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Jenny Pattrick's historical novels inspire new Denniston walking trail

By Rachel O'Neill

On the last day of NZ Book Month Jenny Pattrick will launch a self-guided walking trail on the South Island’s West Coast that links in with key events and locations from her novels The Denniston Rose and Heart of Coal.

Readers and trail walkers will learn about the local landscape and its history through the lens of the Denniston novels, opening up what you might expect from an experience that roves on and off the page. And for those of you who wish to keep things as interactive as possible, there is also an iApp for the tour, potentially a New Zealand first for this kind of literary venture.

Pattrick became very familiar with the historical coal mining area of Denniston when she was researching and writing the novels, which are set in the 1880s. ‘I visited the area many times,’ she says. ‘An old retired coal-miner, Geoff Kitchin, walked with me explaining how the coal was mined and where different families – including his own – lived. He brought the ghost towns to life. The Coal Town Museum in Westport was a great source of information too.’

Coal is an integral part of the fabric of historical Denniston, and Pattrick says connecting the novels to geographical sites was aided by her earlier research. ‘It was an easy process for me,’ she says, ‘because there are so many good old photographs of Denniston and old maps. I had placed my characters in real areas and had always imagined them living in precise places.’

Pattrick deftly brings the bustling and boisterous settlement of Denniston to life, evident when the heroine of the novels, Rose, describes her surroundings:

‘I like living on the Hill because some people here are kind to me and I have my friends Michael and Brennan and I can go to school. Denniston is cold and dirty and around the Bins everything is rattling and crashing; the men have black faces and they joke even when they work so hard. Coal is everywhere inside and outside the houses. The white washing on the line turns black. When the wagons are racing down the Incline you have to watch out not to get run over and killed. Brennan’s big brothers all work in the mines even the twins who are eleven and his Dad and uncles too. Except the one who got killed by coal falling on him.’

Read the full article and view the launch details here on Open Book, the Book Council blog.

Five Easy Questions with Matt Elliott

Matt Elliott is a comedy historian, biographer, and this year a NZ Post Children’s Book Awards finalist along with co-author and illustrator Chris Slane for their book Nice Day for a War: Adventures of a Kiwi Soldier in World War I. We ask Matt a few questions about the making of the book.

1. The story is based on the war diaries of your grandfather, Corporal Cyril Elliott. What compelled you to tell this story visually?

My wife is a secondary-school English teacher and we have often discussed the reading habits of students. So, Chris and I focused on putting together a book that we hoped young readers would get engrossed in, via an array of images. We wanted to show the reality of war as experienced by Kiwi soldiers – an anti-war comic of sorts – and were keen to use other soldiers' creativity (such as cartoons, paintings, photographs) to help contextualise my grandfather’s words.

2. What did his diary communicate most strongly to you?

Besides the horror of the Western Front, the importance of contact with family and friends is a feature: who he wrote letters to, who he received letters from and the palpable excitement in seeing mates from his home town of Te Kopuru.

3. Had you and Chris Slane worked together before?

No, we hadn’t. I found it interesting working with someone who works primarily in images with minimal words. Plus, writing can be such a solitary exercise, working with somebody else, who also happens to be a good friend and shares a very similar sense of humour, was a nice change.

4. What did you find most challenging about writing the book?

The technical aspects were the fiddliest. We had to map out the content for each of the 96 pages (and within that, 30 of those for Chris’s illustrations) as a starting point. Then, our working files could only be ‘live’ on one computer – Chris’s high-powered Apple – which wasn’t always welcoming to my Microsoft text!

5. What’s on your bedside table?

Paul Moon’s New Zealand in the Twentieth Century, latest issues of Heritage and Mojo magazines, and Susan Orlean’s biography of Rin Tin Tin, which is from a pile of review books I have in my study. Plus, there are two unemployed bookmarks, from Dominion Books in Herne Bay and Piggery Books in Whangarei.


Book Council news

Reminder True Stories Told Live in Auckland on 29th March

What do True Stories Told Live and the haka have in common? Pride.

Next week David Slack, Sarah Laing, David Veart, Russell Brown, Madeleine Tobert, Hamish Keith and Ron Brownson will all tell true tales of PRIDE in Auckland. This event is a fundraiser for the Book Council and also celebrates the HAKA! exhibition at the National Library Auckland Centre.

'Amazing to be in the presence of people remembering, shaping stories in the moment. Funny, awkward, moving, beautiful.' - Emily Perkins

True Stories Told Live, 29th March 2012, from 7.00pm at The National Library Auckland Centre, 8 Stanley Street, Parnell Auckland. Book your tickets: $10 ($5 members) on the door or online at

What's new on

Readers' round-up

Being fans of The Paris Review’s On the Shelf round-up of cultural news, we do a speedy rundown of news of interest to New Zealand readers on Open Book – perfect for weeknight reading:

  • 25 New Zealand poets are set to go global on the Poetry Archive (U. K.). M. K. Joseph, Anna Jackson, Charles Brasch, Briar Wood, Alistair Paterson and Siobhan Harvey already are.
  • Ian Wedde calls Scotland, and dishes on his plan as New Zealand Poet Laureate
  • We like John Lanchester's animated trailer of his 2012 novel Capital
  • A series on what writers from around the world see from their windows

Read on here.

New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards finalists

The New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards finalists have been selected from more than 130 children’s books published in New Zealand in 2011 and submitted for the awards. Winners will be announced at a ceremony in Wellington on Wednesday 16 May. Click through to learn more about the finalists here.

Children’s Choice Award
Each year readers vote for their favourite children's book, and voting for the Children’s Choice Award has begun. Long considered one of the highest accolades a children’s author can receive, this award is voted on by children of school age from all over New Zealand. Vote online at or by using the special voting card available from bookshops, libraries or schools. Voting closes at 5.00pm, Friday 27 April.

Finalists will participate in children’s book events around the country as part of a nationwide celebration of the New Zealand Post Book Awards. The festivities, which are a huge favourite with kids all over the country, begin on Monday 7 May and continue through to Wednesday 16 May.

The Good Word Junior on your screen in March

You may have already noticed The Good Word Junior on your screens so far this month. The programme was made to run for four weeks through NZ Book Month. The “junior” version of The Good Word falls into the shape of the popular grown-up version of the show, which novelist Emily Perkins has been presenting on TVNZ 7 for four seasons.

Emily opens the show on a teened-up version of The Good Word set with a regular panel of Sophie Parke, Murdoch Keene and Connie Gregory, book-mad kids from Ponsonby Intermediate. Each week they review a lesser-known Kiwi kids classic – like Elsie Locke’s venerable The Runaway Settlers and Maurice Gee’s The Halfmen of O – and then a teen-friendly guest visits the set, talking with Emily about a favourite book.

The guests include Midnight Youth singer Jeremy Redmore and TV presenter and comedian Rose Matafeo. And on assignment to look into the potentially-boring world of New Zealand books is 14-year-old Frank Talbot, who casts a suspicious eye on the idea that libraries might be fun, and history anything else but a big scary book.

Screenings: From Saturday 3 March 7:05pm, and repeats Wednesdays 6:30pm & Thursdays 12:30pm every week until the end of March.

Competition and residency opportunities

Please note this is only a sample of literary opportunities from the news page on our website:

NZSA Manuscript Assessment Programme Seeks Submissions

The NZSA Manuscript Assessment Programme is now open. This annual programme offers an exceptional opportunity for writers to have their completed manuscript evaluated by an experienced assessor. In 2012 two of the assessments will be dedicated to mid-career writers and one will set aside for a manuscript with significant Maori/Pacific Island content.

The programme will also offer 5 of the successful applicants discretionary ‘mini-mentorships’ to be undertaken when the assessment is completed. These short mentorships begin in early October and will help to guide the writer in the reworking of their manuscript.

Application Deadline: 1 June 2012. For an application form please contact the NZSA national office by emailing or visit the NZSA website for more details


The New Zealand Book Council receives core funding from Creative New Zealand. We are extremely grateful to our funding partners, who enable us to deliver our programmes. We also value your membership, which supports our work in schools and communities throughout New Zealand.
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Keep up with what's happening in the world of New Zealand books and letters by following us on facebook and twitter. Click through and join our network for daily updates, news, bookchat and giveaways.

The winners of the two giveaway copies of Gregory O'Brien's latest collection of poetry, Beauties of the Octagonal Pool, courtesy of Auckland University Press are Millie Thomas (Auckland) and Grant Strachan (Wellington). Centred on the ‘octagonal pool’ of the Waitemata Harbour, this book collects poems written out of a variety of times, locations and experiences, including a trip with other artists on HMNZS Otago to Tonga and the Kermadecs.

This month we have two copies of Paul Thomas' new novel Ihaka: Death on Demand to giveaway, courtesy of Hachette NZ. To enter the draw, email us at the address below, with the name of the book in the subject line, and your New Zealand postal address in the body of the email. Draw closes 12 noon on Monday 2nd of April.

  Each month an industry insider tells us about books they're looking forward to seeing in the bookshops in the weeks ahead.

This month, Chris Baskett from Books A Plenty in Tauranga gives us her top book picks. You can read more about the bookstore here in their Booksellers New Zealand profile.

First up would be Capital, by John Lanchester (Faber and Faber) . The author has taken a South London street, Pepys Road, and drawn vivid word pictures of several of the inhabitants. They range from a London banker and his abominable wife to the immigrant Pakistani dairy owners to the Zimbabwean meter maid with a Ph.D. Their stories are overlaid with the slightly sinister monthly delivery of postcards depicting individual front door photos with the statement – We Want What You Have.

Next up is The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (Penguin), a lovely mix of fact and fiction. The story primarily covers the fictional life of chaperone Cora Carlisle, a middle-aged Wichita housewife. Her charge, 15 year-old Louise Brooks, became a brilliant dancer and silent movie star with an unhappy and unfulfilled life story. The month they share in New York alters life trajectories for them both. Secrets are revealed and hidden and ultimately tolerated.

Finally we are looking forward to a children’s book to be published in the lead-up to Anzac Day, by Glyn Harper, entitled Le Quesnoy (Penguin). This covers the little-known story of the New Zealand forces’ last offensive of World War II, one that saved a small village in France and earned the New Zealanders the life-long gratitude of the villagers and the immortalisation of many New Zealand names in schools and streets.


Barbara Else's The Travelling Restaurant (Gecko), and Two Little Bugs by Mark and Rowan Sommerset (Dreamboat Books) and The Scent of Apples by Jacquie McRae (Huia) have won White Raven awards, to be presented at the White Ravens Festival for International Children’s and Young Adult Literature in July.


A classic of New Zealand children's literature, Uncle Trev, won Wellington writer Jack Lasenby the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book for 2012.

Please note this is only a sample of events from the events page on our website:

Frank Sargeson House Open Day
25th of March, 2.00pm-4.00pm

The country’s oldest literary museum, where Frank Sargeson lived and wrote from the 1940s until his death in 1982, will be open to the public as part of NZ Book Month. Restored by the Sargeson Trust, this beautifully restored
home is a significant part of the history of the North Shore. This celebrates Sargeson’s 109th birthday and the publication of Letters of Frank Sargeson, edited and selected by Sarah Shieff.

Venue: 14a Esmonde Road, Takapuna


New Zealand Book Month

March 1-31 2012

An exciting NZ Book Month programme will continue until the end of March, offering community events across New Zealand.

NZ Book Month has funded 60 volunteer book activists to make a wide variety of events happen in their communities. Many others are hosting their own, un-funded events too.

For details about events taking place in your community, please visit the Book Month website.

Venue: Nationwide