Our second event was held at Epsom Girls Grammar (thank you Michele Coombridge and Debbie Horrocks), “An evening with Anne O’Brien”. Anne is Festival Director of the Auckland Writers Festival and she entertained us with stories about writers, and how she and her team put together the Writers Festival each year. The work and planning is enormous, and being able to negotiate with publishers, writers, patrons, sponsors and festival attendees is a huge task. Anne was an entertaining speaker and we all enjoyed hearing her speak. This year’s festival takes place from Wednesday May 16th to Sunday May 20th.
This year, the first PD session from SLANZA Auckland was Not – “Just Another Display” on 21st February. This practical, hands-on workshop was taken by the inimitable Annie White from Takapuna Grammar and kindly hosted by Joanna Baynes at King’s School in Remuera.
Annie acknowledged the work and inspiration of Rachel Van Riel and used some of her concepts and examples in the slides that accompanied her talk. The presentation was followed by demonstrations of Annie’s handcraft prowess punctuated by witty and amusing comments that kept the audience highly entertained. We were all “wowed” by the amazing large posters Annie had created using the Rasterbator site (http://rasterbator.net ) to enlarge and print a picture onto multiple A3 sheets which she had then joined with double-sided tape (see photo below). Paper sculpture also provided materials for displays – some patterns are available on the Net. Large inexpensive wooden letters available now from stockists of cheap imported items can also be effective either on an empty shelf or within a display. Lastly it was our turn to fashion rats out of plasticine (see photo below), flowers from pipe cleaners and tissue, 3D displays from cardboard etc in order to give us some confidence in trying to be more imaginative.
Other lessons/reminders to take away from the session were:
Approaching the SesterCentennial with Graeme Lay
On November 15, Slanza Auckland met in the library within the lovely grounds of St Mary’s College, Herne Bay, to celebrate a successful year and to hear editor/teacher/author Graeme Lay speak about “Fictionalising history - bringing the dead back to life”. What followed was not only a talk about an extraordinary man - James Cook - but also the story behind the writing of the James Cook Trilogy.
Graeme has written a lot of nonfiction history but noted that facts about history are only half the story. Non-fiction writers inform us but novelists move us and let us emotionally sympathise with the characters. With fiction we can attempt to get “into the soul of the characters”.
In the course of researching his book “In search of paradise” Graeme became very interested in initial European contact with the peoples of the Pacific Islands. Much had been written and published about these encounters, so moved were those who first came into contact with the island peoples. A trip to the Frankfurt Book fair to look for a publisher resulted in a request for for a book on James Cook emphasizing the contact between Cook, his men and Pacific peoples, and Graeme then wrote a sample chapter focussing on Niue, trying to show the reasons why the islanders repelled them. He wasn’t satisfied with this chapter and felt that others had done it more effectively, but the character of Cook stuck in his mind. In his research Cook appeared as a titanic figure. His image was everywhere - on stamps, banknotes, along with the famous portrait of him had been commissioned by Joseph Banks.
Graeme didn’t know much about Cook’s private life or motivations and decided that he wanted to tell his story in fiction commenting on what a big step it is to “have to walk the deck with your character”. Cook wrote many journals, as was required by the Navy but they didn’t contain personal reflections so Graeme decided to have Cook write letters and keep a journal specifically for his wife, allowing Elizabeth to be brought into the story even though she was “offstage” for much of the time. The three books in his
Graeme had already done a lot of research for his previous books on the Pacific which fed into this trilogy but, to judge by the quality of the talk he gave us, full of facts and anecdotes about Cook’s journeys, has spent years reading about and further researching Cook. As an audience we were completely spellbound.
With the 2019 celebrations of the first encounters between Cook, Tupaia, the Tahitian priest and navigator who travelled with Cook, and Maori where the Endeavour landed (Gisborne/Te Tairāwhiti, Mercury Bay, Bay of Islands and Marlborough), Graeme’s books, anecdotes and vast knowledge will be great additions to any school programme looking of this defining time in our history.
On the 15th March Auckland SLANZA met to celebrate the launch of David Riley's latest book in his sporting series; Powering up with Joseph Parker. We were very lucky that David could spend the time to be with us, as he is in high demand for his talks all over the country.
David is passionate about helping young people to engage with books and connect with their cultures. As a teacher and writer, he carefully chooses to write about sporting heroes with human qualities, in order to connect with his readers and encourage them to see the relevance of literacy in real life. He won't write a book unless he gets the go-ahead from his subject. We heard that Powering up with Joseph Parker took five years of research and a year to write. As someone who self-publishes (and relies on the income from one book to finance the next) David told us that he can lose as much as 40% if his books are sold via book suppliers rather than directly from his website readingwarrior.com. He encouraged everyone to buy from him directly and promised a speedy delivery.
David's talk prompted a plea for more books on the people and culture of Tuvalu who have a special problem as global warming refugees. Finally Karen Leahy thanked David very much for his time wishing him every success with his new book and calling him a treasure for the valuable work that he does in schools.