Thursday, August 12, 2021

Week Two of the Arts Centre Residency

12 August 2021

We did up our anoraks, tightened our scarves around our necks and rammed a woollen hat on our heads before braving the wet, cold and windy weather last Wednesday. We crossed the road to our destination - it was that close - to the Canterbury Museum. The last time I visited it, I was researching for my Kate Sheppard book. I took photographs of women's shoes, clothes, maps, pictures of early Christchurch streets, a penny farthing bike, and early model houses. I also took photographs of Frank Worsley's expedition with Sir Ernest Shackleton, hoping I'd be writing a book on Frank next. ('Ice Breaker' followed a year later.) This time I took photographs of Sir Edmund Hillary's tractors - a story I'll be writing later in the year. We learned that the museum is due to shut soon for a major renovation. 

Edmund Hillary's tractors - race to the Pole

Ivan Mauger's golden bike (He was in my New Zealand Hall of Fame book)


Collection of beetles at museum

We crossed the road again, to the Canterbury Art Gallery. Instead of our host taking us around the gallery, we were taken behind locked doors to see behind-the-scenes. In one of the storage rooms we saw a Ralph Hotere painting packaged ready to fly to its next destination. Our guide took us through tool rooms, a quiet library, and a large restoration room. One of the restorers showed us the rubber man (looking a bit like a Pompeii burnt victim) hiding away in a cupboard. Once a week she bathes him in a solution to stop him from drying out. In the security room we saw around 64 screens revealing every space inside and outside the gallery. And a photographer showed us his photographs of everything on display. The tour gave us an appreciation of what we see in the gallery is only the tip of the iceberg of the unique artwork they are holding in the building.

The packaging boxes become works of art themselves after a while
Behind the scenes at the art gallery

On Thursday we had a day to ourselves. I planned more of my story. I'm using 'Save the Cat' beat sheet technique to compose my story, as well as writing comprehensive studies of my characters. 

Friday night I went all the way down one flight of stairs to the cinema, grabbing myself a Rosé wine at the bar, before sitting in a comfortable seat at the back of screen room. Large groups of noisy, talkative women filed in and feeling surrounded (and perhaps a little lonely), I moved to the front. If you haven't seen 'How to be a Good Wife' a French film with subtitles, starring the gorgeous Juliette Binoche - who doesn't look like she's aged a bit since 'Chocolat' - you must go. The ending is very corny but I thought it suited the style of the film.

Saturday I drove to New Brighton Hot Pools - Te Puna Taimoana - and had a soak for an hour. Felt wonderful afterward. Walked on the beach and watched a shag drying itself off. Not long after, a dog chased the bird down the beach. I hoped it didn't catch the poor bugger. 

On Sunday I gave a talk at the Kate Sheppard House. I dressed as Kate Sheppard and entertained a small crowd, which included children. I pretended to be Kate before throwing off my hat and resuming my normal voice. My message was that children's stories about people who make a difference are empowering and we should take the time to read them to children

On Monday I spent time in Rutherford's Den, taking notes and photographs. It has the original lecture hall that Rutherford sat in for his classes. Plus the cold storage place under the lecture hall, where he conducted some of his experiments. And they've just put up a large display of all his gold and bronze medals including the Nobel Prize. I plan to visit this museum some more.

Sir Ernest Rutherford and wife
Original lecture theatre Rutherford studied in


On Tuesday we toured the Christchurch Library. I readjusted a book of mine that was far too low down on a display (discretely of course). I plan to book a studio session to record a reading of one of my latest books. And will probably be back to use the laser machine as well for some display animals. Great resources for the community to use.

On Wednesday I rose very early to catch an 8.30am flight to Wellington. At 10.45 Sandra Morris and I gave a talk to several classes of children about researching nonfiction books. We used Canva for the first time for our presentation and it looked fabulous. Will definitely use it again - a lot more creative options than PowerPoint. The kids were so well behaved, taking notes the whole time.

After lunch all the nonfiction finalists sat at the front of the auditorium and answered children's questions. Again, they were a fantastic audience, asking very astute questions. It was really interesting to hear the thought, planning and research that each author and illustrator had spent writing/illustrating their books. Tom Moffat was a hoot telling a few of his jokes from his book 'You're Joking'. A kid in front of me, looked like he had tears coming out of his eyes - he found Tom so funny. Selina Tusitala Marsh (Mophead) was as regal and beautiful as usual. She shared that her fellow University workmates tried to dissuade her from writing a children's book - thank goodness she ignored them. And Alexandra Tylee (Egg and Spoon) admitted that her 'long suffering' children trialed all her recipes and were very honest whether they thought a recipe good enough for the book. Giselle Clarkson (Egg and Spoon) said as well as her cartoon work, she also goes on trips with conservation groups to outlying islands and draws wildlife later for magazines. Sandra Morris, author illustrator of 'North and South' revealed if she hadn't become an illustrator/writer she might have been an archaeologist. And Marco Ivancic, illustrator of 'New Zealand Disasters' said when he received the book full of mistakes - he then saw my horrified look and realised what he said - 'disasters, I mean!'. He also admitted he would have liked to have been a paleontologist or a soccer star. Now, I realise why he's always suggesting we do a dinosaur book next!

Nonfiction Finalists at the Award Ceremony

After a rest we were back at the National Library in time for the awards. If you don't know the results go here. Huge congratulations to Tania Roxborogh who won the junior fiction and Supreme Book of the Year Award for her book 'Charlie Tangaroa and the Creatures from the Sea'. And congratulations to all the other winners. Then it was a chance to catch up with fellow authors and illustrators, librarians and teachers.

The next day back to Christchurch to resume the residency ...

Back at the Residency

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