Five Blogs I Like. Chapter 1: The First Five

A week or so ago, writer Debbie Cowens very kindly nominated me for a Prolific Blogger Award, as part of which, all the nominees are invited to nominate seven prolific bloggers of their own.

Although I decided not to go down the Prolific Blogger route (because I’m, like, a rebel), it did remind me that I’d fallen out of the habit of posting here about other blogs I enjoy reading, even if I don’t catch up with them as often as I’d like. So I’ve decided to institute a semi-regular series called “Five Blogs I Like”.

Some of my favourite bloggers are far more prolific than I, while others maintain a posting average of about once a month. You’ll find all sorts in here, and they won’t all be writing blogs, or New Zealand blogs – but in this first instalment, I’m going to feature five New Zealand writing blogs I have liked ever since I first set on eyes on them.

Helen Rickerby: Winged Ink. Helen is a fine poet, a publisher, and a person who always has interesting things to say. Her blog was one of those I modelled “Books In The Trees” on when I began it, and the other such blog was …

Harvey Molloy: Notebook. This blog features news of Harvey’s life, thoughts on poetry & existence, and now and then some of his wonderful poems, like this one: After New Year.

Kay McKenzie Cooke: made for weather. Kay is one of my favourite poets. Her work has an added appeal for me because it’s often about Southland, the province I grew up in and often write about in my own poetry. Not only that, but she illustrates it with great photos as well.

Meliors Simms: Bibliophilia. Meliors is very talented as both a poet and an artist, with her work recently having been a finalist for a national arts prize. Plus, Antarctic art, and discussions of Kim Stanley Robinson!

Graham Beattie: Beatties Book Blog. This blog, which Graham Beattie updates several times a day – he truly deserves the title of Prolific Blogger – is a trade journal for the New Zealand publishing industry, from beneath the surface of which literary disputes occasionally burst into the open. It’s an essential resource for working writers in New Zealand.

Coming Attractions, Bloggy Goodness, and A Little Bit of History

Coming Attractions

As Helen Lowe pointed out to me recently, I haven’t run many interviews with poets on my blog this year. But this is about to change! Because Montana Poetry Day is on Friday 24 July, several poetry books are being launched on or about this date, and I will be interviewing three poets with books just on the shelves: Mary Cresswell, Joanna Preston, and Tim Upperton. I’m also going to review Mark Pirie’s verse novel Tom.

As promised in Part 1 of Down in the Flood, I’m going to marshal my thoughts on the topic of creative writing about climate change, and I am hoping to have another guest blogger add some informed comment to my usual wild speculation in the fairly near future.

And, of course, I’ll fill up the remaining posts myself with a tantalising mixture of celebrity gossip, multi-level marketing schemes, and anecdotes about our cat. Who is good at catching mice, but less good because she keeps insisting on bringing them inside and releasing them in our lounge.

Hello, Bloggy Goodness!

In the left column, you’ll find links to a lot of fascinating blogs, both New Zealand and international, which I try to visit and check out when I have time, either directly or through Google Reader. One day, I’ll add a list of blogs with recent updates, but that time is not yet.

I don’t have time to visit half the blogs I would like to half as often as I’d like (to misquote Bilbo Baggins), but here’s a few I’ve found myself drawn to lately (in addition to blogs I’ve previously posted about here and here and here and all the way back to here):

  • Jack Ross doesn’t post often, but what he does post is usually fascinating. I found his recent post on the Tolkien industry especially interesting.
  • Thoughts from Botswana, by Lauri Kubuitsile, is a fascinating insight into living and writing in Botswana.
  • When it comes to the hard, cold practicalities of commercial publishing, there are few places more reliable – and at times more sobering – than Jane Smith’s How Publishing Really Works.
  • And here’s an even scarier blog for writers trying to get publishers and agents interested in their work!
  • Kay McKenzie Cooke is a fine poet whose blog made for weather is not only interesting to read, but lavishly illustrated. A thing of beauty!

A Little Bit of History

There’s a historical writing competition on in my old home town, Gore. Here are the details (thanks to Rosemarie Smith for this information):



Buildings, Businesses, Breadwinners and By-standers

If buildings could talk, what stories would they tell?

Entries should be essays of 1500 words or more, with photographic illustrations if possible, on a topic relating to a specific building or business in Gore, Mataura or the rural districts. Essays should contain some original research, and preferably have some emphasis on the period 1930-60.

Entries to be delivered to:

Gore Historical Society
16 Norfolk Street
PO Box 305
by 21 September 2009

There is one remaining workshop to assist with research and writing: Tuesday 23 June and 21 July at 7.30pm, St Andrews Hall, Gore

Further information: 208 7032 or 208 4822 or heritage (at)

Blogs in Their Summer Clothes – 2

This is the second in an occasional series highlighting blogs and other sites to which I link from “Books in the Trees”. In the first instalment, I said a little bit about the blogs of Harvey Molloy, Helen Rickerby, Giant Sparrow, Meliors Simms and Kay McKenzie Cooke. Here’s another four blogs, and one web site, worthy of your attention.

  • I mentioned in the first instalment that Harvey and Helen’s blogs had served as role models for me when I first set up this blog. That’s true, but going a little further back, it was Fionnaigh McKenzie’s blog Beautiful Monsters that first made me realise that a blog could be a work of art – not that I’m claiming the same status for “Books in the Trees”. Fionnaigh, who was another member of the CREW 256 “Writing the Landscape” class in 2003, is a fine poet who infuses her blog with the same spirit as her poetry.
  • I met Edwin McRae through the New Zealand Society of Authors Mentoring Scheme. As well as being a cyberpunk writer, Edwin is a storyliner for Shortland Street – so he knows the inside goss before anyone else, because he thinks it up!
  • Reading the Maps is a multi-author blog about literature, Marxism, and much else besides. I got in a bit of a stoush with them over their coverage of Bernard Gadd’s death and literary/ideological views, but I still return there regularly for refreshing literary and political opinion.
  • James Dignan has a website rather than a blog – but “Blogs and Websites in Their Summer Clothes” sounds cumbersome, so I’m not going to change the title. I have known James for many years – since around 1986, in fact, when we were both involved in organising Halleycon, that year’s NZ National Science Fiction Convention. A writer and musician when I first met him, his career as a visual artist and art reviewer for the Otago Daily Times has since taken off.
  • Finally for this instalment, I don’t know John Crowley personally, but I do know and love his fiction, which occupies a space all of its own, somewhere between metaphysics, fantasy and realism. High points of his career include Little, Big; the Aegypt tetralogy; and The Translator. He’s the only fantasy writer I know whose work has been ringingly endorsed by Harold Bloom

Enough for now. But I’ll be back with another five blogs (or sites) to watch out for sometime in the not too distant future.

Blogs in Their Summer Clothes – 1

I link to a number of writers’ and artists’ blogs. You can find those links nestled down in the left-hand column of this page, under the Blog Archive, but I thought it was time I gave some of them a bit more prominence. So here’s five presented, as they say in Hollywood, “For Your Consideration”.

In a subsequent post, I’ll look at some more blogs, and at a discontinued New Zealand literary site that still speaks, from time to time, from a little to the east and somewhere beyond the veil.

When I started work on “Books in the Trees”, there were two existing blogs I turned to as role models: Harvey Molloy’s Notebook and Helen Rickerby’s Winged Ink.

Harvey and I have a number of things in common: we’re both poets, we both hail from the north of England, and we both write science fiction poetry. Not surprisingly, we’re friends! Harvey’s blog, with its mixture of news, writing and reviews, continues to be an inspiration.

Helen Rickerby, also a friend, is a poet, publisher, and encyclopedist. One of the things she publishes is JAAM, the Wellington literary magazine of which I’m editing Issue 26. Helen also runs Seraph Press, which publishes a (so far) small range of exceptionally handsome books.

Helen also plays a valuable role in encouraging her associate, the mysterious Giant Sparrow, to grace the blogosphere more frequently. Giant Sparrow is a deep thinker and fine writer with an enduring faith in the existence of places where anything is possible, such as the theatre.

Finally in this instalment, two bloggers whose blogging forte is a synthesis of words and images. I have known Meliors Simms for a long time, even though we go for many years without seeing each other. She combines visual art and poetry in her arresting and beautiful handmade books, and her Bibliophilia blog showcases the combination.

On the other hand, I don’t believe I’ve ever met Kay McKenzie Cooke, but we both have strong connections with Southland, Dunedin, and their wildlife and landscapes. She’s a fine poet, photographer and excellent blogger with an an output — and range of blogs – that puts mine to shame. Her as it happens blog is a good place to start.

So there’s a few blogs I like. But there’s more! Check them out at the left of this page, or look out for my next post about the blogs I link to. They may be wearing autumn clothes by then.