Thursday, 13 February 2014

Latest news from VUP

Horse and Lamp

The VUP publishing year has started with a hiss and a roar. This month we launch two debut books, Horse with Hat by Marty Smith, and Lamplighter by Kerry Donovan Brown.

The poems in Horse with Hat cover family feuds, the effects of WWII on the men who fought and their families, and horses. Smith is an ex-track-work rider and grew up around horses. She says the horses in Horse with Hat serve to lament man’s increasing separation from animals. “Everyday horses have become strange to us, but our language goes back to the roots of Indo-European, said to be the language of horsemen, and to originate on the steppes of Asia, where the horse first appeared. Horse words are embedded in our language.”

Her own family appear as characters throughout the collection, in particular her father, who is the subject of many poems. “The gift of the men of my father’s generation was not to talk about what happened in the war, because they didn’t want their families to have to know. We picked up bits and pieces from conversations where the odd thing would slip out. My father was left for dead on the battlefield because of the severity of his head wound, and then went missing for months. It was forbidden to talk about it.”

Damien Wilkins will launch Horse with Hat this Saturday 15 February, 4pm-6pm at Thistle Inn in Thorndon. There will also be a Hawkes Bay launch on Saturday 1 March at Taradale High School, where Marty Smith teaches English. All welcome.

Kerry Donovan Brown won the Adam Prize in 2012 for his manuscript Lamplighter which we also launch this month. Lamplighter is set in the tiny South Island beach settlement of Porbeagle where Candle is an apprentice to his grandfather, Ignis. But as the community prepares to celebrate the Lamplighter's retirement, old stories take on darker hues. Folklore guides the thinking of the town and imbues the story with an other-worldly, watery quality.

Speaking of his use of folklore in the novel, Donovan Brown said that he liked how fairytale and myth transformed everyday stories or circumstances.

"I like being reminded that everyday stuff can have me spellbound. In the same vein, I think folklore-ish elements can uncomplicate stories. When you introduce a monster into a story, there’s nothing to do but to have it dealt with, to have it somehow neutralized. You could slay the monster, or answer its riddle, or pull a thorn from its foot. The point is a monster is a problem (or plot point) with a relatively straightforward solution, unlike an alcoholic parent, or dealing with bigotry in your community, or facing your own spectrum of resentments, and prejudices, and wrongdoings. In Lamplighter, I think Ignis finds comfort in the clarity of his stories, and so do the people of Porbeagle: they have found clarity in the lamplighting tradition—lamplight and bad spirits are a sweeter pill to swallow than their uncomfortable colonial history."

The (very busy) Damien Wilkins will also launch Lamplighter at The Guest Room in the Southern Cross Bar on Tuesday 25 February, 6pm-8pm. All welcome.

Writers Week

A number of VUP writers are participating in the New Zealand Festival Writers Week (7-12 March). Eleanor Catton is taking part in three events, and we're very much looking forward to hearing her discuss The Luminaries with her English editor Max Porter at 'Midwives or Meddler?' on Saturday 8 March, 4.45pm. We heard recently that some overseas writers have had it written into their contracts that editors will not touch their manuscripts (VUP editorial is in shock!) so we'll be interested to hear Ellie and Max's perspective on the editing process.

VUP are holding their publisher's party during the festival where we will launch Caoilinn Hughes's debut poetry collection Gathering Evidence, and Dylan Horrocks' Incomplete Works. The party and launch for the two books is on Saturday 8 March, 7.30pm at the Atrium Exchange on Blair Street. The party is an opportunity to meet VUP writers at the festival. All welcome.

We wish Kathryn Carmody and her hard working team the best for a terrific festival. We'll highlight more Writers Week events involving VUP writers in next month's newsletter.


New Zealand Festival Writers Week have kindly offered us a double pass to Elizabeth Knox's session 'Letting the Ghosts In' on Wednesday 12 March, 4.45pm. Elizabeth will be speaking to Stephen Gale about the monsters and ghosts she's created over her incredible writing career. If you'd like to win this double pass and a copy of Elizabeth's most recent novel, Wake, email VUP with your name and contact by Friday 21 March (subject line: 'Monsters') and we'll draw one winner from the lucky hat. 


Our administrator Craig Gamble commences his Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University in March. We wish him well for a productive and creative year. Craig will continue to work part-time at VUP.

Upcoming book launches

  • Horse with Hat, debut poetry collection by Marty Smith. Book launch this Saturday 15 March at Thistle Inn, 4pm-6pm.
  • Lamplighter by Kerry Donovan Brown. Book launch at The Guest Room, Southern Cross Bar, Tues 25 Feb, 6pm-8pm.
  • VUP publisher's party and book launch for Gathering Evidence by Caoilinn Hughes and Incomplete Works by Dylan Horrocks, Sat 8 March, 7.30pm at Atrium Exchange on Blair St.

VUP book launches are free to attend and generally include a glass of wine and great conversation. All keen readers are welcome.

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