Imagining the Past at the Manawatu Estuary

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On a recent trip to our nearest beach we spent time enjoying the estuary at the river mouth, where my local river eventually flows into the ocean. These days the estuary, not shown here in the photo, is a protected heritage area, where many of New Zealand’s native water birds can be found at various times of the year.

It wasn’t the birds that captured my attention on this trip though, but the river and how it served in the opening up of my region in the 1870s when New Zealand was being settled. The river has changed its course over the years since then and definitely doesn’t seem as wide nor deep as it once must have been.

In the beginning, before the region was cleared of forest and before roads were established the river was the major means of travelling inland to where I live. Settlers arriving to the newly established town had to travel up river in large sailing boats for some distance to a nearby thriving port town, then onward in smaller river transport.

I tried imaging the big sailing ships carrying arrivals, people who had been on board for months, eager to reach their new homeland. The river shown here at low tide just didn’t seem to be capable of being navigated by a large sailing ship. However, I enjoyed imaging the presence of so many ships arriving at was back then a thriving port, that I was on board one of them arriving at a strange destination.

This river mouth of the Manawatu River played an important role in the development of my region.

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Even Non-Fiction Books Have Sequels

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The book launch is over, the books are continuing to sell and although I’m still my own promoter and marketer I’m ready to start writing again.

I knew the right next step would present itself and yesterday, as I was working on an article for the local history journal, I realised what my next project will be. In fact, I’d already started on it without realising.

At the book launch and during the period prior to it many local swimming stories were emerging that were not connected to the baths I wrote about, but were local social history stories that deserve to be told. Just like the driftwood above, stories can find a second life, continuing their journey on a different course.

Consequently, I am about to embark on a continuing story, a sequel to Down at the Baths. The story is not yet named, but will be about children and swimming places in our city prior to about 1970.

Have you ever noticed that once you set your focus things start happening? Within a couple of hours of making the decision to write a sequel to my book I was given two independent stories of an old swimming hole I’d previously known nothing about. That was definitely a sign this next book is meant to be.

So, my way forward is now clear and I’m rather excited. It seems the next couple of years of my life have now been taken care of.

 

A Successful Book Launch

After three years of researching, writing, networking and self promotion my book, Down at the Baths, has been launched and is now out in the public arena, thus contributing to the local history of not only my city, but of all New Zealanders.

Organising one’s own book launch is an exhausting and time consuming process, but oh so rewarding. You see, being in charge of everything myself I knew the event would run smoothly.

When writing for a niche market as I did, local history and swimming communities, it’s possible to network well ahead and create an interest long before the event happens. Because of this the launch was supported by the local Mayor and Councillors, by families of the baths custodians, local historians and one time swimmers, as well as family and friends.

You see, public swimming pools have always been an important part of the New Zealand lifestyle. And in the years 1917 to 1966 that this book covers, there wasn’t a lot else for young people to do, so we were always down at the baths.

Sales on the night were good and now I move into my next role, of selling the books that remain.

If ever you are faced with having to launch and promote your own book, don’t be afraid. There are plenty of people out there willing to help you. You just need to seek them out. And I’m always willing to answer your questions.

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Preparing for Non-Fiction Print Publication

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When you self-publishthe research and writing are the easy parts. The real work begins after the last full-stop is placed on the page.

First there is the editing. I was fortunate to have funding this time and so for the last year I’ve worked with a wonderful mentor / editor throughout the writing. This had many advantages as I learned how to correct my mistakes as I wrote. The final edit was certainly made easier because of this. Consistency was an early challenge, making sure that things such as dates, numbers, titles and punctuation were treated the same way throughout the book. However, the regular monthly contact with my editor soon helped me iron out all my early irregularities.

Citing references was another challenging process, especially as I wasn’t as thorough as I should have been in the early stages. Then there were the photos, deciding which to use and whether I had permission to do so. Some fell into the too-hard basket and as my self-imposed publishing deadline approached I omitted them.

Eventually I felt my work was done, just days before I was due to deliver the manuscript to the designer at the printery. But that is another story.

New Book, New Writing

Two years can disappear as fast as water rushing down a plug hole when you’re immersed in a writing project. That is an excuse, not an explanation, for my absence here. Now that my writing project is finished and my transition to full-time writer is complete I’m excited about renewing my presence here.

The social history project mentioned in my previous post back in 2015 has come to an end and the book, Down at the Baths is about to be launched next week. I’ll post a sneak preview of the cover here and more details about it will follow shortly.

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New projects are lined up and my writing life is looking exciting – to me anyway. I’m looking forward to sharing it with you

Blending Your Stories with those of Your Community

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As we know, writing life stories is popular at the moment, recording stories from our past so they are not lost to future generations. We may all think we have nothing special to tell but, from experience, what we find everyday and uneventful, others find fascinating.

Have you ever considered blending your stories with those of your community? Social stories give a reader so much information about the past. Take the hotel in the photo above for example. There are many stories I could tell about this building, from my own family and personal experience back to fascinating things I’ve learned about its history.

All communities have buildings that have been demolished, replaced with more modern constructions. There are also buildings that may be in danger of vanishing some time in the near future. If the stories relating to these buildings are not recorded, part of your community social history is lost.

Why not blend your own stories with those of your community. Start writing them down while you can.

A Murder Story, New Zealand 1905

I first published this sad story of racial discrimination in New Zealand at the beginning of the 20th century on the site, Knoji, 5 April 2010. I believe stories of our past, such as this one, are worth retelling. Can we really say society has learned from such terrible events?

The discovery of gold in three New Zealand locations in the mid nineteenth century resulted, as it did elsewhere, with a rush of miners arriving to test their luck. At first the New Zealand government encouraged Chinese miners, as they boosted the economy of the young country, and were prepared to work over ground abandoned by European miners.

Resentment and racism grew as the Chinese became more established and successful. Public meetings urged the government to stop allowing alien immigrants into the country. In the Otago goldfields and surrounding areas, tensions grew and many outbursts of violence occurred. This discrimination against the Chinese continued long after the gold rush days had ended.

Murder in Wellington

On the night of 24 September 1905, long after the gold rush days, an elderly Chinese ex miner from the West Coast mines was shot twice in the head from behind. At first his cold-blooded murder seemed a mystery.

Next morning, however, a well-dressed gentleman, Lionel Terry, walked into the Wellington Police Station and announced he wished to give himself up for shooting a Chinaman in the head. He explained  he didn’t believe Chinese should be allowed to live in New Zealand and that European and Asiatic races should not be allowed to mix.

On the day of the murder, Terry apparently behaved quite normally. He spent the afternoon with a friend, before having tea at his hotel at 5.50pm. After the  cold-blooded murder he shared supper with a group of friends, including several members of parliament.

Terry conducted his own defence in court, arguing no harm had been done, as he’d chosen an old and crippled man who was only a burden to society. On these grounds he sincerely believed his deliberate act of murder could be justified. He stated that he’d never recognise any law of the land protecting alien races in British countries and his act of murder was deliberate. He believed the issue of the Chinese presence  in New Zealand needed to be brought to the public’s attention. Because of this he was prepared to take the consequences, still believing he’d done no wrong.

Life Imprisonment

It took only thirty minutes for the jury to reach the guilty verdict. The judge handed down the death penalty, but  the Government intervened and changed it to life imprisonment. Terry was soon transferred from prison to Seacliffe Mental Hospital, where he lived the remainder of his life.

This event was believed to be the last major act of unprovoked violence against Chinese arising from the gold mining era.

Reference: Opium and Gold by Peter Butler. Published by Alister Taylor, New Zealand, 1977