It has been a busy term for the King’s College Writing Club. Most recently, we had a visiting lecturer, Mark Bond, who is currently completing his PhD in creative writing at the University of Auckland. Related to one Diego Gerbich-Pais in year 10 (see attached photo), Mark had a fantastic time and was impressed with the attentiveness and creativity of our students. He worked with our students for an afternoon and is happy to establish a long term connection with the College. We are incredibly grateful for his willingness to come out to us and spend time with our budding writers!
Below is a recount of the fantastic speakers at the Auckland Writers Festival by our club leaders, Brian Zhao and Kayo Takamatsu, followed by a piece also penned by Kayo, Road Trip.
Melyssa Banham, Teacher in Charge
This year, the King’s College Writing Club went on its annual trip to the Auckland Writers’ Festival at Aotea Square. Members new and old were excited to see they could learn from this congregation of literary talent. The day started with an early bus trip to Aotea Square, and to pass the time until our event, we withdrew to the cozy setting of a nearby Coffee Club. Some opted to enjoy themselves with a sweet drink whilst others shed their fatigue in preparation with a draught of liquid energy: coffee.
As the time to enter had approached, we journeyed into the facility, splitting into two groups for a workshop on as well as a public event with a guest speaker. As the space for the workshop was limited, only two members of the club participated, myself and my co-leader Kayo Takamatsu. It was directed by established New Zealand writer Eileen Merriman. Her awards include a 2018 Storyline Notable Book Award for Pieces of You, first place in the 2015 Graeme Lay Short Story competition, second place in the 2015 Bath Flash Fiction Award, second place in the 2018 Sunday Star Times Short Story competition, and placing third for three years running in the 2014-2016 Sunday
Star Times Competitions. Both Pieces of You and Catch Me When You Fall were finalists in the 2018 NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The workshop was intended to help us develop and create convincing characters, and Kayo’s work in this session won her a collection of Eileen’s most recent books.
Miss Banham accompanied the remaining members to an enjoyable series of guest speakers hailing from a range of backgrounds, offering entertaining and educational speeches.
During the time-slot of the workshop, the author Marcus Zusak (The Book Thief) spoke on his views of writing and ideas, as well as the incredible success of his famous work and its influence on his latest work Bridge of Clay. Following up this act was award-winning hip-hop artist, social entrepreneur and bestselling author, Akala with Hip-Hop Shakespeare. Exploring the historical greats of Shakespeare and drawing comparison to the works of more modern hip-hop artists, Akala most helped us to view the arts differently. He does so by showing how the “culture and language of hip-hop and Shakespeare have the power to transgress race, class and the iambic pentameter”, to quote the festival committee.
After Akala, was Eileen Merriman once more, this time speaking more in-depth about her own works and the themes of unconventional love, bullying, and identity within her stories. Many of her characters have to come to terms with their own issues, and these circumstances are portrayed so thoughtfully that these characters are indeed credible and instantly relatable. In a time where teens may have become more emotionally closed-off, Eileen’s exploration of youth and adolescence is a welcome experience.
Last but not least, Renee Watson took the stage. She is a well known New York Times author, educator, and activist. As a proud African-American woman she spoke for intersectional feminism in our modern generation as a woman of colour, and explained how she draws upon both these experiences to enliven her work. Racism is a prominent issue in our current society, but by no means has this prevented Renee from being inspirational and successful.
Having enjoyed the collective insights of so many different and varying perspectives, the club members returned back to school by bus. No doubt we were tired from the long day, but we all left the festival inspired and eager to write, with new techniques and promising ideas in mind!
by Kayo Takamatsu
They are driving along the highway out of the Badlands, him and Michael. Both of ‘em are in Mick’s camper-van, windows rolled down and cigarette smoke pouring out. Jeremy doesn’t fancy the smell, but he’s much too anxious to point it out. He’s thrumming with nervous energy, which he releases by attacking his own passenger-side window with his fingernail. Like a jackrabbit.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The van jolts over a bump in the road. Jeremy looks back at Mick, startled, but he doesn’t seem to have noticed. Mick has one arm on the wheel and the other out the window, lounging in the way he does, long limbs stretching lazily in the sun. Like a lizard, or something, one of those Australian animals Jeremy never really liked, either.
Man, if he’d had a choice, he wouldn’t be taking the van. But he didn’t. Youngest of the group never got first dibs.
He can imagine the rest of the guys at the airport, laughing and wheeling their suitcases along, kicking back in a cushioned chair with armrests. Imagine that! Armrests! Closest he’s got is this dang open window.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
He looks outside. It’s a white-hot New Mexico sun again today, searing the ground into dry clumps of red clay. What little plant life has the tenacity to grow here has been baked to a crisp. Like an oven, Dell always says.
Don’t get much worse than Bee Cave do, but there ain’t no sweet tea around.
They pass one car travelling down the opposite lane of the road. It whizzes past, and Jeremy barely has time to register its colour let alone its model. He wishes he knew how to drive. Maybe then everybody would take him seriously.