Wellington author interview: Mandy Hager

Mandy Hager has influenced a generation of readers with her politically astute, emotionally rich YA novels, including The Crossing and The Nature of Ash. But it’s her recent historical novel, Heloise, that’s been causing a stir this year. Described as “brilliant” by the Listener, Heloise tells the story of 12th century lovers Heloise d’Argenteuil and Peter Abelard, and the politics and attitudes they must negotiate during the Gregorian Reforms.

You’ve mentioned that you spent 18 months researching before starting to write Heloise. Were there any particular discoveries that stood out for you, or altered your approach?

Two things really impacted on how I ultimately told the story. The first was a very good piece of advice from academic Dr Constant Mews, who recommended I read as many of the texts Heloise would have read as possible, as all her writing is steeped in references to them. This really enriched the story, especially when I discovered her love of Ovid’s Heroides and saw how I could use it as a mirror for her own story. It was also a really good reminder that, though the incidentals of the 12th century are different, human emotion is consistent across time.

The second thing was discovering the politics that lay behind the story, which made the actions make sense and put them into context. This proved crucial to cracking open the various character’s motivations.

From early on, Heloise fights against the notion that as a woman, she must “learn in silence with all subjection.” How did this struggle, and its on-going relevance, influence your telling of the story?

For a start, the whole act of writing her story countered this: giving her back her voice and own personal agency. Thematically, it taps into several strands I wanted to focus on: the systematic silencing of women across the ages; the effects of church and state power and control, especially as it affected women; and on a craft level, the challenge of telling a story that still has pace and action when the central character is cloistered away and mainly interacts through letters and hearsay.

How difficult was it to capture the voice, thoughts and feelings of a character from the 12th century? Especially someone with Heloise’s background?

As I mentioned above, by reading what Heloise read, it helped me find appropriate ways of expressing her feelings through the literature of her day. Plus, I had the advantage of her letters, which gave me an insight into how she put words on a page and thought. I wrote the whole first draft in a kind of heightened 17th century voice to try and get away from modern concepts, metaphors and language. It didn’t work from a readers point of view (too dense and saccharine) but it helped me make the shift in my head and meant that when I rewrote my head was much more seated in the language and thought constructions of the time. That said, it’s amazing how hard it is to pick up all the modern words and ideas – and I’m extremely grateful to the team of editors and readers for digging them out!

In terms of feelings, once the situation is defined by its context, then it’s just a matter of imagining myself into the character’s head and focussing on what would be the most truthful human reaction to each situation. I think we make a mistake thinking people back then thought in a less emotionally sophisticated way. Heloise’s letters make it clear nothing changes in the history of the heart!

How did writing historical fiction compare with writing stories set in the near future, such as The Nature of Ash?

One’s solely based on imagining a future, with the ability to reference current culture as a kind of shorthand for what’s going on. Historical fiction requires a lot more digging around for shorthand references that are pertinent to the day but still resonate with today’s readers. Another less delicate way of putting this is, in books like The Nature of Ash (which I’m currently writing a sequel to) I’m free to make shit up! That’s a whole lot easier!

Does your approach to writing fiction such as Heloise differ to your approach to writing young adult fiction?

I think when writing young adult fiction there’s an overriding need for pace that is more pressing than adult fiction, along with the need for a young adult protagonist, but overall I don’t think there is that much difference. It’s still a matter of digging into character and trying to bring them alive on the page.

Has Heloise had an on-going influence on your own life, writing or politics?

Most undoubtedly all three! It’s by far the hardest book I’ve ever written (in terms of both its scope and the amount of time it took) and I had to dig really deep to keep going and not give up. I think the gift of the residencies I had during the time meant I felt a great deal of personal pressure to perform and come up with the goods, and though that was exhausting and at times overwhelming, I’m proud of myself for persevering! But I think it’s also taught me a lot as a writer, mainly thanks to my amazing editor, Harriet Allan, who really pushed me (in the best possible way) and I’m hoping that the lessons I’ve learned transfer through to all my writing in the future. The politics have had a huge impact. It’s depressing to realise the very same issues Heloise struggled with are still evident today, and we seem no closer to really solving them. We rabbit on a lot about how we should use history to learn how to progress and improve human lives, but the truth is we’ll go on making the same mistakes over and over – and the same people will continue to be oppressed – if we don’t actually heed the lessons and make a concerted effort to implement change. Heloise’s courage in speaking her truths and supporting those around her is one I now try even harder to emulate as a result of this.

Winter Health Events in July – Food and Sports

Hear an inspiring talk by Kenny McFadden (Steven Adams’ coach) on how he changed a young man’s life with basketball; listen to Anne Else talking about memories of New Zealand cooking and baking based on her world-renowned book: The colour of food: a memoir of life, love & dinner,  and get energized by having a go at Pilates with Anne from Thrive Pilates.
All events are free to attend, located on the warm Central Library ground floor.

Wednesday 12 July, 5:30-6:30pm, Anne Else Talk: The Colour of Food, A Memoir of Life, Love and Dinner
Monday 17 July, 12-1 pm, Anna (Thrive Pilates): Pilates Lesson
Saturday 29 July, 2-3pm, Kenny McFadden Talk: Steven Adams and Basketball

Author talk by Anne Else: The Colour of Food, a memoir of life, love & dinner

Syndetics book coverWellington author Anne Else will be sharing her inspirations of food based on her internationally renowned book: The colour of food : a memoir of life, love & dinner / Anne Else.
“She has the writer’s instinct for a good story and the editor’s keen eye for accuracy and brevity… This is a disarmingly intimate life account that fast forwards and winds back as she savors and suffers a life of friendship, motherhood, love, loss and mealtimes.”- Susette Goldsmith, Listener [sourced from Amazon.com]

Anne Else is a New Zealand writer, editor, blogger, and the author or co-author of five books on women and social history. In 2004 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature. The Colour of Food is her first book about her own story.

5:30-6:30pm, Wednesday 12 July,
Wellington Central Library Ground Floor.

Anna from Thrive Pilates: Pilates Lesson

Syndetics book coverHave a go with Pilates at Wellington Central Library. Anne from Thrive Pilates will teach you how to do Pilates, so wear your comfy clothes and start exercising on the floor.
Pilates is an exercise system that focuses on stretching and strengthening the whole body to improve balance, muscle-strength, flexibility and posture. Thrive Pilates has given pilates a modern twist and is a fun way for you to achieve core control, alignment, precision, axial elongation, breathing, concentration and movement integration.

12-1 pm, Monday 17 July,
Wellington Central Library Ground Floor.

Kenny McFadden talk: Basketball

Syndetics book coverKenny McFadden was awarded Sports Legend of Wellington in 2014 and was introduced to the Hall of Fame. He is the coach who had changed Steven Adams from a troubled youth to an NBA star in the OKC Thunder team. Kenny McFadden was a “player-coach” of the Wellington Saints he took the team to 7 straight finals appearances winning 5 NBL titles from 1982 to 1988. Kenny founded Hoop Club, the largest basketball club in New Zealand. Kenny was the head coach for the Junior Tall Blacks, taking them to the FIBA U19 World Championships in 2009 in Auckland.  Kenny is also the president of the Wellington Basketball Association. Join Kenny McFadden for his inspiring talk about how he had changed a young person’s life through basketball.

2-3pm, Saturday 29 July,
Wellington Central Library Ground Floor.

basketball image

 

 

 

July Sustainable Living Series @ WCL

This July, together with Love Food Hate Waste, Boomerang BagsBirth Wise Wellington, NappyMojoKaicycle and the Sustainability Trust and in support of Plastic Free July, Wellington City Libraries will be hosting a series of educational talks around sustainable living.

Join us at Central, Karori and Newtown libraries as we discuss some small and easy changes that you can make to your everyday life to help reduce your waste to landfill, minimize your carbon footprint and help to protect the environment.

For the first talk in our Sustainable Living Series, join Wendy Bertholet, from the Wellington City Council Waste Minimization Team & Pip Cameron from Boomerang Bags for a lunchtime talk on Tuesday, 25th July at Wellington Central Library.

Wendy and Pip will be on the ground floor in the Young Adults area starting at 12 pm to talk about some simple ways to make changes to your lifestyle and reduce your waste to landfill, from making the most out of your food to reducing your use of plastic!

Wendy will be talking about the Love Food Hate Waste Campaign and will be sharing lots of winter tips and tricks on how to reduce your food waste! Check out the Love Food Hate Waste website and Facebook page for tonnes of info on storage, recipes and easy ways to reduce your food waste. You could also check out the Wellington City Council Rubbish & Recycling page for info as well.

Pip’s main area with Boomerang Bags is “Waste Diversion and Logistics” for Wellington and she helps to organize the Mt Vic and Aro Valley based volunteers group. She’s mainly interested in resourcefulness and efficient systems so the project can be self sustaining. Pip will be talking about easy ways to reduce the use of plastic and plastic bags. For more info, check out the Boomerang Bags website and Facebook page.

Also, take a look at the Plastic Free July and Plastic Free Tuesday Websites for other useful information on how to reduce your use of plastic and waste to landfill.

The second talk in our Sustainable Living Series will be with Shannon Unka, Owner and Operator of NappyMojo, Neonatal Nurse and Mum, at Karori Library after Baby Rock & Rhyme at 11:15 am on Thursday July 27th July.

Shannon will be there to talk about some small and easy changes that parents can make to help minimize waste and  bring sustainability into parenting. Come and have a chat about a range of things from wipes, breast pads and reusable sanitary products to lunch wraps, un-paper towels to cloth nappies and making it work in real life. To read a bit more about Shannon and NappyMojo, check out their website and Facebook page.

Courtesy of Birth Wise Wellington, there will be a giveaway of Sustainable Parenting Packs to help you make sustainable parenting choices and reduce the environmental impact you and your new family makes.

For more information about Birth Wise Wellington, their classes, meet ups and more resources for parents, take a look at their website and Facebook page. Also, check out their ‘Top 10 Tips for Sustainable Parenting‘ as well!

We also have a tonne of resources for parents and families on our Parenting page , including our monthly recent book picks, shelf help, educational information and resources and more!

If you can’t make it, don’t worry! Come along to Wadestown Library on Monday July 31st at 11:15 am right after pre-school Story Time Session, where Shannon will be giving this talk to another group!

Heading to the Newtown Farmers Market on a Saturday? Swing by the Newtown Library on July 29th July at 11 am for the 3rd talk in our Sustainable Living Series!

Join Sheldon Levet, one of the Kaicycle Facilitators, as he talks about composting and how easy it can be for individuals and communities to reduce their waste. With support from the Sustainability Trust, learn more about composting and different ways to reduce your waste. Sheldon will also be talking about the Kaicycle, what they do, their volunteers and the urban farm based in Newtown. Check out their website and Facebook page for more information.

Kaicycle and other community projects are supported by the Sustainability Trust, an organization working to help people in Wellington create warmer homes and reduce their impact on the environment. Laura-Kate Howells, the Sustainability Trust Educator will also be there on Saturday to talk briefly about what Sustainability Trust is up to! For more information about the Sustainability trust, take a look at their website and Facebook page and even better to get involved check out their ‘what’s on in your community’ page!

Other Resources 

Keep up to date with new books, magazines and online databases with our Environment and Sustainability popular topics page.

wcl.govt.nz has had a makeover

You might notice our website looks updated, but it is a lot more than a fresh coat of paint. The catalogue search box remains a focal point – it’s the most popular area.

It’s now easier to view and use on a smartphone, tablet or other devices. More information and news will display up front, and the calendar will list selected events for your convenience. But all your favourite sections are still there – heritage, online databases, eLibrary, library services or branch locations and events.

Thank you to everyone who gave us feedback and ideas on the post-it note boards and forms in our libraries. We really appreciated your input.

Sound & Vision: New CDs

Check out some of these newly catalogued CDs in our AV collection. To reserve these items click on the title link below, and to find out a bit more about them click on the cover images…

Lindsey Buckingham Lindsey Buckingham/Christine McVie
Paramore After laughter
Fujiya & Miyagi Fujiya & Miyagi
Ryuichi Sakamoto Async
Linkin Park One more light
Roger Waters Is this the life we really want?


Sound & Vision: New CDs – Box Set

Check out some of these newly catalogued CDs in our AV collection. To reserve these items click on the title link below, and to find out a bit more about them click on the cover images…

Lloyd Cole Lloyd Cole in New York : collected recordings 1988-1996
Elvis Presley Platinum : a life in music
Kitchens of Distinction Watch our planet circle

2017 International Dublin Literary Award winner announced

Syndetics book coverThe 2017 winner of this prestigious award, The International Dublin Literary Award (previously known as the IMPAC prize) has been presented to Angolan writer Jose Eduardo Agualusa for his novel titled, A General Theory of Oblivion. Of Portuguese descent, his prize of €100,000 will be shared with his English translator Daniel Hahn.
A previous novel, published in 2006, titled The Book of Chameleons, won the International Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007.

Zinio for Libraries app changes coming soon

Zinio for Libraries is rebranding and becoming RBdigital – this means some changes ahead for us. On the 28th of June the RBdigital app will become the main app for our Zinio for Libraries magazine collection. The new RBdigital app has some great new features – now you’ll be able to search our magazine collection, check out and download issues all in the one app!  That means there will be no need to move out of the app to browse or reopen your app to download.

select to see in detail

You can download it from your usual app store and login with the same details as you use for Zinio for Libraries.  All of your Zinio for Libraries history will be retained, but you will have to re-download the magazines you have previously checked out and downloaded.   The Zinio for Libraries app will alert you by notification about the changes and you will be able to continue to use it for a minimum of 60 more days.  That will give you plenty of time to get set up in the new app! If you have any questions about this change, please let us know via the Technical Support form

On Tuesday June 27th there is a planned Zinio for Libraries outage to accommodate the switchover to RBdigital.  The outage will last for 14 hours, from 12pm on the 27th to 2am on Wednesday June 28th.  After that the new RBdigital should be up and running!

 

#MatarikiMash – Matariki wordplay for Mondays!

Matariki Mash

On Mondays for four weeks from 26 June, we wish to test your imagination and your skill with language! Inspired by the New Zealand Book Council’s #ramereshorts weekly Twitter competitions, we’ll be running a special word challenge on Twitter for the 4 weeks of Matariki, every Monday and Wednesday.

We’ll post up two te reo Māori kupu those mornings, as well as one English word. All you need to do is bring your word play skills and include all three words in a tweet-length short story, together with the #MatarikiMash hashtag! See

Many thanks go to the New Zealand Book Council, for letting us borrow their idea:

New Zealand Book Council

Overdrive’s latest Big Library Read – ‘The Other Einstein’

Every three months Overdrive, one of our eBook providers, runs a ‘Big Library Read’. Described a ‘global eBook club’, the ‘big read’ allows library users the chance to borrow a certain eBook simultaneously, to be read altogether – just like you would with your book club!

This time around, we’ll be reading the  ‘The Other Einstein’ from author Marie Benedict.

‘The Other Einstein’ by Marie Benedict offers a window into the fascinating story of Einstein’s first wife who was a brilliant physicist in her own right. Whilst, her contribution to the  theory of relativity is hotly debated, ‘The Other Einstein’ offers readers a window into a brilliant, fascinating woman whose light was lost in Einstein’s enormous shadow.

Join the Big Library Read and start reading ‘The Other Einstein,’ today!

The Big Library Read runs from June 12th to June 26th