Peter Dornauf: Book month uncovers fresh Waikato literary talent

The Hamilton Central Library was closed in November 2016, for seismic strengthening. Nearly a year later, it remains closed.
LIBBY WILSON/STUFF

The Hamilton Central Library was closed in November 2016, for seismic strengthening. Nearly a year later, it remains closed.

OPINION: Hamilton Book Month was a voluminous success. Record numbers attended all the events – workshops, readings, book promotions and the like. It's a big thank you to two women, Catherine Wallace and Gail Pittaway, who secured the funding and organised the programme.

What it revealed was that there are a healthy number of scribes out there across the Waikato who are writing and publishing their work, everything from novels, short stories, children's fiction, biographies, personal journeys, histories, poetry and other text formats. The region is well represented in the literary stakes.

Witness to that was a book launch I attended the other day. It was the writer's first venture into the world of publishing. Cambridge author Nikki Crutchley's whodunit, Nothing Bad Happens Here, is a real page-turner. A member of Waikato Writers and Associated Artists, Crutchley had early success with the flash fiction genre which provided her with the confidence to stretch out into the larger format.

Another local, Vivianne Flintoff, has recently written a 300-page volume, Kiwi on the Camino, about a spiritual journey that changed her life, a pilgrimage of sorts following the French route to Santiago, walking at one stage for hours without seeing another human being.

Matt Kambic is another resident author who has penned a thriller, a scientific science-fiction drama with environmental concerns. Set in the Himalayas, a team of geophysicists set out to investigate certain strange anomalies happening deep beneath the Earth's crust. Called Everest Rising, Kambic's prose is polished and assured.

Devil Boy is the title of a novel, part of a trilogy, that Tauwhare farmer Murray Annals has recently published. His fiction focuses on psychological trauma worked out through his characters, uncovering in the process various dark secrets locked away in their lives. Annals also conducts a writing recovery programme for people who are keen to write about their own personal experiences as part of a healing practice.

Hamilton author and resident near Lake Rotoroa Jeff Taylor has followed up his history of the lake with a recent work of fiction entitled The Rogue Computer, a sci-fi novel for young teens, about an old school computer which turns on the new ones when made redundant.

Kat Merewether was also involved in Hamilton Book Month. She is a highly successful writer and illustrator of children's fiction. Her popular and award-winning series about a little kiwi called Kuwi, is a favourite with readers. Twenty cents from the sale of each book is donated to support kiwi conservation projects and thus far over $6000 has been gifted to this cause.

Running with a Hurricane sounds like a book that chronicles dangerous encounters with extreme weather conditions, or perhaps a disquisition on a certain rugby team in New Zealand. No on both counts. It's the title of a paperback written by Frankton teacher Chris May, and the subtitle provides the clue: Educating Boys for Manhood. May introduced his book at one of the Hamilton Book Month events where he described teaching year nine boys the difference between being "the man" to being "a man". This is a volume the education department should be picking up and running with.

This list of fiction and non-fiction is just a tiny cross-section of work written and published recently across the region that attests to the high quality of material coming out of the Waikato, work that deserves a much wider audience and fuller recognition by timid New Zealand publishers.

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A city is made up of many parts and its literary quotient, expressed in the output of its novelists, poets, playwrights and others, contributes immeasurably to the spiritual health of a place.

And writers require readers, which is why Hamilton City Council needs to pull finger and get on with the job of returning the Central City Library back to full functioning order. How long does it take? Has anything been done yet to secure its safe occupancy in a non-earthquake zone.

Which brings me to the government and its one-size-fits-all policy where we see the same earthquake compliance rules applied across the whole country, irrespective of location, need and circumstance. A perfect example of bureaucratic sloth and incompetence would be difficult to find. Such clumsy legislation will be the recipe for far more historic and heritage buildings brought down than any earthquake ever will manage to do in this country.

One building that shouldn't require attention is the Waikato Museum, which celebrated its 30-year tenure last week. At the celebrations, deputy mayor Martin Gallagher reminded those in attendance that no one remembers the naysayers who objected to the construction of the facility.

Such buildings mark the maturity and sophistication of a city, as does the presence of local writers and artists, creating imaginative works that move the heart and mind and lend the municipality, as a consequence, standing and kudos as much or more than sports figures do.

 - Stuff

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