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Spread the words

A pen of writers (the jury is still out on the collective noun) filled the Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club conference room on Friday for the long-awaited launch of the anthology Kaituhi Rawhiti (Eastern scribes).

Edited by Aaron Compton, Christopher McMaster, Gillian Moon and Claire Price, the book is described as a celebration of East Coast writers.

Once the Tairawhiti Writers Hub members picked up the idea suggested by Moon, they called out for contributions and helped some writers shape their works for the publication.

Kaituhi Rawhiti opens with an enthusiastic introduction by Witi Ihimaera who likens the collection to hanging out with a group of Coasties at a beach barbecue before glasses are topped up and the guitars come out.

“These contributors each sing a mean waiata,” says the celebrated New Zealand author.

The anthology is made up of parts titled Story, Autobiography, That year called 2020, Graphic Story, Kaituhi rangatahi, Poetry, and Speculative and science fiction. A brief note introduces each section.

The passage of time and reflections on a life past runs through several stories in the first part and opens with Norman Maclean’s Stream of Thought, a smart play on the theme of a man’s life as like the river he watches as he recalls moments from the course of his life and ends with such perfectly attuned bathos the reader will want to go back over it several times.

In the same section is Robyn Owen’s powerful, gut-wrenching story of good intentions, A House on Huxley Road.

A mix of almost conversational yarns, such as Hughie Hughes’ Saving Des, Alison McKay’s straightforward account of a UFO sighting on the East Coast in the late 1950s, and Dan Witters’ profound story told with a light touch, View From a Fruitbox, can be found in the autobiographical section.

“The rangitahi section was amazing,” McMaster told guests at the launch.

He had worked with several to help them focus their ideas and shape their stories. He met with young authors, discussed their stories then they would take them away to work on them and bring them back for the next session, honing and polishing their works each time. Until . . .

“You’re published writers and in a book,” he said.

While the Covid-19 alert response contributed to the delay of publication, it did provide time and space for some writers.

Among them is Susan Partington who contemplates the silence and solitariness (a different thing from solitude) of lockdown and asks “Does an extrovert even exist in isolation?” Moon, on the other hand, took the opportunity to write poetry and letters daily.

Variety is key to the collection, which, as the cover design suggests, can be taken to the beach to dip into. All available copies sold out at the launch but can be ordered for $21.54 (incl GST) via a print-on-demand service via Book Depository at tinyurl.com/y8j56468. Delivery is free.

All funds raised from sales of the book will go towards future writing projects such as workshops or another publication.

EASTERN SCRIBES: The many contributors to the recently released anthology Kaituhi Rawhiti celebrate their achievement at the launch. Picture by Tom McGregor