Showing posts with label rona gallery. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rona gallery. Show all posts

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Margaret Mahy Nationwide Read a blast - could it be an annual event?

Posted this morning on Beattie's bookblog

blowing bubbles to Bubble Trouble outside Rona Gallery
 I am completely exhausted but thrilled to bits with our wonderful community event remembering a writing hero. Families packed into Eastbourne library to hear authors Jenny Hessell, Jill Harris, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Manny Garcia and me read our fave Margaret Mahy stories -- the children were transfixed -- adults too! One high point: the gathered children purring like a giant three-legged cat and another: when Manny read the first line of A Lion in the Meadow and a little boy jumped up excitedly and yelled 'I know this book!' But how many times did we 'ooh' a rhyme or 'ah' a fabulous word or grin at something marvellously ridiculous? 

There was an emotional moment too at the end when we stopped laughing and clapping and listening and acknowledged one of NZ's greatest writers ever. 
my prototype of the famous Fifi Colston chair 

Then we were off - a crocodile of kids in sports gear and parents with shopping following orange-bewigged librarian Sabine down sunshiny Rimu Street to Rona Gallery bookshop. There we stood in the sunshine blowing bubbles while Bubble Trouble was read out loud by Joanna Ponder and after that it was all on for Fifi Colston's Down the Back of the Chair egg carton treasure box chairs. We had so many takers we were quite overwhelmed, but somehow they all managed to make one, especially Yoshi with his chair painted orange in and out, and Sienna with her pink and blue chair and a huge blue splotch on her pink cardy (oh dear forgot about the aprons.) 

kids (and adults) making the Down the Back of the Chair
treasure boxes at Rona Gallery (me in the pink wig)
So lovely for the late finishers to have Fifi Colston Creative turn up and show them her yellow chair and lovely treasures inside .... 

Limping home in three-legged cat style, I opened up Facebook to find reports on Mahy readings flooding in from all over the country. Such colour and optimism and fun! There was Fifi Colston talking about reading to an enthusiastic group of littlies and their parents at Wellington Central library. She reported that while her group didn't make the famous treasure box chair, they went away well-armed to do so, and with handfuls of cut-out cats. Queenstown Library's Jane Bloomfield reported that Gillian Sullivan read her own copy of 'Lion in the Meadow' (signed by Margaret last year) and recounted stories of Margaret helping her as a young writer. Jane also said that the bubbles were a hit with young and old and the event created a whole bunch of new fans. 

Marlena Davis confirmed this with her post: 'My 13 month old and I had a wonderful time at Takapuna library. Thank you so much for organising this special way for people to celebrate a beloved author. RIP Margaret Mahy your legacy will live on in those of us who loved your stories and be continued as we share them with our children.'

The 'old fans' were definitely in evidence everywhere too -- with people of all ages reported at the gatherings. Here's one reader's comment on the Facebook page: 'I remember reading The Changeover in my teens at the local library. The exciting part is that given time, I can do that all over again:). Thank-you Margaret Mahy for making ME feel special. Te-Rau Huia Te Ngore-King 

display at Queenstown library
Clare Scott's report went like this: "Back from Papakura where a small and intitially bemused group (I'm good at scaring small children sometimes!) became an enthusiastic, interactive 'bubble brigade'. RIP Margaret - you would have loved the sharing of magical words throughout New Zealand today!" Auckland Central had fun too: 'Thank you Melinda Szymanik for being our extra-special author guest at the Central City Library, Auckland, Margaret Mahy storytime this morning! Thanks for being such a fun participant... and taking part in the singing and dancing!'
Hillcrest Pirate librarian Rebecca
and Nicola Daly 

Barbara Murison's morning at Cummings Park Library, Ngaio, was especially poignant. 'Linda Forbes (National Library Adviser) had found an old (very old) copy of the School Journal that prompted publication of the very first book - The Lion in the Meadow - when the journal was on display in the New York Public Library. It was a wonderful morning full of nostalgia and even if we ran out of time for making the Treasure Chair (thank you again Fifi) the library had most fortuitously prepared handout instruction sheets for the children to take home.'

Posted by Hillcrest library is a photo of Pirate Librarian Rebecca helping Nicola Daly read The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate. Sharon Holt's report of the event concluded: 'As Nicola read Margaret's description of the sea near the end of the story I was reminded of the amazing talent that we have lost. However, as one of the people wrote in our memorial book today "A great storyteller gone forever, but alive on our book shelves". ' So true. 

Dargaville library
Reports are still rolling on Facebook and elsewhere - no doubt we'll be hearing soon about the Auckland Town Hall event on at 2.30 pm. It was, I am sure, joyous. 

Thanks a thousand times over to the organisers of the Nationwide Read:Maria Gill and Johanna Knox - it was a brilliant idea, wonderfully executed. Could it be an annual event? Margaret Mahy Read Aloud Day - a day to remember a great writer and the joys of reading loud and having fun with books. Sounds good to me. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Poet Jo Thorpe reads today - do come!

I want to cast back to the sandspit at noon,
how I stood on its bright neck, tide muscling in,
its heedless pulse finding every scooped-out
glyph and groove ...

Extract from Inlet by Jo Thorpe in In/let (Steele Roberts 2010)

Come and hear
Poet Jo Thorpe

A dancer , Jo’s poems ‘dance’ in their delicious language, musicality and themes. I love her work - its texture, its sensuousness, its joyousness - and am 'choreographing' the event which is TODAY:

Sunday July 24, 4.30 pm- 6.15 pm
Rona Gallery 151 Muritai Rd Eastbourne. Refreshments. Koha: $5 
Starts with an ‘Open Mic’ for local writers (we have half a dozen of them lined up including Manny Garcia and John Horrocks.) 

Extract from Hunt the Slipper by Jo Thorpe

recalling a tale of that chaste ballerina
stopped by a highwayman wanting
not gold, but demanding she dance
on her black panther skins
spread out on the scintillant snow ...

One more WRITERS ON SUNDAY event: August 28 - Peter Walker historical fiction

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Through a Dream by Colin Webster-Watson

          for Jean

May I rest between your thighs
And dream of outer space,
While I travel through the themes
Of thought and mind and grace.
For ours is a world gone by,
Though we tethered its hinterlands
As clouds rushed by with force.
Longingly we look back
At what we could have sought.


From Natural Zoo: poems, word-plays, performance pieces and other perorations (Steele Roberts 2011) by sculptor Colin Webster Watson (1926-2007), edited by Colin's niece Anne Manchester and myself. Available at Rona Gallery, Eastbourne and Unity Books,  or email: or  Copyright: Colin WW. Here is my introduction to his work.... 

Singing poems into the world 

It was Colin. On the phone. He’d just written a poem, and wanted to read it to me. Anyone who knows Colin knows I had no choice in the matter, whether he was ringing from the other side of the world or, as in my case, across the road. So I sat down and listened as his voice delivering that poem down the phone -- a voice as deep and strong as a spring tide. I swear if I’d hung up on him, I’d still have heard it filling up the gardens of Pukatea Street.

That’s the first thing people have to understand about Colin’s poetry – him, his voice. He was first and foremost, ahead of sculpting even, a performer. His poems were him. There are hundreds of them – beautiful, thoughtful, playful, provocative, silly, sad, sensual – and all, I believe, were written with performance in mind. He performed them down the phone, at dinner parties, on a garden stage, as part of a show he called ‘Pohewa’.

The sheer volume of them, and the exuberant way they tumbled into the world, means the reader can stumble over infelicitous phrases, over-wrought lines, inconsistencies in punctuation, and rhyme that can verge on doggerel. To get to the heart of Colin’s poems is to think of all this as flotsam, his voice, the tide. He was one of those poets who sang his poems into the world, and the voice of this generous, ebullient, loving man is the companion at your elbow as you read this collection.

As with any flotsam, there are treasures beyond those things that catch the eye. There is the light the poems throw on Colin’s life as a friend, lover, family member, citizen and artist; and there are the insights into the human condition and a particular life well lived, that stop you for a moment, and make you read again.

Colin also delights with his natural sense of rhythm and rhyme, his love of word-play and sounds, and the use of a direct conversational style that comes straight from his theatre days. Check out the repetition in ‘A thought to think’, the humour of ‘My Appian Way’, the opening gambit of ‘For Jane’ and the opulence of ‘On the train to Sperlonga’. And how about a lyric line like ‘A fluctuating day’, or the wry ‘As the world turns/Even so the pot’?

I believe Colin’s best poetry is when he has written simply and honestly, as he does in ‘Through a dream’: ‘May I rest between your thighs and dream of outer space’. His confidence to write this way clearly grew over the years, and the more antique expressions that he delighted in as a younger man slipped away. In their direct meditations on life, these later poems show more of Colin the philosopher than the performer.

One of his last poems, ‘Salute to the great possum hunters of Eastbourne’ surely rests itself on the shoulders of the first poems ever: the salute to the hunter, rendering him heroic. True to this style, Colin plays with language, alliteration, and rhythm – elevating both the language and the men – and at the same time making something all its own. 

Anne and I have worked on Colin’s poems on and off for a couple of years. For some of those meetings, local writer and friend Penny Walker joined us. We’d take turns to read aloud from the huge spiral-bound manuscripts, and later, we spent time editing for consistency and sense, and to shore up those poems where Colin had, shall we say, burst his banks. We puzzled, we laughed, we felt cried, we had fun. And we’ve drawn together a collection that we believe is a fair reflection of the best of Colin’s oeuvre – enhanced by his drawings and photographs.

Anne's indomitable energy and devotion to her uncle have driven this project. I have enjoyed our evenings working on the poems, and by ‘our’ evenings, I include Colin of course. Reading his poems has allowed me to get to know him better, and I hope the same goes for the other readers who pick this volume up.


Colin was a sculptor of international reputation who was born and brought up in Palmerston North, but lived much of his life overseas in the UK, Italy and the US. He returned to NZ in his final years - becoming my neighbour and friend.

As well as sculpting, Colin wrote hundreds and hundreds of poems - Natural Zoo is a selection of the best of these, along with some of his drawings and photographs, and was launched this month at Rona Gallery here in Eastbourne.

The launch was a theatrical affair - just as Colin would have wanted it - with readings by local actors and writers including Anne and myself, with the appearance of a local possum hunter adding spice to Colin's poem: Salute to the great possum hunters of Eastbourne.

Colin was one of those people who enhanced the lives of everyone he knew. He was 'larger than life', warm, encouraging, funny, theatrical, and a creative force to be reckoned with. My first Tuesday Poem 'Missed' is about Colin, and our mutual friend writer Maggie Rainey-Smith has posted a tribute to Colin and his book.

Please seek out more Tuesday Poems - at the hub this week is wonderful NZ poet Dinah Hawken, and you'll find another 30 poets in the world of the sidebar.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How to Clean the House and party in a Bookshop at the same time

 1.  Open a new file in  your PC .

           2.  Name it 'Housework.'

           3.  Send it to  the RECYCLE  BIN.

           4.  Empty the RECYCLE  BIN.

           5.  Your PC will  ask you,
            'Are you sure you want to delete  Housework  permanently?'

           6.  Calmly answer, 'Yes' and press mouse button firmly  ...

           7.  Feel better?

Works for me. 

One of those viral email things my mother sent me this morning. Oh if only... Our house can only be described as 'gritty'  - you know, with dust and all the other bits that land on surfaces when you aren't looking. It needs a good clean and all those ridiculous piles of paper and STUFF needing sorting, and this  should have happened yesterday but I was partying at  Rona Gallery - the local bookshop where I work every Friday - celebrating its tenth birthday. 

We had bubbly and an art exhibition opening to kick the day off, Peter Rabbit stories in the afternoon (my daughter dressed up as a giant Peter thanks to Penguin Books, and the children in the audience played all sorts of 'characters' - from sparrows to carrots! - we had a giant Spot the dog, too, played by the bookshop owners' grand-daughter Ariana) and then there was a Writers and Readers Party in the evening.

The Party starred guest poet, Fiona Kidman, reading from the gorgeous Where Your Left Hand Rests (with all the terrific stories she tells that explain and inform the poems), and there was an Open Mike for our local writers to stand up and read some of their own work. It turned out to be the most exhilarating couple of hours as we heard Fiona's poems, children's poetry - some from the school journals, poems set in and around Eastbourne and the bays, poems set elsewhere with stories attached, stories about works in progress, a snippet of prose ... We have nearly 30 local writers who have published, or are about to or really really want to, and half of them stood up to read.

Many of us work alone and hadn't met each other - or only knew each other by name. Last night was a coming together - a time of acknowledgement and recognition - and it was stimulating, insightful, fun... may there be many more of them. And may Rona Gallery, too, go on and on. The owners, Richard and Joanna Ponder, are the tireless owners who battle to keep this sanctuary going here in Eastbourne. I, for one, feel very very lucky to have them. 

Friday, August 1, 2008

Birthday Blue

The Blue was launched a year ago today to great fanfare at my bookshop: Rona Gallery. It had been in the shops for about a week beforehand and had already had a wonderful review in The Press.

Two-hundred people came - friends and family from near and far - my publisher Geoff Walker said lovely things and Damien Wilkins, who was my tutor at Victoria University, did a kind of Best Man's speech and got the audience rolling about delightedly.

I don't recall he said much about the book, although he did talk about the cover (the way the whale seems to be about to eat the Penguin and how this somehow represents the world of publishing and my little book ....or something like that.... ) and about how I was the Mother Hen of the MA class where I wrote much of The Blue.

We drank Marlborough wine, ate miniature fish pies and little egg sandwiches and finished up with fruit cake - just like Lilian in The Blue would have made. Close on two-hundred books were sold, which doesn't mean everyone bought one, although many did. My best friend Alexandra bought 20!
It was an unforgettable evening.

NB. The photos are of The Blue at Gleebooks in Glebe, Sydney. Gondal-Girl sent them to me recently - she is one those writers whose blogs I enjoy and who is a regular visitor to mine. She was excited to find The Blue on a shelf beside Canadian author Alistair MacLeod's book.

Interestingly, I see on her blog that it was Emily Bronte's birthday two days ago. And my daughter, Isabel, was 12 yesterday. So The Blue's in good company.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Book Trout

One day a week, I work at Rona Gallery in Eastbourne. It is a bookshop and an art gallery.

The owners Joanna and Richard Ponder are a loquacious couple who love their books and love their art and love their community, and working there is like one long coffee break (Sally, Rhyna, Mick, Wendy, Jane, Alicia, Hana and Paul aren't bad either).

I get a whole day talking nothing but books. Although some days are busier than others at Rona Gallery.

On a good day I get to talk to Rupert aged 11 about how to spend his birthday book vouchers. He can deliver quickfire reviews of the books he's read. One of his current faves is Skulduggery Pleasant. So he buys the sequel, buys the latest Philip Pullman too. Then there's Imogen who wants a boxed set of the Warriors books which are novels about cats with a cast of thousands.

On a Good Day, there's Martin who visits nearly every day and brings his little daughter Maia. He collects first editions in hardback. He covers them in library covers and stores them in a special room in his house. In recent times, he's bought Ondaatje's Divisadero, Gunter Grass's Peeling an Onion and the latest James Bond.

There's Rona who buys books for her busy husband (the last time it was the Junot Diaz), Derek who buys beautiful coffee-table books on NZ to give away at conferences, and the man with red hair who put a few classics on layby once because he'd never read them, and paid off a little bit each week.

And a Good Day will bring in the elderly woman whose head barely comes above the counter, and when asked what she likes to read whispers 'crime.'

But not every day is a Good Day. Cold, wet days are especially grim, but even fine days are a little less busy with the recession biting.

One of my brilliant ideas on a Bad Day before Christmas was A Buck A Book. The books were from out the back, you understand, not the latest releases, but it still nearly caused a riot. One young woman who'd just bought a house and had no money, bought all her Xmas presents for 25 bucks that day. She was so happy. Sadly, it has been discontinued (blame Richard).

So it was lovely to fall, by accident, onto the blog of a bookshop called Old Saratoga Books. It sells used and rare books in the village of Schuylerville, nine miles east of Saratoga Springs NY. The instructions to get there go on forever, but it looks like it would be worth a trip (yes, even from here.) Here's their cat Sam and the logo for their blog is the Book Trout above.

The post that especially caught my eye was one describing 2 days in the life of a bookstore owner --which included a Good Day and a Bad Day. It doesn't sound too different from Eastbourne, Wellington, really. To give you a flavour, the highlight on the good day at Old Saratoga Books was selling some vintage paperbacks which the owner calls Bodacious Beauties. Here's the post.
And here's a recent post of mine with a pic taken at Rona Gallery .

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Taste of sea spray

Thanks to Nicola Smith & Bruce Rennie of The Press for this review - the first for The Blue.

Taste of Sea Spray by Nicola Smith
Review of The Blue by Mary McCallum [Penguin 2007]
The Press, July 28, 2007

Any novel that opens a window on a previously unimagined time and place is hard to put down and New Zealander Mary NcCallum's impressive debut novel, The Blue, achieves this spectacularly.

McCallum's voice is strong and beautifully honed from the first page of this fascinating story of the inter-war world of the small whaling community at Arapawa Island in the Tory Channel, where the wounds of World War 1 are still fresh while the unsuspected horrors of World War 2 loom ominously closer.

The Blue is Lilian Prideaux's story. A war bride and seemingly quintessential New Zealand woman of her era, Lilian is vigorous, hard working and resilient.

But the facade of commonality crumbles all too easily when the return of her troubled son creates fissures in the taut inter-relationships of the islanders.

McCallum captures the smallness of Lilian's world to perfection in prose that is vibrant with life, and deftly juxtaposes her mundane daily existence with the electrifying seasonal slaughter of whales which is the life-blood of the small community.

Like war whaling was men's work in 1938 and yet both powerfully shape Lilian's life; and McCallum's representation of both the trenches and the hunt are unflinching.

Barbaric and enthralling, the three-month whaling season galvanises the entire community, and McCallum skilfully avoids straying into moralist, while starkly revealing how much New Zealand has changed in so short a time.

Moving seamlessly between past and present McCallum gradually reveals the unseen fractures in Lilian's life through the characters of her children, husband and the island community.

The freshness of her prose is remarkable, with descriptions so vivid you can almost taste the salt spray and smell the pine needles underfoot. Her portrayal of the 1930s man is particularly subtle and insightful.

The Blue offers a fascinating insight into a past era and a lost way of life. McCallum's deft and skilful handling of her story produces an original, polished first novel and the promise of a second that will be well worth waiting for.

Review Ends

There's nothing like a first review of a book for an author. The week The Blue was released into the shops last July, my friend Penny rang me from Christchurch to say The Press had a review (yes, the same Penny who rang me to tell me about the Montana shortlisting). She read it over the phone and we both danced for joy.

It was by Nicola Smith and I decided to run it in full on the blog today because there's no obvious web link I can use and it's a nice counterpoint to The Montana excitement - the excitement of the single reader at home with the book.

When I emailed to get Nicola's permission to run the review, she told me she'd only just had a baby when she read The Blue. She said, 'I enjoyed your book so much it distracted me from staring at my new baby for several hours.'A new baby!

I know two people for whom The Blue was the last book they ever read. My dear friend Colin who died aged 83 and my friend Valerie's cousin.Colin didn't finish it. He died peacefully with one more chapter to go. And so the book became one of the bookends of his long and colourful life, like seeing his last seagull, patting his dog for the last time, going to his last play. Who knows which book was his first? It would have been read to him, no doubt, by his elegant mother Zillah who wore long buttoned gloves even in the country. A fairytale, I think.

Anyway, it's nice to know The Blue has been read at both ends of the spectrum. Even if the baby didn't exactly read it, she (he?) couldn't have been closer. (Actually come to think of it, this baby must be nearly one by now, walking perhaps, certainly enjoying books.)

The other serendipitous thing about this perfect first review is that it came out in the South Island which is the home of The Blue.

Photo: Me at Rona Gallery - where I work and The Blue was launched - the week it was released into the shops.