Monday, April 13, 2015

Off the Page Writers Series [17/4/15]

This Friday I'll be flying down to Palmerston North to chair a session in Massey University's "Off the Page" series of writers events at the City Library from 6.30 pm (there'll also be an open mike reading from 5:45-6:30). These events are jointly sponsored by the School of English and Media Studies and the Palmerston North Public Library.

The panel I'm in charge of will be focussing on short fiction, and includes renowned writers Owen Marshall, Jaspreet Singh, and Tracey Slaughter. Books by all three of the panelists will be available for sale from representatives of local independent bookseller Bruce McKenzie Books.

Owen Marshall
photograph: Liz March

Owen Marshall needs no introduction, I should imagine: he is, after all, probably the most celebrated virtuoso of short fiction in New Zealand. I've never met him before, though, and am greatly looking forward to it.

The amazing Jaspreet Singh, whom I met for the first time yesterday at the Signalman's House in Devonport (aka The Michael King Writers Centre), where he's staying before flying down to Palmerston North to take up the Massey University writer-in-residence position there for the next ten weeks, is probably better known for his two novels Chef (2010) and Helium (2013), but actually began as a short story writer.

His first book, Seventeen Tomatoes: Tales from Kashmir, published by Véhicule Press of Montreal, won the 2004 QWF McAuslan First Book Award. He tells me he has a number of other short stories in stock, but of course commercial publishers will persist in preferring full-length novels ...

I have to say that I'll be particularly excited to introduce Tracey Slaughter to the audience, though. Bronwyn and I are both great admirers of her work, and we're therefore very pleased to announce that Pania Press has just published her novella The Longest Drink in Town. You can find out more about this publication here, and if you'd like to order a copy of it, please try here.

Cover image: Bronwyn Lloyd / Cover design: Ellen Portch & Brett Cross

Tracey has a somewhat larger collection, Deleted Scenes for Lovers, due out from Victoria University Press in early 2016, but this is her first stand-alone book since Her Body Rises (Random House, 2005) - though of course her stories have appeared in many, many magazines and anthologies since then.

The Longest Drink in Town is available in an initial print-run of 100 copies.


Richard said...

Interesting line up. I stumbled on Marshall as for some years I had a battered version of 'The Master of Big Jingles' which I assumed was more NZ crap written by someone trying to be someone but I decided to see what it was like, and I was amazed how good it was: I want to re-read all the stories again. Some of them (not all, no one can maintain such a quality that every story is great) are extraordinarily good. So I keep his books in my Short Stories part of my library. [I basically have stopped selling, that was what that book of Marshall's was for but, one point, it and many other NZ books of lit. etc do not have very inspiring covers. But that is perhaps changing.]

I will certainly get some of Tracey Slaughter's books. I had seen her name and knew that she was featured once in NZ Poetry but again I didn't take much notice, but something led me back to your counter review of a 'savaging' of her I then found her story that was rejected by some library in Thames (as being suitable to read to old folks) and that was great!

So I then noticed your issue of Brief, and as I mentioned, I had only looked at the earlier poems there. But then I looked at 'A Box of Phantoms'...well. If anyone wants to read anything - read that. I am still reading it. I sometimes just read a few lines and it seems to electrify my tired old brain. It is amazingly great writing. I was shocked into silence: it inspired and silenced me! Not directly. But the way. Then I looked back to the more 'domestic' poems, which I had thought were more of the semi-confessional conversational stuff I am not so keen on, and it seemed better. Witty and edgy. Interesting. But certainly that 'Box of Phantoms' ... I mentioned it to Ted Jenner who shared my slight distaste of the overuse of cats on covers...but I like cats, as long as they defecate not on my own lawn, and bringeth not fleas...but Ted had also found that series great.

That is not to say there were not other writers, clearly Alistair has discovered and promoted some good writers over the years.

Given my enthusiasm for 'Phantoms', which Slaughter book should I buy? Both? Or which first?

Dr Jack Ross said...

Dear Richard,

I think I'd go for the latest book first: available at a very reasonable price from Pania Press!

She does have a more substantial one coming out from VUP next year, but that's quite a long time to wait.

Yes, I agree about "Box of Phantoms" -- a deep, rich poem. Maybe I should have put it first and the other one second ...

best, jack

ps Owen Marshall's titles are a bit of a stumbling block sometimes. But then you read the story and realise how right they are. It's just getting over that initial hesitation that's important -- after that the excellence of his work speaks for itself.

Richard said...

Well, the language is so charged that I read a line or two of it, or I read one of the "stanzas", then read a bit more. I haven't finished it! It is like there is something exciting there for me, waiting.

I don't know Singh's writing.

Marshall's book simply didn't look much to look at. Then I started to read it (by the way you may know there is an Australian writer called Alan Marshall, I think I read one of his stories some time ago, and I have some of his books): but some of them are amazing.

Another I like is Damien Wilkins.

Of course there are a lot. I might be one of the few how liked all of Sargeson's stories and all of Mansfield's!

I'll check out the link to your press...

Harvey Molloy said...

It's great to see that Tracey Slaughter is out and about--I'd like to hear her read sometime.

Dr Jack Ross said...

Dear Harvey,

We're planning a launch for her book in Hamilton later this month (Monday 25/5, in fact). If you're in the vicinity, you'd be only too welcome. I'll put up full details on the blog as soon as they're settled,

best, jack