WORD: Work / Sex, with Kate Holden, Leigh Hopkinson, Jodi Sh. Doff and Julie Hill

WORD: Work / Sex, with Kate Holden, Leigh Hopkinson, Jodi Sh. Doff and Julie Hill

Review of Work / Sex, with Kate Holden, Leigh Hopkinson, Jodi Sh. Doff and Julie Hill, from WORD Christchurch, 2016

If Ivan E. Coyote did one of the best things a literary festival can do – broke my heart and then put it back together again made better – this session did another: forced me to examine my own unconscious bias and realise I was wrong.

WORD: Ask a Mortician: Caitlin Doughty interviewed by Marcus Elliott

WORD: Ask a Mortician: Caitlin Doughty interviewed by Marcus Elliott

Review of Marcus Elliott's interview with mortician and author Caitlin Doughty at WORD Christchurch, 2016

Death is an odd thing to be chipper about. LA-based mortician, ‘death positive’ advocate and YouTube star Caitlin Doughty is definitely chipper, though: she has that extreme chirpiness that I’m going to assume is compulsory for anyone living in Los Angeles.

WORD: Speaking Out – Tara Moss interviewed by Joanna Norris

WORD: Speaking Out – Tara Moss interviewed by Joanna Norris

Review of Joanna Norris' interview with Tara Moss at WORD Christchurch 2016

At the 2050 session yesterday about climate chaos, panellists spoke about the danger of going from denial to despair. I was thinking about that a lot as I watched author and feminist activist Tara Moss give a presentation on sexism in the media, politics and society. 

Orville: Ghost of Honour

As is only right and fitting, Orville has been invited to be the Ghost of Honour at LexiCon, NZ’s 38th national science fiction and fantasy convention. Here is the text of the short bio I have supplied for the con book:

Orville: rat, film star, legend. In many ways, Orville’s is the classic rags-to-riches story. He survived a difficult kittenhood in the foster care system, eventually being adopted from the New Zealand Rat Rescue by a Wellington couple. He quickly adapted to a life of leisure and treats, but there was something missing.

And then, in early 2012, the call came: the call to greatness. Peter Jackson needed rats for The Hobbit films, and Orville was just the rat for the job. He never looked back. Orville took to the glamorous film-star lifestyle as though born to it, hobnobbing with agents, makeup artists and actors with grace and poise. He was pleased to receive fan mail from John Rhys-Davies, and condescended to appear in a short film documenting his fabulous career. He died in late 2013, the bright flame of his talent extinguished by old age.
— Elizabeth Heritage, mortal representative of Orville the Movie-Star Rat
 Fan mail for Orville the Movie-Star Rat from John Rhys-Davies. CC BY

Fan mail for Orville the Movie-Star Rat from John Rhys-Davies. CC BY

Strangely Human: Michel Faber at #AWF16

Strangely Human: Michel Faber at #AWF16

For me, literary festivals are a massive intellectual high. I like to pour myself into them and demand stimulation. They fizz me up; I start bouncing around, talking very quickly, and gesticulating as energetically as I can (given that I am usually holding a bag, a laptop, a coffee and several books). I arrived at the Strangely Human session in a state of high excitement, keen to hear Paula Morris interview Michel Faber. And then something happened.

Elizabeth's guide to surviving literary festivals

STEP ONE

Literary festival programme is released. Get very excited. Go through programme highlighting events I want to attend. Realise is nearly entire programme. Try and shortlist.

STEP TWO

Realise some shortlisted events clash. Gnash teeth. Attempt to perform impossible calculus of scheduling: desire to see famous people, desire to support book industry colleagues, desire to learn something new, desire to follow a friend’s recommendation, desire to hear an author speak who lives in a country I’ve never been to, desire to lie at the feet of an author whose work I love.

The place of books on Radio NZ National

As part of The Read’s ongoing investigation into the place and value of book reviewing in Aotearoa (where this article originally appeared, on 23 April 2015), I wanted to explore the ways in which Radio New Zealand National contributes to and supports our book culture. As with print review media, discussion of books on radio can take the form of a feature, an author interview, or a review. To this list, radio adds a more performative element – books read aloud. I spoke to producers and presenters at Radio NZ, as well as booksellers around the country.

Characters from the past, Elizabeth Heritage 

Here we have a trio of historical novels that, with varying degrees of success, bring characters and environments from our past (real and imagined) to life: The Naturalist by Thom Conroy, Lives We Leave Behind by Maxine Alterio, and The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt by Tracy Farr.

The Virgin and the Whale: A love story, by Carl Nixon

The Virgin and the Whale: A love story, by Carl Nixon

I get it: books don’t just happen. A novel is a collection of words actively written by a person, it is a writer’s deliberate construction of images and tales, places and emotions. Plot, world-building, style and characterisation are the results of thousands of decisions made by an author, decisions that are weighed up with an editor and often revised before being stilled in print.

I know this, but I don’t want to be reminded. I want the act of reading to take me to an exclusive truth the author has created; I want to be lulled and excited by thoughts that my brain hasn’t experienced before. I want to be able to fall into the book’s world without seeing the scaffolding – the discarded false starts, the second thoughts, the mutterings of the author’s voice. As a publisher, I understand that those things all happen; as a reader, I want them to be cleared away before I arrive; I want the world of the novel to be fresh and whole.