13 October 2014

Disquiet: A New Anthology With Two Of My Stories

I have just received my author copy of Disquiet (currently available from Amazon as a paperback, with an ebook coming soon), a new anthology of, as the cover says,

unsettling fiction and poetry to curl your eyebrows from Antipodean authors

It's edited by Tracie McBride and John Irvine, and authors featured include Alicia Ponder, Eileen Mueller, Peter Friend, Lee Pletzers, and others whose work I'm looking forward to discovering.

My two stories have a foot on both sides of the Tasman: the titular "Tracks" are those of the Melbourne tram system, while "My Occupation" is of the military kind - and it's set in Southland. I'll leave you to discover more for yourself...

02 October 2014

Are You Included In The NZ Book Council's Writer Files? If Not, You Can Apply Now

The New Zealand Book Council maintains a set of Writer Files that give generous space to each writer listed, covering their career to date and published books. I'm happy to say that I'm one of the writers included - I've been in since the mid-2000s, after my first two books were published.

Following the publication of the The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry, I asked the Book Council to update my page - which they promptly and efficiently did. Along the way, I discovered that there is now a formal selection process for inclusion in the Writer Files, and that if you're a writer who has had at least one book-length project published (print or digital) and not already included, you have until 28 November to apply for inclusion:

We are continually improving our Writers Files to maintain their breadth, diversity and accuracy. If you are interested in applying for a Writers File, please read the criteria below.

The addition of authors to the Writers Files is at the discretion of the Book Council’s Website Editorial Panel. In order to best manage our limited writing and editing resources, this selection panel considers authors for a new intake once a year, in December, and up to ten new authors are added.

Key dates for 2014
  • November 28: Applications close
  • December 09: Website Editorial Panel meet to consider applications
  • December 19: Applicants notified of Panel decision
The minimum criterion for inclusion is that a writer has published at least one book-length publication (print or digital) or, in the case of dramatists and scriptwriters, critically acclaimed performances or productions. Factors that the Panel will consider are:

  • the critical response to published work/s
  • how the author's inclusion in the Writers Files will contribute to the overall diversity of the Writers Files
  • literary profile
  • breadth of readership and/or volume of sales.
Exceptions to this intake process will be made if an author is participating in an event programme managed by the Book Council, such as Words on Wheels, the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards festival, or Writers in Schools. For more information about becoming part of Writers in Schools, click here.

We also require writers who are profiled in our Writers Files to keep us updated (within reason) about new work, reviews or awards that might be relevant to their Writers File.

Download an application form here.

Having a Writers' Files entry is a bit like having a better-formatted Wikipedia page with nice people standing by to update it for you (as long as you don't ask for updates more than a couple of times per year), so if you are an author with at least one published book, I think it's worth applying.

25 September 2014

Coming Up At Wairarapa Word: October-December 2014

Madeleine Slavick & co do a great job running the monthly Wairarapa Word. Check out what's coming up during the remainder of 2014 and get to one or more of these events if you can!

5 OCTOBER – Stories of our Landscape – with Gaye Sutton & Joseph Potangaroa at the Tarragon Cafe, Carterton. Suitable for all ages. KOHA.
Joseph Potangaroa works to preserve stories and knowledge about our landscape and history – his book on the life cycle of the tūna/eel, for instance, is an important resource. Joe is currently writing eight books of children’s stories set in the Wairarapa on flora, fauna, and the landscape. His presentation of the bilingual stories has been assisted by Gaye Sutton, a Carterton resident who has been telling stories ever since her two beautiful children were born. In her work as a storyteller, she has travelled from Norway to Northland and places in between. Along the way, she has published short stories, a chapbook of poems, and has written a novel which she hopes may be published.  Joe has lived all but five months of his 43 years around Masterton and is a kaituhituhi of the Ngāti Hamua hapū of Rangitāne o Wairarapa – Kaituhituhi are trained to understand and then share knowledge on relationships between people and with the rest of the world. Join us for an afternoon of spiritual and historical stories that surround us here in the Wairarapa. Suitable for all ages. (This event supported by Carterton District Creative Communities Scheme.)

2 NOVEMBER – Rhondda Greig – at Almo’s Books, Carterton. KOHA.
Rhondda Greig’s books include Eavesdropping with Angels (poetry), the picture books Matarawa House and Matarawa Cats (a New Zealand classic), and Noa’s Calf, a monochrome picture book without words. She is currently working on a new book of poems tentatively titled Chew the Bright Hysteria.  For this session of Wairarapa Word, she will read a selection of her work, and discuss how text and image inform her creative life. A painter, installation artist, poet, children’s book writer, book designer, costume designer, and more, Greig studied at the Auckland School of Architecture before committing herself to a career as a practicing artist. She has held many solo exhibitions across New Zealand and abroad, with permanent installations at the Carterton Events Centre, Masterton Town Hall, and at St Paul’s Cathedral in Wellington, among other locations. She lives in Matarawa. (This event supported by Carterton District Creative Communities Scheme.)

7 DECEMBER – Glenn Colquhoun - at King St. Live, Masterton. KOHA.
Glenn Colquhoun is a medical practitioner and author. His acclaimed books The Art of Walking Upright(poems) and Jumping Ship (essay) are both about Te Tii, a community in the Bay of Islands. Playing God discusses illness and health, from the point of view of the patient and doctor - the book has gone Platinum, with over 10,000 copies sold. He often writes about the extended family. How We Fell – A Love Story is written to his ex-wife about their ten-year relationship, An Explanation of Poetry to My Father is an exploration of why the son of a builder writes poems, and the children’s books Uncle Glenn and Me features a nephew while Uncle Glenn and Me Too a niece. He lives on the Kapiti Coast. (This event supported by Masterton District Creative Communities Scheme.)

23 September 2014

Tuesday Poem: Report, by Sue Wootton

You can’t stopper a volcano with dissidents
though this has been tried. You can’t silence

a street by hustling your critic at gunpoint
into an unmarked police car, though this

has also been tried. Somewhere else
a daughter doesn’t return to the casa;

somewhere else a son goes down
through a scream of space or staggers the stone

stairs blindfold to the soundproof cell.
But you can’t mute what his bones will tell.

And here in the free world, here and near,
over the fence and behind your door,

somebody else or somebody dear is kicked
in the kitchen, punched in the hall; somebody close

is silenced by violence, by lies and denial
and if need be by tears. There’s blood on the walls

of the rich and the poor. Yet recoil, yet speak.
Caught: by pen, by camera, caught in thought –

tried and caught, and tried in court. Some wrongs
must be fought. No one can silence the report.

Credit note: "Report" is published by kind permission of the author, Sue Wootton. It was first published in the Otago Daily Times in 2012.

Tim says: 

The Tuesday Poem: 

About Sue Wootton

Sue Wootton has won several awards for her poetry and fiction, including both NZ Poetry Society and Takahe international competitions. She held the 2008 Robert Burns Fellowship. In 2013 she shared second prize in the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine (UK), and won the Cancer Council Victoria Arts Awards (Australia).  She has written three collections of poetry, a children’s book called Cloudcatcher, and the e-book short story collection ‘The Happiest Music on Earth’ (rosamirabooks.com).Her most recent publication is Out of Shape, a hand-printed artisan portfolio book of new and selected poems, released by Ampersand Duck, the imprint of Canberra letterpress artist Caren Florance. (See www.outofshape.net for details.)  

A former physiotherapist, Sue has a long-standing interest in the intersection of science and the humanities generally, and poetry and medicine in particularShe is currently writing a novel and completing a Masters in Creative Writing through Massey University, examining the portrayal in contemporary American literature of changes in the doctor-patient relationship since the 1950s.
Further information about Sue is available at suewootton.com

15 September 2014

Why I Won't Be Voting National - And Why I Will Be Voting Green

I live in the Wellington Central electorate. This election, I intend to give my party vote to the Green Party and my electorate vote to the Labour Party's Wellington Central MP, Grant Robertson. Here's why.

Why I Won't Be Voting National

Funnily enough, it isn't primarily because of the corruption and collusion revealed in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics, or because of John Key's collusion with Warner Brothers (maybe over Kim Dotcom's extradition, but definitely over de-unionising the film industry), or because of NZ's participation in the "Five Eyes" spy ring - even though all of those reveal a contempt for democracy which reminds me strongly of Robert Muldoon era. (John Key is Muldoon with a nicer smile.)

It's because National's policies in areas I care about are very bad. There are many examples, but I'm going to focus on two:

Climate change and the environment: Everything we value as a country - including our economy, with its strong dependence on primary production - in turn depends on the quality of our phyiscal environment, and on a stable climate. Yet both are under threat from climate change, primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels - with a substantial assist in New Zealand from the intensification of dairy farming.

The 1999-2008 Labour-led Government took some steps - inadequate steps, overcautious steps, but steps nevertheless - to address climate change and to better protect the environment. Among the first actions of John Key's incoming National Government was to strip away these protections, including weakening Labour's Emissions Trading Scheme so that it became entirely useless rather than merely inadequate.

And as National started, so they have carried on: bending over backwards to encourage coal mining, oil drilling, fracking, and seabed mining; opening conservation lands to mining - even when the Minister in question doesn't even know where they are; and meanwhile failing to take action on climate change at home, and serving as a roadblock to meaningful actions abroad.

And for what? As I have posted elsewhere, this recent quote from the mining industry journal NZ Resources sums up what the Government's pro-mining policy has achieved:

The National-led Government’s ambition to have the mining, and separate oil and gas sector, underpin economic recovery has borne little long term gains in its past two terms.

There are other, better ways to create jobs - ways that do not place our environment,. and the climate, under further stress. But National, acting on the behest of its donors and its corporate masters, is either unable or unwilling to change its approach.

Domestic and sexual violence: Both are at epidemic levels in this country. National's response has been to cut funding to Women's Refuges and allow Rape Crisis centres to close. This is an area where interventions can make a huge difference, yet National would rather waste money on motorways than make the necessary funding available.

I joined the march to Parliament on Monday calling for action on these issues. If you doubt how serious these issues are, check out the statistics at the end of this article.

Just above that, you'll find the amazing statue of Kate Sheppard. It was designed and constructed to stand at Parliament for three months - until the Speaker, National's David Carter, refused permission, apparently because it would make Parliament's precincts too cluttered. While the absence of this statue in itself is not a matter of life and death, this decision typifies the cloth ear and blind eye National has turned to cries for help from the abused, the poor, and the vulnerable.

Why I'll Be Giving My Party Vote To The Green Party

I don't intend to vote for National or for any party likely to provide support a National-led Government. That means there are three parties I've considered giving my party vote this election: Labour, Internet Mana, and the Greens. I've decided to give my electorate vote to Grant Robertson, the Wellington Central MP, who in my view has done an excellent job as an electorate MP and is an asset to the Labour Party.

I would like to see a Labour-led Government after this General Election - or, to be more precise, I would like to see a Greens-led Government, but that is less likely. However, in my view, Labour is still badly compromised in several areas. One is the influence of its Rogernomics-era holdovers on aspects such as its refusal to oppose the potentially disastrous TPPA. Another is its continued links with the oil, gas and coal industries. The stronger the Greens are, the more confident I'll be that a Labour-led Government would take serious, meaningful action on climate change and other environmental issues, not to mention other important social and political issues.

I have conflicting feelings about Internet-Mana. There are some very good candidates in both parties, with policies I support, but I'm not a huge fan of Kim Dotcom's disproportionate influence on New Zealand politics - even though I'm very grateful for the work he'd done on exposing the GCSB and its actions - and, given that the race for Te Tai Tokerua looks very close at the time of writing, it's not a given that Internet-Mana will end up with any MPs if it does not reach the 5% party vote threshold. I hope they do, and I hope their efforts to get young voters out to vote are successful, but I'd hate to see those votes go to waste.

Of all the parties, the Greens are closest to my own views. They have a track record of saying they'll do things and then achieving them, even in opposition; they have excellent MPs and some outstanding candidates, such as Marama Davidson, who need a good showing for the Greens to get into Parliament; and they would contribute high-quality Ministers, such as Julie Anne Genter, to a Labour-Greens Government. That's why I plan to give my party vote to the Greens.

27 August 2014

Tuesday Poem on a Wednesday: A Swift Move, by John Howell

Tim writes: I got caught up with other things yesterday and didn't get my Tuesday Poem posted in time, so this is a Tuesday Poem on a Wednesday! My apologies for the delay must go to John Howell, who sent me this all-too-apt poem after seeing my post last week about Cameron Slater and John Key.

But here, a day late but still very timely, is John's preamble, poem and bio.

A Swift Move

One of the most influential examples of irony in English is the political pamphlet “A modest proposal” written by Jonathan Swift in the early 1700s. In it, the anonymous pamphleteer purports to argue the best way to alleviate poverty in Ireland is to farm and eat Irish children. It’s not a serious suggestion; in fact the essay is written with a devastating energy and bitterness. It was Swift’s response to the depth of Irish poverty at the time, and the cruelty that characterized contemporary political debates. (The Philosopher’s Magazine, #56 page 31)

At the end of the day
I have to say
the poverty issue
is here to stay.

I have to say
at the end of the day
if kids have no food
their parents should pay.

A child has a parent
to bring them up.
When the cupboard is bare
it’s entirely their truck.

They buy grog or fags
before feeding the kids
so taxpayers’ money
remains a closed lid.

I have to say
at the end of the day
it is not fair
for the government to pay.

These bludgers and pikers
should all get a job
to pay the rent,
not beg, borrow, rob.

So I have to say
at the end of the day
the poverty issue
is here to stay.

They have to choose
to be loser or winner.
If their luck is in
their kids get dinner.

It is true to say
they’re a wasted resource.
Perhaps we should follow
a more productive course.

At the end of the day
It is user pays
so join the cows
eat grass or hay.

It’s a last option choice
at the end of the day
what our country can sell
is protein and whey.

We’re animal experts
we know how to farm
adding a few kids
should do no harm.

The market won’t know
what’s inside the wrap
with a creative label
the accountants will clap.

If you find this offensive
there is a neat foil
Judith will pass details
to the blog “Whale Oil”.

I’ll handle the media
with put down and scorn
I’m good at one liners
and a smile that is born

from power and success
in my days as a trader.
Don’t come to me
if you need a saviour.

So I have to say
at the end of the day
If you’re not rich like me
then learn how to pray.

John Howell
19 Aug 2014


John Howell lives in Ngaio, Wellington.  Recently he retired from ministering at the Union Parish in Taupo.  He has published two books of prayers.   He has degrees in science, arts, theology, a diploma in Business Studies. Child poverty is well documented by professional economists and others.  He is embarrassed that his country of plenty has this problem, which in his professional experience he has  witnessed.  He says: “It is  now time to speak with emotion. “

13 August 2014

Cameron Slater (Whale Oil) And His Mate John Key

This photo says it all, really. Cameron Slater (Whale Oil) is a right-wing blogger whose public and private behaviour is equally appalling. It turns out that he is also a shill for the tobacco industry. Nicky Hager's new book Dirty Politics clearly demonstrates that Cameron Slater also does Prime Minister John Key's dirty work for him, launching personal and political attacks of the most scurrilous nature so the PM can maintain his easygoing, smily image. The book shows that John Key is, once the public mask is off, just as much of a scumbag as Cameron Slater.

If you get the chance, read this book. And if you're eligible to vote, I suggest you vote for someone other than John Key and his National Party.

PS: In this excerpt from an email, Cameron Slater demonstrates his care and compassion for Christchurch earthquake victims:

You sure picked a great guy to do your dirty work, John.