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From Cover to Cover
Half way up the Mountain: The Michael King Writers' Centre
by Sam Elworthy

Sam Elworthy is director of Auckland University Press and took over recently as chair of the Michael King Writers’ Centre Trust.

If you walk up from our house to the top of Mount Victoria in Devonport you can see from Coromandel to Whangaparoa, from the Waitakeres to Great Barrier Island, from the Sky Tower to the Bombay Hills.  A third or more of the country’s population are within spitting distance. It’s not that Mt Victoria is a very high mountain—it’s just that we’re a very small country. 

Size makes a difference to the production of culture. In the United States, private philanthropy supports writers on Guggenheim Fellowships and MacArthur Awards. Universities like Princeton employ many of the country’s best writers part time in creative writing programmes. And, with a larger book market, publishers will pay out six and seven figure advances to authors for the right book. 

In a small country like New Zealand, without Guggenheims or Princetons or big advances, how can historians and poets, biographers and novelists find the time and space and money to write?  Michael King grappled with that question as he struggled to make a life for himself as a full-time writer in this country.  Working on general histories and biographies, supported by royalties and fellowships and commissioned work, King succeeded where most would have given up.

After Michael King’s death in 2004, some friends and fellow writers determined to tackle the problem. They did it by securing a lease on the Signalman’s House, an old cottage on the slopes of Mt Victoria, and finding the funding to renovate the house and offer fellowships to writers in residence. Due to the hard work of key founders Christine Cole Catley, Gordon McLauchlan, Bob Ross, Wensley Willcox and Geoff Walker, and support from Creative New Zealand, North Shore City, the ASB Community Trust, the Lion Foundation, the Chisholm Whitney Family Charitable Trust and the University of Auckland, the Michael King Writers’ Centre is now a hive of literary activity. Through a careful selection process, the centre has hosted major writers including most recently Vincent O’Sullivan, David Eggleton, Ian Wedde, Rachel Barrowman, and Martin Edmond.  In 2010, the centre will host three 6-8 week residencies and one six-month residency as well as many short term visitors. And last year, the centre initiated its first residential workshop, a widely-praised 3-day event in which mid-career writers in history and biography could gain insight from the likes of Anne Salmond and Brian Boyd, Janet Hunt and Iain Sharp. I think the Michael King Writers’ Centre now plays an important role in helping the best New Zealand writers produce great books.

Fortunately, I joined the trust when most of the hard work had been done. As a Devonport local who takes the ferry every day to my publishing job in Auckland, working on the trust is a great intersection of home and work (the negative being the increased chances of being spotted by literary types in my dressing gown on the way to the dairy). And there are key challenges facing the trust as we move from start up to consolidation. How will we work effectively with the new supercity?  How can we secure ongoing private and foundation philanthropic support for the regular running costs of the house? And, while continuing to focus on helping the best New Zealand writers produce great books, in what directions should the centre expand its reach? I enjoy climbing half way up Mt Victoria to the Signalman’s House every couple of weeks to work with centre manager Karren Beanland and the trustees as we try to answer those questions.

Five Easy Questions with Helen Lowe

Helen Lowe lives in Christchurch and writes Fantasy-SciFi novels, poetry, and short fiction. Her 4-book 'The Wall of Night' quartet will be published in October by HarperCollins in the US. The UK and Australia/New Zealand rights for the series were sold, to Little, Brown (Orbit imprint) in the UK.

What has been the most interesting thing about writing books in series?
I always have the overall story arc in my mind, but I love the way the characters and plot develop within the series context: it's like having the dotted outline of a picture and gradually filling in both the broad and fine detail brush strokes - and also the colours!

What are your top three book series?
This is probably terribly predictable of me, but I have always loved JRR Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings'; another long time favourite is Patricia McKillip's 'The Riddlemaster of Hed' series (wonderfully imagined world, great characters and beautiful writing); and I can't go past William Gibson's 'cyberpunk science fiction' trilogy - Neuromance, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive (brilliant imagining of a believable/technological near future, and again with the fascinating characters.)

Which authors inspired you as a young reader?
CS Lewis, absolutely, particularly The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy; also Rosemary Sutcliff's historical novels such as The Eagle of the Ninth and The Shield Ring, and Joyce West's The Year of the Shining Cuckoo and her 'Drover's Road' trilogy; and . . . (it's a really long list!)

Tell us about your current favourite young adult novel?
No question - Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games; great idea, great characters, powerful story and compelling writing.

What’s on your writing desk right now?

Right now I'm hard at work on the second book in 'The Wall of Night' series: working title, The Gathering of the Lost.

Book Council News

New BookTalks online writers to schools programme

For the past few months, we've been working with the team at CORE Education Ltd, helping them to develop a new writers into schools programme called BookTalks. This programme is going to launch on Monday 10 May, at the beginning of the New Zealand Post Children's Book Festival.

BookTalks will give schools the opportunity to get a writer into their classroom via the Skype online conferencing system. CORE Education are currently putting the final touches to their website for the programme, Writers will register their availability using this website, and schools will select the writer they would like, and register their interest.

We have been advising CORE about several aspects of the programme,with our experience from running the Writers in Schools programme.

We are very excited to see this project get off the ground, and will be watching to see how it works over the coming months. For a bit more information about the project, see the press release here.

The Book Council’s Going West Wins

We're delighted that our Going West short film promoting books and reading won two Axis advertising industry awards late last month. The animation, which uses an excerpt from Maurice Gee’s novel Going West, has won Axis Gold awards in the Charity category and the Art Direction & Typography category for Colenso BBDO advertising agency.

In late March the film was also awarded an international animation prize by New York’s Museum of Art and Design. It won the Museum’s Choice grand prize award at 'Moving Paper', an international film festival of cut paper animation being held at the museum.

The Going West film was launched and quickly became a YouTube hit, reaching the worldwide top 10 in the viral video charts (it was viewed online more than 725,000 times, inspired more than 3400 tweets on Twitter or blog posts worldwide, and reached number 8 in the Viral Video Chart.)

The two-minute film was produced for us by Colenso BBDO, who worked with Andersen M Studios in London that shows Gee’s classic New Zealand novel coming to life through hand cut ‘pop up’ scenery. The result of eight months of hard work and intricate hand paper cutting can be viewed on YouTube or on the Book Council website here.

 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival 2010

This year's festival runs from Wednesday 12 May to Sunday 16 May 2010. A "world-class festival of ideas and literature", the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2010. The Festival is a highlight of New Zealand’s cultural calendar and an iconic Auckland event. It brings together acclaimed writers and thousands of readers and thinkers through innovative programming. You can check out the programme here, and book tickets here.

We have two double passes for grabs to attend the New Zealand Listener Opening Night on Thursday 13 May. Please see the competition on the sidebar to the right.


This award allows our toughest critics - New Zealand's young readers - to have their say in the New Zealand Post Book Awards. School-aged children and teenagers from all over New Zealand can vote for their favourite book from among the 20 finalists selected by the judges. The award winner is announced by young readers at the awards ceremony and the author and/or illustrator of this coveted award wins $1,000. Every voting card or online vote that is received puts the voter's nominated school in the draw to win $1,000 of Booksellers Tokens. Nominations close at 5pm 30 April 2010.
Cast your vote today here.

Fellowship and workshop applications

Graphic Novel/Comic Workshop with Dylan Horrocks

Dylan Horrocks is the author of the graphic novel Hicksville and the comic book series' 'Pickle' and 'Atlas.' He has written comics for DC and Vertigo, including 'Batgirl' and 'Hunter: the Age of Magic' and his work has been published around the world and in several languages. His comic strip 'Milo's Week' appeared weekly in the NZ Listener in the mid-1990s and in 2006 he was appointed the Creative NZ-University of Auckland Literary Fellow. His recent work can be found online at Learn from one of this country’s best graphic novelists, Dylan Horrocks. Saturday 1st May 10am–3pm. Fee $25. Download Writing Workshop registration form from the Dan Davin website or email to request a copy.

Competition applications and nominations

Te Papa Tupu Writing Competition 2010

The Māori Literature Trust, with the support of Creative New Zealand, Te Puni Kokiri and Huia Publishers, is offering an opportunity for six talented Māori writers to participate in Te Papa Tupu, a six month intensive writing programme.

The aim of the programme is to provide an opportunity for selected writers to develop their writing skills. The selected writers will be given a basic living allowance for the six-month duration of the programme and they will be required to submit pieces of work on a regular basis to a mentor who will provide support and suggestions. Writers of Māori descent living in Aotearoa New Zealand are invited to submit their work in either English or te reo Māori under the following categories:

• Novel
• Short Stories
• Non-fiction
• Children's novel/chapter book
• Children's picture book.

Submitted work should be 5,000 - 50,000 words and may be a finished piece or a working manuscript. For more information visit the competition page on the Huia website here.
The Kingi McKinnon Scholarship for emerging writers

The Kingi McKinnon Scholarship for Emerging Writers has been established in honour of Kingi McKinnon, a widely respected author and tutor on the Waiariki Creative Writing programme, who passed away suddenly in September 2006.

This scholarship is open to unpublished writers who wish develop their creative writing skills with a view to achieving publication, and will pay the fees of the Waiariki Certificate in Creative Writing for one year.

The entry criteria and application form are available here on the Waiariki Institute of Technology website. The certificate programme begins 19th July 2010 and ends June 2011

For further enquiries and for an application form, please contact Jaarna Hoskins, Waiariki Institute of Technology on 0800 Waiariki / 07 346 8684 or email

Poetry Writing Competition – Readers & Writers Alive!

Working together, the Dan Davin Literary Foundation and Invercargill City Libraries have developed the Readers and Writers Alive! programme for April/May 2010. The inaugural event was ran as part of the Southland May Arts Festival in 2008, and twice in 2009 (May and September). Because of popularity another programme of events has been arranged for April/May 2010. Readers and Writers Alive! is becoming a regular on the Southland creative arts calendar. This year the Dan Davin Literary Foundation will host a Poetry Writing Competition open to people of all ages. Entries close 30th July. An entry fee of $5 per open/adult entry, limit 3 per person. Winners will be announced in September. Download Poetry Writing Competition registration form from the Foundation website or email to request a copy.

2010 International Poetry Competition

This annual poetry competition consists of four sections, each with its own judge. The sections are:

The Open Section
The Junior Open Section
The Haiku Section
The Junior Haiku Section

For more information visit the NZ Poetry Society website. Deadline: entries must be received by 31 May, 2010.

Nominations open for Prime Minister's Awards for Literary Achievement 2010

New Zealanders are being asked to nominate outstanding New Zealand writers in each of the three genres of poetry, fiction and non-fiction for the Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement 2010. Worth $60,000 each, the annual awards were established in 2003 to recognise writers who have made an enduring contribution to New Zealand literature. Creative New Zealand adminsters the awards which will be presented later this year.

Nominated writers must be living New Zealand citizens or resident in New Zealand and should have written a body of work that has received national acclaim and/or international recognition. Previous recipients are not eligible for consideration in other genres.

The nominations are assessed by an expert literary panel and recommendations forwarded to the Council of Creative New Zealand for approval. The closing date for nominations is Friday 28 May 2010. To nominate your choice pleas find the nomination form on the Creative New Zealand website at (scroll down the page to Literature. Alternatively please contact us with your nomination at

A Call for Funding Applications for National Poetry Day Events 2010

With a new sponsor, New Zealand Post, National Poetry Day 2010 will this year be held on Friday 30th July 2010. This year the theme of National Poetry Day will be poetry in the community - how poetry engages with people on the street, in their homes, work-spaces and community centres.

Coordinator for National Poetry Day 2010, Siobhan Harvey, is calling for applications for registration of and funding for National Poetry Day events. Please contact her at or write to Siobhan Harvey, P O Box 125 135, St. Heliers Post Office, Auckland 1740, to request a Registration and Funding Application Pack. She will be on hand between now and 30th July 2010 to help any interested parties with advice on organising an National Poetry Day 2010 event. Funding is limited but available, especially for any co-ordinators whose events adavnce the theme of this year's National Poetry Day. Please note that this year the deadline for completed National Poetry Day funding application forms is Friday May 21st, 2010.

The New Zealand Book Council receives core funding from Creative New Zealand. We are extremely grateful to our funding partners, who enable us to deliver our programmes. We also value your membership, which supports our work in schools and communities throughout New Zealand.
Congratulations to V. Langdon and Sue Birch, who both won a copy of Albert Wendt's prize-winning verse novel, The Adventures of Vela, published by Huia.

This month we are giving away two copies of The Wednesday Wizard by this year's Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award winner, Sherryl Jordan, published by Scholastic.

We also have two double passes to the New Zealand Listener Opening Night of the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival up for grabs. This event is at 8pm, Thursday 13 May.

Please enter the draw by emailing, with the name of the book or event in the subject line, and your mailing address in the body of the email. Entries must be received by 5pm on Friday 30 April.

The Lumiere Reader has a new-look website and you will find an article on last month's NZ Post Writers and Readers Week here, as well as a review post by Amy Brown on Kate Camp's recent collection of poetry, The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls (VUP, 2010).

Storylines has a fantastic section on their website called 'Literature Live', in which authors talk about aspects of the writing craft. You will find it here.

LIANZA, the Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa, have a brand new website. Features include forums, a blog, and job notifications.

The 2009 installment of Best New Zealand Poems has been launched here. This year’s editor is Robyn Marsack, director of the Scottish Poetry Library and co-editor of the 2009 anthology Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets (Carcanet).

This Week in Fiction: Pamela Gordon on Janet Frame in the The New Yorker here.

Auckland author, songwriter, scientist and mother of three Lucy Davey has won the Storylines Joy Cowley Award, given annually by the Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust of New Zealand with a manuscript entitled Out of Bed, Fred!

The 2010 Storylines Gavin Bishop Award winner is Harriet Bailey. The award aims to encourage the publication of new and exciting high-quality picture books from New Zealand illustrators.

The 2010 Tom Fitzgibbon Award winner is Leonie Agnew. The award is made annually, when merited, to the author of a work of fiction for children between 7 and 13 years of age.

C.K.Stead has won the The Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award - the largest prize in the world to date for a short story, worth £25,000. Read the full story in Britain's Sunday Times here. C.K. Stead was also the Open section winner of the 2010 International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. Read more here.

Steve Braunias is the winner of the Cathay Pacific Travel Writer of the Year Award. The Cathay Pacific Travel Media and Whitcoulls Travel Book awards are organised by Travcom (New Zealand Travel Communicators) to celebrate excellence in travel writing and photography. 

William (Bill) Direen, a writer and well-known figure in New Zealand music circles, has been selected for a six-month residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Devonport from July this year.

Storylines has also released its Notable Books list, which can be found here.

Please note this is only a sample of events from the events page on our website.

I don’t want to write a book BUT!  Invercargill
26th April 2010, 4.00pm
There’s more to creative writing than writing books and this year Readers & Writers Alive! is offering four sessions looking at some of the less traditional forms of writing. Hear how these experts got started, what’s involved, what opportunities are out there and ultimately how to follow your dreams. Register at the Invercargill Public Library, download a High School Workshop registration form, or email For more information
please visit the Dan Davin website.
Venue: Various locations

German Evening With NZ Poets  Christchurch
27th April, 6.00pm - 8.00pm
Join an evening with New Zealand poets on the occasion of the book launch of Dieter Riemenschneider's Wildes Licht: the first comprehensive bilingual (English-German) anthology of poems from Aotearoa New Zealand. Wildes Licht contains more than fifty poems published over the last three decades that relate to "Ascriptions", "People and Places - A Cross-Country Journey", "History and Stories", "People", and "Environment and Change", selected and translated into German by Dieter Riemenschneider. Wildes Licht is titled after the poem 'Wild Light' (set in the Hokianga) by Michele Leggott, and is complemented by the cover photo by Jan Kemp (taken at Punakaiki Rocks). Poets Tusiata Avia, James Norcliffe, John O'Connor and Andrew Paul Wood will read their poems while Dieter Riemenschneider and Jan Kemp will read the translations.
Venue: Governors Bay Hotel, Governors Bay

Circadian Rhythm - Sue Wootton

28th April, 8.00pm
The poetry sessions at Circadian Rhythm are starting up again! This event features guest poet Sue Wootton + Open Mic.
Venue: Circadian Rhythm cafe, 72 St Andrew Street, Dunedin.

Malay poet visits Waikato University
28 April, 2.00pm - 3.00pm
Prof Muhammaed Haji Salleh will begin with a brief overview of Malay poetry from classical to modern times, including the well-known Syair (epic) genre and the 'pantun', the Malay equivalent to Japanese 'Haiku' form. He will read a selection of his own poems and discuss aspects of his own poetic journey, including his engagement and disengagement with writing in English.
Venue: S.1.05, Waikato University, Gate 1, Knighton Rd, Hamilton

CPC Poetry in Performance
28 April, 6.30pm - 8.00pm
CPC Poetry in Performance: 20th Anniversary Autumn Readings, Christchurch. Entry $5. Win a $20 MCB voucher - audience vote for the Best Open Mic Poet. Guest Poets: Cliff Fell, Alison Denham, Stephanie Grieve. Cafe is licensed and BYO.
Venue: Madras Café Bookshop, 165 Madras St, Christchurch

An afternoon with Martin Edmond
25th April, 2.00pm
Come along to meet Martin Edmond, the current writer-in-residence at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in Devonport. Martin is a leading New Zealand writer now based in Sydney. He has written many books and screen plays, including Chronicle of the Unsung, which won the Montana award for biography in 2006. His latest book is Zone of the Marvellous, about how the Antipodes have been viewed throughout western history. Martin has an eight-week residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre, supported by Creative New Zealand, to work on his latest book, the story of a mysterious asylum seeker cast up on Antipodean shores. This event is hosted by the Friends of the Michael King Writers’ Centre.
Venue: Seminar Room, Devonport Library Windsor Reserve, Victoria Street, Devonport

Malay poet - Otago University
30th May, 4.00pm
The English department invites you to a poetry reading by eminent Malay poet Professor Muhammed Salleh in Burns 7, at 4pm on April 30. Following the reading there will be light refreshments held in the Humanities Common Room, 1st floor, Arts Building in Professor Salleh's honour. Please RSVP to by 28 April.
Venue: Burns 7, University of Otago, Dunedin

Jessica Le Bas: Poetry Reading
4 May, 7.00pm
Award winning author, Jessica Le Bas, will read from "Walking to Africa" her latest collection of poems. The story, told through a mother's eyes, follows her daughter's descent into depression, looking at mental health and the nature of reality. A fundraiser for LifeLine Nelso. Tickets: $12 on the door or in advance from Page and Blackmore Booksellers. Bar open from 6.30 for wine, beer, refreshments. Book sales courtesy of Page and Blackmore Booksellers, and Jessica will available to sign copies for you after the reading.
Venue: The Boat House, 326 Wakefield Quay, Stepnyville, Nelson

Stories behind the Stories
6 May 2010, 7.30pm
Writers Jenny Pattrick and James Crampton share their secrets on how they write. This session will be chaired by Harry Ricketts and brought to you by friends of the Lower Hutt Library.
Venue: Little Theatre, Lower Hutt
Cost: Koha entry

Auckland Writers and Readers Festival
12-16 May 2010
A "world-class festival of ideas and literature". For more information visit the festival website here. Tickets on sale now.
Venue: Various locations in Auckand

NZPS Monthly Poetry Readings Wellington
17th May, 7:30pm
The meeting will open, as always, with an open mic. Guest poet: Pat White (Wairarapa), current Writer-in-Residence, Randell Cottage. Entry: $5 (NZPS members $3). Sponsor: Creative Communities / Wellington City Council.
Venue: The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Wellington

Circadian Rhythm - Carolyn McCurdie
26th May, 8.00pm
Guest poet Carolyn McCurdie will read and there will also be an Open Mic.
Venue: Circadian Rhythm cafe, 72 St Andrew Street, Dunedin.
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