Lively evening in prospect as five locals launch new books

A book launch with a difference at the Old School Arts Centre next Thursday promises words, whimsy, wonder and wit from no fewer than five local authors with newly published titles.

There’ll be wine too as the five writers – some of them also artists – aim for an evening  where lively literary discussion flows in a “salon atmosphere”.

Award-winning children’s author Sarah Johnson says the group wants to replicate in Raglan something of that age-old ‘salon’ tradition in which writers celebrate and bring to life publicly their latest works.

The five wordsmiths – Merren Tait, Wanda Barker, Dyana Wells, Matt Kambic and Sarah – are all part of the fledgling Inkspillers collective and, as such, support one another locally through an often difficult pathway towards publication.

To have most of their eight members able to launch new books at the same time is testimony to the collective’s diligence. “We take the business of writing seriously … and try to maintain a professional focus,” explains Sarah.

“We want to raise the profile of writing,” adds Wanda, also an artist who has just opened a gallery at her Hills Rd property. The pristine white gallery-cum-studio – once panelbeater Denny Robertson’s workshop – now also showcases not only Wanda’s and other local art but also the Inkspillers’ published works.

While Wanda has neither poetry nor novella on offer this time round, she is launching two books her late mother Marcia wrote and illustrated as gifts to her grandchildren. “She would be delighted that other children might enjoy them.”

Wanda considered editing and updating the stories – ABC and Fantasy Land – but reckons Marcia’s ghost tapped her shoulder and said “leave them, they’re of their time”.

Sarah’s latest work is a picture book, The Garden’s Secret, which will get a second launch days later at Hamilton Gardens where it is set. Aimed at children aged two to six years old, the commissioned work sets out to capture the magic of the iconic riverside gardens.

The story, along with illustrations by Waikato artist Deborah Hinde, encapsulates the essence of the widely visited attraction through the eyes of a child entering each themed garden through different doors.

Meanwhile Merren – whose shift from an urban to rural lifestyle last year inspired the first of a series of stand-alone novels about the good life – has now penned her second book entitled Bluffing for Beginners, described by Amazon NZ as “a quirky romantic comedy”.

Merren, who’s feeling validated as an author after winning the chick lit section of the international Indie Book Awards for her debut work The Year of the Fox, says she’s “very excited” to be launching her follow-up work.

For something completely different, Dyana Wells has published her third and final autobiographical novel entitled My True Names. The work is based on both true sailing adventures and the mystery of the mind, an area in which Dyana has been studying Tibetan Buddhadharma for the past 30 years.

In the words of Amazon: “The focus of all Dyana’s investigating and avid questioning has been to understand life and how to live well.”

Finally, there are two books from award-winning author and artist Matt Kambic: Last Voyage of the S.S. Panglossian, described as an “unusual science-fiction graphic novel” produced with colleague Matthew Kennedy from his native US; and an illustrated children’s book, The Walking Stick, produced with partner Alison Annals.

*All are welcome to Five Authors Book Launch at the Old School Arts Centre in Stewart St, Thursday November 19 at 7pm.

Edith Symes