29 April 2009

The Cover of Transported: It's Embossed, I Tell You! Embossed!

When I posted my list of ten reasons why Transported makes a great present (for another, or yourself), I forgot the best reason of all: the cover is embossed. Some of those funny little creatures on it are slightly raised above the surface. You can run your hands over it and feel the difference. Check out this post on Meliors Simms' blog if you don't believe me - see the third picture down. Is that little flying fish embossed, or what?.

The cover of Transported is based on the painting "Castaway Bardo" by Maryrose Crook, musician, songwriter and artist. I'm a lucky man to have such a great painting on the cover of my short story collection.

If you'd like a copy, the easiest way is to buy Transported online from New Zealand Books Abroad or Fishpond. It looks like Whitcoulls no longer stocks Transported, but independent bookshops such as Unity Books in Wellington still have it on their shelves. Thank you, Unity!

26 April 2009

An Interview with Trevor Reeves

I have known Trevor Reeves for many years, firstly through our joint involvement in environmental activism and the Values Party during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and later through his work as a poet, publisher and editor of the literary magazine Southern Ocean Review, in which I had several poems and a couple of short stories published during the course of its 50 issues. When I heard that Trevor was bringing Southern Ocean Review to a close, I thought it would be a good time to talk with him for this blog.

Trevor, readers of this blog are most likely to know you for your recent poetry and as the editor of Southern Ocean Review. They may not have heard of Caveman Press and all the other things you've been involved with as a publisher, editor and writer. Can you tell us how you got started with writing, publishing and so forth, and what your major ventures have been?

Caveman Press started up in 1971 – I still don’t know why I chose the name, but it seemed to go down well. I was given an old Golding Disc Inker printing press (letter press) and proceeded to teach myself how to print books on it. The first was a book called “Skyhook” – poems by Lindsay Smith. He now lives in Australia and I am still in touch with him. He was quite an influence in my own writing and my books ‘Stones’ and ‘Apple Salt’ came later. Other books followed in close succession as sales in those days were good. Alan Loney set his own book then – now a collector’s item. The late Dennis List then Murray Edmond and two of Hone Tuwhare’s books; ‘Sapwood and Milk’ and ‘Something Nothing’ - also a new edition of his ‘Come Rain Hail’ came next. Later in the 1970’s, we branched into general books. They were books on architecture, politics, humour, health, etc. It was a busy time. We also did four issues of a literary magazine, ‘Cave’ which contained some overseas writers, including Charles Bukowski.

Since 1996 you've been the editor of Southern Ocean Review, which appeared with impressive regularity, four issues per year, right up to Issue 50 in January 2009. What led to your decision to make Issue 50 the final issue?

It's done its dash and is a lot of work anyway. It was fun to do, of course and online a long time before any other magazines were. The print version started at #3 and carried on right until the end. That’s 47 separate issues; the largest being 84 pages but most around 64 pages. We asked for submissions from all around the world. However, we published plenty of NZ content, too. People got around to sending their best work too, which was pleasing. We had a policy, too that every work was illustrated – by Judith Wolfe, co-editor. All issues are still on line at www.book.co.nz and will be for some time yet. l have the print versions available for anyone who wants copies. The magazine survived without any subsidy or grants, which resulted in a bit of a struggle to keep it going, but we managed. One of the joys of the magazine for me was the reviews section. There were always plenty of books to a short review or notice for. We were privileged to get review copies from Auckland University Press and other well known publishers of poetry, stories and novels. Victoria University Press never came up with any despite being continually asked, but that’s the way it goes, I guess. My main task as I saw it was to give each book a good plug; realising that people have very different tastes.

I didn't know that you wrote fiction until I reviewed your short story collection Breaker Breaker for JAAM magazine. Is writing fiction something you've been doing all along, or is it a comparatively recent development?

I have always been interested in short story writing. My earliest pieces were science fiction ones and I remember my first one being published in the centenary Otago University Review, in, I think it was, 1968. Short story writing was a rigid discipline for me – beginning/middle/end which was good for me and I enjoyed the constraints. Usually, I would dream up a plot and sit on it for quite some time; years, even. Then I would write it up in a couple of hours, usually. I sent them all around the world and they generally got a good reception, which was pleasing. Gathering them all together, I published them in the book; “Breaker Breaker”.

I like your poetry a lot. I was trying to think of a way of characterising it to someone who hasn't read your work, and the best I could come up with was "experimental but accessible": it's not always straightforward, but it is always rewarding. Is that a fair or useful description? How would you describe your own poetry?

My first book was ‘Hibiscuits’ published in England in 1970. That contained some pretty traditional poems mainly about nature and domesticity. Next was “Stones” with Bill Mackay illustrating it. I became a fan of artworks illustrating poetry early on. In 1975 came ‘Apple Salt’ which started off with poems that were pretty traditional then I began experimenting, with ‘found poems’ etc. Then I stopped writing poems altogether to concentrate on commercial art, to try to earn a living etc, and also to research non-fiction books. Then, from 1993, I began to get some stories together and experiment further with poetry. I liked the idea of rhapsodic lines, no beginning middle or end, in a kind of ‘formlessness’ like random speech. With my poems I like to relate as much as I can to ordinary speech and ordinary situations etc.

Who or what - in terms of individual poets, groups of poets, or particular magazines - were the main influence on you when you started writing and publishing poetry? Have those influences changed over the years?

I followed and contributed to most magazines that emerged in the 1970’s. New Zealand influences for me were Tony Beyer, Dave Mitchell, R A K Mason, J K Baxter, Hone Tuwhare etc. I didn’t follow any ‘group’ as such but was involved in most of them. I think there are more poets than ever now, though sales of poetry books have dropped as people have been accessing the internet more. Certainly, publishing small volumes of poetry as I have done over the years doesn’t pay off now but I am pleased to have published the books of many, including Murray Edmond, the late Dennis List and Hone Tuwhare, the late James K Baxter, Alistair Paterson and many others.

Do you enjoy performing your own poetry, or listening to other poets performing theirs?

Yes, I do, or rather, I did. I did quite a lot of readings around the country in those days. Most enjoyable were in Auckland, with people like Dave Mitchell, Tony Beyer, Peter Olds and many others. I would love to have read overseas, but never got the chance.

It's been 16 years now since I moved from Dunedin to Wellington - alarmingly long! - but from what I can make out, the Dunedin literary scene is quite lively at the moment. All the same, it seems to me that authors from the southern South Island - maybe from the whole South Island - don't get as much attention as they deserve in the rest of the country. Do you agree, and what (if anything) could or should be done about it?

I have, and always have had, a wider outlook. And since the onset of the internet, places seem to have become even less relevant in terms of distance. The ‘Dunedin Scene’ has always been lively as has been most other centres. Writers in Auckland have always considered themselves more important of course but that’s just natural, being a bigger centre for writing. I don’t think anything can really ‘be done about it’ – I mean, what, and what for?

Finally, where to next for Trevor Reeves as a writer?

Who knows? I have written in just about every style there is, except a novel and I’m in no hurry to do that. I am back on to the poems now, with my ‘sequences’. I published a book of those, called ‘Hand in Hand’ – which was a collaboration with Judith Wolfe, artist. Before that there were other collaborations with Judith Wolfe, but with non-fiction books. “An Abuse of Power" was the first one, about the building of the Clyde dam. The second was ‘In the Grip of Evil’ – our investigation into the Bain murders – illustrated. This drew threats of a legal action against us but nothing happened. Something may happen in the future, who knows… The next book was ‘Nazi Holocaust’ a cartoon book of the holocaust, in Nazi Germany. This was a harrowing book to do and took a lot of research. Lately, I’ve been on to 6-word ‘American Haikus’. These are strung out in sequences of eight stanzas. These take a while to do, but are nice as it makes me think of the principle of the aphorism and has strict rules. I am not editing anything any more; nor publishing the works of others, either. I have done my share of journalism, editing ‘free’ papers and writing for them, so no more of that.

22 April 2009

The IPL, Tishani Doshi, and the Forward Poetry Prize

The IPL (Indian Premier League) is back for 2009. The first edition of this Twenty20 cricket tournament, featuring eight teams based in Indian cities, with a mixture of young Indian players and top Indian and world cricket stars, took place in 2008 in India and was a great success - even if it did provoke occasional satirical remarks.

Then came the Mumbai and Lahore terrorist attacks, the latter an attack on Sri Lanka's cricket team. Because the Indian Government could not guarantee security (and because of all sorts of internecine wrangling I won't go into here), the whole tournament has been picked up and moved to South Africa. It was an amazing logistical effort to move a 59-game tournament halfway round the world in less than a month. So far, though, the South African autumn weather has played havoc with games played in the coastal cities.

But no matter! To celebrate the 2009 IPL, the normally serious Cricinfo site has set up IPL Page 2, a much more frivolous affair which includes a comic strip, jokes, and a blog by one of the cheerleaders at the tournament. (I think having cheerleaders at the cricket is unnecessary at least and sexist at worst, but Rebecca Lee's account of an apple-pie American being introduced to the alien world of cricket is surprisingly touching.)

Among all this flim-flam, there is some real literary quality. One of Cricinfo's IPL bloggers is Tishani Doshi, who won the 2006 Forward Poetry Prize for best first collection for her book Countries of the Body.

I haven't read Countries of the Body, but she's a fine poet. Read her Ode to the Walking Woman, or watch this video of her performing "The Fasting Season", and you'll see what I mean.

It's good to see that, among the IPL's endless references to the sponsors - if it's not a "DLF Maximum" (formerly known as a six) it's a "Citi Moment of Success"; 7.5 minute "strategic breaks" after 10 overs to cram in more ads; and endless shots of Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta* and Shilpa Shetty watching their respective teams, there is still a place for fine writing in the Indian Premier League.

*Although Preity Zinta deserves respect for two reasons (1) she pays attention to the game, not her fellow celebs and (2) she once faced down the Mumbai mafia pretty much by herself.

20 April 2009

Eat, Pray, Love, Emit

The Saturday edition of Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper carried a lengthy article about American author Elizabeth Gilbert and her latest book, The Last American Man. Elizabeth Gilbert is most famous for her previous book, Eat, Pray, Love, which has sold more than six million copies worldwide..

They sound like interesting books, but what really struck me about this article was a sentence in the final paragraph of the article, which says that Elizabeth Gilbert and her husband run a small import business "bringing back hand-picked treasures from their extensive, continuing travels".

Now, I don't have any beef with Elizabeth Gilbert, or her husband, but that made me think about writers and their travels, mine included, at a time when rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions are leading many scientists to warn that the risks of catastrophic climate change are being badly underestimated by politicians and the public.

There is a lot to be said for writers travelling. It can lead to unexpected collaborations, such as the way Renee Liang has involved Wellington poets in the Wellington production of her play Lantern; it can lead to writers finding new audiences in new territories; it can help to ease that sense of isolation that writers often feel. I enjoyed my recent trip to Christchurch to take part in a poetry reading, and I'm looking forward to reading in Palmerston North on 2 June.

But all that travelling produces greenhouse gas emissions - air travel most of all. Of course, writers' travel is a very small part of overall travel, but it raises the wider question: can we continue all the good things of our globalised culture, which depends so much on travel, when travel is so heavily dependent on burning fossil fuels?

With resources of those fuels depleting rapidly, the environmental consequences of their use becoming increasingly dire, and alternatives a long way from widespread deployment, I suspect that there will come a time when "bringing back hand-picked treasures from their extensive, continuing travels" is no longer looked upon as something to admire.

UPDATE: Having had a little bit of a go at Elizabeth Gilbert - even if only incidentally - it seems only fair to let her speak too. This is a very interesting video of a talk she gave about the nature of creativity, and how the modern West has got it wrong. It's 19 minutes long and well worth watching: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA (Thanks to Neda Akbarzadeh for the link)

15 April 2009

Five More Good Things: Website, Video, Book, Blog, and Fanzine

It's only a week since I did my most recent post of congratulations and good news, and there are already more good things to report.

Several of them have some relationship to JAAM, the annual literary magazine based in Wellington. I guest-edited Issue 26 of JAAM in 2008, and since it appeared, I have enjoyed seeing various writers who featured in the issue - as well as some who didn't - achieve greater prominence. I was also pleased that the issue sold well enough to be reprinted - copies are still available in at least some of the bookshops which stock JAAM.

The Website: The first notable achievement belongs to JAAM itself. In the past, information about JAAM could be found at various places online, and the information wasn't always consistent from site to site. Now, JAAM publisher Helen Rickerby has created a comprehensive JAAM website, where you can find out about past, present and planned future issues.

The Video: The aforementioned Helen Rickerby is a woman of many talents, among them poet, publisher and blogger. Now she's a video poet as well. Check out the video she made to accompany her poem Calling You Home - and her explanation of how she made it.

The Book: Michele Powles, whose story "A Body of Land" appeared in JAAM 26, has a new novel out which has been getting good reviews: Weathered Bones. It has Wellington, weather, lighthouses and ghosts. It sounds like my sort of book.

The Blog: Ross Brighton has a blog focusing on experimental poetry and language poetry. Those aren't things I know much about, so I intend to keep an eye on Ross's blog and learn.

The Fanzine: After high school, my next ventures into writing and publishing were as the editor of a science fiction fanzine, TIMBRE. (You can find a couple of pieces from TIMBRE in the Articles section of my website.) I'm now somewhat out of touch with SF fandom and fanzines, but I have recently been enjoying a great example of the form, issue 10 of Steam Engine Time, edited by Janine Stinson and Bruce Gillespie.

Bruce has made it his life's mission to produce what are called fanzines, but are really literary magazines focusing on science fiction, with detailed, well-informed articles about science fiction writers, science fiction books, and the history of science fiction and science fiction fandom. The eFanzines.com site is a good place to begin to find out about great sf fanzines edited by Bruce, and by many others.

Don't let the word "fanzine" put you off; it's just a word. Go in with an open mind and prepare to find treasure.

13 April 2009

A Suitable Anthology for Easter

Helen Lowe alerted me to the following competition and anthology, which seems like a suitable one to post about at Easter:

Spiritual Writing Competition

Closes: End of May

Judged by a church-based panel led by Pleasant Point writer Karalyn Joyce

Prizes: 1st $500; 2nd $250; 3rd $100

Up to 50 submissions are to be published in a new "Spiritual Anthology" launched in November 2009

Calling for all non-published poems/fiction/non-fiction work with a "words to inspire" based theme; i.e., life; death; creation; peace; miracles; wonder; reflection from new and established writers of all ages

For entry form send a stamped self-addressed envelope to: "Spiritual Anthology", 4a Horton Street, Pleasant Point, South Canterbury; or email: daphnej (at) xtra.co.nz

The entry form has further details:

  1. Submissions (fiction/non-fiction or poetry) must be the original work of the entrant, previously unpublished and not under consideration elsewhere. A suggested length for stories is up to 1,500 words. Poetry is suggested to be no more than 50 lines. The editing team reserves the right to select work from the submissions received and will contact the writer to gain publishing rights but copyright will remain with the writer.
  2. Contributors published in the anthology to receive a free copy in lieu of payment, and the right to order further copies at a special rate. Prizes to be presented at special launch of the anthology in November, or forwarded to the writer following the launch.
  3. The theme is: “words to inspire” (i.e., life; death; love; peace; grace; miracles; healing; creation; reflection; spirituality).
  4. Winners and the writers of the chosen work for the anthology will be notified by email/telephone, others will be destroyed unless there is a stamped self-addressed envelope with the submission.
  5. The entry fee is $2 per poem/ $5 per short story and writers are welcome to enter two or more times. The competition is open to all ages.
  6. Entries are to be typed single sided A4 paper and double spaced.
  7. Judge’s decision is final.
  8. The writer’s name must not appear on the manuscript. Please use the entry form below. Photocopies are acceptable.
  9. The closing date is the 31st May 2009.

08 April 2009

Go You Good Things: Several Congratulations and a Writing Workshop


Congratulations are in order: plenty of them. If I've forgotten someone who deserves congratulations, please let us all know in the comments!

So, congratulations to:

A Workshop

In association with ConScription, the 2009 New Zealand Science Fiction Workshop, comes ...

The Writers' Workshop of Unusual Length

featuring Julie E. Czerneda with Nalini Singh

Auckland, New Zealand, 27 to 29 May 2009, 8.30am to 5.00pm every day

This three-day workshop is about writing in general, not just SF&F — the lessons contained therein apply to all genres. There are a limited number of seats, so get in fast.

"My approach to working with other writers is simple: how can I help them with the creative process? I don't critique what they've done. I don't feel it's useful to the writer once I'm gone, unless I happen to be that writer's editor. What is useful is encouraging self confidence and providing tools to create more and better work. The activities I run make them write in ways most will never have imagined: out loud, with strangers, and quickly. I guarantee they'll have fun. So will I. They'll come away with new ideas and knowledge. They'll realize they can make changes and choices, and know how to talk about their work with others. I want writers to leave my workshops invigorated, enthused, and ready to succeed no matter what they want to write or what they'd like to accomplish with their writing. The creative process should be a joy (as well as work) and those with the courage to attempt it nourished as much as possible." —Julie Czerneda

"This workshop is structured and designed to take the participant from idea generation right through to sale of story. I have the outline in my hot little hand and am convinced that the three days will be well worth the investment for anyone who takes their writing seriously." —Kevin G. Maclean

Bring pen and paper, or a laptop.

The Tutors

Julie E. Czerneda is the author of more than ten science fiction novels, and is the editor of several young adult science fiction anthologies. She has run many writers' workshops for adult and teenage writers, and is currently a consultant for the Canadian Government on Science Fiction in Education. For more information about Julie and her works, go to www.czerneda.com.

Nalini Singh is the author of over ten romance and paranormal novels, and several novellas and short stories. She has given many talks on the process of writing, and has appeared at many romance writers' conferences. For more information about Nalini and her works, go to www.nalinisingh.com.

The Essential Details

When: 3 days, Wednesday – Friday, 27 – 29 May, 8.30 am–5.00 pm

Where: Hotel Grand Chancellor, Corner Kirkbride & Ascot Roads, Mangere

Cost: $150.00 pp for the course (parking onsite $5 per day, payable to the hotel). Lunch not included

Bring: pen & paper or laptop

Places: Limited to 24 participants

Go to: www.conscription.co.nz/ConScription/registration.htm for the registration form .


There's only a limited number of seats, so if you're interested in attending, please register as soon as possible. If the workshop is overbooked, you'll be placed on a waiting list in order of registration, and contacted if a seat opens up. You can register for the workshop by the same form as for the convention: for either alone, or for both together. For details, please see the registration page. Payment is expected along with the registration. It will be returned in full if you cancel by 30 April.

05 April 2009

The Public Lending Right for New Zealand Authors: Getting Paid for Copies of Your Books in New Zealand Libraries

Are you a New Zealand author? If so, did you know that you can be paid for each copy of your books that are held by New Zealand public libraries - as long as the books meet certain criteria, and provided you apply? You can, by applying under the new Public Lending Right.

The most important of the criteria is that there have to be 50 copies of your book in New Zealand public libraries (which do not include school libraries) for it to qualify. Unfortunately, this isn't cumulative - if you have had ten books published, and 49 copies of each are held in qualifying libraries, I'm afraid you won't get a bean. (And, by the way, the regulations stop you donating a few copies here and there just to get your total for each book up above 50.)

I should say at this point that this blog post represents my understanding of the Public Lending Right - please don't regard anything I say here as definitive! You can find the official information on the PLR, and the registration form for it, at the National Library web site:

Public Lending Right for New Zealand authors

One thing that surprises me about the scheme is that the number of copies of a book held in New Zealand libraries is worked out by using a statistical sampling method, rather than by counting the total copies. This was the case under the Author's Fund, but given that the National Library maintains a site where you can check the holdings of your book in New Zealand libraries, I would have thought a little script that visited each online library catalogue in turn and added up the number of each book held might have done the trick. But doubtless there are complexities here than I'm not aware of!

To be eligible for registration for the Public Lending Right in 2009, for books published prior to 31 March 2009, you need to complete and return the registration form by 30 April 2009. So, if you think you have a book which is eligible, I recommend that you get cracking, especially as the completed form has to be witnesses by a JP or other person authorised to witness a statutory declaration. Downloading the form is a good place to start.

UPDATE: I must mention the key role of the New Zealand Society of Authors in getting the Public Lending Right legislation passed by the previous government, thereby ensuring a more stable future for such payments to authors. Well done NZSA!

01 April 2009

Graphic Novels, Comics, and Me

The book group I'm a member of had a good time a couple of nights ago discussing graphic novels - a discussion that somehow morphed into the proposal that we should put on a play (possibly improvised on the spot) at our next meeting.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, whose work I first got to know through her excellent Dykes To Watch Out For comic strips, was the book officially under discussion. We have our best discussions when there's a range of opinions about the book in question - as there was this time; some of us loved it, others weren't so sure. It had been a little while since I read it, and I didn't get to do so again before the group met, but I enjoyed it very much that first time. It's darker and more obviously personal than the DTWOF books, and cuts deeply into family traumas.

We then got on to talking about graphic novels & comics we had known, all the was from The Trigan Empire to Maus by way of Buffy Season 8 (now up to Volume 3: Wolves at the Gate) and Watchmen.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 8, v. 3: Wolves at the Gate
When most of us in the group were young, comics were at best tolerated by most adults as fodder for the children. I remember the fuss when I was at high school over the Classics Illustrated versions of Shakespeare's plays - how dare they associate the master playwright with speech bubbles and illustrations. While there are many comics that don't interest me at all, I'm glad that they are now considered on their merits, rather than on their format.