Monday, June 25, 2012

Blondilocks and The Three Hairs...

My middle child had her year 12 production this week - Eating the Wolf by NZ Playwright Sarah Delahunty, (a very smart, thought provoking feminist riff on traditional fairytales). Here she is on left with castmates Ophelia and Samantha.

Fairytales seem to be the topic du jour at the moment. Here's something I prepared earlier. The Goethe Institut in Wellington are running a fairytale writing competition and this one didn't qualify for several reasons (1) I've already entered and 2) its already appeared on the internet in a slightly different edit for our 2011 Fabo Writing Challenge - watch out soon for Fabo3 coming to a blogspot near you) so I thought I'd post it here. I'm a bit of a lifelong fan of fairytales. I read and re-read them as a child/teen/adult, I've studied them as a University Student and they've had a big influence on me and my writing. I like their shades of light and dark, realism and magic, morals and madness. So here without further adieu (as I must take the dog to the vet and then get on with my writing), is a fairytale what I wrote:

Blondilocks and The Three Hairs

Once upon a time, in a faraway place, there lived a proud and important man. He had a beautiful wife, a perfect baby daughter, an important job and more power than any ordinary man could ever wish for and that, he thought, was more than enough for any man. Not long after the birth of their child, Blondilocks, the couple planned a party to celebrate her arrival. They invited everyone of importance they could think of but because they believed the Arts were a luxury they forgot to invite Gouache, Allegro and Simile: the three faeries of the Arts.
On the day of the party guests bestowed their best wishes on Blondilocks as they arrived and passed their gifts to the important man and his wife. Everyone enjoyed their glasses of water and bread without any spreads. The guests shared boring chitchat and admired the pale cream walls of the grand hall at the Mansion. The important man and his wife stood at the front door welcoming their guests, their baby cradled in her mother’s loving arms.
The sky darkened. In a flash of searing brightness three faeries suddenly stood on the doorstep.
In unison they spoke,
“Creativity cannot be denied…”
Then Gouache, dressed in a rainbow coloured gown said, “My birthday gift to your daughter is the gift of art. Her paintings will be fresh and richly imagined. They will inspire anyone who looks on them.”
“My gift is the gift of poetry,” recited Simile, clothed in black and white. “She will combine words in a way that breathes new life into them.”
“And my gift,” sang Allegro, in a cloak of shimmering blues, “is the gift of melody. Your daughter will put her poetry to music. Her songs will delight and cheer everyone who hears them.”
The three cackled in chorus, waved their wands over Blondilocks’s head, turned three times and were gone.
The important man turned to his wife. “We never needed that kind of nonsense. We can’t allow this,” he said so only she could hear. “Such things will be of no use to our daughter. She will never amount to anything. This would be the end of my job if word got out that our daughter is artistic. We must hide her away from the world.”
Meanwhile, ignored by all, a fourth faerie in a black cape who had heard the important man’s words, bestowed a final gift. “You cannot suppress the imagination forever. On her sixteenth birthday a dashing hero will come and drive young Blondilocks’s talents into the open.” The sprite breathed on Blondilocks’s head and before anyone even noticed she was there, she had gone.
When the party was over and everyone had left, the important man locked his daughter in the highest tower of his palatial home, paid a woman to take care of her and never spoke of Blondilocks again. When she realised she could not persuade her husband to change his mind, and too afraid to have another gifted child, his wife consoled herself with food and wine until she eventually died of a broken heart. The years passed and the man, satisfied with his own importance and that nothing had stood in its way, stepped down from his job and retired. He closed up his palatial mansion and moved to his apartment in the city. Now deaf and more than a little vague he had forgotten all about Blondilocks and the faeries and how many years had passed.

Young Dash drove his clapped out car through the dark forest. He’d left his home in New Yawn on the east coast days before, bored with everything and sure there must be more to life than this. He’d decided to go searching for it even though he wasn’t entirely sure what it was. With no car radio or audio books to listen to he began feeling sleepy until suddenly a shadow stepped out of the shadows. It was an old woman, hunched over with age, cloaked in a black cape. Dash slammed on the brakes as he watched her raise a knobbly thumb in the classic hitch-hiker gesture. Narrowly avoiding running her over, the car slid to a halt and Dash wound down his window.
A vicious smell blew in. Filth crusted the old woman’s cape and Dash saw enough dirt under her fingernails to grow potatoes in. But he didn’t mind. A bad smell wasn’t the worst thing. He covered his nose and said,
“Need a lift?”
The old woman shook her head.
“You kind soul. You will find what you are seeking. Take this magic hamburger,” she said passing him a small round parcel wrapped in greaseproof paper. It felt warm in Dash’s hand. “And these three hairs,” she continued, pulling three long, dark, brown ones from her left nostril. “You will know what to do with them when the time comes.” And before Dash could ask what she meant or argue about being given hairs from her nose, with a waft of bad air and an odd squirting sound the old lady was gone. Dash raised his eyebrows as he pocketed the gifts and climbed back into his car. He cranked the handle, pumped the gas pedal and took off into the gloom.
The trees closed in around him, growing taller and thicker and closer together with every passing mile. Again he felt sleepy. Dash wound the windows down to try and keep himself awake with the cold evening air. Instead a strange noise came down the road towards him and like a magnet he felt drawn towards it. Soon he found himself parking in front of an old mansion house in the middle of the overgrown forest.
A lilting sound floated down from above. Dash could not help but feel cheered. Looking up he saw a fair young woman peering from a window in the highest tower. The wonderful sound was coming from her and Dash was overwhelmed with the desire to meet her.
“Um,” he said, staring up at the smooth wall above him. He pulled the old woman’s gifts from his pocket. The package was mushed but he opened it up and the smell of the burger was so delicious he gobbled it up immediately. He felt strong but the window was too high to jump up to. Dash needed a ladder. As he looked at the three nostril hairs in his hand wishing he could reach that window, they thickened and lengthened until they were each like a rope.
“Hey that’s cool,” he said scratching his head. He still couldn’t figure out what to do next.  Someone tapped him on the shoulder.
“A bit of creative thinking would have been handy,” a voice said. Dash wheeled around. The beautiful young woman stood behind him, the end of a bed-sheet rope dangling down the wall behind her.
“It’s alright,” she said. “I’ve been climbing down for years. My name’s Blondilocks. I’m the singer in a band ‘The Bones of Our Arts’ down at the local tavern. Then I teach an art class at eight. Can you give me a lift there? It’s a long way to walk.”
“Sure,” Dash said suddenly feeling very happy and he unlocked his car and opened the passenger door for her. Blondilocks climbed in.
And they drove off together into the sunset.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Results: Author-in-Residence Competition

Central Auckland’s New Windsor primary school has a new “author in residence” after winning a nation-wide competition.

Mt Eden Children’s author, Melinda Szymanik, in association with publisher Pear Jam Books, held the competition to help engender a passion for reading and creative writing in schools. Ms Szymanik will take up “residence” in term 3, visiting the school on a fortnightly or monthly basis to work with students and teachers.

New Windsor’s selection as host school was based on what Ms Szymanik and Pear Jam Books felt was a compelling case. “Their entry outlined their strong school-wide commitment to books and reading but also spoke of the challenge they experienced in providing any additional literary initiatives for their students. Their plan includes opportunities for me to work with an extension class, a book club and give ‘in class’ talks.”

New Windsor Library Manager Donna Marquand said, “This is such wonderful news… Reading is one of the keys of our school culture.”

Ms Szymanik is a writer of children’s picture books and youth fiction. She was the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards “Children’s Choice” winner in 2009 for her picture book The Were Nana. Titles published most recently include picture book Made with Love (Duck Creek Press) and a psychological thriller novel for young teens, published by Pear Jam, called The Half Life of Ryan Davis. Ms Szymanik is also a regular visitor to schools and libraries, is a New Zealand Society of Authors “mentor”, and conducts writing courses and workshops for children and adults.

Three more Auckland schools - Auckland Normal Intermediate, Birkenhead Primary and Stella Maris Catholic Primary in Silverdale - also stand to benefit from the “author in residence” competition. As short-listed entrants, Ms Szymanik hopes to visit each school at least once over coming months.

“It’s a chance for me to share my love of reading and show how much enjoyment there is to be had in books: because if people enjoy something they will want to keep doing it. It’s also an opportunity for those who aspire to write themselves to meet a writer and discover that they are everyday people who live in their neighbourhood.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A little link love...

Because I am easily distracted from my key task and I care about you all so much here are some juicy links to keep you going. Thanks to Dylan Horrocks and Maureen Crisp for alerting me to this wonderful piece by the brilliant Ursula Le Guin (I am a lifetime fan of her Wizard of Earthsea books) on the lit versus genre fiction debate. As Ms Le Guin so wisely says, no genre is inherently, categorically superior or inferior.

And this post by author Emma Darwin neatly explains why breaking the writing rules (even when other successful writers seem to get away with it) is still a bad idea.

Okay back to the grindstone...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Kind of shocked...

A brief intermission during my absence so I can express my sadness at yesterday's announcement about New Zealand's contingent to go to the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair. This is the world's biggest book fair and we are sending 60 authors and 100 performers. Our once in a lifetime opportunity as authors here in this country and we are outnumbered by performers and representatives of other interests (only 35% authors in total, and only 3% of those going write for children, not quite 2% if you look at those with writing for children as their main writing/occupation). Shouldn't this be all about books and our literary culture? Why then the business and cultural and tourism emphases?  Even the Germans seem a little surprised. As the article says - at a book fair include the books. The authors do seem to have been marginalised. The authors who are going were partly selected on the basis that a German publisher has already picked up one or more of their titles.Won't those titles already selected by the Germans already be benefiting from their investment? To maximise the benefit of this opportunity wouldn't it be a good idea to take books that weren't already getting any European exposure? It is incredibly hard to get material seen overseas for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of writing. Here was an opportunity, a never-to-be-repeated-while-I-am-alive chance, for people like me - to be seen and heard and read. And it really didn't have to be me. I can think of writers of quality and originality who I was sure would be selected, but who weren't. And if we can't afford to send the writers, could we at least send more books?  Writing is not an easy way to make a living here. We are a small country. Imagine what impact it might have had to have the chance to show off a book in Germany at the world's biggest Book Fair. It might have been easier if NZ had not had this opportunity. I guess I thought it would be different.

As Richard Flanagan said in his article on book prizes in Australia in the Brisbane Times on June 16, "Writing rarely brings writers money or even respect. If it offers a certain freedom, it is one edged for most with loneliness, poverty and despair." I don't think things are that different in New Zealand. We don't feel celebrated at the best of times, and this wonderful event sadly, somehow, seems to be no exception.

I am confused. Today I read this about NZ at Frankfurt. Guest Country of Honour status offers the most comprehensive opportunity we have seen in many decades to strengthen New Zealand/German ties in culture, business, tourism, diplomacy and education. If this is indeed the intention behind naming NZ as Country of Honour at this years fair then I think NZ has pulled together a remarkable display. But Germany seems to be wondering why we are focusing on business, culture and tourism instead of books. Has something been lost in translation? Is Guest Country of Honour Status about a country's Literature or is it something else entirely? Whatever happens I hope there is some long term excitement generated for books by NZ authors. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

normal transmission will resume shortly...

It is so cold. Being a writer is not synonymous with bodily warmth. Typing, especially my kind of typing (2 maybe 3 fingers involved), is not a great way to warm the hands. And my stationery feet could be used to keep the beers chilled. We writers drink teas and coffees because hot cups stop us getting frostbite. (We drink wine and gin and whiskey for other reasons). I am not Winter's child. As we did not really get a summer this past Christmas in New Zealand, the cold now is a tad depressing. I am dreaming of tropical locations.

I am going to be less bloggery over the next few weeks as I have a big rewrite on. This is what happens when you meet with editors. Lots to do within a very short time frame. So I won't be gone for long but I may be a gibbering wreck when I return. Actually, strange and daunting as it may seem to rewrite a novel within a fortnight I am feeling jolly upbeat about this one. Nothing has changed since the last rewrite and yet everything has changed. The plan I have is not new but whatever was jamming up the works before has slipped back into place and the cogs and wheels are whirring and purring and I am rearing to go. When I am done I may post up a snippet so you can see what I have been working on. In the meantime I will post up any juicy links I see on the intramaweb (that I am not meant to be surfing on whilst I am head down bottom up slaving over a hot ms). Adios mi amigos. Till we meet again

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Writing success is like the desert, with wind...

Success for an author is like the desert (pick a desert, any desert, but you will need a windy one for my analogy to work), or maybe an artist's perspective. Success is not a fixed point, either in time or space. Neither is perspective or a grain of sand in a windy desert (a windy dessert is a different thing, trust me). What I quantified as success when I started writing looks nothing like what I think success is now. And should I be successful according to my current standards, then I will shift my view of success again. If we achieve our dreams we don't stop dreaming, we find a new dream.

My level of success also changes depending on who is looking at it. If you are another writer your opinion of my success will depend on whether you are new to writing or much published. It will be different if you write for children, or if you write for adults and will differ again if you write adult romance, adult thrillers or literary fiction etc... Your view will change if you are a publisher or agent. And probably change again if you are either of those things in a country other than New Zealand. It will be different if you are a reader. And if you work in an industry that promotes literacy, directly through education (waving at schools and school libraries here), or public libraries, or books (Storylines, NZ Book Council) or writers (NZ Society Of Authors) or funding (Creative New Zealand) your views on my career and the success or lack thereof will vary again. Some people might think it is exciting to be me, others will be quite happy they aren't. See how confusing this can be?

The further on you go the more confusing it gets. I feel amazed, dazed and happy about the successes I have had so far. But then when I consider what I would still like very much to achieve, and what seems at times to be out of reach, I feel nervous and uncertain like a beginner. You never stand on top of the mountain, there is always one more peak to climb. I have to remember to pat myself on the back for the peaks I've reached and turn and admire the view as often as I can, but if you catch me on a day when the climb was particularly hard and I have been staring at the rock face for a while my view of success and your view of success might appear to be two very different things.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

be the writer you want to become...

I know I have posted on branding before but I wanted to talk about it again today from a slightly different angle. Recently I went through the very interesting exercise of determining and defining what the 'Melinda Szymanik' brand meant, with two of the very fine publishers who have published my stories, Pear Jam Books and Duck Creek Press. As I have wittered in the past, I write a variety of lengths of story for a variety of ages. To say I am a picture book writer, whilst true, ignores the fact that I also write short stories and novels for younger and older children and teens. Focus on one thing and you miss the others. I have written funny stories, sad stories and dark stories. Many of my stories are reality based but there is often something a little otherworldly about them, but then they are not what I would call fantasy. They don't make pigeon holes that I easily fit into. So if you like to read you might want to know if you would like my books. When we discussed what I write we came up with this

"Melinda Szymanik is the award-winning NZ author of smart, layered fiction for all ages,
focusing on the family, the challenging and the unexpected – all with a little dash of magic."

Today as we discussed branding again amongst a group of writers, one writer's work was described as like Jacqueline Wilsons. Therefore, if you like Ms Wilson's books you are likely to enjoy this writers as well. Fair call. I am unlikely to get this kind of comparison. Partly because I write across ages etc.... There are writers I revere. I would love to write like them, but I don't. I would love to be compared to them (in a good way) but I won't. So I have my brand statement and I think that covers it pretty well. It is strange being a brand. I am not just Melinda Szymanik, of a particular age and abode, daughter, sister, wife and mother. I am not just a product of my environment, experiences and education and a fan of certain books movies, programmes and pastimes. There are people who think of me differently when they see the name. Probably a few going, oh God please, no! but maybe some who say 'I like her work' and hopefully, wishfully, wistfully, some who might even say I really want to read her next one. It must be weird to be very famous where your brand seems to take on a life of its own and is off, busily manifesting something new in the corner, while you holiday on Mystique. I find it strange enough that my name might conjure up a particular view or opinion of me because of all the things I have written. But it does. It might be harder to realise your brand if you are still in the early stages of your writing career. It is harder to detect patterns when your 'body' of work is still growing, even if patterns are already there just waiting to emerge. But it might pay you to think about what elements are crucial to how you want people to perceive you in future. Even if you are still producing sufficient writing to demonstrate 'what' you write, keep in mind that people do form views and opinions at every stage so 'be' the writer you want to become. As Neil Gaiman said at that commencement speech 'make good art'. Your art is how people will remember you. And whether the critics love or hate it, and the judges of awards embrace you or ignore you, as long as it is the art you want to make then people will see you as you want to be seen. You have to live with that so make sure you can.

I recently stopped by at this blog post by Talli Rowland (via Maureen Crisp) about how our dreams of success shift with our understanding of the world we want to succeed in. For many of us we begin with the dream of being published. Some dream of awards and riches. Other of movie deals and fame. Our dreams are sometimes realised in ways we didn't anticipate. The authors world in particular is like the view seen in a rearview mirror - not quite the size and shape of the actual object. I dream of finding fans amongst the world's readers, and having my books translated into other languages. I have sometimes dreamt of travelling to other countries because of my writing. Maybe in my wildest dreams I would wish that one day a new writer says their books are kind of like the books of Melinda Szymanik. Of course, then I think my head really would fall off.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Proud Mama

Like the writing muse sometimes feels like an external directive, the desire to have children can feel like something over which you have no control. They are not kidding when they say having children is the hardest job you will ever do. Giving birth is the easy part. Then comes the fun of trying to protect and raise them which is rather like trying to hold on to a slippery seal while wearing oven mitts. And dagnabbit they have brains and wills of their own which they are keen to exert, often before they have learnt how to fully drive them.

And then comes the payback. When they make you laugh until your sides hurt. Or you share one of your favourite things with them, like a book or a movie and you spend half the afternoon discussing the subtleties of whatever it was you shared. Or they come home and say they won - sometimes against the odds - sometimes twice (or more) in one day. I'm very proud. Even though I can't take credit for everything they are, because really so much of that is from their own efforts, I must have done something right!


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Half Life of Ryan Davis - an excerpt...

an excerpt from my teen novel The Half Life of Ryan Davis. This comes later in the first half of the book. Ryan has succeeded in falling out with his best friend Alex and younger sister Gemma. Mallory is his older sister, missing and presumed dead for the past three years.

No one was speaking to me. Mum was so uptight
about what I’d said and Gemma hated my guts. And
there was no way I could talk to Alex. As I pulled
my good hoodie over my favourite t-shirt I checked
myself out in the mirror and had to ask Mallory what
she thought because there was no one else.
In her opinion, the t-shirt wasn’t smart enough
and the shoes were fine if I was going down to the
skate park on my bike.
“I can’t wear my good shoes,” I complained.
“They’re for like funerals and tea at Grandma’s
place…and they pinch.” Yeah, but the shoes you have
on now are for riding and P.E. class. I wished she was
here for real and not just in my head.
“At least my jeans are clean,” I said. “And my
“Talking to yourself are you?”
“Dad! What are you doing here?”
“I was talking to your Mum last night …”
Oh no. Here came the lecture on staying in
school, the importance of education, the you-have-to-
do-as-you’re-told speech.
“Look Dad …” I began, ready to say that I
probably wasn’t going to leave school and he should
save his breath but he cut me off.
“She thought you might need a lift to this shindig
at your school.”
“Do you mean the social? Um…yeah…” Of
course I wanted a lift. Alex said his mum could take
all of us if we met at his place but that was before
Brittney dumped him and I told him to piss off. I
don’t think the offer still stood. But if I went with
Dad, what about Kim? I’d said I’d meet her at her
place. I was going to ride my bike there and walk her
to the social and she said she’d ask her mum to pick
us up. “I’ll be okay walking …” I said.
“Don’t be silly,” Dad said. “Are you just about
ready to go? I have somewhere else to be after I’ve
dropped you off.” He gave me a funny look: a kind of
unsure half smile.
“I guess…” I said. I’d figure something out. “Um,
Dad, do you think this looks okay?”
“If you change your shirt you can get away with
wearing those shoes,” he said with his normal size
grin. Well, if they both agreed, I had no choice but
to change into a shirt.
“Nice car,” I’d said when we got in. The Audi I’d
wanted to vandalise.
“It belongs to a friend,” Dad had replied. I
swallowed guiltily.
Now I sat hunched down, my mind running a mile
a minute. Could I run all the way back from school
to Kim’s house without getting too sweaty and then
walk her back to school in time before the whole
thing was over? I rehearsed telling Dad about her in
my head again and again but I couldn’t bring myself
to open my mouth. I must have been squirming in
my seat.
“Is something wrong, Ryan? Don’t worry. You look
good. Is there some girl you’re trying to impress?”
He’d made it so easy for me and I still couldn’t
say anything. I think I was going red in the face.
“Look buddy…”
That’s what he used to call me when I was little.
What the hell was going on?
“Taking you to this thing isn’t the only reason I
came over. There’s something I wanted to talk to
you about. Mum told me about what you said last
night … about your argument with her.”
This was it.
“Dad, before you go any further, stop the car.”
“I don’t think it’s that serious, Ryan. I know you’re
probably just yanking your mother’s chains. You kids
are too smart these days. It’s easy to wind her up.”
He looked sideways at me. What was he going on
“Dad, stop the car,” I said more urgently, my
hand on the door handle.
Dad pulled over and turned the car off. “What’s
wrong, Ryan?”
“Dad, we ... we need to pick up my girlfriend on
the way.”
Dad burst out laughing. It kind of wasn’t what I
was expecting.
“It’s not funny,” I said through gritted teeth.
“No. No it’s not. I’m sorry, Ryan. I’m not laughing
at you.”
“What’s so funny then?”
“So I take it Mum doesn’t know?”
I shook my head.
Dad said, “Okay. Where does she live?”
I told him her address and we moved off again,
heading to Kim’s place.
“Look Ryan, you’re growing up…”
“Dad, I know all about that stuff. It’s not like that.
Not yet anyway.”
“You’re a smart kid, Ryan. I don’t think you’ll
make any stupid mistakes about girls. But don’t
make any stupid mistakes about school either. Don’t
leave unless you’re absolutely sure it’s the right thing
for you. Don’t do it just because you’re angry with
your mum.”
“I did just say it to annoy her,” I said. “School’s
okay. But I need to earn a bit of pocket money. She
won’t let me get a part time job. Having a girlfriend
costs money.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Dad said, turning into
Kim’s street. “Ryan, there’s something else I wanted
to tell you. It’s about where I’m going after I drop
you off …”
We came to a stop outside Kim’s. I patted the
pocket of my shirt to check the tickets were there.
I put my hand on the door handle again but Dad put
his hand on my shoulder.
“I’ve got a girlfriend too, mate,” he said.
I didn’t know what to say. My stomach kind of
flopped over. I figured he and Mum were never
getting back together but this news punched that
message home – right in the guts. I didn’t want
another mum. Girlfriends were what people my age
have. Not old dudes like Dad. He had a bald patch
on the back of his head and his stomach hung over
his trousers.
I turned back in my seat. Took my hand off the
door handle. “How old is she?”
“She’s younger than me,” Dad said. “Not by
a lot though. She works at my office. Her name’s
Annabel. She’s really nice, you’ll like her.”
I don’t even want to meet her, I thought.
“She’s got two kids too, although they’re younger
than you and Gemma. This is her car.”
A surge of anger drove through my body. I
wished I had that coin in my hand to run along the
paintwork. Two kids? He already had two kids. His
own kids. My eyes stung with tears. I didn’t want to
be hearing about this now.
“Does Mum know? Or Gemma?” I forced the
words out. He shook his head in reply, this gumpy
expression on his face.
“So why tell me?”
He shrugged and shook his head again. “I
don’t know. You were going to have to find out
“Not if it doesn’t last.”
“Don’t ask me to babysit,’ I shot at him as I
yanked open the door as roughly as I could and got
out, slamming it behind me.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Why schools will benefit from having an author in the house...

As part of my recent Evening with Melinda Szymanik event I offered to be the 'author-in-residence' for a school. To apply school's need to say why they want me on board, and how they would utilise me in their school. You have until June 8 to get your applications in. See details at the bottom of this post.

There is no funding behind this initiative. Funding for creative endeavours in New Zealand is highly sought after and I have not been successful in the past. Applying and hearing back takes time and unfortunately I didn't have enough time.  But I knew I wanted to run with this idea. It is important that authors get paid for their time, whether its for school visits, appearances, or workshops. - I have argued this myself on a number of occasions. But there are always exceptions. When we write, more often than not we write speculatively. We spend hours working on our manuscripts with no guarantee that the story will work, will be completed, or will be picked up by a publisher, and if turned into a book, will succeed. The author-in-residence idea is like a manuscript. It is a speculative initiative. Because one of the things that all children's authors could benefit from in New Zealand is a raised profile amongst our potential readers. And our readers are in schools. And it would be good for New Zealand children to know more about their local authors. And I want the chance to show schools and other interested bodies that having a programme like this can be a win-win for everyone involved. I think this idea has a lot of potential. And I am prepared to give some of my time for free at this stage to demonstrate the benefits. In the long run this could have positive implications for a much wider number of New Zealand authors and children in schools.

Why do I think an author-in-residence is a good idea for schools? Communication is fundamental in human communities, in families, friendships and workplaces. Books are our training ground for effective communication both written and spoken. Books are a source of information and entertainment; our window on the wide world. Books are knowledge and knowledge is power. Books change lives. Books are freedom. I will be sharing my love of books, and a love of reading. It will be a chance to extend keen readers and writers and encourage those who are a wee bit reluctant. It will be about finding enjoyment in books. Because if people enjoy something they will want to do it again and again.

Oh, and I have some skills in writing too. I am a published working writer and I can share my knowledge, tips and techniques with any keen writers you might have at your school. I can talk to students and teachers. And the school and students can choose how my time will be used. If you want me to read books aloud I would be delighted. I love reading aloud. If you want me to give one-on-one advice I can do that. I can give workshops to small groups, or run a regular book club at your school. I can answer questions on writing, reading, books, the writers life, and literature. I have degrees in Science and  English Literature and am widely read. I am currently studying towards a diploma in children's literature but I have studied adult literature as well. I have visited many schools, given talks to groups of 30 children up to 300, and taught workshops to a range of students from primary to adult. I won an award for one of my books. I am excited by all the possibilities. Oh the places we'll go!