New Zealand Posts

Interview with New Zealand picture book author and illustrator, Ruth Paul

I met award-winning picture book author and illustrator Ruth Paul at the residence of the New Zealand High Commissioner on 4 Dec 2019 for a tête-à-tête. It was such a pleasure meeting Ruth Paul! I had read a clutch of her marvellous picture books, each with its own distinctive style. I had also heard about Ruth from the legendary children’s writer Gavin Bishop. Befittingly we met in the Sunshine Drawing Room as a distinctive characteristic of Ruth Paul’s picture books is her fondness for light and the manner in which she plays with it in her illustrations. It is fascinating to immerse oneself in the artwork.

Ruth Paul has written and illustrated over 20 picture book titles and is a recent recipient of a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate Award (August 2019).

I Am Jellyfish recently won the 2018 award for Best Picture Book at the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Mini Whinny: Happy Birthday to Me! illustrated by Ruth and written by Stacy Gregg is shortlisted for the Best Picture Book Award, 2019. The King’s Bubbles won the Children’s Choice picture book award in 2008, and five of her books have made the Storylines Notable Book List over the years.  Stomp was a finalist in the NZ Post Book Awards 2012, and Bad Dog Flash was selected for the US Kid’s Indie Next List in 2014. Her books have sold in New Zealand, Australia, USA, Canada, the UK, China and Korea, with translations in 5 languages. Cookie Boo! Is her first book to be initially published in the USA, with a Harper Collins USA release in summer 2020.  Ruth’s poetry is included in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children, Penguin Random House NZ 2014. Her original picture book illustrations have contributed to touring exhibitions for Painted Stories (previously Te Tai Tamariki Trust) and two are held in the Mazza Collection at the University of Findlay, Ohio.

Ruth lives in an off-grid, straw-bale house on a farm just outside Wellington, New Zealand. As well as writing and illustrating children’s picture books, Ruth has worked as a costume illustrator for Peter Jackson movies. She has two teenaged sons and is actively involved in her local community, having previously chaired her local Community Board and School Board of Trustees. Over the years, Ruth achieved a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and History from Victoria University, a Diploma in Visual Communication Design from Wellington Polytech (now Massey University), and most of a law degree.

Ruth says every new book is a challenge and presents the opportunity to get better at the craft she wholeheartedly loves.

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  1. How do you prefer to introduce yourself as — picture book author / author-illustrator / illustrator? Which came first — illustrator or author? And if it is “illustrator” then when did the transition to “author-illustrator” happen?

I call myself a picture book author and illustrator. A child once called me an “author and alligator”, but my teeth are not so big. I studied design and worked as a commercial illustrator first, illustrating books for a couple of other writers, then eventually wrote my own books. It is more common for author/illustrators to start as illustrators as this appears to be the more time-consuming craft to learn. Now that I do both, however, I’m not so sure.

2. When you envision a picture book — do you write first or do you create illustrations or do both the processes work in tandem?

It used to be that I started with words then added mages later, now it’s more a tandem process. Overall, I try to get a “concept” working first. I see (or wish for) a perfectly formed concept and story – both words and pictures – then I slowly destroy this perfect imagining as I put pen to paper and try to wrestle it into reality. The challenge is to preserve the magic of the story during this process.

3. What are the mediums you prefer to use for illustrations? Do you preserve your art work? Do you rely on digital tools to assist in your illustrations and text design?

I work and have worked in multiple mediums, traditional and digital. Having many techniques available is one of the advantages of previously attending art school. I change my style and technique depending on the needs of the book. Plus, illustrating a 32-page picture book is a big undertaking so I can get bored using the same technique twice in a row. Sometimes I use Photoshop and a Cintiq tablet to draw and I find that digital illustration almost replicates the real mediums and processes now so there’s less of a divide than people think. Whatever medium you use, you still have to be able to draw and compose, to have a sense of colour and communication. I try to change between computer and traditional forms just so I don’t get too reliant on one. I will say that generally publishers prefer me to supply my artwork digitally as opposed to hard-copy now, so that is a cost that needs to considered at the outset.

4. When you embark on a new book project, do you leave book production details to your editors or do you like to be involved in them as well?

I always plan images around words on the page, so I inevitably design the type layout as I go. However, as I use every last minute before book goes to production to work on the images, I leave the typography and final design to the publisher. I am usually always consulted on the final look of things, though often there is little you can change given time constraints. Publishers are very particular about the typefaces they use and you have to give their designers some room to work also.

5. Do your books get translated? If so what are the pros and cons of having picture books translated?

I love seeing my books in translation, but only having one language I usually have no idea what they read like! As some of my stories are in complex rhyme, I can’t imagine they work in any other language. My guess is that the substance not subtlety of the text is translated, for instance, in one of my books a sentence saying “Jump over the hump” in English, with a picture of dinosaurs jumping over tortoises, is (I am told) translated as “Jump over the turtles”. A little less fun, but it does the job.

6. How do you remain so enthusiastic and fresh about storytelling, appealing to a child’s imagination? Do you create picture books with your target audience in mind or is it yourself?

I am an adult writing for the child in myself. Fortunately, the audience for picture books this is both the adult-reader and the child so it shouldn’t be a problem. I myself am easily bored, so I guess that’s where I start when telling a story.

7. What are the essential elements of a picture book? Do you think children’s literature needs to be didactic? Is there a difference in creating picture books for the school market as opposed to those created for leisure reading?

Like most things, I can tell you what a picture book shouldn’t be more easily that telling you what it should be. A picture book shouldn’t be boring, ugly, preachy or mean. It should be intriguing, satisfying and a joy to hold. Obviously books for the school market have to be educationally correct, whereas a trade picture book need only appeal to the buyer’s taste. And we all know it is easier to sell a child chips rather than salad.

I don’t mind books with a message to convey as long as the message is held safely within the story and is not beating it to death with a club. I do like books that leave you with a good “feeling” of some kind, be it safety, quietness or a thought to chew over. I don’t like books that leave a child worried, fearful or over-stuffed.

8. Your sense of perspective especially in the double page spread illustrations is incredible. These seem to have slowly transformed to become the centre point of your later picture books such as The King’s Bubble and I am a Jellyfish. Do you envision your picture books as one long spread or do you see them as a 32-page book at gestation itself? 

I am a big fan of the double-page spread.  It is a big painting or image with everything in it and I guess I like the logic of a single proposition that conveys all the necessary information. But sometimes vignettes are necessary to explain all the action of a story. The King’s Bubbles was my third book, I Am Jellyfish my sixteenth, but they share a personal sentiment and immersive style even though technically quite different. So I think your question relates to “flow”. I want the child to climb into the world of the book, and I work to make the flow of the page-turn seamless and logical so the spell of that world is not abruptly broken. So – a bit of both?

9. What are the kinds of questions children and adults ask of you? Have you had diverse reactions to the same story?

My favourite question ever was asked at a school in Delhi just recently. It was “If you could live inside one of your books, which one would it be?”. I had to really think about the answer to that. I love that younger kids always want to tell me something about themselves, rather than ask me questions. I will say “Do you have any questions about writing a story or drawing pictures? A question is something where you want to know something from me, and I answer”. Then all the hands will go up and the first questions are inevitably “I know a story!” or “I’ve got a dog!” etc. Cute.

Certain books are for certain audiences. I have picture books that are rollicking good yarns to recite or act out with kids, and some that are for one child only while cuddled up and quiet. There is a book for every situation so the trick is not doing a quiet introspective story with a group of 80 school kids, and vice versa.

10. How much research do your picture books require?

Enough to know you’re not wrong. Enough to know there’s a sound basis for your idea. Enough not to overthink and kill the idea. Enough to add flavour and nuance to the story. Reading everything and anything around your subject always helps to not inadvertently repeat what’s been done before and also to add seasoning.

11. What are the kinds of art forms that you appreciate? Which of these do you think work well in children’s literature or would that be immaterial as long as the illustrator is appealing to the reader’s aesthetic sensibility? 

I like folk art because it is not elite, is often telling a story and frequently appeals to a child-like sensibility. I love everything in any art from that blows-my-mind – the extraordinary building, the tiny piece of lace, the kids talent show. I am omnivorous when it comes to art and craft and only know that the older I get the less frequently I am ‘moved’, but when I am, the most surprising things will reduce me to tears. I recently cried during a hip-hop performance, and also when looking at a young girls drawing of a monster. I am moved when I see the feeling – be it vulnerability, bravery, fear, love, joy or sorrow in art. Good art can do that.

12. Who are the artists, illustrators and writers that have influenced you?

Now there’s big question. The answer is in the multitudes and the top of the list rotates from year to year with my changing taste. To narrow it down to children’s authors and illustrators, from New Zealand I love the work of the pre-eminents Gavin Bishop and Lynley Dodd; from everywhere else there’s Emma Chichester Clarke, Roger Duvosin, the Provensons, Brian Wildsmith, Freya Blackwood, Etienne Delessert, Brendan Wenzel, Ayano Imai, Sophie Blackall … there is just so many! I can’t answer this properly!

13 December 2019

List of Ruth Paul’s books:

Trade Books:

The Animal Undie Ball Scholastic 2004

The Little White Lie Scholastic 2005

The King’s Bubbles Scholastic 2007

Superpotamus Scholastic 2008

Two Little Pirates Scholastic 2010

Stomp! Scholastic 2011

Hedgehog’s Magic Tricks Walker Books 2012

Red Panda’s Toffee Apples Walker Books 2013

Bad Dog Flash Scholastic 2013

My Dinosaur Dad Scholastic 2014

Rabbit’s Hide and Seek Walker Books 2014

Go Home Flash Scholastic 2014

Bye-Bye Grumpy Fly Scholastic 2015

What’s the Time Dinosaur? Scholastic 2015

My Meerkat Mum Scholastic 2017

I Am Jellyfish Penguin Random House 2018

Little Hector and the Big Blue Whale Penguin Random House 2018

Mini Whinny, Happy Birthday to Me! by Stacy Gregg, illustrated by Ruth Paul, Scholastic NZ 2018

Upcoming Trade Books:

Little Hector and the Big Idea Penguin Random House 2019

Mini Whinny: Goody Four Shoes by Stacy Gregg, ill. by Ruth Paul,Scholastic 2019

Cookie Boo! Harper Collins USA 2020

Little Hector Meets Maui Penguin Random House 2020.

Mini Whinny: Bad Day at the OK Corral by Stacy Gregg, ill. by Ruth Paul, Scholastic 2020.

“First To The Top: Sir Edmund Hillary’s Amazing Everest Adventure”

First To The Top is a picture book by David Hill and illustrated by Phoebe Morris about the first successful ascent of Mt. Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. It is a simply told tale of an extraordinary achievement by a New Zealander mountaineer and a Nepali sherpa. The 1953 British Mount Everest expedition was the ninth mountaineering expedition to attempt the first ascent of Mount Everest, and the first confirmed to have succeeded when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit on Friday, 29 May 1953. Led by Colonel John Hunt, it was organised and financed by the Joint Himalayan Committee. News of the expedition’s success reached London in time to be released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, 2 June.

While it is a legendary story for it was the first time humans had scaled the highest mountain peak on earth at 8,848 m (29,029 ft), it is also a tale that is inspirational and highlights the grit and determination of Edmund Hillary. He was accompanied in his ascent by his sherpa, Tenzing Norgay. Later the two of them became firm friends too. Despite what the book title highlights, the picture book does not stop the story with the successful attempt. Instead David Hill shares the extraordinary work Edmund Hillary did in Nepal by establishing schools and helping the locals in many other ways. Later Edmund Hillary was appointed the New Zealand High Commissioner to India too.

By Jamling Tenzing Norgay – http://www.tenzing-norgay-trekking.de, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11252058

Today, 29 May, is the 66th anniversary of the ascent of Mt. Everest. 20 July 2019 will also be the birth centenary of Sir Edmund Hillary. Sadly it is also the week when world media is agog with stories of overcrowding at the summit of Everest. There have been many unnecessary deaths too. A trek that should normally take only a few hours is now taking twice as long due to the excessive number of people wanting to climb the mountain.

Nevertheless the story of the first ascent of Everest will continue to be legendary for it is the first time that man overcame all odds to climb a formidable peak such as Mt. Everest. It was at a time when mountaineering equipment by today’s standards would be considered rudimentary. It was not necessarily wind and water proof light clothing. The rucksacks the mountaineers carried would have been heavy and coupled with low oxygen supplies at such a height, the climb would have been dangerously challenging.

First To The Top is an inspirational tale that little children may as well hear. It has been told well by David Hill. The illustrations by Phoebe Morris are bright and colourful. The double-page spreads with the text in varying fonts laid out across the pages allows for an interactive experiences while introducing tiddlers to letters and word formations. No wonder it won a clutch of awards: Winner of the 2016 Non-fiction HELL Children’s Choice Awards, 2016 Story lines Notable Picture Book Awards and 2015 New Zealand Listener Top 50 Children’s Book Awards.

First To The Top is a good addition to a personal or a school library. Get it.

29 May 2019

“Poppy Field” by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman

Michael Morpurgo needs no introduction as a writer and nor does the illustrator, Michael Foreman. It is a formidable creative team that has together produced some magnificent books for children in the past. Morpurgo’s stories inevitably deal with stories set in conflict zones whether set way back in the past or in the more contemporary conflicts. This time too Poppy Field focuses on World War One. It is a significant publication as 2018 marks a century since the end of The Great War. Poppy Field is about the origin of using red poppies on Remembrance Sunday and 11 November. It is as always a beautiful story told by Morpurgo that has this quality of immersing the reader in the historical fiction completely. It is done so effectively with minimal details and yet it is a brilliant recreation of the historical landscape. Unlike for adult literature where many more details are provided, in Morpurgo’s landscape there is least amount of detail provided but sufficient markers ensuring that the period of the story cannot be ever mistaken. Poppy Field is the story of four generations. The story is set in a farmland that overlooks farms and poppy fields that were the erstwhile WWI battlefields. Cemeteries and memorials still exist but they are so much a part of the landscape that the present generation barely registers their presence. Martens Markel registers their presence as he often cycles across the fields with his family to visit his father’s grave. Martens father died while ploughing their fields with a tractor that went over an unexploded shell from the war that lay buried for decades in their land. The grandfather is narrating the tale about World War One and the poppy fields to his grandson, Martens Merkel, with references to the fragile piece of paper framed in their home. The framed but crumpled sheet of paper has a poem scribbled upon it with some words scratched out. A poem that would later go on to become very well-known as John McCrue’s “In Flanders Fields”.

Poppy Field is a stupendous hardback picture book that will work for children and adults alike. A hundred years after the war means that few recall the reason why poppies are used remember the many soldiers who lost their lives fighting “on one side of the other, depending simply on where they were born. They fought in a huge and terrible war, the war came to end all wars they called it, which happened so long ago now that no one is old enough to remember it.” The soldiers who lie in the cemetries were born in Britain, Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Canada, India, New Zealand, Jamaica, Australia, America. The symbolism of using a red poppy to commemorate the fallen soldiers is credited to Moina Michael of the American Legion who two days before armistice was declared read John McCrue’s poem in Ladies’ Home Journal. It moved her tremendously that she promised to “keep the faith” with the fallen American soldiers and to symbolise the promise by always wearing red poppies. The practice was carried across to the United Kingdom by a French lady called Anna Guerin who persuaded the British Legion ( formed in 1921) to have a Poppy Appeal in time for November 11th. Ever since then the red poppies have come to play a crucial role in remembering fallen soldiers not just in the two world wars but other conflicts since then.  Poppies are also seen as a sign of hope — a hope that one day wars will really will stop for ever, and all the nations in the world will be reconciled and live together in peace. Poppy Field has been created in co-operation with the Royal British Legion.

Poppy Field has been published by Scholastic and is a stunning gift.

27 February 2019 

 

Interview with award-winning New Zealand author, Gavin Bishop

Gavin Bishop at the New Zealand High Commissioner’s residence. Photographer: Satadru Mukherjee 


In December 2018, award-winning New Zealand children’s writer Gavin Bishop was invited to India by the New Zealand High Commission for an author tour. Gavin Bishop is an award winning children’s picture book writer and illustrator who lives and works in Christchurch, New Zealand. As author and illustrator of nearly 60 books his work ranges from original stories to retellings of Maori myths, European fairy stories, and nursery rhymes. Gavin Bishop participated in the Bookaroo Children’s Literature Festival as well as travelled with his publisher’s, Scholastic India, to various schools for exciting interactions. I met Mr Bishop and his wife, Vivien, at the New Zealand Deputy High Commissioner’s, Suzannah Jessep, residence. It was a lovely evening of freewheeling conversation about books and publishing, children’s literature, creating picture books and the power of stories. Excerpts of an interview are given below.  

Here is a picture taken at the Deputy High Commissioner’s residence along with Gavin Bishop. It has been uploaded on the Facebook page of the New Zealand High Commission to India
  1. How would you define a children’sbook especially a picture book as you make them the most often? 

A children’s book is one that speaks honestly to childrenwithout pretentions. The worst kind of books are those that pretendto be for children but are really aimed at the parent or adult reading the bookto the child. 

 Apicture-book is one where the pictures and words tell a story, ‘hand-in-hand’.Neither the pictures nor the text are ’top-dog’, neither one is moreimportant than the other. Both parts have separate jobs to do to tell thestory. The picture book is my passion. It offers so many artistic and literarychallenges that I could never exhaust them all in a single lifetime. Manypublishers, mostly in the USA, have said to me that picture-books arequite simply for children who can’t read yet. I can’t think of anything furtherfrom the truth. There are lots of examples of picture books that work at manylevels and can be re-read over and over again by children of all ages.  Ithink my version of The House that Jack Built that looks atthe colonisation of New Zealand by the British in the early 19th century, is a picture book that appeals to older children, children who can certainly read. Many New Zealand schools use this book at upper levels to talkabout the history of this country.

2. How do you select the stories you choose to write about?  Where did you hear the stories that you write about in your books?   

For stories, I constantly revisit all the terrific folktales, myths and legends ofthe New Zealand Maori as well those from Europe. When I rewrite a story, I tryas much as possible not the change the plot or the outcome. If it isa little frightening, I leave it like that. But if I think aparticular story is more suited to adults, as many traditional storiesare, then I don’t choose it. There are lots of adventures for example, that the Maori demi-god Maui has, that I think are extremely interesting but theycontain adult elements that a child does not to be confronted with yet.

My childhood is another very deep pool full of memories and stories that I diveinto from time to time.

Most of my books take a long time to produce. My pictures are often full of detailand are drawn by hand on paper as opposed to beingcomputer-generated. If I am to live with a creation for most of a year, Ihave to be convinced from the start that the story is worthwhile and willadd something to a child’s life. I know that sounds lofty, but I really believe that as a writer for children my obligation is to present a young reader with stories and ideas that they will find interesting and perhaps have not heard of. 

Another huge source of inspiration is reading. I try to read a lot of fiction. Movies are a good source of ideas too. In fact a movie is rather like a picture book except instead of text as in a book, you have dialogue. Some of the movies I seen over the years have never left me. I have beenparticularly inspired by movies I saw as a young adult. Films by Fellini, Bergman, Pasolini and Altman showed me how stories can be told using vivid imagery and characters.

3. Did you consciously choose the style of writing for children as you do in your longer pieces of fiction –simple sentences, very short chapters, precise descriptions with few polysyllabic words? 

When I write I do keep in mind that I am writing for children. But this is onlyreflected in the style and format. I try not to modify the story or the humour which can result in ‘talking-down’ to the reader. Although I usesimple sentences and short chapters I don’t shy away from difficult words if I think they are the right ones for the job. When I wrote Piano Rock I probably had 7 or 8-year-old readers in mind. I have been heartened by thenumber of young boys who have written to me to say Piano Rock is the first book they have read right through. I would like to think that thiswas because of the content, but I suspect it had something to do with thefact the book is full of short sentences and quite a few pictures. It is very non-threatening to a reluctant reader. No sooner have you started a chapter than you find yourself finishing it.

4. Piano Rock and Teddy One-Eye focus a bit on the stories narrated to you by your mother and grandmother but your repertoire indicates that this love for stories go fardeeper. When did this love for stories begin and do you still collectstories? 

These two books are about me. They are my autobiographies, even though the second one waswritten by my 68-year-old teddy bear. I vividly remember sitting with my grandmother by the fire listening to her reading me stories and singing strange little songs that she plucked out of her memories of when she was a child. One I remember more than all the others, and one I included in Piano  Rock was – “Old Mrs Bumblebee said to me the other day, comeand have a cup of tea on the back veranda.” That’s all there is to it, but at the age of 3 or 4 I found it for some reason, intriguing. I can remember trying to make sense of it byputting it into the context of our neighbourhood. “Did Mrs McQuirter overthe back fence invite us over for a cup of tea?” I wondered quietly to myself. 

This little ditty has been with me all of my life and I have, in my quest to find itsorigin, mentioned it to lots of people. All have replied they had never heardof it until one day at a talk I was giving an Indian woman stood up in theaudience and said she had heard it in India when she was child.Perhaps the word ‘veranda’ is a clue? The mystery deepens……,

5. How would you define a compelling story? 

The best stories are the ones that become part of you for the rest of your life. I think this happens more often in childhood, therefore it is even more important for a children’s writer to put everything they have into producing the best story they can. 

6. The imagery in your books is fantastic. It’s almost as if the imagery used complements the illustration. Was that deliberate or an unconscious act? 

 I am a very visual person and when I’m writing I see everything that is happening in my mind’s eye. I plan my text and illustrations carefully to begin with but after that, when it comes to painting and writing, I rely a great deal on my subconscious. I follow my gut-instinct and often cannot tell whether a picture or a piece of writing has worked until I distance myself from it by leaving itfor some time and not looking at it. 

7. How do you conceptualise a book?Is it taking into account the text and the illustration? How does the illustration process evolve? 

To beginwith I am directed by format. If it is a picture book, then I know from thebeginning it will most likely have 32 pages. I generally begin with the storyand write it with the length of the book in mind. I have now developed a spare writing style for this sort of book where I deliberately keep description for example, to a minimum so as to allow plenty of room for the illustrations to tell their parts of the story. Sometimes I jot down little ideas for the pictures in the margin as I write. The process at this stage of the book is quite measured. Once the text reaches a stage that I thinkis workable, I draw up a storyboard, a page by page plan from cover to cover ofthe whole book. I usually keep this small, drawing the whole thing onto a single A2 sheet of paper, so that when it comes to putting images into place on the miniature pages I cannot get into too much detail. This results in stronger compositions when these little pictures are increased tofull size later, when I make a dummy. I work in pencil which I go overwith ink. The dummy is based on the page size supplied by the publisher afterreceiving a quote from the printer. I make a dummy with 10 sheets of paperfolded in half. That gives you 32 pages plus endpapers and cover. Next I print off the text and glue it into place throughout the book. This instantly showsme how much space is left for the illustrations. The next couple of months arespent enlarging and drawing the pictures from the storyboard into the dummy. This is really where all the hard work begins. If it is a historical story I do most of my research at this stage.

A completed dummy is useful for showing your publisher what you have in mind for the book it also provides a detailed guide for the next process of producing the finished art work. From the start to publication a picture book usually takes a year.

8. How does your Maori ancestry inform your art of storytelling and fascination of folk tales?

My Maori ancestry tells me who I am and where I belong. Aotearoa/New Zealand is myturangawaewae, my place to stand in the world. I have European ancestry as well and that has given me literature and language but to know that some of my tupuna/ancestors have lived in the South Pacific for thousands of years and I live here now, gives me a great sense of belonging. My mother’s name was Irihapeti Hinepau and her father gave her those names because they areancestral names. I have a large number of relatives in Aotearoa who trace theirancestry back to people in the past who have these names too. Maori myths and legends are as rich and profound as any in the world, yet when I was a child we were told more about the myths and legends from Greece and Rome than the stories from our part of the world. New Zealand has for too long suffered from a cultural cringe, always looking North to the rest of the world for affirmation. As a re-teller of Maori myths for children I want to help the next generation become proud of being part of this country. I want them to know their stories and be made strong by them. 

9. How did you get into bookmaking?  Have you collaborated with other writers and illustrators?  

In the 1960s I went to the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts  and studied painting. While I was there I was fortunate to be taught by Russell Clark, a well-known New Zealand artist with a particular interest inillustration. He saw I was interested in children’s picture books and he encouraged me to pursue that interest. It was not until the late 1970s that I did something about this interest and tried writing my first book, Bidibidi.

My ideal project is one where I write and illustrate my own book, but I have, from time to time, worked with others. Some years ago  I wrote about 30 or 40 ‘readers’. Because a lack of time these were illustrated by a series of international artists and published all over the world. 

I have also illustrated books for other writers. I have done quite a few with Joy Cowley, the most successful being the Snake and Lizard series. And Margaret Mahy and I worked on what was probably her last book before she died —  Mister Whistler .

10. Do your books travel to other book markets in English and have they been translated? 

My books have been sold all over the world, particularly in England, Australia and the USA. Some of my books have been translated into Spanish, French, Italian, Danish and other European languages. Recently my books have become very popular in Asia and several of my recent publications appearin Korean, Mandarin and Japanese editions.

Some ofmy books, such as Kiwi Moon and Hinepau have been adapted for the stage.   Kiwi Moon travelled nationally as puppet theatre and the third adaption of Hinepau was performed entirely in Maori. 

But oneof my biggest creative challenges was writing the story and designing the sets and costumes for two ballets for the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company. Although they were pitched at an audience of children they were performed by the regular company of dancers with whom I got to work. Original music was composed by a musician friend and the choreography was designed by one of New Zealand’s top dancers. Attending the opening performances of these ballets that were created in consecutive years, were two of the most exciting experiences of my life.

Watch Shantanu Duttagupta, Head of Publishing, Scholastic India interview Gavin Bishop at the New Zealand High Commission. 

In Conversation with Gavin Bishop

We met author Gavin Bishop and discussed books, writings and much more!Big Thanks to: New Zealand High Commission to India, Bangladesh, Nepal & Sri Lanka Scholastic New Zealand

Posted by Scholastic India on Monday, December 10, 2018

14 December 2018 

Eleanor Catton’s win celebrates the importance of literary craft and content

Eleanor Catton’s win celebrates the importance of literary craft and content

My article on the Man Booker Prize 2013 has been published today in the Op Ed page of the Hindu, 19 Oct 2013. Here is the link: http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-long-and-winding-road-to-the-booker/article5248697.ece?homepage=true . The article is published below.) 

The Luminaries

On October 15, 2013, the Man Booker Prize was awarded to Eleanor Catton for The Luminaries — a thriller spread over 800 pages with a variety of voices recounting and recreating details. It was a win that surprised many. Set in 1866 in a small town on New Zealand’s South Island, the story begins when a traveller and gold prospector, Scotsman Walter Moody, interrupts a meeting of 12 men at Hokitika’s Crown Hotel. These men are immigrants but locals now who gather in secrecy to solve crimes. The novel is about the mystery surrounding the death of Crosbie Wells and the stories told by those 12 men. The narrative architecture is based on the 12 signs of the zodiac and the seven planets; each chapter is half the length of its predecessor, adding pace and tension. Of the books shortlisted — Jim Crace’s Harvest, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland, Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, Colm Toibin’s The Testament of Mary, and Noviolet Bulawayo’s We Need New Names — it was widely assumed that the battle for the winning post would be between Jim Crace and Colm Toibin.

The Luminaries is in the tradition of a good, well-told, 19th century English novel. It has a leisurely pace with the story slowly being told, bit by bit. Eleanor Catton has trained at the best creative writing schools and is an alumna of the prestigious University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. But this novel is an example of original thinking and excellent craftsmanship that are not easily taught.

The chair of judges, Robert Macfarlane, described the book as a “dazzling work, luminous, vast.” It is, he said, “a book you sometimes feel lost in, fearing it to be ‘a big baggy monster’, but it turns out to be as tightly structured as an orrery.” It is true that the 19th century novels were serialised (for example Charles Dickens and Anthony Trollope) and then put together as a book. Present day writers are taking advantage of virtual publishing to do something similar. The Kills by Richard House, long listed for the Man Booker Prize 2013, actually began life as four enhanced e-books that were then published as a single printed volume. But in the 21st century, to first publish in print such a thick book as The Luminaries takes extraordinary courage — a fact that did not go unnoticed even by Catton. In her acceptance speech she said, “… The Luminaries is and was from the very beginning, a publisher’s nightmare. […] I am extraordinarily fortunate to have found a home at these publishing houses and to […] have managed to strike an elegant balance between making art and making money.”

FOR MORE ENTRIES

At 28, Eleanor Catton is the youngest winner of the Booker. (Before her the prize went to Ben Okri who won it when he was 32 for The Famished Road.) Catton was born in Canada and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand. The Booker is Britain’s most prestigious literary prize, awarded annually to a novelist from Britain, Ireland or a Commonwealth country. The winner receives £50,000, or about $80,000. The winner is selected by the judging panel on the day of the ceremony. In September 2013, it was announced that from next year the prize will be open to all those publishing in English, across the world, a move that has not necessarily been received well by many writers. Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the foundation, wrote at the time: “Paradoxically it has not […] allowed full participation to all those writing literary fiction in English. It is rather as if the Chinese were excluded from the Olympic Games.”

It is a fortunate coincidence that in 2013, three of the high-profile international awards for literature have been won by women — all for very distinct kinds of writing. Lydia Davis won the fifth Man Booker International Prize 2013 for her short stories (the length of her stories vary from two sentences to a maximum of two to three pages) and the Nobel Prize for Literature 2013 to Alice Munro, for her short stories and Eleanor Catton, Man Booker Prize 2013, for a novel that has been described as a “doorstopper.” For the world of publishing, these achievements sets the seal of approval on craftsmanship. It is probably recognition of geographical boundaries disappearing in digital space, conversations happening in real time and emphasis being placed on good content. It’s not the form but the craft that matters. Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize win is a testament to the new world of publishing.

(Jaya Bhattacharji Rose is an international publishing consultant and columnist. E-mail:jayabhattacharjirose @gmail.com)

19 Oct 2013