Thursday, September 16, 2021

Alert Level 2 at the Arts Centre, Christchurch

17 September 2021




Last week I typed three chapters, this week one. I've been processing 'writers block'. My inner voice or imposter syndrome voice has been questioning whether I've written the right version of the scientist's life. I tried out a more expository style but it just felt like I was talking at the reader, so I've gone back to the third person point of view, creative nonfiction style. 

I'm struggling with what to leave-out and what to include. The scientist was a student for a long time and I can only say he sat exams and then waited for his results back home, so many times. I'm not going to edit what I've written so far, I'll tackle this problem when I'm doing a structural edit. But each sentence seems to deposit on the page in very slow fashion.

But I haven't just been writing this week... I also visited two schools in the Akaroa region. I traveled down on the Monday, having a late lunch at the Little River cafe. I had the best salmon frittata I've ever eaten. The buttery scalloped potatoes on top made it stand out from the rest.

I then checked into Akaroa Waterfront apartments and when they say five metres from the water, they're not joking. Sometimes accommodation is not as good as the photographs online, but they were for this place.

In dusk light, I strolled to the Akaroa lighthouse. The temperature had dropped to 5° Celsius and therefore was a brisk walk. Not many people were on the streets. Akaroa is such a pretty town with its boxed windowsill flowers, colourful houses, and a picturesque bay. I was so enamored with the place, I persuaded two writer friends to spend a weekend early October just so I could come back again.  

Around the corner from where I was staying, I had dinner at a restaurant 10 metres from the waters' edge. As soon as I saw blue cod on the menu, I was sold. Fish is a specialty in this area.

The next day I taught three classes at Akaroa Area School. A talk about writing animal stories for young students and an author talk for the older students. They were a great audience. Then I drove over the windy, hilly road to Little River school. I delivered two more talks to extremely well-behaved students there. The young ones loved the puppets and enjoyed the animal stories. The older students were interested in my 'Ice Breaker!' story about Akaroa born Captain Frank Worsley, and other Cantabrian famous people such as Captain Charles Upham and Kate Sheppard.

Unfortunately, I had to leave that beautiful area that afternoon, but I'm looking forward to returning in two week's time with friends.

The rest of the week went in a blur; lunch with my writer friend Lorraine Orman, dinner with my cousin Mark, and a radio interview with Kapiti Beach FM. Interviewer Catherine Scullin had worked with the SPCA in Australia and had met Little Miss Sunshine, the chicken in my 'Remarkable Animal Stories from New Zealand and Australia' book. I hope her enthusiasm for the book will encourage people to buy it. I happen to know that Scorpio Books has a large collection of signed books to sell.

Tonight I'm going to paint the town pink by stepping down one flight of stairs to the cinema. How lucky are we to have a picture theatre so close! They tend to specialise in smaller films, film festivals and movies with subtitles. I'm going to watch the French film 'Eiffel'; a true dramatization of how the Eiffel tower was built. I'm always interested in how writers/playwriters treat true stories.

So, not many words written this week but my brain is processing the story. I'm also tweaking the front sections every time I sit down. And I do sit my butt down to write from 9.00 - 6.00 pm every day. Though, this weekend I plan to visit an illustrator friend, see more of the Canterbury countryside, and get ready for another school visit on Monday.

Fingers crossed that Auckland goes into Alert Level Three on Monday. Friends and Family in Auckland are bursting to get out of Level Four.  I'm also hoping that the 90 percent target for vaccinated New Zealanders works, so that we can have a more normal 2022. I get my second vaccine on the 30th.

Take care,


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Mid-way point on the Arts Centre Residency

7 September 2021 

For the past ten days I've been sitting at my desk writing. It's not very exciting to write about hence the gap. More events have been cancelled. August was going to be my busiest month. Not any more!

You might wonder how I procure these book events. I make a point of telling Read NZ that I'll be in a city on certain dates and they tell the schools in that area. Sometimes I might only get 1-2 schools responding, so then I contact the schools myself. While on the residency, my goal was to fill my Mondays with school visits. Six schools responded and I booked them in. Quite a few I've visited before. Hopefully, I can still visit those schools in Alert Level Two.

I offer several programmes to school and they tend to pick what fits in with their topics for that term. I've written about quite a few famous Canterbury heroes so I can talk about them, including their leadership skills. It includes Kate Sheppard, Captain Charles Upham, and Captain Frank Worsley. 

I've also written quite a few disaster books: five volcano, one earthquake and one disaster book (New Zealand Disasters), so that is another subject I talk about. And disasters and heroes fit with New Zealand milestones. I've also written a number of animal books and this suits the younger students. For older students, I focus on research techniques.

I also offer workshops whether they're a macro topic like creative nonfiction, biographies or short stories; or a micro subject like point of view, settings, and livening up the language.

I taught at Primary and Intermediate level before I had children and therefore enjoy visiting schools and teaching students. Since completing the Masters in Creative Writing at AUT last year, I'm keen to give more talks at high schools too. If schools are interested in an author talk or workshop, they can contact me via my email: I'm in Christchurch until 20th October. 

Before I leave, I'm teaching Write Like an Author workshops in Dunedin (Otago Girls High School) from Monday 4th - 8th October and then in Christchurch (St Margaret's College) from Monday 11th - 13th October. If you have students who might be interested please steer them to

And for two of the August postponed events: 'Remarkable Animals from New Zealand and Australia' book launch is now on Saturday 16th October from 2.00 - 3.00 pm. And the biography writing workshop is on Sunday 17th October from 2.00 - 4.00 pm.

In the meantime, I'll keep writing -- I'm up to chapter eight now -- and riding my bike for exercise.

Hagley Park
Sumner Beach


Sumner Beach


Sumner Beach