Radio host Sherri Rabinowitz interviewed me on Blog Talk Radio about winning a Sir Julius Vogel Award, my books, dragons, and my real passion in life.
We also had fun discussing interactive fiction, strategies for dealing with bullying, kids’ literacy and literary festivals. It was blast. Please download the podcast here. I hope you enjoy listening to the show!
Talking dragons is one of my favourite past-times. Okay, and reading, writing and flying on dragons too… Whatever, dragons are cool. My middle-grade dragon fiction caught the attention of Lee Murray who has won five Sir Julius Vogel Awards and an Australasian Shadows Award for writing and editing.
The short list for the 2016 Sir Julius Vogel Awards has been out for a while. Although I’ve been very busy writing and have neglected to post this earlier, I’m very excited to be a finalist in two categories!
To be eligible for Best New Talent, writers must have had their first story or book published less than four years ago. MIne was my short story Dad’s Wisdom, in the Baby Teeth anthology in 2013. A writer may only ever be shortlisted twice for this category.
Check out all the finalists here. The winners will be revealed on June 5th at Au Contraire, the New Zealand National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, in Wellington this coming weekend.
Storylines Family Day Michael Fowler Centre Wellington
Sunday 24 August 10am-3pm
Shackleton Bear Goes South.
Well, he’s actually come north, all the way from Christchurch to be with us for Storylines Family Day in Wellington! Author John McCrystal has gone all out to bring you a wonderful Antarctica Zone for Storylines Family Day.
We’ve collected samples of marine life from NIWA, real stuffed penguins from Te Papa, oodles of slides, photos and pictures, a real snow tent from Antarctica NZ, and a replica of the old stove from Shackleton’s hut in South pole. Of course, Shackleton bear will be very happy to meet you! Visit him in our version of Shackleton’s hut!
Come along and make snowflakes, snow globes, and bear masks! Meet Shackleton, see John’s presentation about going to the Antarctic with Shackleton Bear and try on a real Antarctic snow suit!
Storylines Family Day, Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington,
Sunday 24 August, 10am-3pm
At Storylines Family Day there’s a great Monster Fun Zone.Three of this year’s featured authors had books about Monsters so we decided to let everyone enjoy the fun!
There are two Monster Parades with our monster authors judging, and monster books as prizes. We can only guess what their criteria will be — the loudest roar, the funniest costume, the best growl or monster scowl? Come along and find out. Parades at 11:30am & 2pm.
Paul Beavis has been at work in his studio creating some monstrous props for kids to have fun with… rumours are that kids can have a turn being one of Mrs Mo’s monsters… come along to Storylines Family Day and find out how!
Moira Wairama is bringing her taniwha along to join the monster parade.
And although Phoebe is brave when she gets haunted by night creatures, we’re going to have a monster tunnel that kids can leap into to battle their fears. Yes, they can go straight thru the monster’s teeth and wriggle inside it! They’ll never be afraid of monsters in the night again! Here is a top-secret sneak preview of the monsters costume! It will look much better on the tunnel! See you tomorrow, Sunday 24 August, Michael Fowler Centre, 10am – 3pm. Go here for a copy of the program. Go here for more info about other Storylines Family Day activities. See you there!
What is Storylines Family Day? A fun action-packed day of bringing books to life for kids (old and young.) I’ve been coaxing stuffed penguins out of Te Papa, cajoling entomologists to let their precious bug and spider collections see the light of day, mingling with monsters, sweet-talking soldiers, and skating on thin ice to help create an Antarctica zone.
How? With a fantastic committee of dedicated book enthusiasts whose creative ideas have brought our festival to life. Storylines Family Day 2014 will be a day to remember!
Come along and make a monster, be a monster in our monster parades, or climb though our monster tunnel!
Meet Shackleton Bear and visit his Antarctic Hut. See Antarctic marine samples from NIWA. Wriggle into an Antarctic suit, then go into an Antarctic sent to experience Shackleton’s hut.
Get camouflage paint and try on army gear with real NZ Defence Force soldiers. See the World War One gallery and taste hardtack. Make weapons, I mean, poppies and medals. Learn about Gallipoli.
At Storylines Family Day, you can meet beekeepers, try on their gear, and check out lots of creepy crawlies!
Help illustrators make murals, meet your favourite authors, see storytellers and performers in action. Join in with the ukulele orchestra, see string ensembles and hear Virtuoso Violins in action.
And if you just want to curl up in a corner with a book, you can go to our Scholastic books Out Aloud zone and listen to your favourite kiwi authors read their stories.
Just for fun, I recently entered a worldwide flash fiction competition run by Inscribe Media (based in Britain.) The goal was to create emotion using 20 words or less. I had fun creating a few entries and was surprised when I received a special mention for this little story of 19 words:
Scraps of rotting pumpkin, cast-off shoes….A bitten hotdog! Starving, he shovels it down, stumbling to the next bin.
As a teenager, I bought food for homeless people on the streets of Wellington. When I lived in Switzerland, people were amazed when they saw me buying hot food for those living on their streets — something as simple as a hotdog, a slice of pie, or some fruit to brighten their day. From the reactions of the Swiss, I could tell this was a rare occurrence.
Nowadays, attitudes have changed. The photo above is of Ben Hana, a.k.a ‘blanket man,’ who lived on the Wellington streets. Many showed kindness to Ben, who chose to live on the streets. When he died there was a temporary public memorial set up and a public funeral. He had become a persona and a part of many people’s lives. He was offered accommodation and clothing, but chose to live without both.
Perhaps we can’t make a huge difference in everyone’s lives, but a spot of kindness lets them know that people still care. One small token of love could give them hope to carry on. And if many people could give that token of kindness, then someone could be fed or housed.
I have a close friend who lived on the streets for two years as a part of his young adult life. It started with a choice to see how the other side lived, then he got stuck. He was always grateful for a offers of a night’s accommodation, but often turned them down, going to sleep in a barn or shed, outside, or in the local homeless shelter when the weather was rough. Soup kitchens, kind donations of food and charity organisations helped him get along until he turned his life around. He’s lucky. He’s now has a successful career, a great family and a wife who adores him. Few would ever guess that he has been there.
Another friend of mine said his roughest months were being homeless in winter, in London, living in a cardboard box. Cold and wet, inside a carton? The thought of it always makes me shiver.
We are all community members, and we can make a difference. But what can we do?
Seven years ago, I started an initiative to collect grocery items for battered women. I used an existing group to channel the collection. I was amazed when we were told that, each year, our weekend collection provided enough food for 6 months. Women who had left their homes in desperation when being abused and gone to the Wellington Women’s Refuge, could receive a few of our groceries to help them get on their feet until state assistance came through. We expanded the collection and included furniture and mountain buggies for kids, twin prams etc, kindly donated by a local company that we approached. Now, I am no longer involved, but that legacy lives on and that annual collection still takes place.
A few years ago, I engaged my local church to bake Christmas cookies for the homeless. Each year since then, this group has donated goods at Christmas time. Initially, we donated hygiene kits (toiletry items etc) and cookies to the ‘Wellington Night Shelter’ – a homeless shelter for men. Soon others in our neighbourhood heard what we were doing and started to donate home baking as well.
Sometimes we also reached out to include homeless women at the ‘Wellington Women’s Boarding House.’ Their toiletries were packed in gift wrap, to be given to each new resident as a welcoming gift. They received home baking at Christmas. I advertised their plight in a local news article and more donations came flooding in – turkeys for Christmas dinner and gifts for the women and children.
In 2013, that same church group delivered survival kits to the Night Shelter. These were home-sewn bags which contained essential survival items (torches, water, food, survival blankets, first aid items etc) to be used in the event of an emergency (earthquake, flood etc.) I was happy to see that, although I wasn’t involved, this same group had expanded and built upon my initial idea and were continuing to provide for those in need.
Get involved. Start a collection through your school or community group. Help out at a local food bank, make a donation to a local charity, do something kind for the next ten homeless people you see. Then keep on giving. It’s a great feeling, and highly addictive. 🙂
You guessed it. KurtX was invited to perform at Carols by Candlelight, an iconic Wellington Christmas celebration for the last 20 years. Kurt did what the organizers termed ‘an ACDC rendition’ of ‘Once in David’s Holy City!’ It was amazing.
And yes, I am still a firm fan of KurtX. He did not disappoint! The crowd loved his performance.
Pack the Bus!
Straight after his semi-final appearance in New Zealand’s Got Talent, Kurt was approached by The Breeze, a local radio station, to perform for their Christmas ‘Pack the Bus’ tour.
KurtX and I had great fun collecting gifts for needy families for Christmas. KurtX entertained the kids with modern harmonica renditions of a hip hop version of ‘We Wish you a Merry Christmas’ and a more traditional take on of ‘The First Noel.’
We went to four local schools. The children really got into the spirit of Christmas by bringing gifts and foodstuffs to see needy families through the festive season. By the end of the tour, the bus really was packed full to the brim with food and toys of all description, and the storage room at the City Mission was overflowing.
Because we participated on the last day of the collection, the bus was so full that we could hardly walk down the aisles! We were grabbing gifts and propping them up as we drove back through town to the radio station! New Zealanders are known for their generosity – we were humbled to see it in practice.
A few weeks ago, I was presented with a Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Local Hero Award.
These awards are given to kiwis who make a difference in their communities through volunteer work.
So what did I do?
Over the past seven years, I’ve organised numerous community service projects in my role as Director of Public Affairs for my church, but the highlight has to be ‘Books For Fiji.’
Books For Fiji: In 2011, I ran a campaign that collected over 45,000 second hand books, which were donated to 82 schools in outlying islands of Fiji. See the video below.
Books for Fiji came about after I found out that Her Excellency Ms Mere Tora, Acting Head of Mission for the Fijian High Commission (Wellington, New Zealand) bought books at garage sales and school fairs all year long. Every year at Christmas when she visited Fiji, Ms Tora took boxes of books home and donated them to local schools.
I was impressed with her dedication to children’s literacy and wanted to help.
Although my initial idea was to collect a few boxes of books to give to Ms Tora, my vision grew as enthusiasm from the kiwis spurred me into action. Books came flooding in. Local schools cleared out their libraries and donated boxes packed with books. Business donated stationery and provided free advertising. The media jumped on board, and books kept piling up. The community wanted to help raise the English literacy of Fijian children.
Wellington Mayor Her Worship Celia Wade-Brown donated her childhood books, and Porirua Mayor His Worship Nick Leggett provided his libraries as collection points. All across the lower North Island of New Zealand, Mormon Helping Hands volunteers took donation boxes to their schools, workplaces and local supermarkets.
A deluge of donations came in. Then the hard work began. We sorted every book by hand, categorizing them into subject matter or, for fiction books, age categories. We created a mix of books for each school, so they received a balanced shipment containing board books, early readers, chapter books, novels, encyclopedias, dictionaries and reference books about a variety of topics.
I worked with the Fijian government to ensure we targeted the most needy schools. Then we shipped the books out the door and sighed in relief that the hard work was over!
While the books were en route to Fiji, a camera crew from church headquarters became interested in our project. I met them in Fiji to present the first shipment of books to a school on Bau Island, the chiefly island of Fiji – an area steeped in prestige and tradition.
The best part of the entire project was seeing the children unpack their books and start reading. They opened the boxes, and with wonder in their eyes, each took a book off the top, sat down on the grass and started reading. They didn’t rummage through the boxes or yell in excitement. They just sat down and started reading.
Their quiet page turning bought more joy into my heart than any shouts of excitement could have. They wanted those books. They loved those books. They were reading English books and had previously had none on their island. They were being taught English, but had no materials to read. Their literacy could take a leap forward, thanks to the kindness of their neighbours – kiwis in New Zealand.
How can we make a difference?
Often a need is right under our noses. We don’t have to organise thousands of books to make a difference in the lives of those around us. If you see a need, contact a local volunteer organisation or charity and ask how you can help.
I have been lucky enough to have Mormon Helping Hands volunteers enthusiastically embrace every project I’ve organised. We’ve quilted for neonatal babies, cleaned the local homeless shelter (Wellington Night Shelter), baked cookies for its guests, and assembled hygiene kits for them. Thousands of trees have been planted across the region by keen volunteers, schools have been made over – not just tidied, but demolition work done, buildings, rooves and libraries painted, chairs upholstered, and carpet laid. Volunteers have blazed trails, mulched and weeded in the hot sun, and battled with gorse (thorny bushes) to provide recreational area for the local community.
Community service is also about building relationships with those you would never otherwise meet. For two years I was a member of The Wellington Interfaith Council Executive, putting time and energy into building more love and understanding between those of different faiths. We talked together, planted trees together, sang and danced together, and walked in each others shoes a little as we learned more about one another. It was a rewarding and fulfilling experience to see Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Buddhists, Sikhs and Baha’i planting trees on the slopes of Wellington, laughing and getting to know one another.
It was humbling to accept my New Zealander of the Year Local Hero medal, knowing that although I had brainstormed and organised these projects, none of them would have happened without hundreds of volunteers seeing the vision of a better community and giving their time and effort to make it happen.
I’d like to thank my generous husband and cool kids. Without their support and enthusiastic participation, I would never have gotten one project off the ground. Thanks to them a childhood dream I’d had of helping those in a less wealthy country has come to fruition.
I’d also like to thank politicians, church leaders and the many organisations that have assisted with projects. My thanks and deep appreciation go to the amazing helpers who have donated their time, sweat and service to help make our community a better place.
You can be a local hero too
We are all part of the jigsaw which makes up our community, our country and our world. I encourage you to look around, see a need, and contact a local organisation to see how you can help to make our world a better place. Who knows, maybe one day you will be a local hero too!
KurtX rocked the stage at New Zealand’s Got Talent (NZGT) this week in his semi-final performance. KurtX may be the first musician to play harmonica to dubstep – a modern dance music genre that originated in Britain.
Although Kurt needed six weeks to fully recover from the catheter procedure used to insert a device into his heart wall to block the hole, he was soon back on stage again for another high energy performance.
Wellington Newspapers, The Wellingtonian and The Cook Strait News, also ran articles on KurtX. He was on local radio station Classic Hits on Monday morning and busked in town during his lunch hour so he could meet the public.
his lips before a performance. In this link, you’ll also get to see his fellow semi-final contestants – Jenny, Oceana, Geordie and OK Krew – in action!
KurtX had a fabulous time with them – doing push ups with Oceana on his back, gifting one of his back up harmonicas to a member of the OK Krew, (and teaching him how to tune it on the spot) and hanging out with Geordie and Jenny. It was a tough show – all the contestants were talented. The results will be announced this Sunday night.