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Friday, 22 April 2016

Maureen Green says Social History is IMPORTANT

Social history holds an important place in our lives. Stories told by ancestors sitting around a fire free from modern day distractions, gift their thoughts, feelings and way of life. These help future generations to know more about who they are, where they've come from and what's gone before.

Age after age, through generation after generation, all round the world, elders have recounted family stories. In some cultures important stories were learned by rote and handed down as treasured gifts that taught each new generation what people could aspire to, and how they should strive to live their lives.

In our society today, the extended family no longer sits down and shares stories from the past. The majority of families are scattered and elders denied that opportunity.

At my sister-in-law's recent celebration of a milestone birthday where numerous octogenarians were gathered with family members, fascinating stories of past times abounded. In awe and silence I listened to witty renditions following one after the other. As the audience swelled I noticed a sense of companionship growing as the listeners aligned their experiences with those of the raconteur.

I mused, 'What a pity,' as I listened spellbound. 'These historical events and reminiscences will all fade unless they are recorded.'

After the chatter had died, one of the women sidled up to me, said, "I've read your book."

"Which one?" I asked.

"Footprints in the Sands of Time. I've got heaps like those stories to tell, but don't know where to start."

"I was fascinated by your stories. Why not write them down.

"Mmmmm," she said. "I get a piece of paper and pen and stare at the blank page but nothing comes."

"There is no right or wrong way to shape your story. It’s just another way of conducting a conversation. Rely upon your own experience and feelings. Decide which ones you wish to hand on."

"I'll think on," she said, moved off and added as a throwaway, "My stories are not that important."

 Such a remark highlights the danger in this age of experts and information that we may start to believe that the colour and content of our personal experiences are trivial. That is not so. There are worlds of meaning and wisdom in social history. Nothing should keep us from telling our stories because they belong to us and those we love.

Maureen Green

Friday, 15 April 2016


You want to be a successful writer. You would like to have dollar signs coming out of your ears. Here are a few tips on how to achieve that:

  1. Treat your writing as your profession. Make sure the family know, those are your working hours and no one is to intrude on them. If the house has caught fire or someone has broken a bone then they may knock on your door. Otherwise, be firm. Your writing has moved from being a hobby to a profession. You are going to write every day, you are not going to write when you “feel” like it. You wouldn’t do that if you had a boss and went into an office every day.
  2. Decide on how many words a day you are going to write. Aim for 1,000 words. It’s not impossible, it's only three pages. Think of it long-term. With 1,000 words a day you can churn out a book in three months, three or maybe four books a year. Thing is, if you have set your goal at 1,000 then you write 1,000, not 900, not 950. Sit there until the magic 1,000 is done. And it will be magic!
  3. Don’t diversify. General advice is to stick to one genre and, preferably in that genre, to a subject that will turn into a series. For example, you are going to write thrillers and, more specifically, paranormal thrillers. With one subject area your readers will know what to expect when they see your name on the book cover. (And this is where I have fallen very short. I’ve written bios, novels, a gift book, an instruction manual. It’s time I took my own advice and had a major subject area in which I can specialise.)
  4. The well needs to be filled so make sure you take a break. Just as if you were going into the office every day you need to have time off to cool down and re-source. That means spending time at the beach, or walking in the wetlands, or even having coffee with friends at the local café. (I was offered a day at the races. I didn’t go. Darn! That could have been a source of a new book.)
  5. Spend some time in the week doing your marketing and promotion (and that’s another blog waiting to be written).
  6. There are some necessary tools you are going to need in your “office space”. First is Roget’s Thesaurus. A dictionary; I have a two-set Oxford I wouldn’t be without. Elements of Style by Strunk and White and I have a copy of Write Edit Print: Style Manual for Aotearoa New Zealand. Poetry books galore and a couple of shelves of how-to write books.

You are now set to be the best and most professional writer you can be. Good luck.

Jenny Harrison

Friday, 8 April 2016

Evan Andrew reflects on life and the changing seasons.

It’s a perfect autumn day, perhaps too humid for April, but after all aren’t we getting global warming? I have just returned from a dear friend’s funeral. On such a day we ponder on our own life, and the ones that we have lost over time, and look at the blue sky and fleecy clouds, wonder about nature all around us, how short our time span might be, and yet still life rolls on.

Spring has always been my favourite time. Despite all the inconsistencies of the weather, I always feel it is a time of hope and promise, with new life all around you, and the promise of summer just around the corner.

Winter is snuggling up by the fire, good food and wine and laughter with family and friends. It’s when I get most of my writing done, while outside the winter storms arrive with cold and rain. The ground remains dormant, waiting for the arrival of spring.

Autumn though, had always seemed to me when I was younger, a sad time. The leaves falling from the trees, and the last crops of fruit and produce being picked before winter comes. There used to be the smell of smoke lingering in the air, from the burn-offs of the last corn planted, or the clearance of scrub. Now I’m older, I find it a more restful time of the year, when the garden is waiting for its winter rest.

I am off to the Coromandel for a week, and hopefully the good weather will stay. I will indulge in several of my pleasurable activities, which my children used to moan about.

I love blackberry picking and mushrooming, while catching the tuatuas, and a few other varieties of fish, always goes down well. Invariably, whenever I spotted a clump of blackberry patches, the kids and I were never dressed for it. We were usually in shorts, flimsy shirts, jandals, etc, and we would end up getting scratched, bitten, sunburned, and prickles in our feet and hands. Ah, but the blackberry pie that night! And the jam! All worth it in my book, but I’m not quite so sure my children saw it that way.

Mushrooming was much easier, though the find was not always so plentiful. Teaching them the good ones from the poisonous ones was always tricky, but in time the message got through. Does anyone else ever go mushrooming any more? Luckily I have a friend with a farm, so…

So, despite the loss of life that we have to endure as life rolls go on, sometimes the simplest things in life can still bring a smile to our lips, as we get on with the business of living, while the seasons roll around.


Evan G Andrew