Search This Blog

Friday, 30 March 2012

The benefits of research


I’d split my trousers in the church hall.

It happened as I bent down to lift up a DVD player from the floor. I’d just delivered a boringly tedious presentation on Civil Defence to a group of about fifty who had come in for a soup kitchen lunch. The ‘Zzzzziiipppp’ resounded among the rafters like an incoming cruise missile. Startled, my audience and I gazed at each other for fully ten seconds, before, red faced with embarrassment, I sidled off stage with my backside firmly pointed to the wall.

Those ten seconds was the only time I had the full attention of my audience. I knew I’d failed them and myself because I hadn’t done my homework beforehand.

My host, a lay Minister, grinned, patted me soothingly on the shoulder. A couple of wicked looking safety pins were found to repair the damage. ‘Come join us for lunch,’ he invited. ‘You can sit on these cushions.’

He then proceeded to say a few words to the assembly before we all sat down to share lunch together. He spoke softly and eloquently, his voice soothing and encouraging. He spoke about how fortunate we were to have such an abundance of food, the warmth of our family and friends, the importance of our hopes for a brighter future and how budgeting might help us achieve our aspirations. His message was inspirational. His audience totally captivated.

Later I congratulated him and asked if he had ever considered writing down and publishing his marvelous presentations. ‘No,’ he replied. ‘This group is my only audience. Have been for years. These are my parishioners. I know each of them by name.’

‘But you spoke so well,’ I protested. ‘I’m sure there are others who would be interested to hear you and could benefit from your message. You obviously know your local audience very well but have you ever researched your wider market?’

Of course he hadn’t and didn’t know where to start.  We went to his office and fired up his computer.

We did a simple search of his church’s parish membership and then to his church’s global membership. The results were startling.  From 150 parishioners to 100 million people world wide.  

‘There you are,’ I exclaimed triumphantly. ‘You can inspire lunchtime gatherings around the world and you don’t even have to know their names. ’

He was astonished. ‘Fancy that,’ he mused shaking his head in disbelief. ‘100 million people. eh … well, well, well …’ He looked up, nodded and smiled. ‘This research thing might be worth a shot.’

I grinned back. I liked the notion that the noise of my splitting trousers might reverberate globally and lead to the inspiration of 100 million people. Not all had been lost that day after all.

Rodney ‘Badger’ Dearing

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Elements of Good Poetry

A New Experience 
posted by Maureen Green

Recently I participated in a workshop run by Jenny Argante; a poetry workshop. During our hands-on-work session, Jenny provided pointers that I believe apply to all writing structure:

      • one’s own voice is the strongest and truest
      • write, rewrite, rework, rework
      • read your work out loud; addition and omission become evident then.

Her suggestion that selected phrases from prose may often be turned into good poetry, really hit home for me. So, motivated by her enthusiasm, and taking note of the seven elements of good poetry writing cited, I was compelled to pen a form into which I  have rarely delved. The result:

Senior Moment

I stop, stare blankly

Wonder why here?

Could it be my

Memory’s deserting me!

“Not,” I say -


Fear spawning. I scurry,

Worry my way

Through corridors,

Mind hot

On the trail

Of hide-and-seek thought

That brought me here

To blankly stare… and,


What do you think? Compare my effort with the seven elements of good poetry listed below.

Seven Elements of Good Poetry.

 Good poems:

·         have shape and a design

·          are rhythmical;  have a metrical beat or musical quality

·          reveal new things (but not necessarily complicated)

·         Are significant, not mindless waffle

·         are intense (concentrate on essentials)

·         are concrete, written about real things in real words

·         are exact; the idea, observation, or experience has been turned into something specific.

 Looking for material to inspire your writing? Try The Tauranga Writers' Website where sections on prose, poetry, creative writing, exercises and issues may be found.

 Maureen Green

Friday, 16 March 2012

Crack-up Titles!

We were in our local book store guzzling wine and munching on nibbles. It was a Thursday evening and we, that is, the Mairangi Writers’ Group of New Zealand, were celebrating NZ Book Month with a cocktail party (you’ll see some of our jovial faces in the photo on our blog).

We had a fine display of books in our favourite book store; 32 titles in all and we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. Some of the titles on display were – Murder in the Second Row by Bev Robitai, Vicky Adin’s memoir Daniel, Jean Allen’s River River Raupo Rye and my Accidental Hero. Evan Andrew also had books in store, as did Kay Urlich, Pam Laird, Gay Rothwell and Maureen Green. Of our 13 members 10 had books on show.

But what seemed to be missing in the titles on display was humour. Barbara Algie, our resident comic poet, came closest with her titles: Golfing Cats and Other Poems and Raunchy Rhymes and Quotable Quotes.

So, with a glass of wine in hand (a very good New Zealand merlot) I meandered around the store looking for funny titles. Not many, but the one that caught my eye was

            Farts Around the World by August O’Phwinn

The author’s name is not without a modicum of humour but it was the title I was interested in! Beside that book was

            The Moustache Grower’s Guide by Lucien Edwards

That piqued my imagination so the next day I went looking for more funny or weird book titles. I stumbled on to the website where you can find a number of seriously odd titles in their Weird Book Room section. From their selection I have chosen a few I really loved:

            Ragnar’s Guide to Home and Recreational Use of High Explosives – Ragnar Benson

            How to Make Love while Conscious – Guy Kettelhack

            The Practical Pyromaniac – William Gurstelle

            Bodybuilders in Tutus – Philipp Lomboy

            Teach your Wife to be a Widow – Donald Rogers (sold out)

            Lumberjack Songs with Yodel Arrangements – Elmore Vincent (sold out)

            Atlas of the Fleas of Britain and Ireland – R. S. George (sold out)

I hope this list of book titles inspires you to either write a book with a really weird title or at least loosen the leather straps and let the author out on parole.

Jenny "Hellfire" Harrison

'Speak!' at the Pumphouse.

Six of the Mairangi Mob among a group of North Shore writers who performed at the Pumphouse theatre on March 11th. The event was 'Speak!' and showcased poets, novelists and short story writers reading their own work. Thanks to the Pumphouse theatre for providing the venue and Heather Davies the Community Coordinator for arranging.

Recommended site for writers

Here's a link to an excellent blog post about editing your own writing. This chap seems to take it all terribly seriously, but many of his comments on the procedures are helpful for getting that tangled first draft into a polished state.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Abusive language? Abuse OF language!

I have just made a momentous discovery, one I want to share with you. I’ve often wondered what the plural was of Grand Prix (no, I lie. I’ve never wondered what the plural was). One Grand Prix but two ... ? I’ve just found out. It’s Grands Prix. A bit like two Governors-General, three courts-martial, four secretaries-general (and a partridge in a pear tree).

Isn’t the English language wonderful? But there are some who, I think, abuse the language most dreadfully. I hope there’s a special place in hell for those who say “the amount of people” instead of “the number of people”. Or “less people” rather than “fewer people”. There are any number of culprits, for example, media people and a scattering of academics who should know better.

I’m all for innovation. English as a language is vibrant, a living thing. Why not add words like “holler” and “creek” as in “up the ...” How about “dag” which is a gloriously indigenous New Zealand word meaning that bit of dry dung hanging from a sheep’s backside. A great word to use for some of the scumbags, Honest Joe car salesmen, News of the World journalists, tyrants and dictators of the world (and, of course, politicians!).

The Lake Superior State University in Michigan, USA, publishes an annual list of words (and phrases) that they consider should be banished from our vocabulary due to “misuse, overuse and general uselessness”. Their list includes words like ‘amazing’, ‘live life to the fullest’ (‘full’ doesn’t have degrees of comparison. Full is full, baby), ‘transparency’ (especially in government. Don’t you lot try to bluff us) and ‘app’ (whatever that is). My own list would include ‘at this point in time’, ‘gobsmacked’, ‘gutted’ and ‘struggling to come to terms with’. What useless words and phrases would you have on your list?

As for that special place in hell for those who abuse the language? This “Hellfire” Granny will be there stoking the fires and turning over on the satanic spit all those who abuse the English language.

Jenny Hellfire Harrison

Wine, Cheese, and Writers!

Bev Robitai, Jenny Harrison, Erin McKechnie, Evan Andrew, Vanessa (store manager), Maureen Green, Gabrielle Rothwell.

Vanessa of Takapuna Paper Plus hosted the Mairangi Mob at a Wine & Cheese meet the writers evening on Thursday night. Customers were happy to sip a glass of wine while they browsed through the 32 titles from the group that are displayed in store this week. The promotion will be rounded off on Sunday with readings at The Pumphouse Amphitheatre at 11am.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Words for Children

Hi everybody I'm commonly known as ‘Big Al’ by the gang but don't let that fool you for I don't consider myself either common or overly large. Writing humorous rhyming poetry has been my favourite pastime for many years and next time perhaps I may bend your ear with a drop. Meantime I would like to chat about how important words are in our lives.

They can be helpful, entertaining, loving and sometimes hurtful so choose them carefully for, once spoken, they are not easily taken back.

Belonging to an organisation whose aim it is to persuade children ‘it’s cool to read’ I get the opportunity to speak to assemblies in low decile schools of 5-11 year olds. Although hard to believe, in many instances these children live in homes where there are no books and nobody encourages them to read. Assisted financially by charitable donations this organisation provides a book of their own choosing for every child (and there are upwards of two hundred children at the assembly) which is theirs to take home. The response from the widely diversified ethnic groups is overwhelming.

I try to instil the importance of picking just a few letters from the alphabet which make sense — no doubt a daunting task to a five year old.

The four I choose are HOPE (for hardly a day goes by when they are not using this word in either a pleading or concerned way). KIND (stressing to always be this, especially to one another) and LOVE (to love their families, friends and pets). I find their response rewarding and leave hoping some little thing that I have said will stick with them for life.

Barbara Algie