Glass artist uses words as window into loss

MIKE MATHER
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2013
Elizabeth Cunnane
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

AFTER WORDS: Author Elizabeth Cunnane celebrates the launch of her short stories at Aesthete Gallery in Hamilton.

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The sudden loss of loved ones and the consequences of such events are recurring themes in a just-published collection of short stories by Hamilton writer Elizabeth Cunnane.

Titled After, the book will be launched tonight at Aesthete Gallery in Hamilton.

The unexpected death of her father in 2004 was the spur for Cunnane to respond to her grief with literature. A trained artist in the medium of glass, Cunnane said switching from that to the written word was a natural evolution for her.

"I'm still forming images, just in a different way," she said.

After finding herself jobless, the former art gallery manager said she needed to find something constructive to do with her time while she was attempting to find other work.

"It was initially quite a self-indulgent move. I shifted into an intense phase of writing.

"I applied for and got an artist's residence at the New Pacific Studio in the Wairarapa. It was a really productive five weeks and it was there that I got most of After written."

She was also invited to be a online writer at Flash Fiction World, where people can still read a selection of her stories, and she has also placed in a handful of international short story competitions. "There has been a whole lot of separate things that have happened which have all steered me in this direction."

In March this year she took up a second writer's residency at Can Serrat International Art Centre in Barcelona.

"I applied for that residency at the same time as the Wairarapa one.

"I did not hear the result for that until after I had completed the first one - I was really fortunate in that it allowed me to work on editing After, as well as work on some new writing."

In 2011 Cunnane became an altruistic organ donor, anonymously donating one of her kidneys - an experience that "had a profound and truly positive personal impact".

"After my dad's death I felt a sense of helplessness. I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what. I realised that I could actually help one other person in a terrible situation by doing this.

"I found out my kidney went to a father of three - another dad. It was a really nice bit of symmetry for me. And that's three kids who will get to keep their dad around for a while longer."

Published by Steele Roberts Aotearoa, the book of 15 short stories also features photographs of some of Cunnane's glass artworks.

"I don't consider myself a writer," Cunnane said.

"There's a lot of connotations with that word. You have to put in a lot of hours to earn that description. I'm still just a girl who happens to write."

After will be available in bookstores from tomorrow.

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- Waikato Times

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