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Celebrating National Poetry Day on the Book Council blog

National Poetry Day kicks off today and is set to be the most interactive and multi-dimensional to date. The Book Council celebrate our local poets with two short interviews with Janet Charman and Emma Neale on our blog, Open Book. Both poets are launching their new collections today in Auckland and Dunedin respectively. Each interview is followed by a poem, giving you a taste of Janet Charman’s At the White Coast and Emma Neale’s The Truth Garden.

We also have several copies of each book to give away, courtesy of Auckland University Press and Otago University Press. You'll find entry details on our Facebook page.

You can check out the National Poetry Day events taking place in your local area here.

Five Easy Questions with Bianca Zander

Bianca Zander's debut novel The Girl Below (Penguin NZ) will be hitting bookstores soon and we ask her a few questions about her book, characters and inspiration.

1. Sarah Laing describes The Girl Below as a ‘gritty coming-of-age’ tale. What interests you most about exploring this space between childhood and adulthood?
Suki, the narrator, is already an adult at the beginning of the book but a coming-of-age tale can take place at any stage in life, so long as there is a period of inner turmoil followed by a bit of growth. It’s that growth I’m interested in: what causes a person to change from one state to another. Usually it involves pain. Or an error of judgement like the one Suki makes. Growing up is never graceful or easy, hence the grit in the tale.

2. How would describe main character Suki Piper in a few words?
Troubled, grieving, self-absorbed… but able to laugh at herself, thank God.  

3. The Girl Below is also a story about secrets. What in particular compelled you to explore this territory?
For me, it was looking back into my own childhood and seeing mysteries, things that had happened that I didn’t understand—and couldn’t understand because I was too young. Sometimes as an adult, if you ask the right questions, you can peel back the layers and find out what went on—but other times those secrets are locked up forever. In Suki’s childhood, there are a few of each sort.

4. In addition to writing fiction you are also a journalist, and have produced radio shows and written for film and television. What do you love most about storytelling?
What I love is the challenge and satisfaction of arranging material in such a way that it becomes a story—a sequence of events that has meaning. What I’m finding bloody difficult with fiction though is that you have very little control over what comes out of your imagination. You start with an idea of the meaning you want to convey, but first you have to drag your story—your material—out of this primordial Freudian soup. And often what comes out is not what you were looking for but an ugly, one-eyed monster. It isn’t until the editing process that you get to be at all sophisticated. By then, unfortunately you’re stuck with the monster, and the best you can do is to make it look presentable.

5. What’s on your bedside table?
My sewing box, for small mending jobs, and an alarm clock that tells me whether my three-year-old son—the real alarm clock—has woken us up too early. (Too early is any time before seven). A queue of novels: the latest from Jeffrey Eugenides and Alan Hollinghurst, and Acts of Love by Susan Pearce, which is excellent so far. (I find it treacherous to read novels while I’m in the thick of writing, which I am at the moment, so they could be there for a while.) Finally, a Kindle, which is super nifty but I feel conflicted about because it’s basically an Amazon vending machine. I worry that every time I download a book, somewhere in the world a bookstore dies.


Celebrating the life and work of Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy, one of New Zealand’s most celebrated and beloved writers for children, sadly passed away on 23rd of July, aged 76, after a brief illness. Margaret Mahy was one of the earliest writers to take part in the Book Council’s flagship education programme Writers in Schools, which has been bringing authors and children together since 1973.

Margaret Mahy is the author of more than 120 titles. She worked as a librarian for more than 10 years before becoming a full-time writer. Mahy’s books are distinguished by their humour and, while they ring with elements of fantasy, adventure, science and the supernatural, they always engage with the ordinary world. Awarded the Order of New Zealand in 1993, she also won many of the world’s major prizes for children’s writers, including the Carnegie Medal and the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Award.

To find out more about Mahy’s life and extraordinary work visit her Book Council Writers file.

Image: Joseph Johnson


Book Council News

Help us meet our Pledge Me target for Speed Date an Author - 3 days to go!

We need your help to crowd-fund a Speed Date an Author workshop for budding young writers in Porirua and we have three days left to raise the funds on Pledge Me.

If you have a passion for reading and the fostering of literary talent, you are invited to pledge your support here for Speed Date an Author – not only are you supporting an exciting and valuable programme, you are also helping the Book Council to boost the creative future of New Zealand.

Click through to pledge your support for Speed Date an Author and to find out more about crowd-funding this exciting programme.


We're looking for a new CEO

Lead a leader in shaping and developing New Zealand’s exciting literature sector

Since 1972, the New Zealand Book Council’s passion has always been books – and writers and readers. Its mission is to be a leader in the life-long engagement of New Zealanders in reading, writing and ideas, and to promote and nurture New Zealand writers and writing.

The Book Council is seeking a new CEO to lead this highly respected organisation into a new dynamic era.

Reporting to the Chair and Board, the CEO leads a small team actively engaged in supporting the writing and publication of New Zealand books, promoting New Zealand literature within New Zealand and overseas, and working with schools, tertiary organisations and related institutions such as libraries, government ministries and agencies.

The New Zealand Book Council is recognised by Creative New Zealand as a Toi Totara Haemata, a leadership organisation within this country’s creative sector.

The council seeks a person steeped in understanding of the world of books, and literature especially from a New Zealand cultural heritage viewpoint. The successful candidate will have exceptional relationship building abilities and wide-ranging administrative and leadership skills – including financial management.

  • A full position description can be downloaded here or email us at the address below
  • Full background details about the New Zealand Book Council can be downloaded here or email us at the address below
  • Download the job advertisement in full here

To be considered for this prestigious position, please email your full curriculum vitae, with a covering letter, to by 5.00pm Friday 3 August.

The New Zealand Book Council, Level 4, Stephenson and Turner House, 156 Victoria Street, Wellington 6011. New Zealand. Phone: 04 801 5546 or visit our website:

What's new on

New Publications

Peruse New Zealand children's books published in July, including new titles by Maria Gill, Elizabeth Pulford and Sherryl Jordan.

We also have the latest Fiction, Poetry and Non-Fiction titles up in our New Publication section.

Booknotes176 tasters

In the new issue of our booklovers' magazine Booknotes Rachel O'Neill explores frontiers in fiction; Helen Heath finds the awe in science and literature; David Veart examines our obsession with cookbooks; plus Rachael King's writing space and more.

Enjoy tasters of:

  • The Borderlands: Rachel O’Neill discovers new frontiers in historical fiction.
  • Helen Heath on finding the awe in science and literature

Competition and residency opportunities

Please note this is just a sample of the wide variety of literary opportunities we post regularly in the news page on our website:

2012 NZSA Asian Short Story Competition

After an auspicious beginning in 2011 the NZSA Asian Short Story Competition is currently seeking entries. As the national body supporting writers in New Zealand, the NZSA is keen to promote Asian writing and offer an opportunity for Asian writers to showcase their work. Entry is open to New Zealand permanent residents who are Asian or of Asian ethnicity.

For more information visit or email


Re-Draft 12 competition

Re-Draft is an annual competition for teenage writers. It is open to all, not just those who are working on School for Young Writers programmes. Each year they publish a book (Re-Draft 2001, Redraft 2002, and the more simply titled Re-Draft 3, Re-Draft 4, and so on) containing the best entries received.

For more information visit the School for Young Writers 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 and communities throughout New Zealand.
Do you enjoy giveaway competitions, book news, and Q&A with New Zealand authors? Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for freebies, author interviews and regular news and updates.

Raewyn Alexander and Feby Idrus have each won a copy of Michael Smythe's award-winning book, New Zealand by Design (RRP: $65.00), courtesy of Random House NZ. Congratulations.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion opens at Circa Theatre in Wellington on Saturday 11th August at 7.30pm. Circa are very pleased to offer Book Council newsletter readers the chance to win two double complimentary passes to the show. To enter the draw email us at the address below, with the name of the play in the subject line, and your New Zealand postal address in the body of the email. Draw closes 12 noon on Friday 3rd of August.

This month we also have two copies of Janet Charman's At the White Coast to give away, courtesy of Auckland University Press. We also have two copies of Emma Neale's The Truth Garden to give away, courtesy of Otago University Press.

To enter the draw, visit our Facebook page and follow the giveaway instructions. Draw closes 12 noon on Friday 3rd of August.

Each month an industry insider tells us about books they're looking forward to seeing in the bookshops in the weeks ahead.

This month, book buyer Nevena Nikolic from Time Out Bookstore gives us her top picks.

August is always an interesting month in bookselling as we are coming off the back of the NZ Post Book Awards and the resurgent interest in those titles, while the publishers haven’t quite got their Christmas offerings happening yet. A few key titles I am looking forward to though are: Elemental, by Brian Turner, with a new book of Central Otago poetry. As this is a Random House publication, the book’s production values will be high and the poetry will be evocative of people and place.

For a change of pace, Niceville by Carsten Stroud is a southern American thriller with a paranormal twist and a must read… All I’ll say is that the town is not very well-named as a spate of missing people doesn’t seem to let up. The opening two or three chapters will have you hooked.

And finally, Paul Auster one of my favourite fiction writers, is releasing his autobiography Winter Journal, in many ways a companion to The Invention of Solitude, in which he talked about his relationship with his father. In Winter Journal, Auster presents his family life from his mother's point of view, as well as discussing life with his first wife. Whether non-fiction or fiction, he is always thought-provoking.

Established in 1988, in the heart of Auckland’s historic Mt Eden Village, Time Out Bookstore is renowned for its excellent and eclectic books, occasionally weird window displays, haven-like children's book room, and in-store animal. Owner/manager Wendy Tighe-Umbers, manager Jenna Todd, book buyer Nevena Nikolic and a number of bibliophilic helpers - assisted by Lucinda the tonkinese - will answer your questions, recommend their favourite books, and order for you any title that is not already on their shelves.

Please note this is only a sample of prizes and awards from the news page on our website:

Megan van Staden was named Awa Press Young Designer of the Year at the PANZ Book Design Awards ceremony on July 5. The award is presented each year to a designer less than 35 years of age by the Publishers Association of New Zealand. Read on here.

Auckland University Press's Anna Hodge has been selected for the prestigious 2012 Frankfurt Fellowship programme. She will travel in Germany with fifteen of the best young publishers from across the world and end up at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where New Zealand is this year's Country of Honour.

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

Ladies' Litera-Tea

19 August, 1.00pm - 5.00pm

The Women's Bookshop are delighted to present Ladies' Litera-Tea. Authors confirmed so far: Emily Perkins, acclaimed author of The Forrests. Kim Evans from the famous cafe & book Little & Friday. Tina Grenville with her autobiography A Life in Three Acts. Tickets $55,(includes a divinely indulgent afternoon tea) ,on sale now. Phone 376 4399 or email or online

Venue: Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Epsom Girls' Grammar

Award-winning writer John Boyne in conversation with Noel Murphy

Date: Monday 3 September, 6.00 – 7.30pm

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971. The winner of two Irish Book Awards, he is the author of nine novels, including the international bestseller The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which was made into a Miramax feature film and has sold more than five million copies worldwide. His novels are published in over forty languages. His most recent adult novel, The Absolutist, was published in 2011.
His new children’s book, The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket, will be released in August 2012. It is a fantasy about a baby who is born to fly. He lives in Dublin.
This is a very rare opportunity to see John Boyne over on this side of the world. Boyne will be in conversation with Book Council Director Noel Murphy. Cost: Members $5, Non-members $10. Tickets available here.

Venue: Whitireia Theatre, 25 Vivian St, Wellington



Phone 0064 4 801 5546
Level 4, Stephenson & Turner House, 156 Victoria St, Te Aro
Wellington 6011, New Zealand