Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Teen Blog

Reading, Wellington, and whatever else – teenblog@wcl.govt.nz

Category: stuff to write Page 1 of 2

Tūhono: Submissions are Closed!

Well, folks, this is it — submissions for Tūhono, our inaugural poetry journal for children and teens, are officially over. We received nearly 200 valid entries, all of which are going to be included in the final publication.

At the moment, the editorial team is hard at work adding all of the poems into our design templates, and we’re super excited with how it’s looking! We thought we might share with you some of our favourite moments reading through the poems. One of the first entries that really stood out to us was this poem by Thyme, age 16. It’s called ‘Included Components: notes to my past self in the form of a contents list.’

CONTENTS:

ASSORTED COMPONENTS: BLOOD, CONNECTORS, BONES, ETC       Factory Settings: Standard. Possibility of inherited deficiency.
(blood tests aren’t as bad as you’d expect them to be, and you won’t regret getting them)

BRAIN, 1 COMPONENT           Factory Settings: Open to programming. Runs best when fully charged.
(you’ll want to be proud of this, and that’s fine, but remember it’s okay not to be the best. it’s okay to get lower marks. let yourself fail sometimes)

CHEST, RIBS, TORSO   Factory Settings: Standard Breathing. Growth in chest area expected and normal.
(you won’t like how it changes. look after your ribs when you work this out)

ARMS, 1 PAIR       Factory Settings: Standard Flexibility. Bones will remain malleable for approximately 12 years.
(you’ll break them three times, but don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt as much as you think. don’t worry about your first cast’s awful color – you’ll have plenty more opportunities)

LEGS, 1 PAIR         Factory Settings: Average Length, Standard Flexibility.
(you might not like these either, but understand there’s nothing wrong with them. standard sizing is frustrating but you will find yourself a pair of pants that fit properly)

EYES, 1 PAIR        Factory Settings: Slight Nearsightedness, Standard Cone Cells. Optic nerves also included.
(you’ll get them tested, and think that they’re okay, but don’t be afraid to test them again later. school is easier when you can read the board)

HANDS, 1 PAIR            Factory Settings: Standard Flexibility, Multiple Fingers, Opposable Thumbs. Useful for grasping.
(they won’t always feel like they belong to you – they do. they’ll learn to create nice things, and sometimes not so nice things as well, but I promise you the scratches will fade eventually

I can reveal that we’ve chosen this poem to open the collection — but it’s just one of literally hundreds of exceptional pieces of work from Wellingtonians aged 5-18 that are making their way onto the page, all of which explore in different ways what it means to be connected, whether that’s to yourself, to others, or to something that you can’t quite see or feel, but know is there. More updates are in the pipeline as we approach publication, so keep your eyes peeled!

Last Chance to Submit to Tūhono!

Today is November 30th, which means it is officially the last day to submit your poetry to Tūhono, our new poetry journal for kids and teens in Wellington! If you’re still looking for inspiration, check out our poetry starter kit here. We also put together a list of excellent poetry collections for young people here. What better way to unwind (or distract yourself) from your exams than to write us a wee poem? We don’t normally encourage procrastination, but in this case we are in full support of any writerly actions you might take.

To find out more about Tūhono, check that your work meets our criteria, and submit your poem for inclusion in the journal, check out this post.

UPDATE: The submission link is now closed. Thank you to all the wonderful poets out there who submitted their work! The publication will be available soon.

 This could be you! We believe in you!

Tūhono: Ideas to Kick-Start Your Poetical Musings

We’re now half-way through the month of November, which means we’re also half-way through the submission period for Tūhono, our new poetry journal for kids and teens! We’ve received so many radical entries already, but we’d love to have more. If you’re experiencing some writer’s block, or just aren’t sure where to start with your next poetical masterpiece, we thought we’d give you some starters here.

Your challenge is to take one of the following single lines of poetry and include it in your work, either at the beginning or the end. All of these lines come from real poems, but it’s totally fine to use them as inspiration or as a poetic springboard. If any of them speak to you, we really encourage you to read the full poem — most of them can be found in our collection:

  • Till human voices wake us, and we drown. (T.S. Eliot, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock)
  • He came home. Said nothing. (Wisława Szymborska, ‘Going Home’)
  • Petals on a wet, black bough (Ezra Pound, ‘In a Station of the Metro’)
  • I gazed–and gazed–but little thought (William Wordworth, ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’)
  • Here is no water but only rock (T.S. Eliot, ‘The Waste Land’)
  • Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold (W.B. Yeats, ‘The Second Coming’)
  • here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud (e.e. cummings, ‘[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]’)
  • This city, in plague time / knew our brief eternity (William Gibson, ‘Beloved: Voices for Three Heads’)
  • I eat men like air (Sylvia Plath, ‘Lady Lazarus’)
  • I am not the heterosexual neat freak my mother raised me to be. (Chen Chen, ‘Self-Portrait as So Much Potential’)
  • This city will always pursue you. (C.P. Cavafy, ‘The City’)
  • laughter for no cause, simply because the world is beautiful (Louise Glück, ‘Vita Nova’)
  • Maybe it’s time to stop swimming. (Porcupine Tree, ‘Stop Swimming’)
  • until the smallening world became absurd (e.e. cummings, ‘a clown’s smirk in the skull of a baboon’)
  • As light welled / that could devour water (Louise Glück, ‘The Egg’)

If you choose to put the line at the beginning, see how you can take the image and with each successive line, either expand on it, or confound it in some way. If you choose to put your quotation at the end, try to imagine what combination of images might lead up to that climactic point.

We can’t wait to see what you come up with. Don’t forget to submit your poems for Tūhono before the 30th of November to have them included in the inaugural publication!

Hooked on NZ Books; Or, How to Get Free Books and Write About Them, Too!

Dear readers, we are guessing that since we have encountered one another amongst the digital pages of this most redoubtable publication, you are probably fairly keen book-readers as well. But how much do you choose to read books by New Zealand authors? Well, whether your answer was “Um, I LOVE to read books by New Zealand authors!” or “Not much, but I’d like to read more!” we have quite the opportunity for you.

Our friends at Read NZ / Te Pou Muramura (formerly the New Zealand Book Council) have put together an amazing programme called Hooked On NZ Books / He Ao Anofor young New Zealand readers to engage with new Kiwi literature and have their writing professionally edited and published, all while getting to keep swathes of ~free~ books for themselves. Curious to know more? Read on to hear what Read NZ have to say about the initiative.

 If you choose to take up this challenge, you'd better prepare yourself for a serious case of new-book-smell-induced bliss.

We Want to Know What You Think About New Zealand Books!

The American art critic Barbara McAdam writes that the ‘true calling’ of criticism is to start a discussion. Building a community of readers who discuss books, and growing the next generation of critics is what Hooked On NZ BOoks / He Ao Ano is all about.

Here are Read NZ / Te Pou Muramura (formerly the NZ Book Council), we’ve adopted the programme and are looking for passionate readers to review the latest NZ books for us.

First of all, we match readers aged 13-19 with new books. Most of the books we have to choose from are novels, but we also have some non-fiction, poetry and essays. We ask for the reviews to be emailed back within a month, and the reader gets to keep the book.

Our editor works with the reviewer to edit the piece so it’s the best it can be. Then we publish the review on the website, and share it with our wider community. The best review from each month is published on the official Read NZ website.

Our reviewers have the opportunity to respond personally and critically to the latest reads while together building an online resource about NZ books and a genuine platform for their voice.

Established four years ago by the NZ Review of Books journal, Hooked On NZ Books is already a useful archive of reviews, author interviews and other writing resources for younger readers. When the journal ceased publication in late 2019, its editors invited Read NZ to adopt the work.

Read NZ CEO Juliet Blyth says the purpose of Hooked On NZ Books is to grow the audience for home-grown literature, to provide another space for young writers to be published, and to nurture the next generation of critical readers in Aotearoa.

“Anyone can say that they loved or loathed a book, but it’s much harder to say why. Reviewing is important because well-argued reviews can influence what gets published and what gets read,” she says.

Tawa College student Hannah Marshall has submitted reviews to Hooked On NZ Books in past years. In a recent article about reviewing for Tearaway magazine, she describes the programme as a “springboard for a critical conversation.”

A chance visit to my school from the organisation opened my eyes to a world of opportunities. I had barely read a Kiwi-written YA [novel] in my life; today, most of my favourite books are by New Zealand authors. […] I gained valuable skills from the reviewing process and improved myself as a writer. I even found my name in print

— Hannah Marshall, Hooked On NZ Books reviewer

Read NZ is now looking for young readers and writers aged around 13-19 to participate. Interested reviewers can sign up on the Hooked On NZ Books website, or contact Read NZ to get involved. Read NZ also hopes to offer review-writing workshops around the country next year.


So what are you waiting for? Now is the time to get involved! While you’re at it, why not follow Read NZ and Hooked On NZ Books on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, for more delicious literary content, delivered right to your screen?

Books to Help You Set Your Inner Poet Free!

If you’re as excited about Tūhono, our new poetry journal for young Wellington writers, as we are, you’ll have been working away furiously on your submission piece for weeks already. But we all need a bit of inspiration from time to time, so I asked the arcane sorcerers (and sorceresses) who stare into the metaphorical crystal ball of publisher summary releases and buy our books to choose some of their favourite poetry books from the YA collection for you to sink your claws into and extract whatever poetical life-force you need.

 Amen.

 

Some of these books come from the deepest, darkest depths of our collection warehouse — feel free to place a reserve, and our shelf-hopping minions will locate the book you crave and send it forth to whichever library location you choose. Some call it magic; we call it the Dewey Decimal System.


Poems to live your life by
In this gorgeous anthology, award-winning illustrator (and friend to libraries — yeah, we love this guy!) Chris Riddell has selected 46 poems to live your life by. Poems by both classic and modern poets sit alongside each other, including works from Shakespeare, Carol Anne Duffy, Neil Gaiman, Nick Cave, and W.B. Yeats. The poems are dividing into sections covering musings, youth, family, love, imagining, nature, war, and endings. A great place to start your poetic journey.


Poems to fall in love with / Riddell, Chris
Look, we admit it. We’re suckers for a good old love poem, okay? And we’re suckers for anything by Chris Riddell. This is, you guessed it, a whole anthology dedicated to LURRRVVVEEEE. Selected and edited by our boy Chris, this is another beautiful book that you won’t want to return to the library any time soon! Featuring classic love poems alongside more modern offerings, this book is an inspiring and heart-warming celebration of love in all its forms. <3


Overdrive cover SLAM! You’re Gonna Wanna Hear This, Nikita Gill (ebook)
If you’re not familiar with slam poetry, um, get enlightened, folks. It’s a form of performance poetry that combines elements of performance, writing, competition, and audience participation. In this eBook collection, Nikita Gill brings together a group of well-known and emerging poets from the spoken word scene who share their poetry and tips for creating awesome, inspiring, high energy slam poetry!


She is fierce : brave, bold and beautiful poems by women
This is a powerful collection of 150 poems written by women, that was published to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage. A range of different voices are represented — suffragettes, schoolgirls, slam poets, mothers, kitchen maids, and activists. We couldn’t recommend it more highly!


For everyone / Reynolds, Jason
This inspirational long-form poem was written and performed by Jason Reynolds as a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. and Walter Dean Myers. Like the title says, though, it is for everyone — everyone who is a dreamer, who dreams of being more than they are, and wants to make their dreams come true. Sometimes your dreams take time to take shape. You just have to remember that sometimes, all it can take is a poem, a nod, a nothing to lose.


I thought I’d finish by sharing with you one of my favourite poems of all time, by the late, great Tom Leonard. Read it out loud — as all poetry should be read. Read it to someone you love. It just might change your life!

A Summer’s Day

yir eyes ur
eh
a mean yir

pirrit this wey
ah thingk yir
byewtifl like ehm

fact
fact a thingk yir
ach a luvyi thahts

thahts
jist thi wey it is like
thahts ehm
aw ther iz ti say

(© Tom Leonard, 1996)

Tūhono — We Want Your Poems!

We are excited to announce that Wellington City Libraries is launching its very own poetry journal for kids and teens — Tūhono! All throughout the month of November, we will be accepting submissions of poetry from young writers aged 5 – 18 in Wellington City. Unlike some other poetry journals, having your work accepted in Tūhono is not a competition — as long as you follow the rules of submission, every piece of work that gets submitted will be published. Tūhono itself — the collection of poetry from young people all over Wellington — will be published as an eBook on OverDrive, so that everyone with a library card can borrow it and bask in your talent and glory!

Let your poetic thoughts take wing!

Here is all the information you need to submit a poem for inclusion in Tūhono 2020:

When?

  • Submissions will be open from 1 – 30 November 2020.
  • The journal will be published and available to borrow from the library in December 2020.

Where?

  • Submissions for Tūhono have now closed.

Who?

  • Everyone between the ages of 5 and 18 who lives in the Wellington region may participate.

What?

  • Theme: We want you to write a poem on the theme of “Tūhono — Connection.” Exactly what this means to you is up to you — you could write about your family; friends; your connection with history or your place in the world; disconnection during lockdown — anything at all. We can’t wait to see what you create!
  • LengthYour poem should not be longer than one A4 page typed, with size 12 font and 1.5 line spacing. Only one poem per person will be accepted.
  • Language: Your poem may be written in English or te reo Māori.

Why?

  • We want to give all young people in Wellington the opportunity to have their work published in an accessible platform. We think everyone deserves a platform and the chance to see something they created be part of the library’s collection, alongside all the great authors and poets represented on our shelves. We hope that Tūhono grows into a uniquely Wellington collection of writing, capturing the thoughts and emotions of kids and teens from all over the city and region across time. We are so excited to see what you come up with!

Throughout the month of November, we will be posting regular updates providing inspiration for your writing — so keep your eyes peeled! If you would like more information about Tūhono, you are more than welcome to contact the editors here. Happy writing, everyone!

Out On The Shelves: Rainbow Stories at Your Library

It is now officially the 2020 Out On The Shelves campaign week! All around the country, libraries, bookstores, schools and other organisations are putting on displays and events to celebrate LGBTQIA+ stories, and to help connect rainbow people to those stories and to each other.

Rejoice, for this year Campaign Week is not one week, but two, from 17 — 30 August. And there’s all kinds of things you can do! You can participate in the Rainbow Writing Competition — your writing could be featured in the Rainbow Zine, and you could be in to win some sweet book voucher prizes, courtesy of the Women’s Book Shop! You could head into one of our libraries, enjoy one of our Out On The Shelves displays, and pick yourself up some excellent reading material from our collection. If you’re more e-inclined, or not super keen on leaving the house, you could visit our LGBTQIA+ Reading Room on OverDrive, or learn about your rainbow history in the Archives of Sexuality and Gender, which WCL was the first public library in the world to provide full access to. Once you’ve done all that, don’t forget to tell us what you think of what you’ve read by writing a review and submitting it to the good folks at Out On The Shelves.

Keep an eye out for more Out On The Shelves content hitting this blog and your local library. Soon we’ll be posting some gorgeous photos of our libraries getting dressed up all fancy and colourful to celebrate Out On The Shelves along with you — sometimes our shelves can be quite bashful; not so during Campaign Week! For now, though, here are some of our favourite rainbow titles from our collections to whet your appetite:

Sometimes we tell the truth : a novel / Zarins, Kim
{reps: intersex}
{content warnings: sexual assault, ptsd}

Look, we’re suckers for contemporary re-imaginings of classic literature. Some might say it’s the reason we got into this business. So this re-telling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is as fun as it is compelling and moving. It’s the kind of book that gets you to think about the stories we tell, not just to others, but even to ourselves, and the ways in which those stories themselves can sometimes assume the structure of a fiction. At the moment, we only hold this book in our vast Central collection at the Te Pātaka Collection Distribution Warehouse, so reserve it now to get sent to the branch of your choosing!

Every day / Levithan, David
{reps: non-binary}
{content warnings: violence, substance abuse, dysmorphia}

Surely every queer person remembers what it was like the first time they read a David Levithan novel. His works (including Two Boys Kissing, Boy Meets Boy, Will Grayson, Will Grayson) are now so central to the LGBTQIA+ canon that it’s hard to imagine the landscape of contemporary fiction without him. Every Day is one of his most interesting stories. You’ll meet A, a mysterious being that each day inhabits a new body, a new life. Every day they need to become accustomed to a new way of living, a new set of relationships, learning and re-learning over and over again how to be. A’s conception of their own gender identity, sexuality, and indeed personhood is mutable, changeable, flexible as it needs to be. Strong though they are, it is truly their inner voice that is most compelling and relatable as they play through all of the narratives of confusion, defiance, frustration, love, dysmorphia, terror, and acceptance that will be so familiar to so many in our rainbow community. Trust us, and give this a read — you won’t regret it.

Aristotle and Dante discover the secrets of the universe / Sáenz, Benjamin Alire
{reps: gay}
{content warnings: discrimination, violence}

We know, we know, this isn’t the first time we’ve highlighted this gem of a novel on this very platform. We’re sorry, but we can’t help but trumpet the importance of this book every time we have the opportunity! Sáenz’s extremely spare, almost poetic, prose sets out in pointillistic detail the agony and anticipation of leaving childhood behind and moving on to somewhere new. At times surreal, but always searing straight through to the heart (yours, mine, the characters’), this story picks you up and never lets you go until what we would class as one of the most perfect endings to a YA novel in recent memory. Even then, it doesn’t truly let you go. Ever. He has a way of setting out the most expansive ideas in the most devastatingly simple of words. Read a segment below to get a sense of what we mean:

There was a tear running down his cheek. It seemed like a river in the light of the setting sun.

I wondered what it was like, to be the kind of guy that cried over the death of a bird.

I waved bye. He waved bye back.

As I walked home, I thought about birds and the meaning of their existence. Dante had an answer. I didn’t. I didn’t have any idea as to why birds existed. I’d never even asked myself the question.

Dante’s answer made sense to me. If we studied birds, maybe we could learn to be free. I think that’s what he was saying. I had a philosopher’s name. What was my answer? Why didn’t I have an answer?

And why was it that some guys had tears in them and some had no tears at all? Different boys lived by different rules.

When I got home, I sat on my front porch.

I watched the sun set.

— Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Simon and Schuster (2012).

All out: the no-longer-secret stories of queer teens throughout the ages / Mitchell, Saundra (ed.)
{reps: lesbian, trans*, asexual, gay}
content warnings: violence, discrimination}

This gorgeous collection of historical short stories is like the perfect fiction companion to Sarah Prager’s biography collection Queer, there, and everywhere: 23 people who changed the world. Oftentimes historical fiction containing LGBTQIA+ representations focusses on the difficulties of life for queer people ‘back in the day,’ or worse, just contains tokenistic references to queer people. This collection is not that. The stories, while they are mostly* accurate portrayals of their respective eras, feel more authentic, the depictions of the characters and their surroundings crystallised through the patented queer lens. The characters are without exception deftly sketched, their circumstances relatable, their relationships real, and their experiences — adventures, first loves, heartbreaks, self-discoveries — speak to a broad universality in queer experience while acknowledging the singularity of each individual’s lived reality. The stories collectively stand and say “Hey, we were here too! We were real, and we lived and loved and ate and cried and went to work and participated in history, just as everyone else did!” And that, friends, is exactly what good fiction should do.

Books Alive: Damien Wilkins and the Subtle Art of Surprise

The announcement of the winners of the 2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults draws nigh! To celebrate, we’ve invited YA Fiction Award nominee Damien Wilkins (Aspiring, 2019) to run an awesome creative writing workshop for teens called ‘The Subtle Art of Surprise.’ How does language do its tricks? How do we harness its power to pull our readers in? And once we’ve pulled them in, how do we keep them guessing as to what will happen next?

The answers to these questions and more will be yours, should you attend the workshop! Deets below:

What: The Subtle Art of Surprise with Damien Wilkins
Where: Johnsonville Library at Waitohi Community Hub
When: Friday 7 August, 4.00pm

Sadly, we cannot guarantee pizza for this event, but we can guarantee intellectual enlightenment and snacks. Oh, how the snacks will flow. What more could you possibly need?

In case you’ve forgotten, here’s an excerpt from our blog post about the NZ Book Awards where we talk about Damien’s book, Aspiring, and its general awesomeness:

Aspiring / Wilkins, Damien
Our thoughts: We loved the verbosity and relatability of 15-year-old Ricky’s near-constant internal monologue throughout this book — it’s full of the kinds of observations about life in a small town that we recognise and empathise with. It’s exciting to see the author’s bold and unpretentious voice applied to young adult themes and characters for the first time in this book, and we’re hoping there’s more to come in this space in the future!

Pete’s was where I had an after-school job. There was no one at the restaurant called Pete. The owner’s name was Garth but he hadn’t got around to changing the name. He didn’t want to climb on a ladder and paint it up. ‘Besides,’ Garth said, ‘who’d want to come to a place called Garth’s? Sounds like someone clearing his throat.’

I wouldn’t have needed a ladder.

— Damien Wilkins, Aspiring, Massey University Press, 2020.

A Very Special Message for our Teen Writers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently sent a very kind message of encouragement for our WCL Teen Writers, following their huge success participating in the Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020 Challenge, in which they collectively wrote well over 100,000 words in their bid to write a whole novel over a month of isolation. Here’s what the Prime Minister had to say:

I want to pass on a quick message to everyone involved in the WCL Teen Writers group — and I want to start by saying thanks.

Right now, we’re living through really challenging and uncertain times, and for many people, it’s been tough. I know young people are facing their own unique challenges, from adjusting to distance learning, giving up special occasions like school balls, and not being able to meet up with your friends, but so many of you have put in an amazing effort and played your part to help keep this virus under control. Thanks for this — it’s so important.

I was interested to hear about your online writing group, the work you’re doing, and the support you provide each other. This is a really good example of the positives that have come out of the COVID-19 response. You’ve all come together online to support each other, share your work and ideas, and embark on some pretty impressive projects. I hope you’re enjoying the group and will continue to keep in touch when life returns to something a bit more normal.

All the best with your writing — I’m sure I’ll be seeing your work in bookstores soon! For now, though, stay safe and look out for each other.

— Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern

As you can imagine, the Prime Minister’s message generated considerable interest on our WCL Teen Writers Discord server, from the joyous but mostly coherent:

…to the joyous but not so coherent:

…to the reflective and compassionate:

…and right back around to the disbelieving:

Thank you, Prime Minister, for your words of encouragement, motivation, and solidarity. Rest assured, we’re still writing and keeping connected (and of course the banter is still top-quality), and hopefully will be for a while yet! Here’s what one of our talented writers had to say about the group:

If you’re a keen writer, or even just really like reading, we’d love for you to join our vibrant community on Discord! Just email us or message us on Facebook with your name and school year level, and we can send you a link to join!

Camp NaNoWriMo April Challenge 2020 is Done and Dusted!

So, Camp NaNoWriMo April 2020 is officially over. We’re super thrilled that so many of you took part in one way or another, whether you joined our classroom forums, contributed to the conversation, hung out over on our Discord, chatted with Elizabeth Knox, or took part in the Camp NaNo Challenge itself. Around 30 novels were started, and many of them were finished — together, we wrote well over 100,000 words. A lot of us learned something about writing and life along the way. Be proud. However you participated, you reached out in this time of isolation and helped create something really special.

If you don’t want it to end, or worse, weren’t able to take part in the first place, all is not lost. Our NaNoWriMo Young Writers’ Programme classroom will probably be fairly quiet until the next challenge comes along, but the Discord is still just as busy as ever, with author talks, writing games, stuff to learn, people to meet, and of course, the highest quality banter this side of the equator. If you want to join, just get in touch on Facebook or by email. We’d love to have you. Also, keep your eye on the Event Calendar so you don’t miss any upcoming events!

Page 1 of 2