March is NZ Book Month; discounts on books! Events across New Zealand! Lots of news about books! Hoorah!
Last night I headed across the parched plains of the mighty Wairarapa to the great Hedley’s Bookshop in Masterton for first stop of the Rocky Outcrop Writer’s Tour. Few of the audience wore socks; many of the women wore floral tops – it was Wairarapa summer at its best with the event following suit. Warm. Relaxed. Inviting. Genuine.
“Absolute crackers,” is how local writer and MC Pat White introduced Ashleigh Young, Kirsten McDougall and Pip Adam.
“These three women would be in the leading taxi off the rank of young New Zealand writers.” It was a charm and genuine enthusiasm that buoyed us along one of the most enjoyable events I’ve been to.
Kirsten McDougall opened the show reading from her book The Invisible Rider. Neither a novel or a book of short stories, she described her work as ‘episodes’ in her character Phillip’s life. As she read Phillip’s encounter with dickhead Dad Pedro at their sons’ soccer game we all sat immersed. We were there on the sidelines, frustrated too, leaning in to hear what would happen next… the rip of laughter from the women in the front row when
Kirsten her character Phillip called Pedro a fuck-knuckle was an audible release of tension for us all.
“Every so often a character in a book acts as if you might have if you had of been quick enough to think of it yourself,” said Pat.
Pip Adam read from her award-winning work Everything We Hoped For, a book of short stories with a heavy dose of real-life inspiration. Poet Helen Lehndorf has described Pip’s work as ‘a kind of post-post modern fiction – nothing meta, no irony, no narrative arc, no insights or character transformations – the stories are flatline and searing and real’.
Pip herself mentioned someone had once asked her dead-pan whether she was a psychopath – her stories are often grim, harsh and real and it’s difficult to imagine them being imagined.
During question time Pip spoke of her process of writing and her childhood; where television and gossip loomed large, which meant her world was often one of pretend and make-believe (what the neighbours are up to, the stories on the television) and daydreams (what would it be like to be David Bowie’s niece?)
As a mother she often composed the stories and character developments in Everything We Hoped For first in her head because the time she could actually sit and write was so condensed with a young child. The way she spoke about her process was compelling; I wanted to immediately read her book again.
Ashleigh Young read from what Pat called, “Just one of the best books of poetry put out by a New Zealander in years.” Her work, Magnificent Moon, is her first book and was published by Victoria University Press last year.
Quantam Leaps, The Rest is Easy and a new sonnet were on the bill last night. However, I could sit and listen to Ashleigh read for a lot longer than she did, which is the mark of a good event – it seemed short and wonderful and I wanted more.
A couple of people I know have fan-girl level worship thoughts about the work of Ashleigh Young and it was easy to see why. Pat summed it up like this, “As another poet I think ‘oh bugger I wanted to do that.’”
Lucky for you, Hedley’s was the first stop on a tour around the provinces so Palmerston North, Napier, Whanganui and Paekakariki you’re in luck!
Seek this event out – I loved it. The writing was the best there is, Pat’s hosting was pitch perfect and combined with David Hedley’s rampant enthusiasm for books and reading it was a jolly good night out.