The Book Exchange

I’ve achieved some rather major literary goals this year, and last night I celebrated with two lovely women. There’s me in the middle. (Those holes in my top are a design feature, not a result of drunken undressing in the dark. I wish.) On the right is Joanna, and to the left is Sara: the […]

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A Festival-Goer Field Guide #2

It’s that time again. The leaves are turning to flame and falling. Darkness is suddenly flicking the switch at 5.30pm like a grumpy boarding school matron. Beaches sigh, wistful but resigned, as we pack up our picnics and head indoors. And across New Zealand, book lovers are dusting off their lanyards and jotter pads and […]

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The Story Thief

My six-year-old daughter made up a story for me before going to bed tonight. Here it is, as close to her exact words as I can remember: The Story Thief [NB – not to be confused with Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief – although possibly just as riveting.] Once upon a time, before the dinosaurs […]

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The Luminaries: Art or Heart?

*Don’t worry, this review contains no spoilers. Yes, I have actually read it. I ploughed my way through during a  two-week break at the beach over Christmas / New Year. For those of you who have been leading a hermit-like existence recently (and the hermit reference, as those of you who have read the book will know, […]

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Books That Have Touched Me

Here’s one that’s been doing the rounds on Facebook: “In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you.” Here […]

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That “Aha!” Moment

I’ve just had an “Aha!” moment. It was one of those moments we writers live for, when a sudden flash of elucidation sets your writing morning on fire, reminding you why you’re sitting at your desk sweating blood, struggling to get your story down on the page. This particularly sweet “Aha!” moment came as a […]

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Music to Write By

If I’m lucky, every week I spend a number of happy hours by myself, writing. Music is often my only companion. If I’m really concentrating – trying to craft a particularly tricky sentence, or juggling a complicated plot sequence, I turn it off, but most of the time it is the perfect accompaniment. I’m like Pavlov’s dogs: the minute […]

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Characterisation – The Naked Truth

Some of you will be aware that I do musical theatre. I’ve performed in many shows through the years including Chess, Blood Brothers, Jesus Christ Superstar and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. My latest role, however, is making me feel rather vulnerable. You’ll understand why in a minute, but first let me take you back a few […]

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The Bank of Words

Robert Southey said: “It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn.” Short fiction – good short fiction – can have an emotional impact and resonance not found in quite the same way in longer fiction. That is why I love it. The trouble is, it’s fecking hard […]

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Throat Clearing

I adore short fiction. I adore reading and writing it, and I suspect it may be where I eventually take up permanent residence in the writing universe. (For the moment I’m just peripatetically dabbling.) Here’s a gem from a Short Story workshop I attended at the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival yesterday. The teacher, Australian writer […]

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