WORD: Reading Favourites, with David Hill, Jolisa Gracewood and Paula Morris

I’ve seen Paula Morris chair a few sessions at various writers festivals, and was reminded again today why she’s one of my favourite chairs: funny, engaging, doesn’t talk over her panellists, keeps discussion ticking along in a lively manner.

Today she was chairing Reading Favourites, discussing with David Hill and Jolisa gracewood-and-andrew_cMarti-Friedlander their favourite NZ books and how more reading of NZ books can be generally encouraged. Unfortunately Chris Tse was unable to attend – Morris quipped this was either because he was sick or because Hill had offended him.

As today is National Poetry Day, each panelist started with a poem. Hill read Elizabeth Smither’s ‘Two Adorable Things about Mozart’, commenting that “there are certain lines I’d give an index finger to have written”.

Gracewood (right, on the right, photo by Marti Friedlander) read from a “very subversive poetry anthology” in which the names of the poets are not published on the same page as their poems. She read us ‘Telephone Wires’, which turned out to have been written by a 12yo girl in the 1950s. Morris read ‘Going Outside’ by Bill Manhire. The audience hummed in appreciation.

The panellists had been asked to bring along their two favourite New Zealand books. Gracewood showed us her copy of Wednesday’s Children by Robin Hyde, an ex-library book that had been stamped every week in 1951. She said it’s about a woman who wins Lotto and can live as she pleases – a “really magical book” that rewards rereading. She spoke about how Wednesday’s Children has “deep historical reminiscence … [and] continues to be fresh”.

wednesdays childrenIt’s also out of print – which, as Gracewood pointed out, is a problem we need to discuss. Her other favourite book – The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy – is also out of print, although Gracewood hopes that the upcoming film adaptation of Mahy’s The Changeover (one of my personal favourite YA books of all time) will incite publishers to reprint these works. About The Tricksters, Gracewood said “I love it when a book asks you to take on faith that there are worlds alongside ours”.

Hill’s two favourite books were Kate De Goldi’s The Cutting Room of Barney Kettle and Maurice Gee’s Going West. Of the former, he said “The writing is crystalline … I really wept, put the book down and wept … [and] I smiled with delight.” He said that children’s writing has to suggest a world order in which there is still hope, and noted the wonderful respect for adults shown in The Cutting Room of Barney Kettle.

Hill called Gee “the great chronicler of NZ adult life [and] the least show-off writer I know … [with] restrained craft but also a relentless evisceration of personal relationships.” He said that any book of Gee’s makes him think “Yes, that’s it … He’s so good I come away with no envy whatsoever.” I was thrilled to learn from Harriet Allen in the audience that Gee is publishing a new YA novel next year.

cv_Maori_boyMorris’s two favourite books were The Book of Fame by Lloyd Jones and Māori Boy by Witi Ihimaera: “they’re both ‘our story’ books”. She said Lloyd writes in the communal voice and gives a great insight into colonialism: “it is really a great NZ novel”. Ihimaera writes as “someone resolutely from outside the centre” – his is a “very important book”.

Discussion then turned to the general problem of why Kiwis don’t tend to buy large quantities of NZ fiction. I liked Hill’s idea that we should have billboards with the opening sentences of NZ novels on them. (eds note: NZ Book Council did this in the early 00’s in bus stops.) Audience members suggested that NZ Book Month should be just about NZ books, and that our school curriculum should feature more work by Kiwi writers – although it was pointed out that this can have a downside, in that forced reading of books at school can put readers off, sometimes for life. (Although this tends only to be the case for NZ fiction: reading a book you dislike at school by a US author, for example, does not tend to put people off US fiction.)

Morris mentioned that she too had been in the Canadian Tales session earlier with Elizabeth Hay, who had spoken about the difficulties of persuading Canadian publishers to back specifically Canadian books – so this is not just a problem for us here. Morris said that our children aren’t making the transition from reading NZ children’s books and YA to NZ adult fiction.

Gracewood and Morris spoke about research they have done for the NZ Book Council into Kiwis’ attitudes to NZ literature. For some reason NZ literature has a distinctly negative aura. Whereas Kiwis support NZ sports teams because they’re ours, NZ literature runs up against the spinach effect: people reading it because they feel they should. Gracewood said “we get excited about supporting our cuddly native birds; what would it take to make NZ books that charismatic piece of literary fauna?”

Reading Favourites was a lively session with a full house and a very engaged audience – so maybe there’s hope for NZ literature yet!

Reviewed by Elizabeth Heritage

Reading Favourites, by David Hill, Jolisa Gracewood and Paula Morris

Enemy Camp
by David Hill
Published by PuffinISBN  9780143309123

Tell You What 2
edited by Jolisa Gracewood and Susanna Andrew
Published by AUP
ISBN 9781869408442

On Coming Home
by Paula Morris
BWB Texts
ISBN 9780908321117

Email digest: Tuesday 13 August 2013

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National Poetry Day 2013 events, Friday 16 August
Inequality editor Max Rashbrooke will be speaking tonight in Tauranga, 7pm at the Wesley Centre, 100 13th Avenue
Due to illness, the Vic Books poetry event that was happening tomorrow has been cancelled.

Join Dylan Horrocks, Chris Ranapia and Karen Craig to discuss censorship in literature, 6pm tonight, 6 Upper Queen St

Book News
Paul Jennings & Andrew Weldon discuss their great new series of books
Awa Press’s NZ food memoir still topping the list in Amazon’s ebook store after two and a half months.
The Root: Author Kyra Davis: The Next ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?
Congratulations to Helen Lowe

Awards News
#nzpba Have you put your People’s Choice vote in for the Book Awards yet? Put in to win $1000 of book tokens…
#nzpba Enter our comp and win a copy of Steve Braunias’s finalist book Civilisation

From around the internet
Since it was Enid Blyton’s birthday on 11 August, it’s time for a special flashback: Secret Seven through the years!

Can you guess which author has topped Forbes list of the highest-earning authors in 2013?

On the need to create personal connections between writers and publishers, to inspire readers

Which writer once redesigned their new house to match their old one so their cat wouldn’t feel out of place?

The words that mean the most to writer Al Kennedy

A nice wee editorial about the talented authors in the Hawkes Bay

Check out today’s Tuesday poems here 

Email digest: Tuesday 24 July 2012

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Remembering and celebrating Margaret Mahy
Sad sad news – Margaret Mahy died yesterday

Margaret Mahy fans stock up on their favourite books

Note in Unity, c1992: “Dear Bookseller, I have stolen a copy of my own book The Downhill Crocodile Whizz – Margaret M.”

Radio NZ has compiled a great list of Margaret Mahy interviews and forums

A list of podcasts of Margaret

A fantastic set of Margaret Mahy-ness on Digital NZ 

Book News
National Poetry Day is this Fri – read the three poetry finalists in the New Zealand Post Book Awards

Book reviews
New Zealand’s Native Trees by John Dawson and Rob Lucas

Reviews of The Bengeal Engine’s Mango After Glow and The Warm Auditorium from Poetry in Motion

New release books 
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Tuesday poem
The Fairy Child by Margaret Mahy

Email digest: Wed 11 July 2012

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Aucklanders – on 28 July you can speed date Auckland University Press authors at Gus Fisher Gallery

The Blue Gnu – book launch 3 August at The Storyteller, RSVP please. Excitement building

This year we’re doing something new and cool for ‪National Poetry Day – introducing Poem in Your Pocket

Booksellers – beware of current book order spam

Book News
New Executive Leadership Team Announced for Random House Australia and New Zealand

Facebookers – National Poetry Day now as its own page

From around the internet
Gabriel Garcia Marquez unable to write, brother says

Great old photos of kids reading

Book reviews and recommendations
The Selection: By Keira Cass

If you liked The Hunger Games… 

Email digest: Mon 9 July 2012

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We’re not ignoring you today – apparently nobody is getting our emails.

Book news
AUP senior editor selected for prestigious Frankfurt Fellowship Programme

National Poetry Day – Interactive, Multi-dimensional and Fun!

Book reviews
Ransomwood by Sherryl Jordan

Dirt reads like somebody stapled the first half of A Confederacy of Dunces to the last half of American Psycho.

Thicket by Anna Jackson

Situation Vacant

Sales and Marketing Manager at Nielsen Book

Calling for more Landfall Essay Competition submissions!!! Closes July 31, and you may email your entry

Have you registered for our conference yet?

Apologies for lateness – here are the books that were featured on Saturday Morning with Kim Hill on 7 July

From around the internet
Fifty Shades of Grey is bad for bondage” | Guardian

Our July Star Author, Melinda Szymanik asks where do ideas come from and gives some useful tips

Email digest: Wed 4 July 2012

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Events and happenings
Page & Blackmore will be having Afternoon Tea in the shop on National Poetry Day Friday 27th July at 3pm. Bring along your favourite poem to read. All Welcome. [no link]

Book News
Helen McAleer named Chief Global Development Officer at Walker Books

American publisher revives interest in one of Australia’s best-known writers

New and upcoming releases

Lonely Planet has NZ covered with four new guidebooks in 2012

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling

From around the internet

So many Wal-Marts, so few libraries. Wal-Mart Converted into a Library

The Jack Reacher teaser trailer is here, starring Tom Cruise as Reacher.

Book lover Paula Green in today’s NZ Herald

Office antics

Just another day at the BooksellersNZ office

Email digest: Tues 3 July 2012

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I’ve just updated the National Poetry Day calendar of events

Book News
Great NZ e-Books is reborn 

Hark! Booksellers
Reminder – Lonely Planet July Stocktake dates 25th July to 31st July

New business models

Here’s an interesting business model for selling e-books

From around the internet
“The downside of ebooks; you can’t throw them across the room when they suck”.

New release books
Tony ‘Tank’ Gordon: The life of a sporting legend by Rashelle Gordon

Win the new Slinky Malinki book by Lynley Dodd – tell The Children’s Bookshop (Kilbirnie)  us your favourite Lynley Dodd book memory.

Tuesday poem
The Year of the Mountain by James Brown

Email digest: Monday 25 June 2012

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This Thursday Cook the Books is having a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity – details on our calendar

Book News
As independent bookstores crash and burn in USA and UK, the book market in France is doing just fine

You can find events for National Poetry Day on our website. Scroll to 27 July for the action

New releases
Eruption! Discovering New Zealand volcanoes by Maria Gill from New Holland

Walker Books July Highlights

60 Million Gingernuts by Peter Janssen

Scholastic NZ: July titles

Book reviews
2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Read LA Times review of Jodi Picoult’s Between the Lines and see her live in Auckland 23 July

The Ant and the Ferrari By Dr Kerry Spackman

From around the internet
Hear Noel Murphy of the NZ Book Council chat to Radio NZ about us being Guest of Honour country at Frankfurt

Poets if you have a love for good poetry and good food you might like this competition