Curated eBook Collections Celebrating New Zealand Festival Writers Week

Want to try out eBook titles by celebrated authors, challenging thinkers and popular writers? Try our recently assembled Curated List for ‘Writers Week Authors at the NZ Festival.’ Or, go here for other carefully curated eBook and eAudio lists like ‘Quintessential Science Fiction & Fantasy,’ ‘Nordic Noir,’ and ‘Man Booker Prize Winning Authors.’

NZ Festival

 

 

Special Events in March

We have some awesome events lined up this month, leading in with a livestream of the popular TedxWellington event. Tickets to the event itself sold out within minutes, but you can view the entire event over a video stream. There is no entry fee, and you can stay for as long as you like. You can find more details on the event we are hosting here.

While not a library event specifically, it’d be criminal if we didn’t mention Writers Week, happening 9th-13th March. Check the Writers Week website for more details.

You can always check our event calendar to see all events happening in one day, or look further ahead for the rest of the month. See below for what’s coming up this month:

The ACB with Honora LeeOne-off events
– Saturday 5th March – 11am-5.45pm – TedxWellington Livestream (free entry) – Mezzanine floor, Central library
– Saturday 5th March – 11am-12pm – NZ Festival “The ACB with Honora Lee” Children’s Story Reading – Ground floor, Central library

Recurring events
– Wednesdays 2-3pm – Tea & Tales at Johnsonville library
– Wednesdays 5.30-7.30pm – Gamesfest at Central Library
– Thursdays 6pm – Mystery Movie Screenings at Central library (bookings required, phone 801-4068)
– 1st Friday of every month 6.30-7pm – Late night storytime at Johnsonville library
– Last Saturday of every month 10am-3pm – Knitting circle at Central library

Kōhunga Kōrero
– Omāroro (Newtown) – 3rd November – 10.30am (1st Tuesday of each month)
– Korimako ki Ngāio (Cummings Park) – 9th November – 10.30am (2nd Monday of each month)
– Waitohi (Johnsonville) – 17th November – 10.30am (3rd Tuesday of each month, replaces PSST that day)
– Motukairangi (Miramar) – 24th November – 2pm (4th Tuesday of each month)

Some Children’s and YA authors not to miss at Writers Week

Writers Week is a very exciting week for book lovers! This year, children and young adult readers are spoiled with great authors to meet.
Watch these videos of authors who are taking part in this year’s festival and check out a selection of their titles you can borrow from our shelves:

Paul Beavis:

Paul Beavis, author of Mrs Mo’s Monster is leading live reading (and drawing!) of his raucous tale of a little monster … dress ups for this event are encouraged (come as Mr Mo, Mrs Mo, or the Monster. Prizes for best dressed!).

Syndetics book coverHello World!
“In this sequel to Mrs. Mo’s Monster, the fuzzy blue monster from that book-one part toddler, one part gremlin-sets out to see the world since his elderly caretakers are too busy to do anything fun. With a backpack overstuffed with sporting equipment, toys, cookware, and more, the monster tromps off into the mountains before getting lost. Ages 3-up.” (Syndetics)

Mariko Tamaki:

Mariko Tamaki is an award-winning writer of graphic novels – her worlds can be dark and full of surprises. Mariko is a must-see for all readers – she is a powerful storyteller, and her books are especially important for teenage readers and adults remembering what coming-of-age really is.  See her in conversation with Kate De Goldi, and again with Sarah Laing, Kerry Ann Lee and Courtney Sina Meredith.

Syndetics book coverThis one summer
“Rose and her parents have been going to Awago Beach since she was a little girl. It’s her summer getaway, her refuge. Her friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had, completing her summer family. But this summer is different. It’s a summer of secrets and heartache, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.” (Syndetics)

Sally Gardner:

Sally Gardner never did things by the usual route. Her books are full of magic, mischief and overcoming the odds – bring your young readers for an hour with this extraordinary author (Maggot Moon, I, Coriander and so many more…)

Syndetics book coverMaggot moon
“The year is 1956. In an unnamed country of obvious allegorical weight, the totalitarian government of the Motherland keeps the impure in ghettos where they live off scraps and hope not to be dragged away to camps. Standish, 15, lives in Zone 7, a nasty place from which school is no respite there cruel teachers beat students and, on this particular day, kill one. Standish is expelled in the aftermath, and the next step for him may be the camps. Standish, however, knows a secret…” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverI, Coriander
“It is night, and I have lit the first of seven candles to write my story by. My name is Coriander Hobie, and I have a great many things to tell-of silver shoes that tempted me and an alligator most rare; of London, the home of my childhood, and another, stranger land, one that I thought only existed in dreams; and of an ebony box whose treasure only now am I beginning to understand. The box was once my mother’s, but its secrets were meant for me. This being my story and a fairy tale besides, I will start once upon a time…” (Syndetics)

Cornelia Funke:

Cornelia Funke is a champion for young readers – her books are enthralling adventures that have delighted children for years. And Cornelia herself is no ordinary person – she’s going to talk with comedian, writer and actor Jo Randerson about her stories and what inspires them.

Syndetics book coverInkheart 
“One dark night, a mysterious man called Dustfinger appears at the house where Meggie lives with her father, a bookbinder. Dustfinger’s arrival sets in motion a long, complicated chain of events involving a journey, fictional characters brought to life, dangerous secrets revealed, threats of evil deeds, actual evil deeds, a long-lost relative found, and the triumph of creativity and courage.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverFearless : a Mirrorworld novel
“After saving his younger brother Will’s life in Reckless, Jacob Reckless now has to save his own. With only months to live after being cursed, he searches for the Witch Slayer’s crossbow, rumored to give life instead of death when it’s used out of love. He is competing for the crossbow against ruthless fellow treasure hunter Nerron; a stone onyx, Goyl, who’s saddled with a spoiled prince; and other unwelcome companions on his quest. A map helps readers track Jacob and Fox, the lovely shape-shifting human/vixen who loves him, as they desperately search all around Mirrorworld while encountering such familiar fairy-tale characters as Bluebeard.” (Syndetics)

Syndetics book coverYoung werewolf
“Matt is returning home from the cinema when a yellow-eyed monster bites his hand and his whole world – and body – changes. Helped by his best friend Lisa and teacher Mrs Ruskin, they have just two days to find a cure before the curse takes hold forever!” (Syndetics)

Joy Cowley:

Last, but not least, Joy Cowley is one of New Zealand’s best-loved writers – she is a delightful person and a brilliant writer. Don’t miss this opportunity to celebrate Joy and her amazing work!

Syndetics book coverRoad to Ratenburg
“A family of rats is forced to leave their home, so sets out to find the fabled city of Ratenburg. Along the way they outwit vicious dogs, tricky rat traps, and sharp-beaked hawks, and make some very dangerous crossings. The rat family’s adventures test their character and grow bonds between sisters and brothers, father and uncle, mum and dad. Narrating the tale is Spinnaker Rat, a classic Edwardian father, full of wisdom about the ways of the world, who finds himself learning more than he expected.” (Gecko Press)

Syndetics book coverDunger
“William and Melissa have been roped into helping their old hippie grandparents fix up their holiday home in the middle of the Sounds. They’ll have no electricity, no cellphone reception and only each other for company. As far as they are concerned this is not a holiday.” (Back cover)

Writer’s Week 2016

The Wellington Writer’s Week programme for 2016 is chock full of fantastic authors that we’re so excited about! Here’s a few highlights we think you’ll love too. Browse the entire lineup on the NZ Festival website.

Muriel Barbery
Perhaps most well known for her book The elegance of the hedgehog, Muriel is a French novelist and professor of philosophy.

Syndetics book coverThe elegance of the hedgehog / Muriel Barbery ; translated from the French by Alison Anderson.
“We are in the center of Paris, in an elegant apartment building inhabited by bourgeois families. Renée, the concierge, is witness to the lavish but vacuous lives of her numerous employers. With humor and intelligence she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants, who for their part are barely aware of her existence. Then there’s Paloma, a twelve-year-old genius. She is the daughter of a tedious parliamentarian, a talented and startlingly lucid child who has decided to end her life on the sixteenth of June, her thirteenth birthday. Paloma and Renée hide both their true talents and their finest qualities from a world they suspect cannot or will not appreciate them.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Mallory Ortberg
In 2015, Forbes magazine placed American Mallory Ortberg on its list of “30 under 30” media game-changers. She writes hilarious and thoughtful articles for the website The Toast.

Syndetics book coverTexts from Jane Eyre : and other conversations with your favorite literary characters / Mallory Ortberg.
“Mallory Ortberg, the co-creator of the cult-favorite website The Toast, presents this whimsical collection of hysterical text conversations from your favorite literary characters. Everyone knows that if Scarlett O’Hara had an unlimited text-and-data plan, she’d constantly try to tempt Ashley away from Melanie with suggestive messages. If Mr. Rochester could text Jane Eyre, his ardent missives would obviously be in all-caps. And Daisy Buchanan would not only text while driving, she’d text you to pick her up after she totaled her car. Based on the popular web-feature, Texts from Jane Eyre is a witty, irreverent mashup that brings the characters from your favorite books into the twenty-first century.” (Syndetics summary)

Nnedi Okorafor
Nnedi Okorafor’s work shows why The Guardian recently called Africa “the new home of science fiction”. Born in the US but with strong ties to Nigeria, Okorafor melds traditional folk tales with timeless settings in a style being called “magic futurism”.

Syndetics book coverLagoon / Nnedi Okorafor.
“After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues. Soon the military, religious leaders, thieves, and crackpots are trying to control the message on YouTube and on the streets. Meanwhile, the earth’s political superpowers are considering a preemptive nuclear launch to eradicate the intruders. All that stands between 17 million anarchic residents and death is an alien ambassador, a biologist, a rapper, a soldier, and a myth that may be the size of a giant spider, or a god revealed.” (Syndetics summary)

Jasper Fforde
No one knows better than British writer Jasper Fforde how to write a page-turning intertextual fantasy novel. Critics compare him to Douglas Adams and fans hold a regular festival, the Fforde Ffiesta, in his honour. Fforde began his writing career in the film industry and worked on movies such as Goldeneye, The Mask of Zorro and Entrapment.

Syndetics book coverThe Eyre affair / Jasper Fforde.
“There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where the Crimean war still rages, dodos are regenerated in home-cloning kits and everyone is deeply disappointed by the ending of ‘Jane Eyre’. In this world there are no jet-liners or computers, but there are policemen who can travel across time, a Welsh republic, a great interest in all things literary – and a woman called Thursday Next.” (Syndetics summary)

Mariko Tamaki
In 2015, the American Library Association gave This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki its highest recognition for both illustration and young adult literature – the Caldecott Medal and Printz Award. It is the first time a graphic novel has won the Caldecott, marking a new dawn in mainstream publishing.

Syndetics book coverThis one summer / Mariko Tamaki, Jillian Tamaki.
“Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets, and sorrow, and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Anna Smaill
New Zealand author Anna Smaill had her debut novel make the Man Booker Prize longlist – pretty impressive! Her musical past inspires her writing, and we’re pretty excited to see what she does next.

Syndetics book coverThe chimes / Anna Smaill.
“In this alternate London, the past is a mystery, each new day feels the same as the last, and before is considered “blasphony.” But Simon has a unique gift–the gift of retaining memories–that will lead him to discover a great injustice and take him far beyond the meager life as a member of Lucien’s gang. Before long he will be engaged in an epic struggle for justice, love, and freedom.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Miranda July
Miranda July is an award-winning film-maker, writer, and artist. Her film Me and You and Everyone We Know won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2005, and her short-story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, won the prestigious Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and is published in 23 countries. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review and Harper’s, and her debut novel, The First Bad Man, was an immediate New York Times bestseller.

Syndetics book coverThe first bad man : a novel / by Miranda July.
“Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one. When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee — the selfish, cruel blond bombshell — who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Etgar Keret
A hit at Writers Week in 2004, Israeli writer Etgar Keret has gone on to be a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and US radio show This American Life.

Syndetics book coverThe seven good years : a memoir / Etgar Keret ; translated by Sondra Silverston, Miriam Shlesinger, Jessica Cohen, Anthony Berris.
“The seven years between the birth of Etgar Keret’s son and the death of his father were good years, though still full of reasons to worry. Lev is born in the midst of a terrorist attack. Etgar’s father gets cancer. The threat of constant war looms over their home and permeates daily life. What emerges from this dark reality is a series of sublimely absurd ruminations on everything from Etgar’s three-year-old son’s impending military service to the terrorist mind-set behind Angry Birds. This wise, witty memoir is full of wonder and life and love, poignant insights, and irrepressible humor.” (Adapted from Syndetics summary)

Leo Timmers: Writers Week Q & A

Leo Timmers, children’s author and illustrator, is in town for the New Zealand Festival’s Writers Week. This Belgian author has won multiple awards and had his book Who’s Driving translated into 12 languages.
See Leo live at the Museum Art Hotel (Downstage Theatre) on Monday March 10th at 2:00pm
We have two of Leo’s books, both signed, to give away to one lucky individual thanks to Gecko Press. To win please tell us Leo’s home country by email to wclblog@gmail.com, Tweet @WCL_Library or comment on the post on our Facebook page. (We will announce a winner on the morning of Friday March 14th).

Justin from the library Online Services Team meet with Leo on Saturday morning. Here is their Q & A:

(J)How did you get into making books?

(L)Actually it started very early on. As a child when I was about 10-11 I was obsessed with comic books and I started drawing my first comic books when I was eight/nine. My father, he was an artist, he encouraged me a lot. He had the idea to publish these books himself, so I got my first book published when I was 11.

(J)That’s impressive!

(L)But of course it was self-publishing. We went to markets and book stores to sell them, so I was really publishing from very early on. But then after my high school diploma I studied graphic design. I kind of had enough of making comics because it takes such a long time to make one – so many pages, so many drawings. Maybe also because I started so early at such a young age I really wanted to do something else. I didn’t know what but at that time the was a publisher woman nearby that was doing for the first time great things with a local artist who was making an international, big name for herself. That was really the first time a children’s book artist in Belgium had a career. You could live from children’s books.

(J)Would that be because Belgium is a smaller country?

(L)It’s so small; it is about 11 million inhabitants.

(J)That’s still bigger than New Zealand!

(L)So you have to export you know, you have to do translations otherwise it’s too difficult. So she was one of the first whose work was published in many languages so I went to see that publisher because I thought that was something for me. So she looked at my work, which was really not much because I had only ever done comics. They gave me an assignment and said if you come back and do this right we will have something for you. So I started working on that and when I came back a month later they said okay we’ll give you this book and try it. That’s the way things got started. So I really started as an illustrator. I made many, many books which were written by other people. I had many styles because I had to re-invent myself as a children’s book illustrator. It was really difficult, when I look back on it. I didn’t have my own style; I was always searching and trying things. And on the other hand I got these texts and didn’t always know what to do with them. It took me about ten years to find out what I wanted to do, what style I wanted to work in. Ultimately I realised that I wanted to write my own stories and that was a big click for me when I decided I had had enough of this.

(J)Was it quite a sudden thing or did it build?

(L)It was quite a sudden thing at one point I did so many stories and I never had a feeling that it was what I wanted. And I thought well, if this is what I have to do for the rest of life I think I can do better. It was something like that, and I did it. I wrote something very simple and I made my own illustrations. It was the first time that I did that when I had the feeling that, okay, this finally works. I am happy with the final result; although it was a very simple story the illustrations were in a way more me. The strange thing was that I won a prize in Belgium with this book that gave me the courage to carry on along this route. As an illustrator it is very difficult to start writing because you think I am not a writer. You know, you look up to writers and think they are very good with words and can think of stories, while I’m just making pictures. I realised that making picture books was not like a real writer, pictures and story must work together in a way which is very difficult when you are just given text.

(J)Some of the best books have no words though.

Absolutely.

(J)I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Australian author Shaun Tan?

(L)Absolutely, he is such a big hero for me and there are many others. You are right; I started noticing the books I really liked, the picture books, all of them were made by an illustrator. I thought that must say something; the picture book medium is really the illustrators medium. Like movies are a Directors medium, it is a visual medium so it is important to start with the visuals and make sure they are really strong. If you work the other way around and mostly, not always, you start with text that is not so interesting to illustrate. There is not much there to show and I think a picture book must be told in a visual way. Once I realised that I started to get more sure of myself and then I started writing stories that were more elaborate in narrative. Every book is a bit like an experiment in writing, in trying things, like trying just one word; like, okay what can I do with just one word? Like Mr Renny, which is a bit autobiographical, about a painter and is totally different in the way it has been told. I like to for every book make it a bit of a challenge.

(J)Did you ever feel like you might want to give up?

(L)Give up?

(J)Yeah.

(L)Like stop it altogether? Every week I think. One thing that is hard when you do everything yourself is that you have to have a lot of confidence because you are the text department, illustrator. You are responsible for the total. That is sometimes hard, because sometimes you run in circles. You have to decide everything. If there is a text you can only concern yourself with the illustration but there is already a text. But if you are doing it all yourself you have to invent all the ideas, everything has to come out of you. That can make you very uncertain.

(J)The confidence is important then?

(L)Yes. You have publishers to deal with who may or may not like an idea, or you have foreign publishers when these books are presented in the big fairs, you get comments from a publisher here and there about they didn’t like this or didn’t like that. You have to be strong enough to know what you want and to not deviate too much. It’s very tricky. You have to stay close to yourself.

(J)When you decided to go it alone did you get any unexpected or negative reactions?

(L)Yes, certainly in that period when I was still searching for a style. Some of them worked really well and then the publisher said keep on making this kind of thing, while I felt inside, no, I needed to go a different way. For example this one [Who’s Driving?], my publisher said to make ten more like this. We can make Driving two, with two other cars, with other vehicles, and other animals. But for me it never felt okay.

(J)It’s done?

(L)It’s done. I’ve done this, new things. Although you don’t know if that new thing will catch on or be the same success or not. You never know. Every time is a risk, you never, never know. Sometimes you feel confident and really believe in this and it doesn’t happen. Other times you think well, I’m happy with it but, like Mr Renny, it’s a story about an artist that’s very complex and it did very well. You never know. For me the only thing is to stay close to what you think you need to do and just do that because your publishers don’t know either. They think they know but they don’t.

(J)It’s a gamble?

(L)It’s a gamble, yeah. But I can’t complain really, I’ve been lucky. I’ve worked really hard to get here, and it is still hard work but I can make these books. A lot of other things have come from this. I work on animation based on my books, we are developing a series. A lot of things have come which would not have happened if I at one point had not made that decision to do it all myself. Looking back on it I’m really happy.

(J)I just wanted to get back to 11-year-old Leo and his self publishing. Are you familiar with Zines?

(L)Yeah, you have that in Brussels. I think it’s more experimental Zines, you self publish and have exhibitions.

(J)Yeah, it’s a little bit guerrilla. What do you think of them?

(L)I think the self publishing is more and more important. The big publishers are very important and they will play a dominant role but with social media and all the ways to get your work out there you don’t need them as much. Before that you couldn’t get your work seen. You couldn’t get digital printing, computers, it’s so much easier to make your own book and get publicity. Maybe I’m too mainstream for this, I don’t know, but I always like it when I see them. You have to be strong to do that and believe in what you do. Me, I’m very focussed on telling stories in a very clear and understandable way. Not too complex, that’s way I look to do things.

(J)I think it can be quite alienating in a way, if it’s so complex that people don’t get it.

(L)I think it is important to have an audience, although maybe a small audience. I make children’s books and there are many children’s books that really aren’t for children. They may be beautiful and I love many of them but I know that because I read them to my children they are just too hard to understand for many children. Although they are many times about complex things and interesting things, very artistic, to me the first thing about children’s books is that children must understand it. Then you can add many other layers. What I try to do is work with different layers, so there is something underneath the simple story. For me the first level has to be a really surprising, clever story or idea that children can really understand without having to ask their mother or father. That’s why I strive for simplicity.

(J)What is your process?

It is a long, long process to make a book. It starts, always, with an image.

(J)What about this one [Who’s Driving?]?

(L)When I think about my initial plan and how they finally turned out it was completely different. It had more realistic backgrounds, not so sober. That was the first time I had all of the elements that later on become a bit of a trademark. It was the first time it all came together this one. Bang is maybe a better example. It started with two cars driving into each other and the follow up image showed what happened and that something had moved from one car to the other. When I have an idea like that I think that’s interesting, how can I now develop this? So the whole process starts with many, many sketches. I make many small dummies just to see how it works because this book is a thing that you hold in your hand. It really has to tell a story. Even the physical thing of turning the page, for example, this one [Bang] in all my first ten versions the cars drove from left to right. Because you read the book from left to right, but something was not right. I didn’t know what but then I suddenly realised you see what happens, you see this one coming, then something else happens. If you turn it around you can see the other one coming, it is important that the left page shows the result of the accident. If you turn it around the other way it is confusing. It’s a simple thing to flip everything around. It made so much more sense and made everything clearer.

(J)It’s not instantly obvious though is it?

(L)Yes. Sometimes you don’t see the elephant in the room you know. That’s why I make many versions to try and get all the mistakes, all the mistakes I can make, out.

(J)How do you illustrate?

(L)It’s all painted with acrylics; I’m going to show that in my workshop on Monday.

(J)For the text, because Belgium speaks Flemish and French, how do you write?

(L)We are from the Flemish part, so I write in Flemish. I have a Dutch publisher now because I find it very important to keep it close. It’s important for me to write in my own language, to write in Flemish and then translate it to French.

(J)Do you feel it makes the story different when translated?

(L)Some times. Not significantly but what tends to happen in translation sometimes because I write so few words they feel they need to add words to explain more in text. For example the French, and Americans maybe, they tend to add a bit more.

(J)That’s a flaw isn’t it? You don’t want to give it all away?

(L)Exactly. I don’t want to spell it out. I so hate books that spell it out, that tell everything in the text. It’s all explained and I like keeping things unexplained.

(J)Something like this though (“bang”) is universal though?

(L)Yes, in Flemish it is boom, in Dutch bomm, so yeah everybody understands it. I heard that here they considered boom with two Os but maybe the association with an explosion was too obvious. So they kept it to bang which is really nice. For me though I am not going to interfere with the local publisher’s and what they want to do. They have their own markets and own sensibilities and mostly it goes well. My main concern is getting it right in my own language and hoping everyone else gets it right in theirs.

(J)Do you feel there is a difference between Western European and Anglo/English-speaking countries?

(L)I tend to say that in America and England it is more classical. In Belgium there is a really interesting scene of avant-garde, strong illustrators with strong visuals. Maybe you could say that in England or America it is more conservative. But on the other hand there are such great artists there which I really admire. So it’s difficult to say.

(J)Do you have any advice to teenage Leo or any other young illustrator?

(L)You have to really realise that if you really want to make it in picture books, or whatever it is, that you really have to love it. Because it’s hard work, you can’t see it as hard work, that’s why have to love it. I heard an expression, I think it was from Jerry Seinfeld, he said “you have to find the torture you can stand.” It can be torture in the sense of self-doubt and re-working and comments you get. Also finding your own voice can take a while, so there are many obstacles to overcome. But if you really love it you do it. If you want it just as a job it’s not going to work.

(J)You could apply that to personal love couldn’t you?

(L)Absolutely, live for it and then it’s the most beautiful thing. Also [illustrating] you’re alone by yourself for most of the day and not everyone can do that. Besides all the creative stuff, just sitting in front of your desk and being comfortable on your own; I know many illustrators who have difficulties being alone all day. You have to put in the hours, you have to do the work otherwise it’s not going to happen.

(J)You can see why many creative’s go nuts.

(L)As you get older and more critical of your own work and try to push the boundaries yeah, you can really go nuts. I have a solid personal life with children. My wife is very important at looking at my work and discussing it. A solid base is very important for me, without that I couldn’t work it. My career really started moving when I had children and really had to choose. For a long time I did newspapers and magazines, for ten years or so I combined all these things to make a living. But when you have children you realise I can’t work forever every night.

(J)What can we expect to hear and learn at your illustration workshop?

(L)We decided on doing something about character design because it is an important part of what do, drawing characters. I will do a small lecture or something where I try to explain how I design characters. It starts with how I sketch them; I make many, many versions of them. You try to understand what kind of character is this? What’s the personality? What is his use in the book? What do you want it to say? How does it fit? It’s all rhythm and shape, a variety of shapes, what they look like. For example you can make a crocodile very frightening or very friendly, where is the difference? How do you do that? So I am going to do that. I’ve made many crocodiles in my life.

(J)What’s your fascination with crocodiles about?

(L)It’s not only them, it’s elephants as well. It could have been another kind of animal but I tend to reuse some kinds of animals, like giraffes or so. I think it has to do with that they are so fascinating to draw; they have so many distinctive features you can play with. I look back and notice that I never do them the same, they evolve.

(J)Do you have a further personal interest in animals?

(L)Not really.

(J)You just love drawing them?

(L)Yeah. But also I have made a book, finally, with human characters. It was such a long time ago that I made something with human characters. I think animals are great because it creates a distance from our world. You are immediately in another world; you have all these different shapes and colours. You can talk about human things with a distance. So that’s what I’m going to show in the workshop and also the evolution of doing it in colour. Then I will give a small assignment, I’m going to see how it goes because you can’t teach drawing characters in two hours.

Wellington City Libraries has many of Leo’s books available for loan, check them out here.

Ulf Stark: Writers Week Q & A

Ulf Stark, author of around 30 books for children and young adults, is in town for the New Zealand Festival’s Writers Week. This Swedish author has  also written film, TV and theatre scripts and been nominated twice for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.
See Ulf live
at the Hannah Playhouse (Downstage Theatre) on Sunday March 9th at 12:15pm

We have three of Ulf’s books, including a signed copy, to give away to one lucky individual thanks to Gecko Press. To win please tell us Ulf’s home country by email to wclblog@gmail.com, Tweet @WCL_LIbrary or comment on the post on our Facebook page. (We will announce a winner on the morning of Thursday March 13th).

Justin from the library Online Services Team meet with Ulf on Saturday morning. Here is their Q & A:

(J) How did you get into making books?

(U)So, I was not very talented in anything. And actually I disliked writing when I was very young because I was left-handed and we were forced to do right-handed in school. So that was the worst thing to have to write things. Then during my teen ages a lot of things changed. When you are a teenager you are looking in the mirror and you don’t recognise your face, you don’t recognise your feelings either. And then I read a lot of books. Not the younger books I had read before, but the real books. I think there is something, when you are in your teenage years you don’t feel confident to talk to your parents, or you don’t want to talk to them about the subjects that are near you – not about sexuality, not about a lot of things. So I had those conversations with the books and that was fine I think. Then we got a teacher in school who I liked very much and she liked my writing as well. I don’t think that teachers are aware of the power they have. So I started writing and then I came in contact with young authors and I was beginning to write. I wrote my first book when I was 18. It was a collection of poems. It was not that good – it was awful I would say.

(J)Did it get published?

(U)Yes it was. I got 500 Swedish Crowns and then I wrote another collection of poems, a little bit better and then a novel for the adults. Then I was 25 and I understood that I hadn’t anything else to write about. So I worked a little bit, for ten years or something. Then I started writing again in 1984 I think with this one [Fruitloops & Dipsticks] and it was a little success in Sweden and the Nordic countries. Suddenly I got money for writing. I had been working in the bureaucracy beforehand for a lot of years, training in education so it was quite good.

(J)Do you think the break helped?

(U)I think what helped with the job was that I was teaching about the differences about the male and the female. I was very interested in this difference, what is it to be a man and what is it to be a female? Why are we so different? So this is [Fruitloops & Dipsticks] sort of an investigation of the differences. An investigation of me being a male writer taking place in a girl.

(J)That would have been quite difficult?

(U)Yeah. It was quite difficult so I decided to let her be a boy after a while. It was much easier that way. It was published in a lot of countries. It is still published in a lot of new countries – in Russia for example. And they do a new edition now because of [Vladimir] Putin’s laws.

(J)Has it been censored?

(U)You cannot write anything about sexuality for young people under 16 years.

(J)Is that frustrating for you, knowing that they’re censoring your work?

(U)A little bit frustrating but on the other hand this edition [uncensored Fruitloops & Dipsticks] still exists in Russia. So I think the interest for the first edition has increased because it is forbidden.

(J)I think that’s a good way to make people interested in something, isn’t it. Tell them they can’t have it.

(U)Yeah. What could there be in this book? I’m not so disturbed by it. I am disturbed by Putin.

(J)Your books are originally written in Swedish aren’t they? Do you feel like they lose something when translated? Is there is a stark difference in the mood or the feel?

(U)There could be. I don’t think it’s because of the translation, it’s more because of the cultural differences.

(J)Yeah, I know that in German for instance there are words for things that would take a sentence to say in English.

(U)Yes – different associations and all this. But when it’s translated into so many countries I think it’s more universal.

(J)Have you ever had any unexpected reactions to your work?

(U)Yeah. Perhaps, take this one for example [Fruitloops & Dipsticks]. I was in Belarus, which is almost a dictatorship.

(J)Ex-Soviet isn’t it?

(U)Yes. I wrote a book called The Dictator and I was there and we had readings. It was translated so a local was reading it. They had to read in Russian [Fruitloops & Dipsticks] and I was astonished by the interest in sexuality. I mean there is not much in that book, I just felt like a sexual therapist or something when I came there. In Sweden now I can be astonished because of how they react. In this one [Can You Whistle, Johanna?] there is a Grandfather smoking a cigar. It could be a problem and that was why it was very hard to get the book into the USA. Just because he was smoking. I told her [literary agent] that he was dyeing at the end.

(J)So there is a health message there?

(U)Yes. If you smoke a cigar you will die. So there are moralistic reactions to the books. Often it is the parents who complain about the books.

(J)What we can we expect to hear or learn in your Writers Week programme?

(U)I just don’t know because I don’t know the questions. Perhaps you could get a clue about Swedish books. I mean, I am not representative of all the authors in Sweden, but I think what is common for us is a view from the child’s perspective. To be loyal with the child’s side, not being a story teller from up high. I think that is important. Some of these books are biographical in some way. In this one [My Friend Percy’s Magical Gym Shoes] the character Ulf is almost burning up society because he wants his friend Percy to see the fireworks coming. Then he sprays water on the fire and I got applause for that. But they didn’t like that in Spain. They thought the parents would have hit him at least a little bit.

(J)At least you don’t have to live there!

(U)But I think it’s better to hear of us making a lot of crazy things. He has to think about himself, his feeling, and think it was wrong, “I did wrong.” It’s an inner process. He has to think, I have done something stupid and see the consequences already, not that the act itself is punishable.

(J)Do you feel like there is a big difference between Swedish writing when compared to English?

(U)Yes, I think I was in England and they have very few books for the smaller kids that have discussions on things like death. That was a taboo.

(J)Do you find they are for entertainment?

(U)We have a lot of animals dying in Swedish literature. Even here [Can You Whistle, Johanna?] the grandfather is dying at the end. Often when you are writing about death, even in Sweden I would say it is just the rituals that you are writing about. Whether it’s something like putting flowers on or saying something because you are afraid of the reaction of sadness. I think it’s good. I think children have to be confronted with real feelings, so they should be a little bit sorry. They are not dying and hopefully they have their parents to discuss things and say something to. I have no fear of writing about something.

(J)What would be your advice to a young author?

(U)Not taking any advice I think. You have to find your own way but I think reading is a very good way of learning how to write because you could say I don’t like that way of writing. You could find your own way by reading other books, not imitating them but see what you want to do and see how it is made in other books. Start with poems, I think that’s a good short way to see what happens. And then perhaps short stories, I think starting a big novel project when you are thirteen is not good.

(J)It’s one way to pop your self-esteem isn’t it? Do you have any personal author recommendations?

(U)I don’t know if we read the same books here in New Zealand and in Sweden. My mother used to read a lot of Astrid Lindgren and so did I. I think for my own kids I read a lot of Roald Dahl books to my son and more tragic stores for my daughter who just loved tragedy. You could also read a lot of the old books, not just the new ones. These days everything is so up-to-date I think it is good to have a historical perspective as a child. I am writing books now about the 60s and 50s, there are no mobile telephones in this and they don’t want to read it. But it’s just like you could read a book from Sweden, I think it is important to take part of and experience different cultures.

(J)Do you think kids have changed?

(U)Yeah. I think the technique is changing a lot in the daily life of children. When I was coming here on my flight for 40 hours I saw what people were doing. People choose a lot of films and the whole time they were looking at blue screens and they got a blue face. It was reflecting and I was doing the same. I had a lot of good books I thought I would read but it is an easy way just to put my finger on the screen. You have to have dull time I think. Dull time is where you awaken creativeness. I am trying to have a dull life.

(J)Do you have much of a relationship with the internet? Do you use social media or blogs?

(U)No very little actually. My wife does but I really think that I have a need for moral contemplation and not so much being on the net. Perhaps I prefer meeting personally, I’m a bit afraid of being addicted the screen.

(J)We’ve already kind of touched on it – what is your process of writing, how do you turn an idea into a book?

(U)I see it more like an organic process. I have a lot of writing friends who are doing very exact shadows of what they should do in each chapter and also the schools are teaching children how to write and the disposition is so mechanical. I’ve tried that model too. Now I just start a story and see what happens. The more interesting persons are more interesting than the story.

(J)So you focus on the character than the character?

(U)Yes, for instance there are lots of books for the very, very young people but then I was thinking that there are no books for the unborn. So I did a book about a boy having a chat with a mother’s stomach to the child inside giving answers to the child in there about what happens when you come out. That was the theme.

(J)That’s a strange sort of thing to think up, where did an idea like that come from?

(U)I think I saw a stomach somewhere and thought what would I teach a small child or say this the life coming to you.

(J)Do you think you’re quite a curious person by nature?

(U)Yeah. I think so. I’m curious about all the things that haven’t got answers. I think the daily life of children, coming to school and learning things, there are answers. Often education is built on a question and an answer and then they could have the idea that there are answers for everything. But for the very, most important things there are no answers. You have to make up the answers yourself. What is the meaning of life? Okay, this is the meaning of life. Okay there it was. Why are you falling in love with a person and not with another person? Why are we dying? What’s in the universe? There are a lot of things that children from the beginning are very interested in.

(J)But they stop asking?

(U)Yeah.

(J)If you could have a coffee with any human being, either been or alive, who would it be and what would you ask them?

(U)Umm. I think it would be nice to meet god.

(J)Yeah?

(U)Yeah. I have a lot of questions. I wrote a book about god, it was my last book. God created the earth but he was a little bit tired of inventing everything. So he first invented the Darwinist evolution theory so that he only had to do the small things like the fishes and now the creation could go on. But then when he woke up there are human beings, the animals – but he didn’t plan to make the shadows. They are dark so he decided to put them to the other side of earth, the side he couldn’t see. They call this the night. And what happens is you get a sort of Prozac world, no shadows, no darkness, no sadness.

(J)Fake smiles on everybody?

(U)Yes, everyone is going about smiling. So there are no stories, no fairytales, no dreams. It’s a drugged world. I find it quite funny to write about the fear of happiness and that you have a need for the shadows. Then there is a boy and a girl just going to find their shadows again and they found it the god is there to clean it up again. They say no, no don’t do that we need our shadows, even the sorrowness. God is thinking okay, okay you are write and he puts them back again. I think that applies to books also. You need to have the shadow sides and the night sides. I think we will have a lot to discuss over coffee.

Wellington City Libraries has many of Ulf’s books available for loan, check them out here.