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Sarah Forster writes home from 826 Valencia

The global success story that is writer and publisher Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia writing centre boasts humble, if novel beginnings. From day one, students have met in rather magical pirate-themed surroundings for one-on-one tutoring with writers after school. It is a programme that clearly has an imaginative heart.

It all started in San Francisco, with local writers wanting to get kids excited about writing and augment school and state-funded literacy programmes. In an interesting twist, before 826 Valencia could open their doors, the non-profit group found they had to come up with ‘a retail purpose’ to satisfy their rental agreement. This is where the pirate goodies came in, leading to what is essentially a pirate supplies store ‘out front’—planks are sold by the foot, as well as spare eyes, scurvy tablets, peg legs, and bottled Dolphin Tears—and writing activities take place ‘out the back’.
Dave Eggers, a celebrated author and founder of independent publishing house, McSweeney's, co-created 826 Valencia, which is founded on an unshakeable belief in the primacy of the written word and the power of one-on-one contact between a writer and student to nurture the beginnings of a rich and enlightened life. Over the last few years, writing centres based on the 826 Valencia model have been established across the US, as well as in Britain and Ireland. They also adopt the fun and imaginative idea of a concept store that runs alongside the writing centre activities. Brooklyn has a Super Heroes Supply Store; LA, a Time Travel Mart; and in Dublin, Rody Doyle provides the inspiration with a storefront that exclaims, ‘It was a dark and stormy night...’ It’s been said that participating students get so hooked on writing that they voluntarily and enthusiastically complete that thing called ‘homework’.
When Book Council education Manager Sarah Forster caught wind of 826 Valencia, she knew she had to find out more. The Book Council’s own Writers in Schools programme has a strong resonance with the programme and this soon led Forster to contact them, arrange for an internship, successfully secure a Winston Churchill Scholarship, and arrange to spend six weeks in San Francisco picking the brains of those running this remarkable programme.

Since arriving she has kept a diary:

"I met with Erin Archuleda from 826 National today. She has been involved with 826 since the beginning. She directed me to talk to various people—there is a group very like the Book Council here, called the Writers Corps. Erin has been employed with 826 from 2004, and since taking up the role of Educational Director she has aided in the set up of 826 Valencia programmes all over the USA. They currently have seven other sites in the US—Washington, New York, LA, Boston, Michigan, Seattle and Chicago."

To read more from Sarah's diary, visit and find out what it’s like on the ground at 826 Valencia.

Five Easy Questions with Pirate Store Manager
Justin Carder

Justin Carder's job description at 826 Valencia includes Pirate Store Manager and Publishing Director. Apparently he wears a beard most of the time. He claims it puts the fish in the fish theatre at ease. Justin started as a volunteer at 826 in 2006; in addition to being the bearded-or-sometimes-not-bearded head of the pirate store, he is the coordinator of the Writing & Publishing Apprentices workshop and editor of The 826 Quarterly.

1. You have a fantastic job description – is Pirating or Publishing more fun? How do you balance the two?
Good question. Pirating is clearly more fun than publishing. I mean, pirating involves fresh air, swords, and the open sea. Publishing is really boring in comparison. I mean, I love it. But, you know, I'm a weird guy.
2. What have you done while at 826 Valencia that you are most proud of?
I think, even after working on staff for three years, I'm still most proud of the work I've done as a volunteer for 826. Working one-on-one in schools and doing after-school tutoring are pretty much always going to be some of my proudest moments.
3. Does anybody ever come to the pirate store expecting to buy “parallel imported” DVDs? What do people expect as they come in the door?
I think the best thing people ask when they come in the store is, "Is this a hardware store?" Which is pretty much my favourite thing ever because it makes me wonder what hardware stores these people have been going to. Like, is there a hardware store in their neighbourhood that sells glass eyes and leeches? I like to imagine that there is.
4. Tell us a story about the trials and tribulations of publishing children’s writing.
In the time it takes to get a book edited, designed, printed, etc, a lot can happen in a kid’s life. Once in a while, a student will write a really gorgeous love letter to a pop star like Justin Bieber or something—you know, like really emotional stuff—and we’ll put it into a book we’re working on. It usually takes a couple of months to get the whole thing back. But, in three months a lot can happen in the life of a sixth grader. So, in a couple of cases, by the time the book comes out, the student has had a total change of heart. The student no longer loves Bieber, and, in fact denies having ever loved him at all. But, you know, there it is, right there in print. That’s fun to navigate, and, I think, pretty unique to youth publishing.
5. What books are on your bedside table?  
I am kind of obsessive about books. It's a sickness. My room is bursting with them. I have got to get a new bookshelf. Here are some that I'm working on—broken down in three categories:
Books I’m reading now
Birds of America by Lorrie Moore (this book is amazing)
Brain, Vision, Memory: Tales in the History of Neuroscience by Charles G. Gross
Humilation by Wayne Koestenbaum (just finished last night)
Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge by Gerald M. Edelman.
Nudities by Giorgio Agamben
War and the Iliad by Simone Weil and Rachel Bespaloff
The Next American Essay edited by John d'Agata (this book is also amazing)
Books I’ve started but put down temporarily
Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
Grief Lessons by Anne Carson
Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Books I got from the library but haven’t started yet
The Odyssey by Homer
The Iliad by Homer
Sight unseen: An Exploration of Conscious and Unconscious Vision by Melvyn A. Goodale


Get more from the Book Council

We hope you enjoy the monthly serving of books news and views that our e-newsletter delivers to your inbox. If you want more stimulating articles, commentary and book talk, why not become a member of the Book Council? For just $29 a year, you’ll receive our quarterly publication, Booknotes, New Zealand’s only book news and features magazine, in print and digital editions.

Your membership will also make a vital contribution to the work of the Book Council. This includes our Writers in Schools programme, which has been enriching and enlivening children’s reading and writing for almost 40 years; our online Writers files, a unique encyclopaedia of New Zealand writers and a national treasure; and the high-quality editorial content on our website, in Booknotes and in this newsletter that helps to keep the discussion of books alive in New Zealand.

To become part of New Zealand’s largest and most enduring books community, visit  

Book Council AGM 2011

We are excited to announce that our AGM this year will be followed by a fundraising literary event. Check our e-newsletter next month for further details. The Book Council AGM and literary fundraiser will take place on October 6th at 5.00pm at St Andrews on the Terrace.


What's new on

Rants and Raves

This month Emma Gallagher talks to Anna Taylor about long short fiction. Or is it short long fiction? You can also read a wonderful excerpt from Dame Fiona Kidman’s speech at the 2011 Prime Minister’s Awards and the winning entry of the 2011 BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award. And blogger Lily Richards dishes on the rough side of reading.

Booknotes exclusive 
“Here they were, all those sandal-wearing vegetarians, demanding that a book, by Ian Wishart of all people, should be stocked by the very booksellers who receive much of a liberal’s disposable income."

Find it in Booknotes: Paul Litterick wonders at the ‘gnashing of teeth’ over the Kahui-King publishing controversy and what it says about the New Zealand book world. Read the piece online and find out what else the latest issue of Booknotes offers up.



Residency, workshop and competition opportunities

Please note this is only a sample of literary opportunities from the news page on our website:

2011 TAKAHE Poetry Competition

The Takahe Collective presents the 2011 TAKAHE Poetry Competition, which will be judged by poet and short story writer Sue Wootton. First Prize $250. Second Prize $100. Two Runners up will receive one year’s subscription to Takah?. Closing Date 30 September 2011 and results will be posted out in December 2011.

Entrants can download a poetry competition entry form by visiting the Takahe website.

The Lilian Ida Smith Award 2011 Applications Open

This biennial award provides the successful applicant with a grant of $3000 to assist them towards the completion of a specific project. The award is open to writers of non-fiction, fiction, poetry and drama for adults and children, who are financial members of the NZSA and are aged 35 years or over. Applicants are expected to be either in the early stages of their writing career, or someone whose opportunities to fulfil their potential have been limited.

The selection panel will be looking for an applicant whose project would most significantly enhance the literary standing of the applicant and make the most significant contribution to New Zealand writing.

The deadline for applications is 30 October. For more information and an application form email or visit the website.


The Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards

The Sunday Star-Times Short Story Awards, in association with Whitcoulls and Random House, could be your opportunity to become a published writer. Judged by leading New Zealand writers Charlotte Grimshaw and Joy Cowley, the winning three stories in each division will win cash, books from Random House and be published in the Sunday Star-Times.

For terms and conditions and entry form, please visit the awards website. Closing date for entries is August 26, 2011. Terms and conditions apply.


Applications are now being called for the 2011/2012 NZSA Beatson Fellowship

The annual Fellowship is generously donated by Peter and Dianne Beatson and will provide the successful applicant with $7,000 and the option of one month’s residency in the Beatsons’ holiday house at Foxton Beach.

The award is open to writers of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama who are members of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The closing date for applications is 30 September, and results will be announced on 12 November. For an application form, email or visit our website.

The NZ Remix & Mashup Competition is back

The Great NZ Remix & Mashup Competition is back for its second year, with a new range of exciting categories and $50,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs. Two literary competitions are offered. These are the Digital Story Creative Remix, sponsored by the National Library of New Zealand, and Literature Remix, sponsored by New Zealand Post.

To submit your entry for Mix and Mash, view the winning entries from 2010 or find out more information on the mentoring scheme, go to the Mix and Mash website at


Call for Applications: Writer/Storyteller-in-Residence

A professional writer and/or storyteller is sought for the position of Writer/Storyteller in Residence at the University of Manitoba's Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture. The residency, from about September 5 to December 14, 2012, will require the successful candidate to spend approximately 16 hours per week providing mentorship and practical artistic advice to developing writers and storytellers at the University of Manitoba, to give a limited number of readings and/or performances on campus, and to lead an informal non-credit workshop. The remaining time is to be devoted to the writer or storyteller’s own artistic projects. The successful candidate will receive a salary of $20,000.00 CAD, accommodation and return transportation to Winnipeg.

The Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture is an interdisciplinary centre with a mandate to promote the creation and the study of the verbal arts, both oral and written. To learn more about the Centre, visit

Applicants should provide a covering letter summarising their qualifications for the position and describing the artistic and mentoring work they would undertake during the residency. Applications must also include a CV or résumé of career achievements (publications, performances, awards, residencies), a writing sample of no more than 20 pages (double-spaced and typed in a standard 12-point font) and two letters of reference discussing the applicant’s skills as an artist and a mentor.

Candidates of all nationalities are encouraged to apply; however, full proficiency in English is required, and publications or performance credits in English would be an asset. The Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture is committed to principles of employment equity. The application deadline is October 24, 2011.

Electronic submissions of application materials are accepted at the Centre’s email address, but attachments must be in Microsoft Word, PDF, RTF or DocX only. Please direct inquiries and electronic application materials to Applicants may also submit hardcopy applications to:

Dr. Warren Cariou, Director
Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture, University of Manitoba
391 University College, 220 Dysart Road
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3T 2M8, CANADA

Books and other materials sent in support of applications will not be returned.


2011 Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing now open

This year’s theme is ‘Chemical World’. You are invited to write about chemistry and our world. The length of your piece should be between 1,000 and 2,500 words. There are two categories, fiction and non-fiction. For the purposes of the competition, the fiction category covers science fiction as well as the realistic short story. The non-fiction category covers a wide range of genre from personal essays to profiles to travel writing, but entries must have substantial scientific content. Entries will be judged on their literary merits and the extent to which they engage a non-scientific audience and are accessible to the general public.

This year’s judge is Jo Randerson, a Wellington-based writer, theatre maker and cross-media artist. The first 100 entries will receive a copy of the book Are Angels OK? To celebrate the competition, a free e-book Shift can be downloaded from the competition website, which features past winner's entries. For terms and conditions, and entry forms please visit the competition website.


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 throughout and communities New Zealand.
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The two winners of Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Poems, by Hone Tuwhare, courtesy of Random House, are Marlene Brown (Auckland) and Jessie Congalton (Auckland).

The winners of Lynn Jenner's award-winning poetry collection Dear Sweet Harry, courtesy of Auckland University Press are Rosetta Allan (Auckland) and Angela Rye (Lumsden). Congratulations to our winners.

This month we are giving away two copies of Jungle Rock Blues by Nigel Cox, a new edition published by Victoria University Press.

Enter by emailing with the name of the book in the subject line, and your New Zealand postal address in the body of the email. Entries must be received by 12 noon on Friday 9th of September.

This month Noel and Rachel from the Book Council team tell us about books they're looking forward to reading in the weeks ahead.

Rachel: What's for Pudding? by Alexa Johnston (Penguin NZ, 2011). Alexa Johnston's books are always beautifully made, with stunning photographs. And with Lemon Delicious or Chocolate Fudge Pudding, Jam Roly-Poly, Apple Pie and Baked Apples, Lemon Meringue Pie and many more delicious recipes, how could you go wrong?

Noel: The film adaptation of David Nicholls' novel One Day (Hodder & Stoughton, 2009) is already causing a stir with critics, but I'm looking forward to making up my own mind. The film is directed by Lone Scherfig, and stars Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess who portray Emma and Dexter, respectively.

Rachel: I'm really excited about the re-release of Jungle Rock Blues by Nigel Cox (VUP, 2011). After all, Bill Manhire wrote, 'Each new book from Nigel Cox is a surprise. But Jungle Rock Blues is a wild, slow-motion astonishment.'

The winner of the 2011 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel is Blood Men by Paul Cleave. The award was presented at the end of the "Setting the Stage for Murder" event in Christchurch on August 21.
The winners of the Pikihuia Awards for Maori Writers, formerly known as the HUIA Short Story Awards, have been announced:

Winner of Best Short Story Written in English is Helen Waaka (Waipukurau) with Anahera Gildea (Wellington) and Anita Tipene (Northland) as runners-up.

Winner of Best Short Story Written in Maori is Fred Te Maro (Wellington) with Erin Thompson-Pou (Rotorua) and PJ Akuhata (Gisborne) as runners-up.

Winner of Best Novel Extract is Marama Salsano (Gisborne) with Ann French (Tauranga) and K-T Harrison (Hamilton) as runners-up.

Winner of Best Short Film Script is Larissa McMillan (Wellington) with Mike Townsend (Wellington) as runner-up.

Winner of Secondary School Award in English is Grace Allen (Palmerston North) with Maria Murray (Kaitaia) and Jayziah Sula (Hawke’s Bay) as runners-up.

Winner of Secondary School Award in Maori is Te Aorere Pawhairangi (Palmerston North) with Kohukohurangi Isaac-Sharland (Palmerston North) and Hori Thompson (Rotorua) as runners-up.

By popular request, HUIA will also be publishing the winning entries from the secondary school students’ categories on their website at
Vasanti Unka has won the Best Book award for her picture book Hill and Hole at the PANZ Book Design Awards 2011. The 2011 honours in other categories were split between designers featuring for the first time – Greg Simpson for his cover of Lives of Poets (Victoria University Press) and Jodi Wicksteed for the School Journal Part 3 Number 3 2010 (Learning Media) – and stalwarts of the book design awards: Spencer Levine and Katrina Duncan for Blue Smoke (Auckland University Press) and Christine Hansen for Stunning Debut of the Repairing of a Life (Otago University Press).

Also announced was the Awa Press Young Designer of the Year, awarded to Pieta Brenton.
New Zealand writers Mary Ballard and Keith Hill were each awarded $10,000 for literary excellence at the Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Unpublished Manuscript and Book Awards on 19 August.  The awards, run in association with the New Zealand Society of Authors, are in their eighth year and recognise excellence in writing in the mind, body, spirit genre.
A celebrated historian, a literary Dame and an internationally published poet were honoured at the 2011 Prime Minister’s Awards for Literary Achievement on August 22. Dame Fiona Kidman, James Belich and Peter Bland each received $60,000 in recognition of their significant contribution to New Zealand literature in the areas of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, respectively.
The BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award, for published writers, was awarded to Gemma Bowker-Wright. Head judge and leading New Zealand fiction writer Owen Marshall says her winning entry, Katherine, was a pleasure to read and a story that he re-read several times.

The BNZ Novice Writer category, for unpublished writers was won by Aucklander Toni Spencer for her story Rainbow Fishing, and Dunedin college student Chiao Lin picked up the BNZ Young Writer Award for her story The Wrong One.
The finalists for the 2011 CLL Writers’ Awards have been announced. They are: Dr Lee Davidson for Mountain Feeling: The Lives of Climbers and Other Stories; Bradford Haami for Ka Mau Te Wehi: May the Force Be With You; Janet Hunt for Dick Henry and the Birds; Dr Malcolm McKinnon for The 1930s Depression in New Zealand; and Melissa Williams for Maori Urban Migrations from North Hokianga to Auckland 1930–1970.

Two overall winners will each receive $35,000 and will be announced at an awards event at the National Library in Auckland on 1 September.
The 2011 winners of the prestigious LIANZA Children's Book Awards have been announced. The LIANZA Children's Book Awards Medals and Pounamu are awarded annually by Children's Librarians to authors and illustrators of outstanding books for children and young people.

The Russell Clark medal, for the most distinguished pictures or illustrations for a children's book, was awarded to Kyle Mewburn and Vasanti Unka, writer and illustrator of Hill and Hole (Puffin Books).

Northland based Diana Menefy received the LIANZA Esther Glen medal, New Zealand’s oldest book prize for The Shadow of the Boyd, (HarperCollins Publishers (NZ) Ltd). The Esther Glen Award is awarded for the most distinguished contribution to literature for children aged 0-15.

The LIANZA Young Adult Fiction Award, which recognises the distinguished contribution to literature for children and young adults aged 13 years and above, was awarded to Wellingtonian Fleur Beale for Fierce September (Random House New Zealand).

The Elsie Locke Award, for a work that is considered to be a distinguished contribution to non-fiction for young people, was won by James Crampton and Marianna Terezow for The Kiwi Fossil Hunter’s Handbook (Random House New Zealand.

The Te Kura Pounamu Award is awarded to the author of the work which makes a distinguished contribution to literature for children or young people written in Te Reo Maori. It was awarded for the first time to a graphic novel, Ngarimu: te tohu toa (Huia Publishers), researched and retold by Kawata Teepa and illustrated by Andrew Burdan.

Four new awards introduced by Te Ropu Whakahau in 2009, the organisation uniting Maori librarians and information specialists, to enable the recognition of both nonfiction and fiction across all age levels as part of Te Kura Pounamu award were also presented.

Te Tohu Hoani Whatahoro donated by the whanau of Hoani Te Whatahoro Jury in memory of his work, for te wahanga pukapuka pono the nonfiction section was presented to the Kapa, Te Niu, Te Mata o Tuna, a Hina raua ko Mo’o Kuna series(HANA Limited).

Te Tohu Pounamu donated by Buddy Tainui of Ngai Tahu and Aoraki LIANZA was awarded to the Haumi e the te reo magazine edited by Julian Arahanga, illustrated by Andrew Burdan (Huia Publishers).

Te Tohu Taurapa, donated by Palmerston North City Libraries, Te Ara Whanui o te Ao for te wahanga Pukapuka Pikitia – the picture book section was presented to Manu Haututu by June Peka, illustrated by Jo Thapa and retold by Katerina Te Heikoko Mataira (Scholastic).

Te Tohu Nga Kete e toru was donated by the Wellington Region LIANZA Bicultural SIG. This award is for te wahanga pukapuka Paki - the fiction section and was presented to He ora kupu series by Peti Nohotima (He Kupenga Hao I Te Reo).
New Zealand’s new Poet Laureate for 2011-2013 is Ian Wedde. The New Zealand Poet Laureate receives $80,000 over the two-year period of their tenure. They are supported by the National Library to define the role in their own individual way, while fulfilling the responsibilities of the office.
Bi-lingual writer and performer Antonio Te Maioha (Waikato / Nga Puhi) has been named the 2011 ‘Tau Mai e Kapiti’ Writer in Residence. The 'Tau mai e Kapiti' Maori Writers' Residency is funded by Te Waka Toi / Creative New Zealand and hosted by Kaitiaki o Kapiti Trust. The residency offers a grant and allows an up-and-coming Maori writer to live and work on the northern end of Kapiti island for eight weeks.

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

Going West Festival Taster - A Night with David Eggleton
2 September, 8.00pm
Going West Books and Writers Festival 2011: Festival Taster, A Night with David Eggleton. Mid-'80s Auckland saw the rise of the pub as a performance venue. Central to this populist movement, both relevant and arresting, was the work of "The Mad Kiwi Ranter", as David was then known. A couple of decades on he has become a central figure in our literary landscape as a reviewer, editor and poet while maintaining that street cred of the '80s. David Eggleton performs in the Tool Room, the bar below The Hardware Cafe.
Venue: Hardware Cafe, 404 Titirangi Rd, Titirangi



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