Monday, April 20, 2015

We interrupt this broadcast....

I would like to interrupt this interlude with a brief return to normal service (well, as normal as you can ever hope to receive from me). I have been having a bit of an interesting time of it lately and thought I would share some of it with you folks.

The residency, I am very happy to say so far, has been providing me with the perfect environment for 'getting on with the story'. It is a reminder of what is needed to do this job - a quiet place, surrounded by beautiful things both natural and made, with no distractions. While my home meets some of those criteria, it is woefully short on some of the others. I am thinking of enforcing office hours when the residency is over. At least between the hours of 1pm and 5pm intruders will be required to talk to the hand (the one not tapping on the computer keyboard that is).

I have been signed up to take part in a very exciting project with MTG Hawke's Bay and last Tuesday I popped down to Napier for the day to check out some of the pieces in the Museum's collection in storage with the Museum's curator. Some of the things were rather cool and incredibly fascinating and have prodded my brain into all sorts of interesting cogitations which I will be writing about soon. And Napier is a beautiful place. If you haven't been there, you should go!

This week I am in Wanaka for the NZ Book Council's Words on Wheels Tour with some terrific people - writer/illustrator Bob Kerr and writer/academic Kate Hunter. Yesterday I visited Wanaka Primary School with Bob. I gave all the children a very tricky, brain-stretchery task to do and was most impressed with their response. Nice work folks!!

This morning I trotted up the road to Mt Aspiring College and chatted with the year 8's and year 10s and found myself in the company of another awesome switched-on group of students. Tomorrow I'll be visiting Hawea Flat School, again riding shotgun with Bob Kerr and then Thursday we are taking part in a speed date the author event. The week culminates in a Festival of Colour True Stories Told Live Event. It's an unscripted event so my script has been told it will have to stay home.

There are all sorts of cool events on every day this week for the Festival of Colour here in Wanaka - plays, shows, puppetry, cabaret, music, and much, much more. I'm feeling pretty honoured to be taking part. It is fantastic to see a variety of these incredible cultural feasts popping up all over the country. Nice work New Zealand!!

Oh! And last, but by no means least, I am super thrilled to say my book with awesome illustrator Dominique Ford The Song of Kauri has become a finalist for the Librarian's Choice Award in the 2015 LIANZA Children's Book Awards.

Thursday, April 9, 2015


something to read, wot I have written (unedited) ...

Crocodile Dreaming - Part One

The teacher took Joseph Miller to the zoo. In fact she took the whole class, including Joe, who was the second smallest student. It would have been better to be the smallest, but that position was filled by Martha Eggleton, who was not only short, but also blond and dimpled. Everyone felt protective towards Martha. Joe had red hair, and more freckles than ‘you could shake a stick at’ as Granny Miller liked to say. Joe didn’t get how a shaking stick was a way to measure anything but Granny used it quite a lot. He also had teeth that refused to sit neatly in a straight row, and wore glasses because otherwise the words on the board looked like wet weetbix. His classmates found all these things impossible to ignore. Maybe if Joe played sports, things would be different. But he didn’t, and they weren’t. He wasn’t really the right shape for sports.

Joe liked the idea of going to the zoo. Animals seemed much less complicated than people. His Mum and Dad took him once but they were busy people and hadn’t managed to fit in another visit yet. He tried to hide his excitement in the week leading up to the visit. The other boys in his class found other people’s excitement annoying. At least that’s how they found Joe’s excitement.

It was cloudy the day of the trip. Ms Terry said this was perfect zoo visiting weather. Sunshine made animals sleepy and want to hide away in their dens in the shade. Joe stayed on the bus till all the other students were off as he often tripped over other peoples legs. But when he finally emerged he sniffed the earthy combination of animal fragrances and smiled.
“Hurry up Joseph,” Ms Terry called. “Stop dawdling.”
The animals didn’t disappoint.
“Miss, aren’t flamingos meant to be pink?” Harry Tanner asked as he hung over the railing at their enclosure.
“They’re grey because of the food they eat,” Joe said. “When they’ve eaten enough shrimps and stuff they’ll change colour and be pink.”
“Quite so, Joseph,” Ms Terry said tartly.
“Yes Joseph, quite so,” Harry parroted.

It was a small mistake, laughing at Harry when the llama spit at him. Everyone laughed at Joe when Harry spat at him at school, and frankly Joe didn’t see the difference. But apparently there was one because Harry let him have it while no one was looking during morning tea break beside the band rotunda. Harry’s friends egged him on.
Joe tried not to cry, but his nose hurt.
“What’s all this?” asked Ms Terry when she finally noticed.
“They’re crocodile tears Miss. They’re not real. I didn’t do anything,” Harry said in his own defence, out of habit, even though Joe had said nothing.
Joe didn’t bother mentioning that crocodiles did actually cry real tears. And that it had nothing to do with pretending they felt sad when they didn’t.

The crack in the left hand lens of his glasses made the animals look mysterious; especially the crocodile, already a little sinister, eyeing Joe from under half closed lids, through the vapour of the climate-controlled Reptile House. Half submerged in murky water, the animal floated perfectly still. Its knobbly, patterned hide made Joe think of dragons, and the knights who fought them. Magnificent teeth, curving and pointed and long, sat outside the crocodile’s lips in a predatory grin. Who could really tell what simmered below the calm and silent surface? Only a low railing separated the pond and its grassy surrounds from the visitors.
“This is boring,” Harry declared. “Crocodiles never do anything. And they’re ugly.” He smiled at Martha who flashed a dimple back. “Let’s go see the lions.” Everyone was slowly filing out, students pushing and shoving in their impatience. It might have been an accident. Who could tell in the end? But Harry’s elbow caught Joe in the back as he leaned over the fence. Joe found himself falling forward, watched closely by those crocodile eyes.  He landed on the edge of the pond, his hands in the water. What was that beneath his hand? He grasped at it.
Laughter erupted behind him. Joe wasn’t quite sure how being in danger was funny.
As quickly as he’d fallen in, the crocodile keeper yanked him out, pulling him up by the back of his shirt. The crocodile had not moved. Even though that’s what they usually did when food fell down right in front of them. How odd.
“You should never climb into an enclosure,” the keeper warned. “Crocodiles are killers.”
There seemed little point in Joe saying he’d been pushed.
“Yes,” he said instead. And, “Thank you.” But already the keeper was moving off to attend to his next task. The room had emptied. Joe opened his palm out and looked down at the crocodile tooth, large and hard and yellowed. He popped it in his pocket and glanced at the crocodile.
“Thanks for not eating me,” he said.
The crocodile blinked, a slow single tear sliding down its cheek. Joe said, “Bye,” and hurried off to find Ms Terry and the others.