the whānau gave the community so they could build the school that still stands today. She learns about the terrible day three boys drowned when a storm came out of nowhere, and why so many of her family left Kaingatoi and moved to the cities. Staying here was a path to nowhere.

“Plus too many Pākehā here thought they knew what was best for Māori,” says Dad.

Isn’t that the truth, Glory thinks, sipping her chamomile tea. It’s cold.

 

*Waiata from Te Hokinga Mai, by Te Taite Cooper and Father Mariu, 1986.

NorthWrite 2016 Competition Winner Announced

We are delighted to announce that Sun Lyoung Kim is the winner of the NorthWrite 2016 Competition for Northland Writers.

Mandy Hager and James George judged this competition. Mandy commented:

This story speaks to the spirit that brought many to Northland, a chance to start again and to redefine oneself in a new country. What I love about this story is its emotional core, a very authentic look into the fear and torn loyalties of setting out across the world in search of a better future. It is honest, moving, and brings to life a culture rarely represented in current New Zealand writing. It is also satisfying as a story, its scope much broader than the word count, condensing whole lives and journeys into this moment of significant change. I feel richer for having read it.

photo for SunSun Lyoung Kim is a Northland writer who grew up in South Korea. She emigrated to New Zealand 20 years ago.

Sun has completed a Diploma in Applied Writing at Northtec and is currently studying to become a teacher. As well as developing her own writing, Sun hopes to inspire and support beginning writers.

She has been published by Learning Media Ltd and LIFT Education. Sun writes a regular column about New Zealand education in the Korean Federation of Teachers newsletter.

Floating Island
by Sun Lyoung Kim

In the world, there are a lot of stories going on mysteriously. Nobody knows whether they are true or not. Nobody has seen these things, but everybody knows the stories …

Floating island … Maybe it has a tree? Maybe a bird? But beneath the island there would be a lot of different roots and they might be tangled with each other because they don’t know where to settle.

A blistering and gluey Korean midnight was sticking to Kang-Hee’s feet and oppressing her body.

“I hate summer!” She kicked off her blanket, then slid open the veranda window. Instead of welcome cold air, more humidity oozed across her skin. People were talking in the facing apartment and the sound of cars made her even more frustrated.

She glared down at them. “Shit!” She clutched her head.

The eighteen floors down seemed even more distant than usual.

“Must my life start from the bottom again?” She hit the cold steel railing of the veranda, the sound echoing within her heart along with last night’s conversation with Min-Ho.

Her husband had delivered big news.

Emigration … to a strange country, a strange people, a strange culture. It meant no job, no friends, and no family.

That was not only a problem for them, but also a problem for everybody and everything involved with them – jobs, communities, friends …

And especially for Min-Ho’s parents, who were the first parents in her life.

An orphan, she’d never known what happened to her real parents, but early on she’d realised she was different from other people. So she avoided watching TV programmes about families.

Instead she dreamed about having the perfect family – grandparents, Mum, Dad, and children. She knew what parents did for their children. They were like the sun – vital for life, even though people forgot how important it was because it was always there.

But Kang-Hee knew. She always desired the sun, just like a sunflower.

Yet now …

“Now I have parents who always listen when I’m talking and who hold my hands,” she murmured. “I don’t want leave them and I don’t want to make them live without us. For the first time I’m an ordinary person who has parents.”

Last night Min-Ho had showed her a booklet about New Zealand. It said, “The best environment in the world, the best social security in the world, and the best lifestyle in the world. You can do whatever you want here! In NEW ZEALAND!”  It was sweet.

But then … “Let’s emigrate,” Min-ho said.

“Are you kidding?” she asked.

“No, I’m serious,” he said. “Listen, Kang-Hee, please. This will give us what we’ve always wanted. We could both get a doctorate. I’ve checked everything about New Zealand already and this is the chance of a lifetime.”

She saw his eyes – shaken with pain, desire, fear, hope – and love.

She couldn’t say anything, but her own eyes said no.

A week later Min-Ho tried again.

“You and I grew up with poverty so we couldn’t do what we wanted. I don’t want poverty to be the heritage of our children. This is not for me. It’s for you, our children, Mum and Dad.”

“You are the only son of your parents. Do you think they will let you go? Also I really love them, you know that.”

She saw the memory of Min-Ho’s brother hit all his body cells and the huge pain – car accident, blood, loss, and emptiness …

Since then his parents were always afraid of losing the other son in their life. She told Min-Ho, “If you want to go, you go without me.”

“Please … please … I love you. I want to go with you.” Burning tears ran down his cheeks and he gripped her hand. “They will understand. I need you.”

Brrrrng, brrrng.

Kang-Hee looked at the phone. She didn’t move, she watched Min-Ho.

“Hello,” he said. “Hi, how are you?”

She could hear the soft voice begging them to visit.

“Don’t worry, Mum, we’ll be there in the weekend,” Min-Ho assured her.

On Saturday Min-Ho and Kang-Hee drove to their parents’ house. It took just two hours, but to Kang-Hee it seemed to take forever.

“Mum, Dad, we’re here. Where are you?” Min-Ho shouted.

“Here!” There was Mum. She rushed towards her son without her shoes. “How are you?”

“We are fine. Where is Dad?” He looked around.

“He’s fixing the roof because it’s leaking a little bit. Don’t worry, he’ll figure it out. You two, just relax, please.” Mum pulled their hands to bring her children into the room.

“I want to see my father first. Dad! Dad!”

Kang-Hee watched father-in-law’s bent back and thought, His life is like that of a salmon.

These fish are born in the stream but spend almost all their lives at sea. They come back to the place where they were born only to lay their eggs. Their tiny bodies swim upstream against the flow of the water. Sometimes they meet enemies like birds, bears or humans, and they fall repeatedly when they try to leap waterfalls. Some of the salmon eventually succeed in returning home.

Then finally they make a place for their eggs with their fins. They don’t care whether their fins are torn or not, they think only of their young.

After laying the eggs, the salmon die. They don’t expect any payback for their sacrifice for their children.

They remind Kang-Hee of Min-Ho’s parents.

Min-Ho’s father sold everything he had for his two sons’ school fees, and he and his wife did not have anything for themselves. They had to sell vegetables for their daily bread. Although their life was tough, they never asked for help. They wanted only their sons’ happiness.

There were father and son, full of the sunset glow, talking, working and laughing together. It was like a still-life to Kang-Hee.

After dinner Min-Ho made his parents sit down in front of him and he fell on his knees. “Mum and Dad, I need tell you something important. As you know, I’ve dreamed about going abroad for study. I think now it’s time to go – I mean, emigrate to another country.” He couldn’t continue.

“What!” Mum said. “You know about Yankee, don’t you?” Mum always called English people Yankee. “They will ignore you because you have yellow skin. You cannot go!” She was almost screaming.

“No, Mum, that’s your wrong idea. Now it’s the twentieth century. Nobody ignores people because of their differences.”

“But …” Mum started, then stopped at a look from Dad.

“I always felt sorry that I could not support you two like other parents,” Min-Ho’s father said. “Will you study together?”

“Yes,” Min-Ho replied.

“Won’t it be tough for Kang-Hee?” he asked.

Kang-Hee shook her head.

“If I said do not go there, what would you do?” Dad asked Min-Ho.

“I would still go,” he replied in a strong voice.

Father stood up and went out of the room.

Min-Ho continued trying to persuade Mum that they would be happy, but there was no end to her tears.

Min-Ho and Kang-Hee went back to the city with very tangled and heavy threads in their minds.

A month later Kang-Hee answered the phone.

“It’s me.” Mum didn’t ask how Kang-Hee was.

“Yeah … Mum.” Kang-Hee couldn’t ask either.

“How is it going? When will you leave?”

It was her first question about their leaving. Kang-Hee had rung the parents a lot, but they’d never mentioned it.

“Maybe the end of this month,” she replied carefully.

“Can you stay with us for a few days before you leave?” Mum’s voice was shaking.

“Yes,” Kang-Hee gulped down her tears.

Time went too fast and they moved to their parents’ place.

Min-Ho and Kang-Hee fixed the house and cooked meals every day. All the family shared their love as if they were never going to meet again. Yet they never talked about the emigration.

The day before their leaving, Kang-Hee walked around the house. Deep breath… this is air of Korea. I will remember you.

She touched the soil. This is the land where I was born. Thank you.

Opened the kitchen door. This is the smell of family.

Everything made her miserable.

Next morning the family had a very calm breakfast, then set off for the international airport. There were a lot of people. While Min-Ho weighed the baggage, Kang-Hee noticed their parents’ hair. It looked whiter than usual.

Do I have to go? Even at that moment she asked herself the question.

“It’s ready,” Min-Ho told the parents determinedly.

“Okay. Please look after yourselves. Don’t worry about us. We will be fine.” Mum started sobbing.

“Mum, I love you.” He hugged his parents and Kang-Hee did too.

Father-in-law hugged her tight without talking.

None of them knew when they could meet again and how many times they would have to repeat this parting. Kang-Hee tried to repress her tears but she couldn’t stop their flow.

Min-Ho snatched her hand and pulled her through to the other side of the gate. The gate closed behind them.

Briefly it opened again as someone else came through. Kang-Hee saw her mother-in-law crouched down on the ground crying. Then the gate closed again.

Min-Ho hauled her further down the corridor. “Honey, please don’t look back. That’s the best way for them and us.” In his eyes tears gathered. “Let’s go.” And he dragged her by the hand to the plane.

As the plane very slowly lifted, Kang-Hee looked for her mother-in-law and father-in-law through the small window but she couldn’t find them. The plane gained height and she stretched her neck, craning desperately, until she could no longer see Korea.

Her throat was choked with longing.

“Please don’t cry any more. I will be with you.” Min-Ho hugged her and looked for a handkerchief in her handbag. “What is this?” He pulled out two small white paper bags, labelled with their names.

“I don’t know.” She opened hers and found a letter.

Dear daughter-in-law.

If you see my letter, I guess you are in the plane. It means I am already missing you.

After I lost my oldest son I couldn’t fill up my emptiness, but you did. Mum and I were very happy because you were there.

I believe it is not the last time I will see you.

I believe you will overcome with my son all kinds of difficulties.

I believe you can be whatever you choose.

Please study harder and work harder than the native people. You know if you want to be a trustworthy person in the other country you have to be the hardest worker among them.

Anyway, I packed a sandwich for you and my son for lunch. I hope you like it.

Don’t forget, I will be with you whatever you do, wherever you go.

I love you so much.

I will miss you.

Sincerely, your father-in-law.

There was a sandwich, a small sandwich.

She kept the sandwich in her bosom, along with her sadness, her hope, and the love of her parents-in-law, and she started her new journey as a floating island.

 

NorthWrite 2016: Competition Judges

We have already started receiving entries for the NorthWrite 2016 writing competition and look forward to many more. A reminder that this competition is open to Northland writers only and the prize is attendance at a National writer’ conference. You can find the guidelines and entry form here. The closing date is Monday 28 March. As this is Easter Monday entries postmarked 29 March will be accepted. Our judges are Mandy Hagar and James George.

Mandy Hager

Mandy HagarMandy Hager is a multi-award winning writer of fiction for young adults, and is a tutor on Whitirea NZ’s creative writing programme. Her most recent award is the 2015 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year with Singing Home the Whale, and in 2014 she was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship, one of New Zealand’s oldest and most prestigious writing awards, which enabled her to spend six months living in Menton, in the South of France as she researched a new project.

She has won the LIANZA Book Award for YA fiction three times (Smashed, 2008, The Nature of Ash, 2013, Dear Vincent, 2014), the New Zealand Post Book Award for Young Adult fiction (The Crossing, 2010), an honour award in the 1996 Aim Children’s Book Awards (Tom’s Story), Word Weavers Excellence Award (2002), Golden Wings Award (2003) and five Notable Book awards. Her Blood of the Lamb’ trilogy has been published in the United States by Pyr Books. She has also been awarded the Beatson Fellowship (2012) and Writer In Residence at Waikato University (2015).

As well as the above books, she writes adult fiction, short stories, non-fiction, educational resources, blogs and articles, and has a passion for writing “stories that matter”.

James George

James GeorgeJames George is a fiction writer of Ngāpuhi, English and Irish descent. His first published novel was Wooden Horses in 2000. His 2003 novel Hummingbird was a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2004 and the Tasmania Pacific Fiction Prize 2005. An excerpt from Hummingbird, Zeta Orionis, won the premiere award in the Māori Literature Awards 2001. His third novel, Ocean Roads, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book in the South East Asia and South Pacific region. In 2007, he was the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow. He has recently completed his fourth novel, Sleepwalkers’ Songs, due out mid-2016. He is a tutor at the AUT Centre for Creative Writing, and has previously taught creative writing at the University of Auckland (Continuing Education) and Unitec. James is a trustee of Toi Māori Aotearoa – Māori Arts New Zealand and is the current chair of Te Ha, its literature committee. James is based in Auckland, but sees Northland as his “ancestral and spiritual home”.

NorthWrite 2016: Writing Competition for Northland Writers

We have been a bit quiet lately organising our NorthWrite event for 2016. This year it is a competition open to writers residing in Northland. We realise a number of our followers are not from Northland but please do continue to follow us as we will be organising open events in the future. And if you happen to know a Northland writer who might not be following us then please pass on this information.

Prize

Registration at a 2016 national writers’ conference of your choice to the value of up to $700. For conferences where the registration fees are less than this amount, the balance of the prize may be used to cover travel and/or accommodation costs (receipts are required). A list of the conferences covered by this prize is set out below.

The competition

Entrants are asked to submit one piece of unpublished writing of up to 2000 words in length that has been inspired in some way by the land, people or history of Northland. This may be in any genre (short story, flash fiction, novel excerpt, essay, article or poem).

Competition guidelines

Entrants must:

  • be 18 years old or over
  • be permanent residents of Northland*
  • complete the attached entry form (download here), including a short statement of up to 500 words explaining how attendance at the conference will support their progress as a writer. (This statement will be taken into account by the judges.)

One entry per person only.

The entry must be the original work of the writer and must not have been published, either in print or online.

The writer’s name and contact information must be on the entry form only. Any submissions with the writer’s name or other details on the writing entry will be disqualified.

Entries should be 1.5 or double spaced and printed on one side of the paper only.

Post two copies of the entry form and two copies of your writing submission to:

NorthWrite Competition

PO Box 841

Kerikeri 0245

Entries close on Monday 28 March at 5pm.

The judges’ decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

Copyright of entries will remain with the writers.

The results and judges’ comments will be published on the NorthWrite website.

The Northland Branch of NZSA reserves the right to publish the winning entry on their NorthWrite website.

Should the winner be unable to attend their chosen conference, the prize may be awarded to another finalist at the organisers’ discretion.

Entry fee

The entry fee is $15, to be paid by internet banking or at a bank to ANZ account number 06-0493-0251640-00. Please use your surname/family name and initial as a reference when making this payment.

*The Far North, Whāngārei and Kaipara Districts make up Northland. If you live in one of these districts you are eligible to enter.

Auckland Writers Festival
10 – 15 MAY 2016

The Auckland Writers Festival brings the very best local and international writers of contemporary fiction and non-fiction, scientists, economists, poets, journalists and public intellectuals together with audiences to explore ideas, share stories and experience brilliant conversations. We celebrate curiosity and a sense of intellectual adventure and our programme is driven by the desire to spark ideas, to get us talking and to give us a time and place to engage with the world.

Click here for more information

Romance Writers of New Zealand (RWNZ) Conference
12 – 14 AUGUST 2016

Keynote speaker, Michael Hauge, will be conducting his Story Mastery full-day workshop on Friday and speaking throughout the weekend. Kathryn Burnett (script and screen writer) will also present. The line-up of speakers over the weekend will inspire, educate and entertain writers at all stages of their writing journey. More information on other speakers will be posted as it comes to hand.

Click here for more information

IBBY Congress
18 – 21 AUGUST 2016

The International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) is a non-profit organisation representing an international network of countries and people, mostly volunteers, dedicated to bringing books and children together.

Nearly two decades into the 21st century it is time to reflect on and to redefine what it means to be literate and what young people’s literature might ‘look like’ in a future where story is conveyed, not only through written and oral modes but also, increasingly, through visual, gestural, spatial and digital modes. This Congress offers a forum for delegates from throughout the world to discuss these challenges and offer solutions.

Click here for more information

Going West Books and Writers Festival
9 – 11 SEPTEMBER 2016

This annual literary festival takes place in Waitakere City each September and is dedicated to celebrating the writing of New Zealand authors. Going West will sponsor a double ticket if the winner selects this festival.
Click here for more information

National Writers’ Forum
17 – 19 SEPTEMBER 2016

The National Writers’ Forum is an exciting new event on New Zealand’s literary calendar.

It is for people who write – books, graphic novels, poetry, flash-fiction and interactive forms.

The National Writers’ Forum will deliver detailed information on particular subjects with master classes, workshops, case studies, keynote speakers and panel discussion.

It is a two day intensive where writers will talk, learn and share information about the craft of writing and the business of getting published – traditional, hybrid and indie – print and digital. It will discuss the prospects for writers in the new democracy of the digital world and the state of play in New Zealand right now.

Māori Writers Festival
15 –16 or 22 – 23 OCTOBER 2016

This will be a fabulous conference for Māori writers. We will keep you informed as dates are confirmed and as other details come to hand.