Podcasts will be available from their website http://www.freshfm.net
Well since my last blog I have been in Christchurch, Balclutha ( where ‘it’ all began), Dunedin, Auckland (including the amazing zoo), Wellington and Greytown, Wairarapa.
In between I prepared and delivered a talk for about 300 9-13 year-olds at the Mapua Literary Festival, managing to keep them entertained with the help of a good moose hunting story, a wolf’s pelt and about 70 photos of bush Alaska!
"In the Mapua Hall for 9-13 year-olds, Emma Stevens entertained with a talk, slides and wonderful items from her Alaskan adventure Walking on Ice. Briefed to please be adventurous and gory for this young crowd of about 300, Emma fulfilled the purpose completely by bringing amongst many fascinating items and stories, a stuffed wolf's head in a bag." (Tasman Leader Sept 21). We generated a lot of heat it in there!
Along with all this travelling, talk-preparing and delivering, I have now completed recording the entire Walking on Ice memoir for radio, which began this week and will be aired every Mon, Wed and Fri at 10:30 am on Nelson’s Fresh FM. Each week's recordings will play again every Saturday night between 7-8 pm.
Podcasts will be available from their website http://www.freshfm.net
Ever since my arrival in Nelson ten years ago, I have been searching for Paratai’s daughter Moana, convinced that Paratai had told me she lived here. Paratai, my Maori kuia had died when I was living in Chevak, Alaska. Last Tuesday I attended a tāngi (funeral), where I finally learned of Moana’s whereabouts. I had been searching under the wrong name! A call later that night put us in touch.
The following day I finally met Moana, who is the image of her mother. As though Paratai was pushing us together we fell into each other’s arms. “I can feel Mum with us,” Moana said through sobs. I nodded, too choked up to speak. Hugging Moana felt just like hugging Paratai.
We found a café in the grounds of Founders Park and pored over the photo albums Moana had brought. I gave her copies of my Alaskan memoirs in which Paratai lives on. Dancing on the Tundra includes a dedication to her memory. We talked and talked and talked.
I left Moana to attend a meeting at Fresh FM radio station. This meeting was to pursue an idea spawned by a comment the sound technician made after recording an interview for Top of the South writers the week before.*
“Have you considered serialising your book Walking on Ice, Emma?” Fifteen minutes later we had a verdict. “Let’s do it!”
So hold on to your hats folks, Walking on Ice is about to be serialised, thanks to Fresh FM Nelson. It will be read...ta da te da...by ME!
The 15-20 minute-broadcast of Walking on Ice will begin on Monday Sept 25th at 10:30 am with subsequent broadcasts on Wednesday and Friday at the same time. The serial with continue to be broadcast for 7 weeks, every Mon, Wed, Fri until the story is finished. Each Saturday night at 7pm there will be a catch-up session of the previous week's recordings.
Fresh FM is a Community Access radio station which can be heard on 104.8 in Nelson-Tasman, 95.0 in Takaka and 88.9 in Blenheim. It also operates in the inner Nelson City area on 107.2. Apparently there is also a possibility that other FM stations will pickup the program and broadcast them in different centres.
This exciting development means that I will be creating audio files of Walking on Ice that I can subsequently release as an audio book; something that so many of you have asked for.
Whew…. Ain’t some days just straight out of the box?
* My author interview will air on election day Sept 23rd at 11am, and again on Monday 25th at 11am, following the first two chapters of Walking on Ice. www.topwriters.co.nz/radio-show.html
I know it has been a while since I have written a blog, but you see it has all been the fault of numbers. Let me explain.
I noticed after my last rash of blogs (I think eight in a row, a week apart), that my writings had not generated much more interest than usual. Why was this? Maybe, I thought, I am overloading my gentle readers. Maybe (pleasant holiday thought), I could take a bit of a rest.
Later that morning I cooked Kotz a state-of-the-art breakfast and we sat together on our sunny deck enjoying the food, the company and the array of bird activities we could spy from our eating position.
“Look at the tuis!” Kotzman exclaimed watching two native birds sucking from the water feeder I had positioned in the front garden. Enjoying the view, food and company a thought occurred to me. Smiling sweetly at him I asked an impromptu question.
“So sweetheart, as a wife what mark out of ten would I get?”
I was truly confident with Kotz’s gentle nature and my spectacular attention to his every need my score would be hovering in the upper nines. Kotz looked at me and without even a loving twinkle in his eye to show any usual joking he might mean, he solemnly declared, “Six point five.”
The sound of my jaw hitting the table ricocheted around the South Island.
“What?” I gasped, looking at him in total horror, “Why is it so low?”
“Well honey,” Kotz said, reaching across the table, patting my hand in an apparent attempt to dissipate the shocked expression on my face. “When we came back to New Zealand ten years ago, you told me you’d show me the North Island.” He paused and looked at me wistfully. “You know I haven’t seen any of it yet!”
That piece of important information set off an avalanche of activity.
Since then thanks to Grabaseat-cheap AIr New Zealand flights, and Airbnb, we have visited Wellington, Auckland, and are about to head to Christchurch/ Dunedin, then back to Auckland and Wellington.
This flurry of travel has of course kept me from my writing desk, and even though I am booked to give many talks up and down the country, my main focus is currently raising my score with Kotz.
This very morning I dared ask again.
“Don’t worry honey,” Kotz replied happily, “you’re in the high eights!”
Hmm, he obviously wants more travel, I thought. So if you find the blogs are a little spread out, then guess what I will be doing- playing the numbers game.
While writing my childhood memoirs, I totally lose track of the time. When my head comes up from the keyboard, I am disoriented, momentarily even forgetting which house I am in. You see I travel back in time, and find my youthful self in my classroom, bedroom or backyard. As soon as I am there, so many related memories come flooding back. In fact, at times I can’t type fast enough to get all of those memories down.
Early in the week, I asked one of my friends about some details of our early childhood classroom. ‘Oh I can’t remember that,’ she said. I then read her some of the memoir I’d been writing about that time. Several days later she spoke to me again, ‘It was funny Em, after you read to me it made me start thinking about that time, and now so many memories have come back!’
Many years ago, I worked as an EEG technician, running electroencephalograms to detect brain injury and evidence of seizures. My position was in a clinic at the local psychiatric hospital, where I saw both inpatients and outpatients. Many of the inpatients were convinced I was going to give ECT, Electroconvulsive Treatment, something that the hospital had retained as part of its battery of ‘fixes’ for severe depression. The fact that I was dressed like a technician, and there was a bed for patients to lie down, also didn’t help. The names EEG and ECT looked and sounded similar to some patients and I suppose me placing wires all over the patient’s head did nothing to quell their fears, no matter how many times I tried to calmly explain that my test was painless.
One day after arriving in the clinic, a highly anxious elderly patient became gradually convinced that he recognised me. 'I know you, you performed a tonsillectomy on me in 1936!' he finally shouted, his frail body suddenly developing muscles of steel. He lunged, holding me by the throat until the two stunned orderlies accompanying him were able to loosen his grip. It was obvious something about the setting and experience had stimulated that distant memory in him.
So while immersing in and then emerging from my writing this week, I’ve been pondering this. I have thought about pockets of memory and what evokes them. I’ve even decided that helping others access their precious memories may be the most important role of a memoir writer. A reader once told me, 'You know sharing your stories has just brought to mind, so many of mine!'
This week has been busy, as per usual. I have been singing with my choir, I attended Tai Chi practice plus two classes of Zumba, took my mother to the beach for a picnic and to town, plus another picnic at Monaco ( she adores picnics). I have also been preparing the studio for a special visitor this coming Sunday/ Monday, baking cheese scones (it was raining), cooking and gardening, reading Arctic Village by Robert Marshall, chatting online daily with my daughter Ella, meeting a visiting border collie (plus owner) for Kotz’s dog sitting business (i.e. cigar earning business); doing my usual self-publishing tasks and of course, writing. All in all a pretty normal week for me.
Throughout the week, and during most of the above activities, my mind kept straying back to a podcast I listened to at Ella’s suggestion; “Getting Noticed in a Noisy World with Your First Book,” with Michael Hyatt (As below).
Now as you probably know, I have already written and self-published a trilogy of Alaskan memoirs: Walking on Ice, Nesting on the Nushagak and Dancing on the Tundra. I am currently working on another memoir, this time about my childhood, entitled Stories for Upstairs. So even though I am not writing my ‘first book’, this podcast, as promised was still very helpful and just so full of great advice. Hearing this expert advice has served as a timely reminder of all the things I still need to be doing, especially being a citizen of the digital world. Here is an example just for starters:“Start a blog” (check)…”Keep blogging regularly” (check)...“Understand what your audience wants/ dreams/ aspires to” (um)…“How can you help?” (Ummm)...
I do have my own theories in answer to these questions, but would love to hear from you, and know more about you. If you would like to answer any of the above questions, I would LOVE to hear from you. Please leave a comment, or write me an email. You never know, the feedback you give me may even make it into next week’s blog!
There is just so much to organise yourself when you are a self-publishing author. I have been thinking that I really need a PA because my daily tasks before getting to the writing part are just so time consuming.
Here is a taste of my daily world:
Having thought about all this, I am realizing that Kotz is a actually a very good PA for me and I am lucky. He provides ongoing positive encouragement, even when I am exhausted. He gives me reminders – ”What’s happening this week, honey?” He is my box and luggage-toter, as well as my postie. His ears are always flapping to hear any piece of writing I may be doing.
So I am grateful for my very own PA; even if he does continue to puff on his beloved cigars when I read to him, leaving me wondering if it is the cigars or the writing that lowers his lids in definite pleasure.
My public speaking journey really began back in 2008 when I gave a talk at the Motueka Community Centre. This first public talk was organised by Anne, a secretary at the nearby Parklands School who heard me speak, show some Alaskan artefacts to one of the classes, and watched the enthralled reaction. "Would you be happy to share your stories to a local community group, Emma?" she asked. Since that initial meeting I have been invited to speak to many groups, probably well over sixty by now, all subsequent invitations spawned from members of my audiences, and through word of mouth.
I had actually planned on writing an Alaskan memoir before this public speaking circuit began. It was why I wrote regular newsletters home in my early years of living in bush Alaska; knowing the newsletters would remind me of details of the adventures I was having. These early presentations confirmed that desire. My audiences told me, “Write your stories down Emma, we’d love to read them!”
Over the years I have honed this public speaking to what I think is quite a fine art. I have my special book boxes, display boards, maps, photos and artefacts, reader copies and anecdotes all prepared. Sometimes afterwards, I even make notes about what topics I have covered, in case I am asked back for another talk. This allows me to refresh my memory beforehand and not repeat myself. I always tell the organisers of my talks that I do not charge but ask for two things instead; one is an opportunity to sell my books, the second a petrol voucher to help with travel costs.
This past week I spoke to a Probus group in Christchurch. The turnout to this week’s talk was about 100 members and in the excited rush to buy a copy after I finished speaking, one poor buyer ended up with my personal copy of Dancing on the Tundra that I had left lying on the sales table. This ‘author’s copy’ was filled with hand written notes and coloured post-its for selected readings!
The whole situation was caused by under-supply. There were not enough books out on display. Having had so many public speaking experiences by now, I was cross that I had arrived under-prepared. I usually carry extra stock with me in my car. Kotz and I had driven to Christchurch from Nelson via Hanmer Springs where I inadvertently left the extra box of books in our motel room. After the talk, Kotz was fielding as many questions as I was and we were both unable to carefully monitor the book sales.
I contacted the club to let them know, as well as to offer a sparkling new copy of the book to swap for the less than pristine copy in some poor buyer’s hands. I await contact with bated breath...
The journey of a self-published author is one of continuous learning and improvement but you know, I wouldn't have it any other way.
I have spent the last week in Auckland, doing interviews for radio and TV, catching up with my editor Jo, all the while fielding the most common question, “So what’s next?”
It is not that I haven’t contemplated that question; indeed it has been humming under the daily demands of promoting Dancing on The Tundra. However this current trip - I am writing this at Wellington airport en route from Auckland home to Nelson - has given me time and distance for clearer focus and so, ta dah de dah, I have finally decided what’s next!
You see the beginning of this serious writing to publication journey that now seems ages ago, was my desire to finally publish the book of memoirs about my childhood growing up in New Zealand that started as an oral tradition while I lived in Australia. I first began to share these stories with my class at an alternative school in Sydney. I told them tales that magically kept those bright and precocious children quiet and enthralled. This allowed me to hone my storytelling skills into a powerful teaching tool that I successfully used as a reward when my class's behaviour warranted an unexpected break from the usual timetable.
These stories always managed to bring the 8-13 year-olds to a total hush, while I teased out the climax, sometimes not finishing the story till the following day. “To be continued, ” I would tell them.
I imagined their interest was spawned in hearing stories about their teacher’s childhood growing up in Whanganui; some of the painful, funny and naughty things she did (too)? I have since shared those stories with Aboriginal, Eskimo and Kiwi children, and their universal appeal has remained as strong as ever.
One of my pupils from my alternative school days recently wrote, “Your stories were always engrossing Emma, they contained a simple but profound message. I loved them!”
So now gentle reader, you can say, “I know what Emma is publishing next!”
https://www.facebook.com/thecafenz/ ( Go to the page scroll down and click on videos and voilà!)
One of the highlights of this past week was entertaining an Alaskan husband and wife who have both been bush pilots. We met this couple via the NZ Society of Authors, when I gave a talk about my Alaskan memoirs. Both Gary and I were greatly entertained over lunch at our place, at their stories of flying in white-out conditions, their hunting and fishing escapades involving the Alaskan favourite characters: salmon, caribou, moose and bears, and their ‘near miss’ or ‘lucky me’ stories.
But the downside of all of this reminiscing is that it sets the mind back to Alaska, that great white place of adventure in the Far North, and unsettles the equilibrium of ‘just being at home’. Any quiet enjoyment of the mundane is thrown askew; hedge trimming, rose pruning or a gentle wander along the country road don’t really seem to cut it when images of rearing grizzlies and murky flying conditions are only a recent memory away.
This weekend I am preparing to fly to Auckland to record another radio interview and head into the TVNZ studios to talk about my writing on TV3’s breakfast programme, The Café.
That more exciting prospect is now looming in my mind, cleverly subverting the ordinary while I attempt to select appropriate attire to wear, wonder about the effects of Cyclone Cook on my travel plans, and enjoy the luxury of the more hectic and exhilarating schedule of a self-published author.
I guess this writing business does have its upsides…
Last week I learned that my mid week prerecorded Radio Live interview, would go to air at 12:50 on Sunday. Instead of excitement, this news filled me with dread; I had spent days post-interview berating myself for a variety of errors and blunders I knew I had made. These included talking over Ryan my interviewer, correcting mistakes he made during the recording, but worst of all ‘gabbling’- my mother’s term to describe the speed of my talking, especially when I am nervous. I convinced myself there was no way I was ever going to comfortably sit listening to this recording, especially knowing friends would listen to it.
My husband, Kotz, however, had other ideas. “Oh honey, I’m sure it will be great!” “I think you are exaggerating the problems!” and so on. He was up in the Kahurangi National Park with our Pilot Station visitors while I recorded that interview, so how did he know?
Sunday dawned and Kotz unplugged his precious multi band radio from his workshop, carried it up onto our covered deck and set it up in a grandstand position on the centre table, carefully placing a semi circle of chairs to face it. The setup reminded me of my childhood days, waiting by the large radio set with my sister for our favourite program Life with Dexter to begin.
Kotz then made drinks and called all to the deck to await the promised hour. Everyone seemed to forget any interesting alternate activities for a beautiful sunny Nelson day, at least until the darned thing was over. Kotz checked and double-checked the radio frequency that I had dutifully copied down, then as our little group sat there, I held my breath awaiting my public humiliation.
But 12:50 came, then 12:50 went and still the announcer gave no indication of any forthcoming author interview. My relief at this unexpected development inspired some of my excuses: “Oh, it must’ve needed too much editing,” “They probably decided I was gabbling too much!”
I leapt from my seat leaving the others sitting there still staring at the radio, in the hopes of managing to conjure the elusive interview from the machine. I tried hard to match their consternation but was actually jumping for internal joy.
It was not until I checked my inbox about 30 minutes later, that I discovered it was filled with messages like “Congratulations, great interview!” “Loved it!’ “Brilliant!” and so on.
It appeared that the interview had been aired at the correct time, and that my fears of ruining it were unfounded.
There are further interviews scheduled, and my husband has decided to search these out himself, believing I deliberately misled him with the frequency of the radio program. I can honestly tell you gentle readers, I definitely did not.
Link to the RadioLive interview:
About My Blog
Resettled in New Zealand with my husband, I began writing about my experiences with him in Alaska.
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