You’ve Got to Sell Your Heart

A conversation about risk in writing with Carl Shuker and Pip Adam

Date: October 30, 6-8:30 pm
Location: Preservatorium Cafe, 39 Webb St, Wellington

When you write ‘you’ve got to sell your heart’ said Scott Fitzgerald. Kafka describes the book as ‘an axe for the frozen sea within us’. Does all great writing crack open this ‘frozen sea’ and if so what does it mean to do so?

All books take risks, but perhaps some books require bigger risks than others; exploring a side of society or experience which hasn’t been given voice before; an experience that exists on the boundaries or in the shadows of mainstream society or writing in a form which resists reading to a point that could provoke anger in a readership.

But, no matter how safe or conventional the book, all writing involves a degree of risk. Writers must write through periods when no one can tell them they will find a complete work at the end of their labour. If they do complete the work, there’s the risk it will never find a reader. They must take this fledging thing to the world and say, ‘I have made this, I think it’s a worthy thing, do you want it?’ If the work finds a publisher, there may still be moments where the writer needs to risk publication by standing up for aspects of the book that editors challenge. It’s possible that the moment the work becomes a book is the riskiest of all, for now truly the book can be lost or fail.

Join Carl Shuker and Pip Adam for dinner and discussion as they take on the question of risk in their writing and writing lives. Limited spaces available. Book tickets here or for more information contact

Carl Shuker is a novelist, most recently  the author of Anti Lebanon (2013), as well as Three Novellas for a Novel (2008), The Lazy Boys (2006), and The Method Actors (2005). He won the 2006 Prize in Modern Letters and was writer in residence at Victoria University in 2013. He lives in Wellington after many years in London and Tokyo.

Pip Adam has a PhD Creative Writing from Victoria University, and teaches creative writing at Massey University and the Institute of Modern Letters. She has published two books, I’m Working on a Building and Everything We Hoped For which won the the Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction in 2011. Pip runs Cats and Spaghetti Press with poet Emma Barnes, is producing a podcast called Better off Read, teaches creative writing at Arohata Prison and was this year’s judge for the novice section of the BNZ Literary Awards.