The 2008 AWRF starts on 14 May. Creative Directors Peter Wells and Stephanie Johnson’s catch cry for this year’s event is “Let’s talk up a storm”. With nineteen internationals and over ninety New Zealand based writers, editors and publishers, a veritable gale, with diverse, stimulating and entertaining weather patterns, is predicted. I’m appearing on a panel with Dominican-American Junot Díaz and Chinese-Welsh Peter Ho Davies. We’re in the ASB Theatre - Aotea Centre, 15 May, 4.30-5.30pm. Our session is entitled Bloodlines: Do genetics dictate story? James George is the Chair.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Ribbons of Grace was launched by artist and poet, Claire Beynon, on a balmy September 2007 evening at the Executive Residence, University of Otago, Dunedin. Auckland based Penguin publisher, Geoff Walker, and his partner, writer Sue Reidy, joined the celebratory group of family and friends, which included many wonderful women from Claire and my writing group – Eva, Kath, Martha, Huberta, Paddy, Jackie, Elizabeth, Shirley and Beatrice. Marcus Turner played Orcadian fiddle music as a tribute to one of the novel’s characters. We drank Central Otago wine, ate glorious food prepared by Roz Mason and generally enjoyed ourselves. My first novel was finally ready to leave home!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
In August 2006 I signed a two-book contract with Penguin Group (NZ), a highlight in my writing career, as I had long fantasised about having a novel with an orange penguin on the spine. My contract came about after I sent my manuscript, Ribbons of Grace, to Penguin and another large publishing company who also offered me a contract, although just for the one book. The lure of a Penguin and the offer of their two-book deal proved irresistible, especially after my trip to Auckland to meet the Penguin team who proved to be great fun, as well as highly professional.
Then the hard work began. Over the next few months, under Geoff Walker and Rebecca Lal’s astute tutelage, I reworked the manuscript until it was ready to go to an external editor. This phase was a significant learning curve for me. While I am a confident academic writer and have in recent years also developed some skills in short fiction, Ribbons of Grace was my first novel. I had a lot to learn. It was an important book for me – one I had wanted to write since childhood when I was present at a party in Arrowtown, Central Otago, New Zealand, and overheard an adult conversation about a Chinese miner who was discovered to be female after he died.