Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival – Chain Reaction

“Chain Reaction” was one of the earliespp_philippa_duffyt events on offer during the inaugural Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival—in fact it preceded the official opening. But I, as a booklover, was very happy to see that didn’t stop a big crowd turning up (in inclement weather, no less) for this six-launches-in-one event. After drinks and nibbles, Philippa Duffy (pictured) from University Book Shop opened proceedings and introduced the writers whose books were being launched—David Eggleton, Vincent O’Sullivan, Breton Dukes, Paddy Richardson, Owen Marshall, and David Howard.

Unfortunately, the night started on a somewhatcv_born_to_a_red-headed_woman sombre note. Kay McKenzie Cooke had been scheduled to also attend the event in order to launch her third poetry collection, Born to a Red Headed Woman. However her mother—the ‘red-headed woman’ of her collection’s title—very recently passed away. Rachel Scott from Otago University Press spoke on Kay’s behalf, and read “Family Tree” from her collection.

David Eggleton’s address was jovial and lively, in support of the latest issue of Landfall, going strong since 1947 and, in David’s words, “like Aorangi [Mt Cook]… a landmark” in Kiwi letters. Although themed around “vital signs”, Issue 227 sounds like quite a varied smorgasbord cv_the_familiesof delights (or as David put it, “a cabaret between covers”!). There’s poetry from 34 poets, an essay on the word ‘Solomon’, and a suite of paintings by Mark Braunias.

Fergus Barrowman from Victoria University Press then introduced Vincent O’Sullivan and Breton Dukes. Vincent spoke first, and quipped that, given that the writers stood on the mezzanine level of the venue while most of the crowd stood below, “this will the closest any of us will get to the Sermon on the Mount!” Then, while he was in the midst of thanking VUP and Fergus Barrowman for their support of his new short story collection The Families, his cellphone rang. Oops.cv_empty_bones_and_other_stories

Breton Dukes read from his new book Empty Bones And Other Stories, which was the product of two years’ hard work. He described a short story as an immediate “transport system” to the experience or revelation of a character. He also described some of the stories in his collection. As a student, I was amused to hear there’s one about getting drunk and stealing a car from outside Poppa’s Pizza, the local pizza joint opposite the University’s main library. Nothing like a bit of local flavour!

Paddy Richardson also read from cv_swimming_in_the_darkher new book, called Swimming in the Dark and published by Upstart Press. The passage she read, which detailed her German protagonist’s sense of displacement in New Zealand, was evocative and certainly held the audience’s attention.

Owen Marshall was there to launch Carnival Sky (Vintage). In particular, he singled out his long time editor Anna Rogers for thanks, as well as the Henderson Arts Trust, which granted him a residency in Alexandra that enabled him to finish Carnival Sky. (Incidentally, a significant portion of that novel is set in Alexandra.)

Finally David Howard read from his new chapbook The Speak House, which imagines thecv_carnival_sky fevered thoughts and memories of Robert Louis Stevenson in the last hours of his life—what David described as Stevenson’s “mental disarray”.

All the speakers thanked the organisers of the DWRF for organising the event. Fergus Barrowman went a step further and thanked them for bringing the festival back, and foretold (hopefully correctly!) that the DWRF would be an important fixture in Dunedin’s calendar in the future. Hear hear!

Event reported by Febriani Idrus, freelance writer and student 

University Book Shop Otago Celebrates the Opening of The Children’s Room with local book launch

Catlins-based award-winning writer, cv_the_teddy_bears_promiseDiana Noonan, and New Zealand’s best-loved illustrator, and sometime Dunedinite Robyn Belton, have collaborated on a just-released children’s book, launched Friday 15 November 2013 by New Zealand Society of Authors President, and Miller’s Flat resident, Kyle Mewburn. This coincided with the opening of the new Children’s Room & Bookshop at the University Book Shop.

“Children’s books can’t exist without good bookshops to stock them; and of course good bookshops can’t exist without wonderful books to stock,” says UBS Otago manager, Phillippa Duffy. “Neither can exist without children and parents who understand both the magic and importance of reading.”

The Teddy Bear’s Promise, an endearing picture book published by Craig Potton Publishing, encapsulates the essence of growing up, and the warmth of enduring love. Children, parents and grandparents alike will all appreciate the rich and timeless themes in this poignant story of a little boy, a teddy bear and the love which binds families together.

The Children’s Room is an extension of the University Book Shop, increasing their retail area to create a specialised children’s bookshop within their Great King Street shop. It aims to help children grow a love of reading, or to extend the passion for books they already have; and for grown-ups to rediscover the magic of their favourite childhood bookstore. They will be hosting a free story-time every Friday and Saturday in-store at 10.30am on the magic carpet.

“Diana and Robyn are extremely well-respected in New Zealand bookselling and publishing for children and have both been so supportive of The Children’s Room concept,” says Duffy.  “I’m thrilled the launch and the opening will occur in tandem as it symbolises the importance of writers, illustrators, publishers, schools and bookstores all working together to create life-long readers.”

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