29 September 2011

IP Picks 2012

IP Picks is Interactive Publications' annual writing competition for unpublished manuscripts. It is open to Australian and New Zealand citizens and residents.

Keith Westwater's Tongues of Ash won the 2011 IP Picks Award for Best First Book, and my new collection Men Briefly Explained is also published by IP. Keith and I will soon be joined by IP Press Publisher Dr David Reiter for a post-World Cup book tour - check out the details, or sign up for the tour venue nearest you on Facebook.

Here is the information IP has sent me about IP Picks 2012.

About IP Picks

Now looking ahead to its eleventh year in 2012, the IP Picks Awards provide guaranteed royalty publication to the best book-length manuscript in five categories: Best Fiction, Best Creative Non-fiction, Best Poetry, Best Young Adult / Junior Prose, Best First Book.

First Place Winners of each category are awarded publication. Highly Commended entrants are given a short reader's report valued at $299, offering editorial advice on how to improve the manuscript. Commended entrants will receive a summary of the judging panel's report on their entries. There is no guarantee of publication for Highly Commended or Commended entrants.

The competition is open to citizens and residents of Australia and New Zealand.

The Fiction category is for manuscripts up to 80,000 words and can include short story collections, short novels and novels written for adults. Any form of fiction is eligible, including science fiction and fantasy.

The Creative Non-fiction category is also for manuscripts up to 80,000 words based on real-life experience and research, but written with literary flair. Biographies, memoirs, travel literature, histories and inspirational self-help books are examples.

The Young Adult / Junior Prose category seeks manuscripts up to 70,000 words. Novels or creative non-fiction works intended for young adult (18 and under) or junior audiences (12 and under) are welcome. Picture books are not eligible.

The Poetry category is for complete collections in any sub-genre, including verse novels, verse plays, special forms such as haiku, or a a mixture of forms, minimum 48 A4 pages.

The Best First Book category can be in any genre (excluding Young Adult / Junior Prose), but the author must not have previously had a book-length manuscript (48 A5 pages or longer) published by a recognised national publisher. Authors who have self-published with only local distribution are eligible to enter under this category. There is no age restriction, but if you are under eighteen years of age, you must have a parent or carer co-sign your entry form.

You may enter a single manuscript in two categories, but you have to pay two entry fees.

How Is It Judged?

IP Picks entries are adjudicated in-house by our Editorial Board.

Each entry is blind read by at least two judges. The judges first form a long-list of entries through a ranking system adjudicated by our genre editors. Next, the Board compares entries on their lists and compiles a short list from the rankings. The short-listed entries are read again by the Board, which, at that stage, includes the Director. Finally the Board meets to decide the winners and commended entries. At that meeting, the Board may also recommend that the Director offer publication to certain of the commended entries.

We then contact the winners and commended entrants and post the results on our website in IP eNews, our online newsletter, as well as circulating the results to all State writers centres.

Deadlines and Fees

IP Picks opens on 1 October and closes on 1 December each year. Entry packages must include:

  • two printed copies and one digital (on CD or floppy disk) copy of the entry (if you are entering in more than one category, you only need to submit two printed copies and one digital copy to cover both categories).
  • a completed entry form - type or print in block letters
  • the applicable fee

Download the required Conditions and Entry form in Word format or as a pdf file for further details on the submission procedure and to enter the competition. If you have trouble downloading the form [Adobe Acrobat Reader® required], email us for a copy, or send a self-addressed stamped envelope to IP, Treetop Studio, 9 Kuhler Court, Carindale 4152, Australia.

We charge a reading fee, currently set at AUS $66 per entry. This must be included as a cheque or money order, with your entry. Included in the reading fee is an IP title of your choice (must be a title from our Interactive Press, Glass House Books, IP Kidz or IP Digital imprints). If you enter more than one category, you must pay a fee for each entry, and for that you receive an extra title of your choice.

At the time of submission you may also ask to have a short report written on the publishability of your manuscript. The discounted fee for that report is AUS $249 GST-inclusive, or AUS $199 for students or concession card holders (must provide photocopy of student card or concession card).

27 September 2011

Tuesday Poem: Evensong In A Graveyard Of Villas, by Keith Westwater


The pines on the ridge are about to cede
their colour to the night. Once more
light’s absence will shroud this place.

Not even car-lights on the highway below
(such is their need for road when it’s dark)
re-mark the trees – their placement

their particular explanation of green.
Soon the evening will lay claim too
to vestiges of villas which once stood

in the bush beneath the pines –
orphaned lawns, homeless paths
rhododendron that flower

among five-finger, tree fern, rata.
These last artefacts mark the bones
of grand abodes. These and a plaque

at the site of each home
listing its name, its history of dwellers
its date of sacrifice to the road.

Credit note: "Evensong In A Graveyard Of Villas" is from Keith Westwater's debut poetry collection Tongues of Ash.

Tim says: In late October, Keith Westwater and I will be embarking on a book tour to Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Lower Hutt and Auckland to launch our respective collections, his Tongues of Ash and my Men Briefly Explained.

I met Keith when we both did the IIML Writing The Landscape course, run by the wonderful Dinah Hawken, in 2003. "Evensong In A Graveyard Of Villas", the penultimate poem in the penlutimate section of Tongues Of Ash, is a fine example of his landscape poetry, and anyone who knows me will know that I am in full agreement with the last line!

The Tuesday Poems: You can check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog - this week's hub poem in the centre of the page, and all the other Tuesday Poems on the right.

25 September 2011

Book Review: Tales For Canterbury

Book Review: Tales for Canterbury: Survival – Hope - Future

A Post For NZ Speculative Fiction Blogging Week.

(Disclaimer: Tales for Canterbury includes my story "Sign of the Tui", which I have not attempted to review!)

Tales for Canterbury, as people who follow this blog may know, is an anthology of short stories (and a poem) which was pulled together very quickly by its editors, Cassie Hart and Anna Caro, in the wake of the 22 February earthquake which caused many deaths and much destruction in Christchurch. All the work appearing in the anthology, and the very considerable time and effort invested by the editors, was donated, and all proceeds from the book are being donated to the New Zealand Red Cross Christchurch Earthquake Appeal.

Well. I've gone on the record before saying what a good cause this is, and how richly it deserves your support. I've mentioned what a remarkable line-up of authors Anna and Cassie pulled together at very short notice – a mixture of international big names and New Zealand authors ranging . But what of the stories (and the poem) themselves? Do I recommend the anthology purely for the quality of the work included. Should you buy it for entirely selfish motives?

The answer is, most emphatically, yes. Tales for Canterbury is full of good stories, and what especially impressed me is that just as many of my favourite stories in the collection come from the lesser-known authors as come from the big names.

But (I hear you asking – but then, my hearing is not what it was) why is this a post for NZ Spec Fic Blogging Week? Well, this collection consists of about 2/3 speculative fiction (SF, fantasy and horror) stories to 1/3 literary fiction stories of various stripes, and quite a lot of that spec fic is written by New Zealand authors.

So. Here are a baker's-dozen-minus-one* of the pieces that particularly moved, excited or impressed me in Tales for Canterbury. (I should say that I liked nearly all of the other stories, too!)

*Known in our Earth language as "a dozen".

  • The opening story, "Broadwing" by Simon Petrie, is an SF story set on Titan that could easily be an extract from a Kim Stanley Robinson novel about the colonisation of the outer solar system. Coming from me, that's high praise indeed.
  • Neil Gaiman's contribution is a poem, "Inventing Aladdin". I was, at first, slightly disappointed when I saw that Neil Gaiman had contributed a poem rather than a story. I needn't have been. "Inventing Aladdin" is a fine poem, with a killer last line.
  • I have never quite decided what my favourite story is in Tales for Canterbury, but "My Dad, The Tuatara" by Amanda Fitzwater is right up there. This is a lovely piece of magic realism, happily at home right on the border of literary fiction and speculative fiction.
  • One of the things that most impresses me about Helen Lowe's writing is her command of tone. "The Fountain" is a story of hope restored all the better for the control with which it is told.
  • "Daughter of the Khan", by Mary Victoria, is a fine tale that takes place at the intersection of fantasy and modernity.
  • Janis Freegard's writing, both poetry and fiction, specialises in pulling rabbits out of hats and rugs from under feet. Her "The Magician" is a little piece of literary magic.
  • Tina Makereti's "Shapeshifter" gives Pania of the Reef her voice, and it's a voice well worth listening to.
  • Somewhere in the mulch of a bottom drawer lies an early, unpublished story of mine called "Shore Leave", about a man returning to his family after time-dilated service in space. From time to time, I have thought about digging it out and having another go at it. Now I know I don't need to, because Matt Cowens has contributed a much better story called "Shore Leave" to this anthology.
  • "The Delightful Maiden", by Debbie Cowens, is one of the relatively few stories in the book that is actually set in Christchurch. A Christchurch-set cyberpunk story? It sounds improbable, but this was another of my very favourite stories in the book.
  • "Desperately Seeking Darcy", by R J Astruc, throws a Bill-and-Ted-styled "excellent adventure" together with Regency England. It's a shameless recycling of used story parts. It's also wonderfully entertaining.
  • Patty Jansen's "Looking for Daddy" takes the material of what could be a bog-standard horror story and uses it for different, and much more affecting, ends. One of the strangest stories in the book, and one of the best.
  • There are writers whose work I like, writers whose work I don't like, and writers whose work I admire from a distance: I can tell they are very good writers, but for one reason or another, I can't connect with their work. Up until now, Gwyneth Jones has been one such author for me: but "The Voyage Out", the penultimate story in the book, really worked for me.

I read much of the book on a return journey between Wellington and Invercargill, passing through Christchurch Airport both ways. The ground, during my short stopovers, stayed firm. For a visitor passing through, it was easy to forget anything strange, anything tragic, had happened here. The book – survival; hope; future – pressed into my palm, reminding me otherwise.

Sales info

Tales for Canterbury is only available online, and you can buy it as a paperback or ebook from the Random Static website.

20 September 2011

Tuesday Poem: Men At Sea


1. Puysegur

Glint of gold, horizon
proclaiming fish: familiar
warnings of gale and cloud.

He descends to the fishing boats.
One will take him tideward,
southward, a tolerated,

but far from welcome,
inspector of catches. In a pre-dawn
counterfeit of morning, they cast off

for Puysegur: the south-west
corner, the Roaring Forties'
big back yard, their hunting ground.

Three days of the sea as mountain range,
eating with the crew, sharing danger
but not profit. Three days

of soaked skin, puddled clothes, each
wooden bunk a trampoline, salt spray
in every cut and nick. At last

the turning homeward, past Solander,
past Centre Island — the Bluff
finally, blessedly, in sight.

He will make tallies, say farewells,
enact the weary rituals
of damp wharf and empty office.

He will drive a narrow highway home,
eyelids heavy, engine cold and catching
in the falling winter light.

2. Halfmoon Bay

School holidays. The ferry's
uncertain plunging past the fishing fleets,
young feet

attentive to the scuppers. Green bile
derived from dread and remnant breakfast
flung, a final offering,

to the greedy waves. Then this
harbour long desired, Foveaux's fingers
unclamping from my inner ear. Sudden

ease, relief; a brief reflection
that all this must be undergone again.
Boats in our wake, men at sea

raising a laconic workman's finger
to visitors, to loopies,
to the daily irruption of other lives.

And now the island: crash
of gangways, solid ground,
davits whining as we walk away.

Men at sea, I take my father's hand
as we approach the village, houses
hunched against the glowing skies.

The lure of escape, of absorption
into no-time, merely being
and doing. The memory of waves.

The journey back. Hands,
half-longed-for, half-feared,
reaching as we near the shore.

Credit note: "Men At Sea" is a new poem, first published in my new poetry collection Men Briefly Explained.

Tim says: My dad used to work as a fisheries inspector in Southland, the southern province of New Zealand. Halfmoon Bay on Stewart Island/Rakiura, and Puysegur Point at the south-west corner of New Zealand, were two of the places on his 'beat'. I went with him several times to Stewart Island, but the trip to Puysegur was regarded as a bit tough for a child of my age. I still haven't been there.

You can check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog - this week's hub poem in the centre of the page, and all the other Tuesday Poems on the right.

15 September 2011

South Pacific and Asia Book Chat: An Appreciation

South Pacific and Asia Book Chat is a weekly book chat that takes place on Twitter on Thursday evenings (New Zealand time). To join it, all you need to do is (a) join Twitter and (b) send out tweets at the appropriate time which include the #spbkchat tag. I take part about once a fortnight, on average.

(You don't have to live in this region to participate - it's just that the chat was set up to be at a time that people in the region could make. Most book chats on Twitter are US-based, and the timing doesn't work for many other parts of the world.)

Recently, #spbkchat celebrated its first anniversary. During the past 13 months, a huge range of topics has been covered - there are general book chats every month or so, chats about particular genres, and chats about the national literatures of various countries in the region.

I find these latter chats especially interesting. Despite New Zealand's geographical position, New Zealanders - or at least (largely) monoglot New Zealanders like me - learn far more about books and writers from England and the US than we do about writers from Asia and the Pacific - or even Australia. I really value hearing about the writers to watch out for, and the shape of the writing and publishing scene, in the Philippines, and Indonesia, and - tonight's topic - Malaysia, and it is great that readers, and sometimes writers, from so many countries get involved.

So this is to say thanks to Marg, Maree and Tanabata, the organisers of #spbkchat, and to all the enthusiastic, knowledgeable folks - readers, writers, readers and writers - who take part. Long may it continue!

13 September 2011

Tuesday Poem: Impertinent To Sailors - Now Set To Music


Curved over islands, the world
dragged me south in a talkative year

slipping Southampton
as the band played a distant farewell.

It was better than steerage,
that assisted passage: ten pound Poms

at sixpence the dozen, promenading
in sun frocks, gathering for quoits,

angling, in an understated way,
for a seat at the Captain's table —

while I, a child, roamed decks, became
impertinent to sailors.

And the heat! My dear, there never were
such days — rum, romance,

the rudiments of ska. Panama beckoned,
locks pulsing like the birth canal.

We passed through, to be rocked
on the swells of the quiet ocean,

its long unshaded days
of trade winds, doldrums, Equator —

then a cold shore,
a bureaucratic harbour,

and the half of a world
it would take to say goodbye.

Credit note: "Impertinent To Sailors" was published in JAAM 27 (2009), edited by Ingrid Horrocks, under the title "Over Islands", and is included in my new collection Men Briefly Explained.

Tim says: I've run "Impertinent to Sailors" as my Tuesday Poem before, and I don't usually repeat them - but there is a special reason to do this week. "Impertinent To Sailors" has been set to music as a choral work, "Brighton to Bondi", which will premiere at a concert of the same name at the Sydney Town Hall on Friday 16 September.

Here is composer and conductor Brett Weymark's account of how he wrote "Brighton to Bondi".

I was delighted when Brett got in touch, having found my poem online when it was previously posted as a Tuesday Poem - so thanks go to Mary McCallum too, for getting the Tuesday Poems rolling in the first place!

I hope the concert is a great success, and I also hope that this will not be the last time "Bright to Bondi" is performed.

You can check out all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem Blog - this week's hub poem in the centre of the page, and all the other Tuesday Poems on the right.

10 September 2011

The First Asian AB - Renee Liang's New Play Comes To Auckland And Wellington

Renee Liang is a poet, playwright, short story writer, and librettist. You can find out more about her work on her excellent blog and in my interview with her almost exactly a year ago.

Renee's latest venture is very timely indeed: a play called "The First Asian AB", which has Auckland and Wellington seasons coming up. Here are all the details from Renee's announcement:

Introducing The First Asian AB, a hilarious new comedy from Kiwi-Chinese writer Renee Liang...

What would you do to represent?

Willy’s a homestay Asian student. Mook’s Samoan and he’s been here for ages. They’re best mates at Timaru Boys High. But when Willy decides his dream is to try out for the All Blacks, mateship — and everything else — is up for grabs.

A warm feel-good comedy with serious undertones, The First Asian AB examines the question ‘what makes someone Kiwi?’ Is it rugby, racing and beer – or being true to oneself and one’s friends?

At breakneck pace, Benjamin Teh (The Bone Feeder, Odd Socks) and Paul Fagamalo (Rent, Where We Once Belonged) capture multiple characters – a Samoan aiga, a bored class of thirteen year olds, two entire rugby teams playing each other, and one sassy girl called George.

Directed by Edward Peni (Samoa Mo Samoa, The West Auckland Cardigan Appreciation Society) with live music by Andrew Correa, and dramaturgy by Oscar Kightley, The First Asian AB debuts as part of the Real NZ Festival (the 'arty' side of the Rugby World Cup!).

Where You Can See the First Asian AB

Basement Studio, Auckland, 6pm, 13-18 Sep 2011,
Tickets http://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2011/sep/faab/, (09) 361 1000
Q+A after the show on the 14th

BATS Theatre, Wellington, 6pm, 22 Sep-1 Oct 2011,
Tickets http://www.bats.co.nz/content/first-asian-ab, (04) 802 4175
Q+A after the show on the 23rd

Tickets $18 full, $13 concession (seniors/students), $15 groups 6+

Renee adds:

For rugby diehard fans: where else could you pay 2% of the cost of a RWC opening ticket and watch 3 rugby matches in 90 minutes?? The show contains plenty of rugby hero moments!!

For people who couldn't care less about the RWC: this is not really a play about rugby, but about the immigrant experience. (Shhhhh.)

08 September 2011

Judging And Presenting The Dan Davin Literary Awards

In April, I took part in the Readers and Writers Alive! Literary Festival in Invercargill, and had a great time. Hamesh Wyatt, Rebecca Amundsen and the Dan Davin Literary Foundation really know how to look after visiting writers - in a way that makes them feel a part of the community they are visiting - and if you ever get the chance to attend the Festival, my advice is: take it!

But my association with the Dan Davin Foundation didn't end there. I also took on the job of judging the Open and Student short story competitions, and I returned to Invercargill on 1 September to present the prizes.

I didn't know it when I chose the winners, place-getters and honourable mentions, but the identity of the winners turned out to be stories in themselves, one sad and one happy.

As the student section winner, I chose "A Day at the Beach" by Pooja Pillay. What I didn't know was that Pooja was seriously ill by the time I made my choice. She learned of her victory the day before she died, a few days before the presentation ceremony, as reported in the Southland Times.

As the Open section winner, I chose "The Journey of the Magi" by Claire Buckingham. While the Student competition is confined to senior high school students from Southland schools, the Open competition is open to entrants from throughout New Zealand, and this appears to have been the first time that a Southlander has won the Open section. (Not that I knew this when judging - the entries were anonymous.)

There were a number of other very fine stories among the placegetters and Honourable Mentions, and as I said in my Judge's Reports, both the present and the future of Southland writing appear to be in good hands.

Given the circumstances, the presentation ceremony (at which Bill Manhire also delivered the annual Dan Davin Lecture) was a bittersweet affair. I presented the open competition awards first - there was a lot of applause at the news a local writer had won, but Claire is away on her travels and wasn't able to receive the prize in person - and the student competition awards second.

This meant that Pooja's award was the last announced, and having announced her as the winner, I then handed over to representatives from Pooja's school, Aparima College. One of Pooja's fellow students gave a moving eulogy that focused on the difference Pooja's presence had made to the school and to her fellow students, then her English teacher read Pooja's winning story before we settled back to listen to Bill's lecture.

Some of us were still chatting away over food and drinks the best part of an hour after the formal parts of the evening finished, and this discussion only reinforced my feeling that the main thing holding writers back in Southland is not any lack of ability, but isolation, both real and perceived. I know the Dan Davin Literary Foundation has some big plans to help ease that isolation, and I am looking forward to seeing those plans come to fruition.

06 September 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Wall, by Tony Malone

The sole guardian of the citadel is he,
the last hope of a billion souls and a billion hearts,
a warrior towering in front of his own Thermopylae -
through him, they must pass.

He stands, waiting, as so many times before,
with the calm of the warrior,
for the approach of the foe…

which comes again
with a fiery catapult
of blazing red
thundering down the pass
finally breaking his resolve,
shattering his defence,
ending his resistance.

The white-clad warriors cheer,
their victory dance mocking the memory
of the heroic struggle. The people roar
as the warrior disappears from view, yet…

In their joy is respect, and the truth that
with the falling of the Wall,
victory is inevitable - and complete.

Credit note: "The Wall" is published here for the first time by permission of Tony Malone.

Tim says: A couple of weeks ago, my Tuesday Poem was Ponting's Genius by Meliors Simms. Meliors' poem was about Herbert Ponting, the photographer who accompanied Scott's expedition to Antarctica, but as I expected, some of my readers saw the title and though that Meliors' subject was Ricky Ponting, Australian cricket captain.

One such was Tony Malone, an Australian writer, reader, reviewer and blogger who, like me, is a participant in the weekly South Pacific and Asia Book Chat (#spbkchat) on Twitter. I told him he was welcome to send me a poem about Ricky Ponting (and he still is!), but instead he sent me one about a cricketer I greatly admire, Rahul Dravid.

England and India have just finished playing a Test cricket series during which England overtook India as the #1 team in the world. In fact, England beat India 4 tests to 0. India were hugely disappointing, and only one of the great Indian batsmen stood up against the English bowling attack: Rahul Dravid, the man they call The Wall. Tony's poem is a fitting testament to his skill and determination.

If you'd like to read some more cricket poems, check out New Zealand cricket poetry anthology A Tingling Catch, edited by Mark Pirie, and the blog he maintains that has carried on the work of the anthology.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog - the featured poem is on the centre of the page, and the week's other poems are linked from the right-hand column.

05 September 2011

October Book Tour To Launch Men Briefly Explained and Tongues Of Ash

It's all on! The Interactive Press book tour for my third poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained, and Keith Westwater's prize-winning debut collection Tongues of Ash, starts in Dunedin on Tuesday 25 October and ends in Auckland on Tuesday 1 November. Here is the tour poster:

For the benefit of Google and of those, like me, whose eyesight is not what it was, here are those details again in text format:

  • Dunedin: Tuesday, 25 October, Circadian Rhythm Café, 72 St Andrew Street, 8pm
  • Christchurch: Wednesday, 26 October, CPIT, Madras Street, 5:30pm
  • Wellington: Thursday, 27 October, Wellington Central Library, 5:30 for 6pm
  • Lower Hutt: Friday, 28 October, Rona Gallery/Bookshop, Eastbourne, 6pm
  • Auckland: Tuesday 1 November, Poetry Live, Thirsty Dog, 469 Karangahape Road, 8pm

You can also see these, and signal your attendance, on our Facebook events page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=188416554563635

To celebrate the occasion, Keith Westwater has launched his own website.

Dr David Reiter, the publisher of Interactive Press and a noted poet in his own right, will also be in attendance and reading from his new collection My Planets. As he is an international poetry publisher who has a track record of publishing collections by New Zealand poets, he may be someone you want to get to know.

We will be doing lots more to publicise individual events over the next seven weeks, but if you just can't wait that long to get your copy of these books, or if you live where you can't get to a launch event, you can already purchase both books from Amazon in paperback and Kindle ebook formats, as follows:

Tongues of Ash: paperback and ebook
Men Briefly Explained: paperback and ebook

01 September 2011

Oh, All Right, If You Insist

I wasn't going to. But after spending the past two days reading nothing but pleas from leading media outlets for me to change my mind - "He must tell us!" (New Orleans Times-Picayune), "This has become an urgent matter of national security" (Washington Times), "All Blacks something World Cup something" (Dominion Post) - I have decided to give in. The rumours are true: the three titular brothers of my Tuesday Poem Tres Hermanos are indeed that trio of Hollywood hot-shots, Zack, Jed and Joss Whedon.

Joss Directs

Here they are with Maurissa "Mo" Tancharoen at some San Diego Comic Con of distant memory - that's Mo, Joss, Zack and Jed in that order. Since the brothers Whedon got their (uncredited) chance to shine in Tres Hermanos and hence Men Briefly Explained, here is Mo Tancharoen with Fran Kranz in the music video for her and Jed Whedon's song "Remains". It's a video that manages to be beautiful, creepy, sad and feminist all at once.