If you are interested in wordplay, the Northland branch of NZSA is launching their NorthWrite 2020 programme on Saturday 21 March in Kerikeri at the Tūhono Kerikeri Festival Day with magnetic fridge poetry. Magnetic words (in English and Māori) will be provided so the general public can create short poems or creative sentences for others to enjoy.

To build their word bank, NZSA Northland is hosting a competition and invites all Northlanders to submit short sentences and/or poems for that purpose. Full details are available on their NorthWrite 2020 page.

This got us thinking about sentences so we went on a treasure hunt through Scoria: Short prose from the cinder cone to find sentences that were striking no matter how simple or complex. Here are a few of them:

  • “He’s lower than slime on a snail’s arse” from The good intention of angels.
  • “This is not how the story is supposed to go” from The girl in the drop-hem dress whose mother was stung by a bee (which is also one of our favourite phrases!)
  • “You join me, yawning as if you are swallowing the day” from Sunrise.
  • “Later, tucked into the curvature of his body, she hears the thrumming of his blood and imagines herself afloat on his briny swells and furrows” from Staying in bed.

We also got to thinking about words in general and went searching for 2019’s word of the year. Every dictionary has chosen a different word reflecting the social and political climate of 2019.

  • they – Mirriam-Webster. “Lookups for they increased by 313% in 2019 over the previous year.” In September, Mirriam-Webster also added a new definition to they to define its use as a non-binary singular gender pronoun.
  • existential – Dictionary.com. “Existential, as a word and theme, was prominent in discussions of topics that dominated 2019: climate change, gun violence, and democratic institutions.”
  • climate strike – Collins Dictionary. Climate strike “has seen a four-fold increase since 2013, with news stories and images such as those seen in the BBC’s Blue Planet II steeply raising public awareness of the issue.” Greta Thunberg’s pleas have also pushed this and the Oxford Dictionary word of the year to the fore.
  • climate emergency – Oxford Dictionary. “This year, heightened public awareness of climate science and the myriad implications for communities around the world has generated enormous discussion of what the UN Secretary-General has called ‘the defining issue of our time’.”
  • upcycling – Cambridge Dictionary. “We think that our fans resonated with upcycling not as a word in itself but with the positive idea behind it … upcycling is a concrete action a single human being can take to make a difference.”

The word of the year for Pavlova Press is more personal than political:

  • scoria – scoria represents for us “the small bubbles and glassy fragments of the human condition.”

We also decided we wanted, as individuals, to select our own word for the year.

  • pōhutukawa – Kathy. As part of a current fascination with Rangi Matamua’s work on Matariki, I have discovered that one of the stars in the Matariki constellation is called Pōhutukawa, the star that connects Matariki to the dead. In one of my stories, written years before I learnt of Pōhutukawa the star, a woman is lying under a pōhutukawa tree, trying to come to terms with a stillbirth. This is such a poignant coincidence that I changed the original story title from Crimson tears to Pōhutukawa to reflect the connection. Pōhutukawa is no longer just a tree but a multi-layered word that resonates strongly with me.
  • narrative – Jac. Loosely meaning an orderly account of connected events, or story, narrative is considered an important component of fiction. Many also consider it vital to contemporary poetry, although personally I like to challenge that idea. But it is my word of the year because of its relevance to the creation of identity and meaning in our lives – instead of using logic to explain and understand our experiences we construct narratives/stories to help us deal with them. This can be healthy – for example, silver-lining narratives help us deal with negative experiences. However, when we operate as if our narratives are fixed, we can distort evidence to justify those narratives rather than change them or our behaviour.

Let us know your word of the year in the comments.

Ngā Kupu Waikato and Scoria book launches in Northland.

Ngā Kupu Waikato: an anthology of Waikato poetry and Scoria: Short Prose from the cinder cone, two anthologies featuring Northland writers, will be launched in Northland in the next two weeks. We hope you can join us at one (or both) of our launch celebrations.

Kerikeri launch of Scoria:
Featuring information about Pavlova Press, new calls for submission and readings by Kathy Derrick and Jac Jenkins.
When: TOMORROW Thursday 28th November at 5.30pm
Where: Cherry Park House, Landing Rd, Kerikeri

Whangārei combined launch of Ngā Kupu Waikato and Scoria:
Featuring readings by Vaughan Rapatahana, Piet Nieuwland, Olivia Macassey, Jac Jenkins, Alistar Tulett, Terry Moyle, Kathy Derrick and other talents
When: Saturday 7th December at 1.30pm
Where: The Book Inn, Kamo, Whangārei

About Ngā Kupu Waikato: an anthology of Waikato poetry

Ngā Kupu Waikato is an anthology of work from poets with a strong Waikato connection including Northland poets, Piet Nieuwland, Olivia Macassey, Alistair Tulett and Jac Jenkins. The collection, compiled by Vaughan Rapatahana, also contains poems from Vincent O’Sullivan (former New Zealand Poet Laureate), Stephen Oliver, and Bob Orr. Poem style and content is wide-ranging, and with titles such as ‘With Jean-Paul Sartre on the Banks of the Waikato’ and ‘Waikato-Taniwha-Rau’ the Waikato river is an overarching presence.

In its review of Ngā Kupu Waikato, Poetry Shelf says: Reading the collection is like sitting by the river through all seasons, feeling the way it runs through the blood of the poet writing, a lifelong current, carrying anecdote, beauty, history. It is both the spine and heart of the collection that draws me in closer again and again. A Waikato treasure.

About Scoria: Short prose from the cinder cone

Scoria: Short Prose from the cinder cone is Pavlova Press’s own collection of short prose by Kathy Derrick and Jac Jenkins. These pieces are shaped by examining the small bubbles and glassy fragments of the human condition, just as bubbles and fragments combine to form scoria rock. With sections titled Arrhythmia, Severance and Elasticity, the volume explores themes of connection, separation and regeneration. Scoria’s cover was designed by the award-winning Keely O’Shannessy and perfectly reflects the book’s content. Vaughan Rapatahana says of the authors and the anthology: Their joint imaginations run amok in this conjuring trick of a collection—at times wicked bitch brutal, at other times fairy modmother magical. But always superbly crafted nuggets of hypnogogia.

A sneak preview:


My mother, a pug-breeder and amateur stigmeologist, showed me the space that can be held in punctuation—how we can exhale commas into chaos, settling a paragraph like a hound winding down around its tail to rest, nose propped on the basket’s edge; how the question mark with its raised brow opens the eyes to that tock between two thoughts; how the full stop holds the tongue of the panting sentence against the next rush of unleashed sound. 

My mother also said that flesh is a hyphen, holding soul to soil. My life with five pugs is a chaos of leashes.

Writing Workshop Saturday 16 November

Shifting gears: transforming your stories from good to great
Saturday 16 November 1.30pm-3.30pm
Three Mountains Brew Shop and Gallery
1137a State Highway 14 Maungatapere, Whangarei
$25pp (includes a copy of Scoria: Short prose from the cinder cone)

When we went into the revision process for Scoria: Short prose from the cinder cone we had no idea how significantly some of our stories would change. Many had been published before, selected by editors and judges for inclusion in various periodicals, anthologies, blogs and websites – they must be good, right? Perhaps even great? We thought so but still we examined each one closely. And we asked others to examine them closely too – firstly beta readers, then an assessor and finally a copy editor. In each round of reading new eyes asked new questions that had us thinking about our stories in new ways. What if we did cut out some characters? What if we did reduce the word count? What if we increased it? What if we completely reconsidered the form? What if we changed the tense or point of view. Can a title change make that much difference? Even our proofreader asked a question we couldn’t ignore that saw one story completely rewritten just days before the manuscript went to the designer.

Shifting gears: Transforming your stories from good to great is a celebration of our revision journey. Join us for an afternoon of story shaping on Saturday 16 November 2019 from 1.30pm to 3.30pm at Three Mountains Brew Shop and Gallery, Maungatapere. We will demonstrate some of these techniques and show you how powerful even small changes can be. Writers of all levels who have stories in any form from raw draft to ready to submit will find value in this workshop. We will have examples for you to work on but also feel free to bring some of your own work to experiment with.