Monday, December 23, 2013

Seasons Greetings from the Michael King Writers’ Centre

Michael King Writers' Centre Trust  Enewsletter
Writers' Centre from the road
Newsletter Summer 2013

Eleanor Catton and catThe last three months of 2013 have brought wonderful highs and great disruptions.

The highlight of the whole year, of course, was Eleanor Catton winning the Man Booker Prize for The Luminaries, which she worked on while she held her residency at the centre last year (as in the photo).

We also had a very stimulating residential workshop on Writing the Arts: The Explanatory Word in October. Twenty-nine highly talented mid-career writers took part in the workshop, along with nearly 20 fantastic speakers and panellists. My brain was buzzing for days afterwards. One of the great things about the workshop was that the participants got a huge amount from meeting each other, and we got a huge amount from meeting them.

Our Young Writers Programme, ably led by Ros Ali and Jo Emeney, has been just as exciting this year, with 120 senior students from all over Auckland taking part in one of three one-day workshops and four master classes. Signals Issue 2 2013The programme culminated with the launch of the second issue of Signals, a literary journal especially for young writers. The journal showcases poems and prose pieces by 16 students. It was designed and laid out by our current writer-in-residence, the multi-talented Sarah Laing, with student Megan Woodhead contributing the back cover.

We have also had some excellent events, starting with the Mega Copyright Debate in September, a Heritage Walk of Takarunga Mt Victoria the same month, a beautiful rehearsed reading of Michelanne Forster’s play Always My Sister (written when she held her residency in 2011) and an author event with Sarah Laing in conversation with fellow writers Sue Orr and Bianca Zander in November.

At the same time, we were calling for applications for our 2014 residency programme. Applications came in from 70 writers. Peter Simpson, who headed the selection panel, said the quality was spectacular. There were so many writers and projects we would have been pleased to support, but only four can be selected. The committee could not have been happier with the writers chosen: Alice Miller (Summer Residency), Peter Wells (Autumn Residency) and Kelly Ana Morey (Maori Writer’s Residency) and Anne Kennedy, who will take up the six-month University of Auckland Residency in July. 
We look forward to having them here.

All of these activities have been taking place in the midst of chaos and disruption at the centre itself. The Auckland Council has had major strengthening work done on the heritage Signalman’s House, where we are based. The building has been re-piled, chimneys reinforced, barge boards and veranda deck replaced, new front steps added and original detailing on the verandah balustrade has been reinstated. Because of the location of the house on one of Auckland’s volcanic cones, the work was supervised by a heritage architect, an archaeologist and a representative of the new Tamaki Collective.
Strengthening work underway

My hat goes off to the builders, who had to dig the piles by hand. They did an incredible job and the house will look wonderful when it is finished. Needless to say, the work was very disruptive to all of our writers and building users. My colleague Tania Stewart and I had a mobile office set up and worked on in the middle of the building site as long as we could, with jack hammers and skill saws providing a musical background. Everything should be back to normal for 2014. 

Please look at our Facebook page or web site for photos of the house and all of our events and activities, and look out for what we will be up to next year.

Coming up we have an open day for the Auckland Anniversary Regatta and an author event with Deborah Shepard at the Takapuna Library on February 12. We are working with Deborah on a series of master classes on Writing Your Heart Out: The Art and Craft of Memoir, expected tostart in March.

We would like to thank all of our supporters, funders and writers and wish them the very best for the festive season and for the year ahead.  I would also like to thank our hard-working trustees, Tania who helps to hold the fort here, the wonderful leader of the Devonport Friends group, Lynn Dawson, and the Friends volunteers who help out in so many important ways.

Best wishes to all for the holiday season,
Karren Beanland
Signalman's House, Mount Victoria, Devonport, Auckland 0624, New Zealand
Postal address: PO Box 32 629, Devonport, Auckland 0744. Phone/fax: 09 445 8451
Email:  Web:

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