23 March, 2010

Blog tour

I will, someday, finish the saga of my NZ travels, but in the meantime, this week you can follow my adventures all around the internets, as I take blog after blog by storm (heh, mistyped that 'story' at first) on my Tender-Morsels-purty-new-editions Blog Tour!

So, I start out over at Through A Glass Darkly, getting, ooh, almost spiritual. O.O Plus, Kari's offering book giveaways! You too can experience the horror and the glory that is (purty-new-editions-of) Tender Morsels—for nuttin'!

Then, in succession, I stroll onstage and greet the roaring crowds (sorry, but I've just seen Crazy Heart) at the following locations (note, these are the US days—add a day if you're in Australia):

Tuesday: Steph Su Reads [link updated]
Wednesday: Bildungsroman [link updated]
Thursday: Cynsations [link updated]
Friday: The Story Siren [link updated]
Saturday: Shaken & Stirred [link updated]

I'll come back and update these links as the posts go up. See you around the place!

19 March, 2010


Actually, I'm in Christchurch now, but here's a blog entry I wrote up a few days ago and haven't had a chance to put up: Woke up this morning and looked out at the view, which was unimpressive last night, all grey horizon.

Overnight a mountain range had sprung up across half the view, and there was a tiny sprinkling of snow on the topmost peak. And then (so unexpectedly! :) ) the sun came up and turned the mountains from silhouettes to solid crags.

We drove across the South Island today, and it was good, but probably not very interesting to hear about, so I thought I’d just give you assorted bits and pieces. The first three are from the Winter 2009 issue of Booknotes, which Unity Books were giving away free at the festival.

Here’s our own Laura Kroetsch, mobile-phoner extraordinaire for Writers and Readers Week, having a whinge:
I’m tired of domestic fiction, all that talking, sulking, fucking, scheming, cooking and entertaining troubled couples that keeps the middle classes busily decoding the mysteries of their surprisingly leisure-rich lives. I’m tired of reading about people who never seem to have jobs, or if they do, they are the kind of jobs that don’t seem to require much work or any time spent at a workplace. I can’t but notice that often these characters are some incarnation of a writer—journalist, novelist and, increasingly, food writer. They can also be former professionals, people who were careful to plan for the day they would simply down tools and begin coping with life’s pitfalls—be they dead children, difficult mamas or indifferent spouses

I’m tired of family dramas, of the sadness provoked by low-level madness and infidelity. I don’t really care if the marriage works, if the kids are happy, if college is bitchy and old age a drag. Don’t we already know this story, haven’t we told it enough yet, or possibly better?
Here’s Noel Murphy of the NZ Book Council, reminiscing:
In the summer of 1989 I worked as an operating-theatre porter. I wheeled patients back and forth between theatre and ward. I mopped up blood afterwards. For the rest of the time I sat on a stool at a desk reading books, all of Thomas Hardy in fact, one after another. They were beautiful, they were bleak, they were hopelessly romantic and I loved them all.
Then Paul Cleave, thinking about similar things but without the Hardy:
I’d been writing for a couple of years when I saw my first dead body. I got a pretty good look at it before the police came and turned the area into a crime scene, and I can tell you first hand it was nothing like any crime show I watch. I got to see how much a dead guy sags in the middle of a stretcher when he’s being carried, I got to see what a mess the police leave behind once the scene has been cleared, and it was an insight you don’t get in books or on TV.
Fellow having a smoke and a coffee outside the Why Not Café in Kaikoura this morning: Morning. how are you?
Steven: Pretty good. How are you?
Man: Pretty good. Flat out. (laughs)
Steven: Yeah, I think you need to slow down a bit.

Fridge magnet (?) in Kaikoura gift shop: ‘When you love someone, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you’ —Karen, aged 6

New World Supermarkets all have a sign in the carpark: ‘Trundler park; Thank you for returning your Trundler.’

Waiau, a roadside stop with a stile over the fence so you can go down to the river and feel how cold the water is - not very cold.

All the rivers here are wide-bedded and rocky, with a tiny stream running down the middle.

Cows overhead on the steep hills, higher than the birds of prey.

Hanmer Springs thermal pools - all kinds of bodies. Low key, restful. High, high hills poking up around, thin flourishes of ice-cloud above.

15 March, 2010


Let me think, now. What's happened since Friday?

Well, the session with Simon Schama was good. I had been warned that I would need to be assertive to be heard at all, but fortunately our chair, Lydia Wever, directed enough questions my way for me to get a word in here and there. I don't think I actually interrupted Simon at all - if you have ever heard him public speak, you will know that he's too charming and lively for you to want to interrupt him. Still, we managed a fascinating panel, the three of us.

Saturday night was the author party, and a fine author party it was - I got to talk properly to Kate de Goldi, not just panelise with her, and a bunch of other wonderful festival-related people were there as well. Top food, too much wine (again), but worth every nibble and sup!

Sunday (was that only yesterday?) we took the bus around the harbour and went and saw Katherine Mansfield's birthplace - so I have to go and re-read everything of hers, now. Why is life so short? We ambled back to the hotel via various interesting looking shops, and Steven had a snooze and I read, and wrote a blog post for next week's blog tour (did I tell you I'd be blog touring next week? I'll be blog touring next week.), and packed for the ferry trip.

We crossed town again to go to Rasa in Cuba Street, arriving 5 minutes after the kitchen closed, but they were kind enough to feed us anyway.

Hotel, sleep, checkout, taxi, ferry. What a great ferry trip! You're hardly ever out of sight of land - and such land! I was reading in the guidebook how NZ was basically bits of what used to be the Queensland part of Gondwanaland, tipped on their sides and half-drowned; that's very easy to appreciate, watching those steep slopes and striped rocks cruise by.

Picked up the car at Picton and drove a lovely drive through Blenheim and on down the highway to here, pausing to peer over the fence at Oaho Point Seal Colony and awwww at the baby seals - they were rolling and fighting in a series of rock pools, while some of the bigger seals swam around in the foamier, kelpier, bigger waters nearby. Lots of sea-mist and a convincing impression of winter cold - yay the putting on of warm tops!

So here we are, South Islanded and safe. What should we go and see tomorrow, Those Who Know? We're thinking of heading southwest.

14 March, 2010

Wellington 5

Wow, it’s so cold, now! There was a fire evacuation from the hotel yesterday—the quickest evacuation and return I’ve ever experienced—and the people who’d had to come from the restaurant (unlike us who’d been lounging in our rooms with jackets and bags nearby) were all huddling together out in the car park, so as not to die of exposure in the five minutes it took the NZ Fire Service to determine that there wasn’t a fire!

Yesterday’s session with Neil Gaiman went swimmingly. Kate de Goldi wrangled us, and a very enthusiastic audience, with great skill and charm, and the hour whipped by. I was prepared to just sit and admire Neil’s signing queue afterwards, but a respectable number of people came up to me, too, which was good—also I met Lydia Weaver, who’ll be chairing the panel with me and Simon Schama on it today. (12.30—be there, Wellingtonians and visitors!).

After a morning swim at the Freyberg Pool just across the road (and a very nice pool it is, with excellent change rooms), we went off to the Dixon St Deli for breakfast, then I repaired to the Embassy Theatre for pretty much the rest of the day, to drink up writers’ words and resist temptation at the Unity Books stall.

Then, post-session and evacuation and everything, it seemed like a sensible thing to do to go out and dine in town, seeing as we were out in the cold already, so we did that, at the Metropolitain in Cuba Street. And the rain had cleared by then, and the wind, which had been blowing down tree branches during my session in the afternoon, had calmed down, so we could walk comfortably through the wintry cold, there and back.

Now it’s the crack of dawn on Sunday and it looks like a clear day ahead. Going to see Gil Adamson ‘s and Kevin Connolly’s sessions today, and possibly others—as well as my own, from the inside.

Then, you know, food and touristy faffing around. All good wholesome fun.

I would give you the Wellington 5 post...

But someone is hogging the program I need to copy it across from:

So, briefly, Writers and Readers Week commitments fulfilled. Schama panel dazzling—excellent crowd and top chairing by Lydia Wevers. Lovely party last night up the hill. Katherine Mansfield's birthplace today. Weather's looking promising. Back soon with details when you-know-who lets the rest of us into our Word docs. :D

12 March, 2010

Wellington 4

Yes, so a couple of hundred people came and spent An Hour With Margo Lanagan (and Eirlys Hunter) this afternoon, at the Downstage. It was a great session; Eirlys’s questions were interesting without being curly or putting me on the spot, and ; people responded to everything pretty well—no heckling, you know; no hurling of missiles.

Weather, though; weather is happening in Wellington. Nothing wild yet, but all of a sudden it was winter, when we walked out of the theatre, and then it rained and forced us to take shelter in Mac’s Brewery instead of continuing on to the Festival Club (which was just as well, because the Club was closed). And then, well, it kept on raining, didn’t it? And we can’t see across the harbour any more.

Not doing any more W&R Week things today, but tomorrow I reckon I’ll spend most of the day in the Embassy Theatre, with James Belich, Susanna Moore/Gil Adamson/Lisa Moore, and Charlotte Grimshaw having sessions. Oh, and then Neil Gaiman and Kate de Goldi and me, we’ll sparkle at 3.45. That’ll be fun; you will be there, won’t you?

UPDATED: It was fun! Why weren't you there? :D

11 March, 2010

Wellington 3

A few clouds around today, but yesterday was fine, all fine. After a morning’s internetting (hotel + Starbucks), we hunted down a hair salon that could fit us in (we were turned away from two places, though—Wellington hairies do a brisk trade on a Wednesday morning, for some reason), and we both had haircuts. Then we took our newly neatened selves up (and up, and up—they do good up-ness here in Wellington) to the Adam Art Gallery on the campus of Victoria University to see the Anthony McCall exhibition, all smoke and light. Then we ate among the students and ambled through town, back to the hotel for a rest after all that clambering about the hills.

I went to my first Writers and Readers Week session (as a spectator); a poetry reading by Kate Camp, Geoff Cochrane, Kevin Connolly, Glyn Maxwell and Ian Wedde. I’m now convinced that all poetry readings should take place in beautiful darkened theatres like the Embassy. And that I should get more poetry readings into my life.

Today, Eirlys Hunter is going to grill me for an hour at the Downstage Theatre, which venue I haven’t seen yet. If you’re in Wellington, come by at 12.30 and watch her turn me inside out.

10 March, 2010

Wellington 2

We faffed around too much yesterday to complete everything we wanted to do, but we did manage the cable car/Botanic Gardens bit. We learned how all these Wellingtonians keep themselves looking so trim and Antarctica-ready—place was full of mad people running up and down those hills we were taking at our leisurely pace with occasional rest map-reading stops.

On the way back from the Cable Car stop we shopped for gifts, hats and, oh, books. We happened on Unity Books, independent booksellers who are supplying to the festival, and I now have Kate de Goldi’s The 10PM Question, and Maurice Gee’s Salt (there are 2 more in the series, so I will have to pop back to NZ some time and get the others) and Bernard Beckett’s Genesis—these last 2 were recommended to me when I was in Christchurch a couple of years ago, which tells you something of how behind I am in my reading.

We had run into a friend by then (this is what happens when you hang about in bookshops), so some NZ beer was in order at the General Practitioner’s just up the road. Then it was off to dinner (Ortega Fish Shack and Café) and the Gala Opening, where Kate de Goldi herself was chairing a panel on the novel with Audrey Niffeneger, Kamila Shamsie, Gil Adamson and Neil Cross. Unfortunately we were sitting right under the projector for the slide that displayed before and after the panel, so when the panellists spoke quietly (which they mostly did) parts of what they said were lost. But we managed to get most of it.

Today is another fine day, so that boat trip looks as if it’ll happen. *applies sunscreen, grabs hat, strides out door*

09 March, 2010

Wellington 1

Here we are, then, in Wellington. I’ve been in a position to almost trip Audrey Niffeneger up on the way out of the lift; also I’ve seen Sarah Waters in the hotel lounge. Writers are gathering, rumble-rumble.

The Gala Opening is tomorrow night, by which time Steven and I plan to be worn out from a cable car trip, a Botanic Gardens walk and a choof around the harbour on a ferry. A bit of gala-ing around should top the day off nicely.

It was sunny and fresh today and not as windy as Wellington is famous for. We wandered into town and had a beer on a breezy balcony at the Establishment, then a rooly-good South Indian dinner in Cuba Street. The average age of Wellingtonians appears to be about 23, would that be right? And all very fine-looking people? (I think I must be wearing my holiday eyes.)

The Festival and Unity Books put a parcel of books in the hotel room: Big Weather: Poems of Wellington, edited by Gregory O’Brian and Louise White; Essential New Zealand Short Stories, selected by Owen Marshall; also an issue of Sport—so they more or less give you a crash course in NZ literature past and present, on arrival. What a good idea, to give you a collection of poems about the city you’re visiting! So much more useful than a Gideon Bible!

So, not a lot to do over the next few days besides play, festivalise and go to gala openings and dinners. Wot luxury!

UPDATED TUESDAY MORNING: The Parade Cafe do a top breakfast—their Infamous Eggs Benedict make a beachside walk compulsory afterwards. Also, they have giant seagulls here. Watch your step.

04 March, 2010

(En)rol up!

For my 'Blood, Boggarts and Battlestars: An Introduction to Speculative Fiction' workshop at New South Wales Writers' Centre this Saturday, if you haven't already (and quite a few people have, so get in quick!).

Radio NZ interview can be heard...


01 March, 2010

Canberrans, 'te-e-en-shun!

I'm coming down there on Wednesday to lecture to you all, you lucky things, at the University of Canberra. I'll be talking about my creative process, such as it is, for short stories and for Tender Morsels, also about the difference awards make.

This talk is part of the Faculty of Arts and Design’s Art, and other Questions lecture series. Follow the link to book in.

I'm told the extra-big lecture theatre has been organised, so please come along just to take up space and make me look good. I won't mind if you sleep through the proceedings, honest—as long as you only snore quietly.