We promise, absolutely and completely, that this is our last post about New Zealand Book Month. For this year at least. We hope you’ve read something New Zealand related this month or better yet, been to an event! If you haven’t, never fear, there’s still time (and a long weekend) to do so. Why not check out some New Zealand short stories, it will take mere minutes and the library has some great collections!
Essential New Zealand Short Stories, edited by Owen Marshall
The contents page of this collection reads as a who’s who of New Zealand writing greats including Katherine Mansfield, Janet Frame, Patricia Grace, Joy Cowley, Maurice Gee, Frank Sargeson and many, many more. The collected works span 80 years which demonstrates the way short stories, as a genre, have changed over time (or not). In his introduction Owen Marshall says the reason short stories can be found right through New Zealand writing history is because “they form a resilient genre with its own idiosyncratic pulse of literary energy.” We have to agree! There’s a certain charming idiosyncrasy right through this collection and all the others as well.
Earthless Trees, edited by Pauline Frances
This collection features the work of several young refugees who came to New Zealand seeking security and freedom with their families. From an escape through mountains on an overloaded truck, to living through an explosion in urban Kabul, these stories touch on universal themes: survival, family, home and friends. We love that this collection gives a poignant and, at times, heartbreaking, insight into the lives of some of our refugees.
Like Wallpaper, edited by Barbara Else
The authors featured in this collection are a combination of established like David Hill or Fleur Beale and stunning newcomers like Natasha Lewis and Samantha Stanley. The settings are New Zealand homes and flats, local schools and roads, beaches, rivers, cities. There is a mixture of tone, voice, and form. Issues addressed in the stories range across aspects of peer pressure and friendship. Parents and family relationships feature as do young romance, sexuality, and death. All in all, it’s a capacious collection with several quirky stories you’re bound to love. Hopefully ponder as well.
50 short short stories by young New Zealanders edited by Graeme Lay
Tandem Press invited New Zealanders aged 18 and under to submit a short story (no more than 500 words) for a writing competition. This collection is the 50 best entries they received. They provide a much broader overview than Earthless Trees of what being a teenager is like in New Zealand and over the course of fifty stories, the themes covered include all the joys and concerns of daily life: peer pressure, rivalry, first love, and questions of identity and belonging; of moving or subtle relationships with friends and family. These are great to read if you’re an aspiring writer yourself because they give an idea of the kind of style and content that one publishing house consider to be good.
Think you can do better? Then a list of writing competitions in New Zealand can be found here including details about the Re-Draft competition. The winners of that are published annually, several collections of which the library has here, here and here. However they don’t get a blurb of their own because they include poetry and because we promised a short post. So there you have it. Short stories are the best! They get to the point within the time of my attention span, they’re often strange and quirky and, best of all, they leave you wondering. And there we will end our very last post about New Zealand Book Month. May you now dazzle your friends and family with your knowledge of homegrown literary talent!
R n R
Did you know? In fact, we’re almost half way through New Zealand Book Month! Exciting stuff! So have you read any homegrown authors? Been to any events? If you answered no to both questions then never fear, there’s plenty more happening and you can find out about it here. Perhaps that seminar on writing YA fiction at the Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie on Sunday 24th of March is for you. In the meantime we bring you a spotlight on the wonderful Karen Healey. If you’re an aspiring writer yourself then I urge you to check out her website FAQ page which is full of useful hints and tips. And then read her books for inspiration!
Guardian of the Dead is her debut novel and won a whole lot of awards. It’s easy to understand why because there is so much to love about this book! The heroine, Ellie Spencer, is just like any other teenager at her boarding school. She hangs out with her best friend Kevin, she obsesses over Mark, a cute and mysterious bad boy, and her biggest worry is her paper deadline. But then everything changes. The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality. Throughout all of this Ellie remains one of the most calm and collected heroine’s we’ve ever encountered. She’s on a mission to save the world which drastically changes her life clearly, but it doesn’t derail it. Instead, Ellie keeps going, gets excited about going to university and majoring in Classics. She simply takes all that she’s learned from these life-changing events with her, because that’s what smart girls do. And we love her for it.
The Shattering introduces us to another fantastic heroine. Keri is still in shock from her older brother’s suicide when her former bff Janna suggests that perhaps it wasn’t suicide but murder. Sceptical but hopeful, Keri agrees to meet with her and Sione to talk about this possibility (apparently Janna’s older brother Schulyer’s suicide started a pattern of one male per year killing himself, the link being age and that they were in Summertown for New Year’s Eve). The three start to investigate and discover something’s Not Quite Right with the town, and some of the townspeople. While some of the reveals were obvious, there were enough surprises to keep us interested. What we loved in both these book is that Karen Healey addresses issues of race but it’s not the focus. Somehow along the way she gets us to consider the context of Maori myths. Did the colonials impact their written recording for example? Mostly though, The Shattering, is an incredibly engaging mystery with a New Zealand flavour.
When We Wake is set in Australia but we’ll forgive it because this book is, quite simply, stunning. As well as shifting in setting When We Wake falls into a different genre. Sixteen-year-old Tegan is just like every other girl living in 2027 – she’s happiest when playing the guitar, she’s falling in love for the first time, and she’s joining her friends to protest the wrongs of the world: environmental collapse, social discrimination, and political injustice. But on what should have been the best day of Tegan’s life, she dies–and wakes up a hundred years in the future, locked in a government facility with no idea what happened. Tegan is the first government guinea pig to be cryonically frozen and successfully revived, which makes her an instant celebrity – even though all she wants to do is try to rebuild some semblance of a normal life. But the future isn’t all she hoped it would be, and when appalling secrets come to light, Tegan must make a choice: Does she keep her head down and survive, or fight for a better future?
If you still don’t believe us then check out the book trailer here although you’ll have to look past the American accent. That handy link will take you to Karen Healey’s website, did we mention that you should check it out already? Yes, yes we did and we’ll do it some more because it’s that good.
Hope you’re reading some New Zealand authors this month!
R n R