Pūrākau, lyric essay and poetry (4 places left)
Fragmentation and layering have been widely used in lyric essay and poetry as a means of storytelling. Juxtaposing fact, fiction, memory and moments can both emphasise and illuminate the text and subtexts of our work.
The word ‘pūrākau’ is often translated as ‘myth’ but at the core, these are our origin stories, the places we’ve come from, the source of meaning. The word pū means ‘root’ or ‘foundation’, and the word rākau translates as ‘tree’ which in this case means the tree from which, and upon which, we are all grown – our whakapapa. Like whakapapa, pūrākau are also expressed in layers, and therefore have the ability to layer one story upon another and arrive at new understandings, perspectives or knowledge.
In many ways, we are all telling our ‘origin stories’ when we write. Even when we are not actually writing autobiography, our words are alluding to things that are important to us, to moments in our lives that transformed us forever, or are allowing our characters to live out alternative lives. There is no single genre through which this happens, and some of the most exciting and unexpected writing arrives when we are free to collage together our fragments and break the ‘rules’ of form.
In this workshop we will spend some time looking at fantastic examples of the way layering and fragmentation has been used across lyric essay and poetry to express the origin story of either the writer or the characters. Then we will use starter exercises to generate completely new fragments of writing, and finally we will embark on the work of transforming these ideas into a coherent piece of writing that speaks about our own pūrākau.
Feel free to bring your own layers to add, whether poetry, bits of essay, or fragments of spidery scrawl on the back of old receipts, or bring only yourself and your pen – you are already your pūrākau.
Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Tukorehe) is a poet, short story writer, teacher and essayist. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and her first book ‘Poroporoaki to the Lord My God: Weaving the Via Dolorosa’ was published by Seraph Press in 2016. She has a Masters of Creative Writing from the Te Pūtahi Tuhi Auaha o te Ao (The International Institute of Modern Letters), and Graduate Diplomas in Psychology and Teaching. She is currently undertaking doctoral research at Te Herenga Waka (Victoria University of Wellington), developing critical literary theory based on Māori intellectual traditions. She lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara with her partner and son.
From the ground up: Creating a new short story (Sold out)
This generative workshop will allow you to build a short story from the ground up. On day 1, you will identify a character and begin to flesh them out via a series of guided conversations. Among other things, these will prompt you to consider your character’s central desire as well as a problem or obstacle they must face. You will then create a three-dimensional setting in which to place your character. On day 2, you will be encouraged to find your character’s authentic voice by placing them in a dialogue. Finally, you will be led through a bespoke collage exercise with the aim of completing your short story.
Catherine Chidgey is a multiple award-winner whose novels have attracted international acclaim. ‘In a Fishbone Church’ won Best First Book at both the New Zealand Book Awards and the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize (South-East Asia and South Pacific region). It also won the Betty Trask Award (UK), and was longlisted for the Orange Prize. ‘Golden Deeds’ was a Best Book in the LA Times Book Review and a Notable Book in the New York Times Book Review. ‘The Wish Child’ won the 2017 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize – the country’s richest writing prize. Radio New Zealand called it ‘a brilliant, brilliant novel…a masterpiece’, and The Times (UK) ‘a remarkable book with a stunningly original twist’. Other honours include the Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award, the $60,000 Prize in Modern Letters and the Janet Frame Fiction Prize. Catherine will release her first children’s book, ‘Jiffy, Cat Detective’ in 2019. She teaches creative writing at the University of Waikato and is currently completing her sixth novel.
Photo credit: Helen Mayall
Again, and again: Editing and revision
‘Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.’ John Updike
After conquering the blank page, writers spend much time editing and revising until they get everything just right. This is often where the magic happens – questioning every word, reorganising structure and making some difficult choices about what gets to stay. Sometimes it feels like a hopeless process – an endless cycle of deleting words and lines, only to put them back before deleting them again.
Poet and editor Chris Tse will lead a workshop to revise and reshape your first, scrappy poetry drafts. He’ll run through some of his favourite ways to tackle the revision process that’ll have you killing your darlings in no time.
Participants are required to bring some work in progress to workshop with the rest of the group. Be prepared to make tough editing decisions and get some serious re-writing underway in this intensive practical workshop.
Chris Tse is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press: ‘How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes’ (winner of the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry and a finalist at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards) and ‘HE’S SO MASC’. Chris reviews books for Radio New Zealand and Landfall, and is a regular contributor to Capital’s Re-Verse column. He and Emma Barnes are currently editing an anthology of contemporary LGBTQIA+ Aotearoa New Zealand writers to be published by Auckland University Press in early 2021.
Existence is Movement
Movement is inextricable from the act and process of being human. Every aspect of our passage through the world, and its intersections with the passage of others, is shaped by the way we move. This workshop builds on the work of dance theorist Rudolf Laban to look at how we can use movement theory to create, develop and convey character in our writing.
When we spend the bulk of our creative time sitting at a desk, it can be difficult to appreciate the different movements, postures and physicalities of the characters we create, even though in the real world these elements are just as unique to us as the way we speak. In this workshop we will get up and moving, exploring the ways use of the body can support and develop character on and beyond the page. Along the way we will develop a rich vocabulary with which to describe and analyse movement, which can be applied equally well to fictional characters and real-world character studies.
It is recommended that writers attending this workshop come with a character or character concept they want to build and develop. This workshop will involve a significant amount of movement alongside guided exercises and freewriting time.
Kerry Lane is a playwright, theatrical producer, performance poet and trained teacher based in Ōtepoti Dunedin. They founded and currently run two independent theatre companies: queer political theatre /cabaret fusion group Sacrilege, and youth-focused experimental company Little Scorpion (both can be found on Facebook). They have had twelve original plays produced to date. They are currently working on a feature film about psychosis and a collection of short writing about the end of the world.
Building Fictional Worlds (5 spaces left)
Creating a fictional world which is not only convincing but also a place readers want to enter and to explore alongside the characters inhabiting that world, can be challenging. This workshop will focus on building such a world both through imagination and research and, in turn, creating and developing authentic and credible characters.
This workshop is for writers of all fictional genres. Participating writers may submit a one-page synopsis and/or an example of writing (up to 2,000 words) to Paddy two weeks before the Retreat. Participants can choose whether they share the work with the group or in a one-on-one discussion with Paddy during the weekend.
Paddy Richardson is the author of two collections of short stories, ‘Choices’ and ‘If We Were Lebanese’ and seven novels, ‘The Company of a Daughter’, ‘A Year to Learn a Woman’, ‘Hunting Blind’, ‘Traces of Red’, ‘Cross Fingers’, ‘Swimming in the Dark’ and ‘Through the Lonesome Dark’. ‘Traces of Red’ and ‘Cross Fingers’ were long-listed for the Ngaio Marsh Award and ‘Hunting Blind’ and ‘Swimming in the Dark’ were short-listed. Four of her novels have been published overseas and ‘Through the Lonesome Dark’ was shortlisted for the New Zealand Historical Novel Award and longlisted for The Dublin International Literature Award.
Ethical story-telling: courage, compassion and finding our voice
Writing creative non-fiction poses unique ethical and creative challenges. What obligations do we have to the people we write about? How far should we go in exposing their lives and ours? What right do we have to tell a personal story if someone doesn’t want us to? How do we balance creative writing and sticking to the facts? We’ll explore the courage it takes to write about real people, the compassion required to do so with respect, and ways to manage the tension between the two. We’ll look at the use of fictional techniques in non-fiction writing, and ethical issues such as inventing dialogue, creating composite characters and imagining events. We’ll also consider the pros and cons of revealing ourselves as the narrator of our stories, learn how to uncover our authentic voice and work out how much ‘I’ is enough.
Pip Desmond is an award-winning author of creative non-fiction. Her latest memoir, ‘Song for Rosaleen’, was long-listed for the 2019 Ockham Book Awards while ‘Trust: A True Story of Women and Gangs’ won Best First Book at the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards. She was also commissioned by the Ministry for Culture and Heritage to write ‘The War That Never Ended: New Zealand Veterans Remember Korea’, published in 2013. Pip has a background as an oral historian, journalist and parliamentary press secretary. She taught creative writing as a VSA volunteer in Timor-Leste in 2014-2015 and was Massey University’s Writer in Residence in 2019. Her TEDx talk on Ethical Storytelling is available on YouTube. Pip is working on a new book of creative non-fiction about a family faced with their son’s suicide.
I established the Kāpiti Writers’ Retreat to meet a need I saw for writers like myself to get together to talk writing and do writing away from the grind of day-to-day life.
This comment from participant Janis Freegard who participated in the inaugural Retreat in 2016 sums up the experience I hoped people would walk away with:
‘My Kahini Writers Retreat experience was a perfect blend of structured workshops, walks by the river, talking with other writers and having the time and space to write…. There were some lively group discussions and I came away with a couple of first drafts to work on further. The Retreat was a great opportunity to connect with other writers and produce new work. Oh, and the food was great!’ (You can read more about last year’s event here.)
Alongside the Retreat I produce the Kāpiti Series, write and publish poetry and short fiction, manage other creative writing conferences and projects in the arts and youth sectors and take care of my newborn and three-year-old. I have an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters and my background is in programme, project and stakeholder management in the youth and community sectors, particularly with young people and former refugees.
Each afternoon we host discussions on topics pertinent to writing and our writing lives. These sessions are facilitated by our teaching writers and provide the opportunity for you to ask questions, discuss ideas, and engage in contemporary writing issues.
Creating a narrative – the twists and turns of plot, Saturday 2-3pm
Join Catherine Chidgey and Paddy Richardson to talk about approaches to developing plot in fiction.
Breaking the line: Unravelling the mysteries and limits of enjambment, Saturday 2-3pm
In this session, Chris Tse leads a not-so-serious conversation about the most-used tool in the poet’s tool kit: the line break. Are there rules when it come to line breaks? If so, should we follow them? And what’s the deal with prose poems? Chris will present the most common do’s and don’ts of enjambment (according to poetry teachers and bloggers) and get you to weigh in on this divisive topic.
Am I a slam poet or a Sam (Hunt) poet? Reading poetry aloud and the art of the performance poet, Saturday 3-4pm
It is increasingly impossible in today’s climate of carefully curated online profiles to retain the ideal of a reclusive writerly life, in which we’re not required to step in front of an audience and speak. For those of us who are inclined to be introverted this can be a real stumbling block. In this afternoon discussion Anahera Gildea will talk about overcoming her own fears, choosing the best poems, pace, pitch and most importantly, whether or not to be drunk when you read.
From voice to page, Saturday 3-4pm
Join Pip Desmond to discuss techniques to gather oral history narratives and weave them into our written stories.
Your English teacher lied / A persimmon falls, Sunday 2-3pm
Poetic forms are often specific to the language in which they originated. How do we translate the untranslatable? Join Kerry Lane to explore more.
Note: all sessions are open to all.