By Tasha Haines
In her introduction to The Writing Life, Deborah Shepard highlights the determination and passion of the twelve writers she interviews and curates into this collection. Shepard has selected a diverse group covering many genres: from writing for children, to many approaches to the novel, poetry and non-fiction. The writers are Joy Cowley, Marilyn Duckworth, Tessa Duder, Chris Else, Patricia Grace, David Hill, Witi Ihimaera, Fiona Kidman, Owen Marshall, Vincent O’Sullivan, Philip Temple and Albert Wendt.
The interviews show that adversity breeds a certain compulsion, which becomes the grit that seeds the pearl of craft. Shepard refers early on to a line in Owen Marshall’s Janet Frame Memorial Lecture of 2007, in which he refers to the ‘hammering out’ of New Zealand writing:
When I reread those comparatively early New Zealand writers, who, unlike Katherine Mansfield, chose to stay in New Zealand, people like Frank Sargeson, RAK Mason, James K. Baxter, Robin Hyde, O.E. Middleton, Charles Brasch, Allen Curnow, E.H. McCormick, I have a sense of work being cut and hammered out of adversity.
Deborah chats with Ruth Todd about The Writing Life
The Writing Life was selected as one of the top ten, in the Auckland Libraries Top 100 for 2018, a list of recommended reads curated by librarians and drawn from readers’ favourite books.
Biographer, oral historian and memoirist Deborah Shepard talks with Karen about her new book “The writing life”, in which twelve of New Zealand's most acclaimed and admired writers speak candidly about their lives and their work.
Available in bookshops nationwide.
There are so many things to like about this book, The Writing Life Twelve New Zealand Authors. Deborah Shepard has interviewed the twelve authors and produced a book incorporating the very personal interviews, accompanying photographs and extra information. The book itself is well made, with a soft cover beneath a matching dust cover, and with pleasingly thick paper reminiscent of the days when new books arrived with uncut pages. It has a heft which promises a feast of good things and it doesn’t disappoint.
The twelve authors are men and women who have written in various genres throughout the years 1959 to 2018, on topics addressing such themes as death and loss, the joy they have found in writing and much more. For aspiring authors there is also advice on writing itself, which, given the depth of talent and length of time these ones have been engaged in their craft, is an invaluable treasure.
Distinguished photographer, John McDermott, was commissioned to take photographs of each of the authors, and the setting each one has chosen to be presented in gives further insight into their personality, as do the photos of the rooms in which a particular writer produces his or her work. I enjoyed examining those photos, searching for a further glimpse into each life. As an older person myself, who has read and admired much of the work of these twelve, I know that this beautiful tribute to them will be a book that I will delve into time and time again over the years ahead. It will be an asset, too, to teachers of literature as well as those who desire to write.
These twelve men and women have laid down a huge body of work for those who are coming on behind them and we owe them a debt of gratitude both for the work they have done throughout their life and for their willingness to tell us their stories. The Writing Life is more than a book, it is a treasure.
Reviewed by Lesley Vlietstra
The Writing Life – Twelve New Zealand Authors
by Deborah Shepard
Published by Massey University Press
Original source: The Reader - The Booksellers New Zealand Blog
Auckland poet Paula Green reviews The Writing Life — offering a wonderfully warm and personal response to the authors and their life’s work.
Twelve authors talk to biographer and historian, Deborah Shephard, about writing and living. It is a captivating new book. Deborah has done an excellent job drawing out stories and raising issues; from what it means to write alongside domestic and money-earning demands to coping with both success and failure. She is familiar with the authors’ books and the context of the times in which they were written. The interviews often feel like a warm and stimulating conversation rather than a pre-prepared interview. John McDermott took stunning photographs to accompany the text.
A pioneering generation of writers raised after the Second World War have founded the rich diverse literary landscape that we have today. A dozen of them are the subject of a new book telling their own stories of their lives, published by Massey university Press. The Writing Life is an oral history project in which writers ranging from Witi ihimeara to Joy Cowley, Patricia Grace to Vincent O'Sullivan speak frankly about their own life journeys, the challenges and the opportunities. The book features some rather beautiful portraits by photographer John McDermott. We're joined by the author oral historian Deborah Shepard and one of those rather special writers Tessa Duder.
On Thursday November 8th, Unity hosted a lunchtime discussion between author Deborah Shepard, Massey University Press publisher Nicola Legat, Dame Fiona Kidman, and Patricia Grace about Shepard’s new book The Writing Life: Twelve New Zealand Authors.
Shepard conducted interviews with twelve of New Zealand’s greatest living authors, including Grace and Kidman, about their lives, careers, and the art of writing itself. Patricia Grace read a poem by the seminal poet, Hone Tuwhare, as it was one of the first pieces of literature she loved and was an inspiration for her to become a writer. Fiona Kidman read a moving poem about her late husband Ian. All three remarked on Shepard’s candour, respect, and passion as a writer, emphasising how wonderful their experience was working with Shepard to produce this remarkable book.
Originally posted by Unity Wellington