Climate Fiction, Climate Fact: My Writers in Schools visit to Nelson-Tasman

Tim Jones running a Writers in Schools workshop at Motueka High School

In early August, shortly before large parts of the country went into COVID lockdown, I visited 5 schools in Nelson-Tasman on a visit organised by the Read NZ Te Pou Muramura Writers in Schools scheme and sponsored by the Rātā Foundation.

Writers in School is a very worthwhile scheme that connects schools who want writers to visit, with writers who are keen to visit! I’ve done some individual school visits under the scheme before – the most recent, a very enjoyable visit to Wellington East Girls’ School to do a Q&A with a class who’d been reading my climate fiction novella Where We Land – but never a tour.

The trip was initiated by Motueka High School, who asked whether I could come to the school for a series of talks and workshops with their students on writing climate fiction and non-fiction. I said I’d like to do that if the trip could be combined with visits to other schools in the region, and thanks to excellent cooperation between Nelson-Tasman schools and ReadNZ, I ended up visiting five schools in three days:

Nelson College
Tapawera Area School
Motueka High School
Waimea College
Waimea Intermediate

I ran workshops and gave talks on writing climate fiction, writing fiction in general, and writing opinion pieces (“columns”), with students ranging from Year 5 to Year 13.

What did I take away? First of all, much as I enjoyed the visit, I was shattered after three days – I have no idea how teachers do it for week after week! Both the students, and the teachers and librarians, I met inspired me.

Talking of teachers, I very much appreciated the lovely hospitality I was offered, which kept me fed and watered throughout my tight schedule. My lunch wth the English teachers at Motueka High School was a particular highlight.

My final session finished the tour on a high note. I had only an hour with this self-selected groups of keen readers and writers in Years 7 and 8 at Waimea College, and my energy was down by the time I got there, but the group’s knowledge of and enthusiasm for writing was remarkable. When we did a brainstorm on “what makes stories work well”, one young student replied “foreshadowing and foretelling”, and when I asked her what those were, she gave a much better explanation than I could have done, with relevant examples!

I loved seeing the enthusiasm of the students, yet I couldn’t help asking myself: what sort of future are these young people facing? More and worse storms. More fires. More floods – all of which have hit the Nelson-Tasman region in the last couple of years. And the sea creeping ever upwards, ever inwards. It isn’t their fault. It isn’t even our fault, unless you happen to be, for example, a senior oil company executive or a coal mine owner. But it’s up to all of us to demand and take action to cut emissions sharply now, because if we don’t, an already dangerous future is bound to become much worse.

Herald of Poseidon: Here’s how I appeared to one student at Motueka High School. (For the record, I am flattered by this portrait!)


Handwriting and hand-drawn image of Tim Jones by a Motueka High School student

Photos and image credits from my day at Motueka High School: https://www.facebook.com/motuekahslibrary




My CoNZealand Climate Change Panels

Panel replays currently available for ConZealand members include these panels I took part in:

Climate Change and Conventions (first panel on this list)

Climate Fiction/Climate Fact (fifth panel on this list)

Check out all the great panels, readings etc that are available on replay!

What’s this all about?

CoNZealand, the 78th World Science Fiction Convention is over! The first to be based in Aotearoa, and the first to be held virtually.

There is so much to say about the convention – for now, I’m just going to congratulate the organisers for all the effort they put in to change a planned in-person convention to a virtual convention at a few months’ notice. There were a whole bunch of teething problems that affected many participants – one of my events vanished into a time-zone ether – but the impressive thing is that some many things worked, or were made to work after people spoke up to get them fixed.

For a few more days, many of the panels, readings and other events are available on replay. My personal highlight of the Con was the Climate Fiction/Climate Fact Panel, but right at the start of the Con, I also took part in the Climate Change and Conventions panel – here’s the presentation I prepared for that panel.

Climate Fiction in New Zealand’s Mainstream Media: Stuff’s “Forever Project”

The Double-Cab Club, by Tim Jones (Forever Project, March 2020)

Resilience, by Octavia Cade (Forever Project, June 2020)

In March, New Zealand’s largest news outlet, Stuff, launched its Forever Project, which editor Eloise Gibson describes as “our way of saying we’re committed to clear-eyed, insistent coverage of the epoch-defining challenges of climate change and sustainability.”

The Forever Project represents a major change in the way Stuff has decided to cover climate change. Until a couple of years ago, Stuff was giving plenty of space to climate deniers and climate trolls: now, they’ve stopped doing that, and are writing many more in-depth stories on climate change and the promise and pitfalls of various approaches to addressing it. Their coverage isn’t perfect, but it’s a huge improvement.

The Forever Project has a print as well as an online component. Two copies of the Forever Project magazine have been distributed to Stuff subscribers so far, and each has included a climate fiction story – which is also available online.

I was delighted to be asked to write the story that appeared in the March 2020 edition of the Forever Project – a story set in 2030, as Aotearoa struggles to deal with both the causes and the effects of climate change – and also that Dr Octavia Cade was commissioned to write the story that appeared in the second issue.

Here’s how you can subscribe to the Forever Project newsletter.

As a bonus, the illustration for my story was created by the wonderful illustrator Ruby Jones – it was a pleasure to work with her.








Good Reviews on Goodreads For “Where We Land”

My climate fiction (cli-fi) novella Where We Land has been getting good reviews on Goodreads. Here are some excerpts from those reviews:

On Goodreads:

“This novella set in the near future deals with the human impact of the worsening climate crisis…. Amid societal brutality and xenophobia, there are still a few glimmers of compassion.

“This is a beautifully written novella in the cli-fi genre…. The characters are compelling and the story gripping. Highly recommend it!!”

(Read the full reviews here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/46028957-where-we-land)


From Tabatha Wood’s review for SpecFicNZ:

“Jones talks in depth about human resilience and the determination to survive. The ability to keep going even when all seems lost. He examines our humanity; how we respond to threats and challenges, but ultimately how we, as a global species, behave to one another. The tension is high, the characters relatable, and Jones deftly manoeuvres you into bearing witness to the unfolding plot. He places you squarely in both Nasimul and Donna’s shoes. What would you do if…? he asks.”

Read the full review: https://specfic.nz/2019/08/12/book-review-where-we-land-by-tim-jones/

You can read more of Tabatha’s reviews and her writing on her blog.

“Where We Land” is a print novella – but you can also buy an earlier version of this story as “Landfall”, an ebook from Amazon.