April 2023 Newsletter

by | Jun 29, 2023

Mentoring Magic

It is always sad when, on the Margaret Mahy Day each year in April I finish mentoring the person who won last year’s mentorship. However, this year I was delighted to tell the crowd who assembled in Auckland for the Margaret Mahy Day, that one of last year’s mentee, Leah Carter, had become one of the writers of 20 stories chosen for the Bristol Short Story Anthology,(featured a few newsletters ago.) And then today I heard from Leah that she’s got a story in next month’sMindfood, and there’s more! “I had more great writing news this week. I made it to the shortlist for the Fish Flash Fiction Prize – https://www.fishpublishing.com/2023/04/10/flash-fiction-prize-2023- results/. And about a month ago, I made the longlist for the Flash 500 short story competition.”

Congratulations, Leah!

The other delight for me at the Margaret Mahy Day is meeting my new “mentee.” This year it is Kate Gallant. I know it will be inspiring working with her.

Unfortunately Kate missed her flight home because the ceremonies ran late. She had to hire a car and drive through the night in order to get to work the next day. Writers lives are always exciting.

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More Congratulations
Jane Penton
Jane’s ‘Back to Front Selkie Woman’ poem has been accepted for publication byMassey University to be included in a book that will ‘highlight 18 years of research into ageing in Aotearoa New


40 submissions were chosen out of over three hundred entries.



Think about – Persist!

That’s your word for this month. You have to write lots of scripts in order that one may be that magic one that takes off. If you give up after one script gets a less than great review you miss the chance of writing that popular best seller that’s hiding inside you.

“Send the thing out and forget it. Quickly get to work on the next thing. .Right away, like the next day.”
David Mitchell

“Keep sending work out; never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. Send that work out again and again while you’re working on another. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success — but only if you persist.”
Isaac Asimov

Congratulations to Wellington’s Landing Press for a great book launch up here in Auckland. These are the poets who read their work that afternoon.

You may recognise some familiar faces. The GWN Poetry course is producing some strong poets.

Monthly One Liner Tip PERSIST

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What is A I?

I’ve had a lot of questions about A I this month.

“ChatGPT is designed to generate written text from a prompt I give it. It utilises a vast dataset of online text (the internet) to produce responses that mimic human writing. In the field of creative arts, it can be used as a useful tool to generate new ideas and inspiration for writers and artists. However, it must be noted that it does not possess the capability to independently create original content.”

The above paragraph was written by A I. I read it in The Big Idea’s newsletter.
A quote from the article:
“It’s best to acknowledge that it’s here. Maybe not in its finest form, but it could get there.
Being afraid of it or just disparaging it doesn’t safeguard anything for any creative. You know, I might even use it as a tool. The most important point that our industry worldwide needs to figure out (and soon) is the new rules around attribution.”

Competitions and AI.

I noticed in the entry requirements for the NZ International Poetry Competition run by the Poetry Society this paragraph: “ Submitted poems must not have been written by Artificial Intelligence (AI) software such as ChatGBT. NZPS will use AI-detection software, and if a poem is found to have been written by AI, it will be disqualified immediately, and the entry fee will not be refunded.” Suddenly robots and AI involvement in our lives seems very real.

Don’t miss Can AI Write a Book? with Toby Walsh, Catherine Chidgey, and Te Taka Keegan, chaired by Canvas editor Sarah Daniell on Friday 19 May. Writers and AI experts discuss the thorny topic of ‘robot writers’ and whether a bot could really ever match human creativity.

Nick Cave, songwriter, has a different opinion on CHATGBT
“My objection is not with A.I. in general. For better or for worse, we are inextricably immersed in A.I. It is more a kind of sad, disappointed feeling that there are smart people out there that actually think the artistic act is so mundane that it can be replicated by a machine. I find that insulting. There’s no earthly reason why we need to invent a technology that can mimic this most beautiful and mysterious creative act. Particularly writing a song. The thing about writing a good song is that it tells you something about yourself you didn’t already know. That’s the thing. You can’t mimic that. The good song is always rushing forward. It annihilates, to some degree, the songs that you’d previously written, because you are moving forward all the time. That’s what the creative impulse is —it’s both creative and destructive and is always one step ahead of you. These impulses can’t be replicated by a machine. Maybe A.I. can make a song that’s indistinguishable from what I can do. Maybe even a better song. But, to me, that doesn’t matter—that’s not what art is. Art has to do with our limitations, our frailties, and our faults as human beings. It’s the distance we can travel away from our own frailties. That’s what is so awesome about art: that we deeply flawed creatures can sometimes do extraordinary things. A.I. just doesn’t have any of that stuff going on. Ultimately, it has no limitations, so therefore can’t inhabit the true transcendent artistic experience. It has nothing to transcend! It feels like such a mockery of what it is to be human. A.I. may very well save the world, but it can’t save our souls. That’s what true art is for. That’s the difference.”



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For those who write (and/or perform) poetry

Spoken Word, by Joshua Bennett (Knopf). This rich hybrid of memoir and history surveys the institutions that have shaped spoken-word poetry for the past five decades.

“I didn’t sign up for anything limited when I chose poetry,” said U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón, April’s Poem-a-Day Guest Editor. “I signed up for something that is about trying, on some level, to harness the unsayable.”

It’s exactly that unique ability poets have—to offer insights in memorable language that help us understand ourselves and our world.


You have to be in to win.
The National Flash Fiction Day deadline for their competition has been extended until 30 April. Go to their website and click Competitions.
Your story must be less than 300 words!
You could even redraft a poem…


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How about getting your book club or writing group to come up with a few great slogans for this cartoon picture. Share them with us.


Grammar Gremlins

The most common punctuation pitfalls I encounter are:

The difference between <its> and <it’s> And
When to capitalise Mum/Dad.

If any of you want a clear explanation of either or both of these, email me and I’ll help you.


From this Month’s Advice

Heavy-Handed Editing

I found it distressing to hear how a GWN client was put through the editing wringer by an editor she had hired. I offer you this comment.

I know the quote attributed to Nobel prize laureate William Faulkner about killing your darlings is popular as a piece of advice about cutting unnecessary words or incidents from your writing. However: I distrust it and the sheer negativity of it. I also distrust editors who don’t understand that a writer’s style can often bend the so-called rules of grammar.

Look at this quote from Ann Patchett – from her essay collection, These Precious Days which is one of my favourite books:

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“I once published a long essay in the Atlantic and found myself at the mercy of a smart, zealous, young copy editor who told me that it was against that magazine’s style manual to use ‘it’ as ‘a syntactic expletive that has no meaning.’ ( This means starting with “It.”)
“Are you telling me Dickens wouldn’t have been allowed to write, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’”?

“That’s what I’m telling you,” he said.
“You wouldn’t let Snoopy say, ‘It was a dark and stormy night’?” “Not if he was writing for the Atlantic.”

Hmmm. Always remember: even the rules of grammar have to be flexible.
I hope none of you get bullied by over-zealous editors.
Another question this month concerned the phrases, He said, She said: when to put them in and when to leave them out,”
That is entirely up to you. The only ‘rule’ here is that the reader must know who is speaking. Don’t confuse your reader. If the layout shows clearly who is speaking maybe you don’t need those two little words quite so often.
Stretch your Vocabulary

New word to me:
Bommyknocker had me stumped when I was editing a script. I looked it up and discovered it in Australian slang. Ah! the seed pod of the liquidambar tree. A word used by children in Australia for any big thing you throw at someone.

Lacuna (or lacunae, plural often) – a gap, something missing. I like this word because of its sound and the way the tongue moves in the mouth when you are saying it.

from Nicole
“I was on the way to Wellington airport yesterday morning in absolutely torrential rain; the waterfront was in total whiteout – clouds, mist, rain, sea spray… and my friend asked if we’d heard of the word “albescent” – he said it was perfect for the conditions, it means growing or shading into white. I’d never heard that word before (I was genuinely surprised he knew a word that I didn’t haha…) but thought it was quite beautiful, especially in that context!”

from Landmarks by Robert Macfarlane.
“Words. like migrant birds, arriving from distant places with story and metaphor caught in their feathers; or strangers coming into the home, stamping the snow from their feet, fresh from foreign blizzard and a long journey.


On the Book Pile

That essay collection of Ann Patchett’s I referred to before has a highly original, charming and amusing essay in it all about editing, and about how Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, and Schroeder can all help a writer learn how to be successful. It’s called To The Doghouse.

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Another book in my pile of Easter reading was Elizabeth Strout’s Oh, William! I’ve read most of her books but somehow missed this one out. It is so deceptively simply written it will make you feel, ‘I could do that.’ Of course it isn’t that easy. (And I didn’t like it much!)


For those who are thinking of self-publishing

Self publishing is all about self promoting.

Here’s an interesting comment from a client who knows how to self-publish:
“Thanks for your votes on the stories. I am getting very similar results from others coming through so that’s a good indicator! Also some excellent ideas so it’s great to have that engagement from people. I’m trying to give my prospective market as much buy-in on the process as I can, early on so they will be able to champion the book for me once it’s out!”

This person gets plenty of feedback on her stories before reaching the final proof stage. She’s open to criticism and new ideas, right up to the last moment.
She’s also making her followers feel committed to the story, feeling as though they have contributed.

This sort of process suits some writers and is anathema to others. The publishing world can find a place for us all.


An example that shows success is possible for the previously unpublished writer who sends off an unsolicited manuscript here in N Z. Anne Tiernan’s The Last Days of Joy was accepted two days after she sent it to Moa Press AND they offered her a two book contract and a three-nation book deal!

Remember this month’s word – PERSIST. *

Thank you,Evie Mahoney for your response to my question, “What do you like about writing?” “I love where it takes me, after a period of indecision, because once I start I am on a fascinating

journey into the unknown.”

For the Writers for Children

Julia Donaldson, creator of The Gruffalo, advises not to “write a story the second you’ve got a vague idea. Instead, keep your ideas on ice, and you may well find that they will knock sparks off each other,” she says. “It’s important not to be too precious about your ideas. And to move on from things that aren’t working. I’ve got far more undeveloped ideas than those I have turned into stories. Don’t forget that sometimes two ideas can come together. That might just be the answer.”

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I’ve had quite a few queries this month about the layout of a picture book. Put the descriptions of the illustrations under the text for each page. I use italics so it is clear. e.g.

Page 2
He ran into the cave.
[6 year old boy entering cave]

Page 3


Small insights about Roald Dahl’s popularity

‘Dahl’s first book for children, “The Gremlins,” was published in 1943, and his last, “The Minpins,” was published posthumously, in 1991.
Around the world, more than ten million copies of his books sold last year.
He appeals to both boys and girls.

Six of his books have been made into movies. Dahl’s plots are fast paced.

He uses lots of made-up words ( e.g.“swishfiggler,” “snozzcumber,” “Vermicious Knids”).
He loves synonyms ( e.g.“He’s dotty!” they cried. “He’s barmy!” “He’s batty!” “He’s nutty!” “He’s screwy!” “He’s wacky!”).
The tone is conversational, confiding, and funny.
Like “Winnie the Pooh” and “Alice in Wonderland,” Dahl’s books originated as stories told aloud to children; he had five of his own.
“Part of the reason for the ugliness of adults, in a child’s eyes, is that the child is usually looking upward, and few faces are at their best when seen from below,” George Orwell wrote.
Dahl once said that adults should get down on their knees for a week, in order to remember what it’s like to live in a world in which the people with all the power literally loom over you.


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  • On the previously mentioned Margaret Mahy Day these awards were announced:
  • The Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a junior fiction manuscript: Claire Aramakutu

    for Koro’s Star

  • The Storylines Joy Cowley Award for a picture book manuscript: Kristin Kelly for The


  • The Storylines Te Kahurangi Kāterina Te Heikōkō Mataira Award for a manuscript originally written in te reo Māori: Hana Tapiata for He aha tērā e rongo nei au?
  • The Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-loved Book: Yvonne Morrison for her book A Kiwi Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Deborah Hinde.
  • The Storylines Janice Marriott Mentoring Award for an unpublished author in the category of junior fiction or young adult fiction : Kate Gallant for her manuscript Aunty Bart’s Vegetable Cart
  • Leonie Agnew’s young adult novel The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp was launched. This had won The Storylines Tessa Duder Award
  • Anne Slight received the Storylines Joy Cowley Unpublished Writer Award for her picture book manuscript The Mystery of the Missing Cats.
  • Anna de Roo received the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Unpublished Writer Award for her junior fiction manuscript Evangeline and the Librarian


End note: Look after our libraries

Script Assessor www.gowritenow.nz janice@gowritenow.nz Facebook: Go Write Now

Reading books and buying books are two essential parts of the writing and publishing industry. We can’t write well unless we do a lot of reading. Councils are reviewing their budgets, Libraries are regarded by some councils as expendable or a luxury. Now is the time to speak up for your library and all the amenities accessible through them. And if you can afford it, buy a book from your local bookshop too. That way there will be publishers solvent enough to take

a risk on your manuscript.

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April 2023 Newsletter

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