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Friday, 28 August 2015

Evan Andrew has been to the movies!


On Sunday I saw my last film at the 47th NZI Film Festival. I used to go to heaps of them years ago, but in recent years July has been the month I go traveling overseas, in search of sun to escape the dreary winter. This year though, I was at home, so on going through the catalogue I was more than pleasantly surprised by not only the variety, but the quality of the films to be shown.

As is usual with me, I picked out about twenty films I wanted to see, then perused it again later and took out most of the commercial type films I knew would come back for general release. Finally I whittled it down to six I knew I could manage, and this was a mixture of documentary and fictionalized films. All were good, and very different.

Perhaps my favourite was ‘Crossing Rachmaninoff,’ a wonderful romantic story of Italian-born Auckland pianist Flavio Villani. Producer Rebecca Tansley has done a brilliant job with this documentary of a delightful personality in Flavio, which was filmed here in Auckland and Italy and is a Must See! I am sure it will come back for general release, and I cannot urge strongly enough, to anyone who reads this, to make the effort to go and see it. Truly wonderful on all accounts.

‘Around The World in 50 Concerts,’ was another delight, which left everyone in the theatre leaving with just one wish, to see it all over again. It must come on the Arts channel, and again I hope it gets brought back for general release.

‘Peggy Guggenheim, Art Addict,’ was another fascinating look into the life of this extraordinary woman, and the early film footage explained much about her that I never knew.

The Australian director Gillian Anderson has also done a brilliant job with ‘Women He’s Undressed,’ a fascinating title, for a fascinating documentary about the (little known today) Australian Hollywood costume designer 0rry-Kelly who dressed the stars from the thirties to the sixties. I feel sure that must come back for release.

‘Saint Laurent,’ beautifully filmed and acted, (but too long), will certainly be commercial, like the moving and poignant, ‘45 Years,’ with Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay.

There was a total of 155 films shown over the two weeks, and interesting for me, was the fact that ten of the films were either adapted from a book, or based on a story. Not a high percentage I thought.

 So come on you film producers and directors. The Mairangi Writers have got lots of excellent stories that would make wonderful films that the world could enjoy. And, wouldn’t we just love to see our name in the credits, on the BIG screen!


Evan Andrew

Friday, 21 August 2015

Jean Louise Allen is excited about the Independent Book Festival in October

Never did I think I’d see the day when I’d prefer Independent Publishing to ‘Old Time’ publishing. Verily, verily, verily, therefore, does it go to show how progress enters all areas of life.

These days we have spaceships zooming off to planets; replacement heart operations; electric cars … so why not have a new way of bringing books into our homes? It’s all perfectly normal. Life is a constant readjustment to change. Now who first said that?  And thank heavens for people like Louise de Varga of Auckland New Zealand for her foresight into this field of publishing change. This year on the weekend of the 3rd and 4th of October she will bring to Auckland another  Independent Book Publishing Festival at the North Shore Events Centre in Albany on the North Shore of Auckland.

I asked Louise what it was about this festival in October that ‘geared her up’.

Louise replied –

‘With the success of last year’s Independent Book Festival, held at Devonport, I knew it needed a bigger and better location. The North Shore Events Centre is perfect due to its centrally located position, ample parking, and close motorway access. It also has an onsite cafĂ© which can cater up to 17,000 people. The change in venue also gives each exhibitor a much bigger space and so gives authors and literary business a real opportunity to have amazingly creative stands.

Knowing this festival fills a need in our publishing community is what continually motivates me. Authors from all over New Zealand get together and meet with a huge number of readers and sell their story ideas directly to them. The range of print books and ebooks on offer covers all ages and genres. New Zealand has a great writing history and this festival is about authors and readers connecting to make it even more memorable.’

This is Jean Louise Allen hoping to meet up with you at the Independent Book Festival this year.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Barbara Algie thinks wintry thoughts.

We have just experienced the longest, warmest summer for umpteen years, yet we complain about a few drops of rain.   What do we expect?   After all, the the pundits of the retail world tell us it’s ‘mid-winter’.  I always assumed June to be ‘mid-winter’ but, with climate change and all that jazz, this appears not to be the case any more.  

So, what do you do in mid-winter?   Do you rush out to those sales, only to find, had you waited, that dress you bought last week is now half the price you paid?   Do you dash out, in inclement weather, to mid-winter Christmas dinners where the mulled wine makes up, in part, for the stodgy yorkshire puds sagging beside the roast beef.  (Why is it that nobody these days can make yorkshire puds like grandma?)   If you are more adventuresome, or mad, do you strip naked to take part in a frivolous mid-winter swim to prove something – but I’m not sure if I know what this ‘something’ is.  

Not many really appreciate the beauty of winter.   Dressed appropriately, there’s nothing like a brisk walk beside the sea on a stormy day, savouring the drama of nature.   I’ve been on many such walks on the wild side.   Where the violence of the Tasman Sea, trapped inside the narrow entrance of the Manukau Heads, dashes its fury against the breakwater, sending plumes of foam high in the air where the wind takes over, tearing them into shreds of lace, before lashing them against my face.   Rogue waves send globs of ginger seaweed swirling around my ankles and rolls of far-off thunder, coming ever closer, follow my homeward footsteps, beneath an archway of skeletal trees, to where an open fire awaits.   I’m rather glad there were no mid-winter sales in those days, otherwise I’d have missed this unique experience.

Barbara Algie
Auckland, NZ

Friday, 7 August 2015

First Lines - fab or failure - from Jenny Harrison

First lines that capture the reader – or do they?

We writers know the first couple of lines of our book are going to either capture the reader or cause them to put the book back on the shelf. We spend time polishing, honing and agonising over those first few words and sentences, making sure there’s a splendid hook to lure the reader in.

I have a few favourites I’d like to share with you. And also a few that don’t particularly grab me but perhaps are supposed to.

Herman Melville starts Moby Dick with, ‘Call me Ishmael.’ Now, would you actually want to go on reading? Do you actually care? No, probably not.

Here’s one that is captivating and you will probably want to read on. ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ It’s from George Orwell’s sinister and prophetic 1984.

 And the one we’re always warned about; ‘It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals….’ That’s the beginning of Paul Clifford by Edward George Bulwer. These words have become synonymous with bad writing. There’s even an annual prize for the worst possible first lines called the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest  (

I went to my personal book shelves and took out random books to see what modern writers do with their first lines. Working on the premise that today a reader wants instant gratification, the first lines have to be smart, edgy, quirky, curious – all of those but most important – inviting. Derek Hansen starts Sole Survivor with, ‘Red O’Hara woke at first light convinced that he should be dead and ashamed that he wasn’t.’ Now, there’s a book you’d want to read.

Peter Straub’s Ghost Story begins, ‘What was the worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me … the most dreadful thing …” I can’t wait to read it!

Bev Robitai’s Sunstrike begins – ‘The sudden utter silence made me realise something was wrong’. I have to read on. What was wrong? Why was the world suddenly so silent?

My own The Falling of Shadows begins, ‘I was used to seeing ghosts.’ If you enjoy a paranormal, supernatural book then you’ll go on reading. If you think it’s all a lot of baloney that first sentence will put you off. I do hope, however, that you’d want to know what happens to a girl who sees ghosts.

Sometimes the first lines are great but what follows is not that good. I loved D R Meredith’s opening line of her Murder by the Book; ‘Sacrificing virgins isn’t common practice anymore.’, the book not so much.

It pays to spend some time rewriting your first couple of sentences. In this day of text messaging and one-minute noodles, readers are more likely to stick with your book if the first few lines are totally engrossing.

After all, who wouldn’t want to go on reading Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed, his novel about the Columbine High School massacre that begins like this, ‘They were both working their final shift at Blackjack Pizza that night, although nobody but the two of them realized it was that. Give them this much; they were talented secret-keepers.’

 Jenny Harrison