In this edition: Studying publishing (and staying sane) in lockdown, the launch of the Verb Community, Whitireia graduates working at Parliament in the thick of Covid-19 and a catchy editor's lament from a talented student.
It’s March 2020: We are eager to start our first day of the Whitireia Publishing course. We pack our lunches, grab our red pens and set out to Te Auaha for the exciting day ahead.
It’s April 2020: We roll out of bed, sanitise our hands and open our laptop screens to a Zoom invitation; preparing ourselves for the hours of screen time ahead.
As soon as the lockdown commenced on 25 March 2020, our class zoomed in to two jam-packed months of online classes. We went from early starts and free muesli-bar breakfasts on campus to sleep-ins and pyjama-bottomed video calls. Field trips consisted of moving from our beds to the nearest desk, and work placements were put on hold.
Fortunately, our classes were as productive as ever. Our seven publishing projects were underway, and our daily Zoom meetings featured guest speakers such as Pania Tahau-Hodges from Huia Publishers, Ruth Hendry from Springload and Carol Saller, author of The Subversive Copy Editor. Our marketing, editing and typesetting classes were run remotely from our tutors’ homes and in almost the same way as they would be in our classroom.
We even held an online pub quiz on Thursday nights to take the edge off the long weeks of class and project-related Zoom calls – seriously, what would we do without the internet?
Each day is full of learning for the 2020 Whitireia Publishing class, with lots of breaks – and pet breaks – in between sessions. Our tutors have done a fantastic job at keeping us on our toes as we continue to dive deeper into the world of publishing.
By Zara Feeney
Every morning, our class logged in to our online bubble, helping to anchor us all with some routine during these strange times. Although we might have felt confined and isolated, for a few hours every day we came together in little rectangles in our virtual classroom and learned more about one another in ways that aren't possible in person.
The following is a snapshot of our individual bubbles; made up of flatmates, partners, parents, grandparents, siblings and pets. We were all lucky to have safe homes in which to spend this time – but we also had to find ways to keep ourselves entertained.
Long walks became more appealing, and while there was talk online of not feeling pressure to be creative, it was a means of restoring and maintaining mental well-being for all of us. Baking bread and cooking more challenging dishes became creative outlets, as well as painting, starting a book club with Mum, dancing to Selena Gomez, trying to learn Korean, memorising poetry (farewell, sanity) and even writing songs. YouTube and TikTok were also favourite sources of amusement, although good luck getting anyone to admit they watch the latter. Ultimately, though, reading was the favourite pastime – which comes as no surprise – and when our favourite bookshops opened up again, everyone’s to-read piles just kept growing.
Somehow, we got used to this strange new existence, but we’re still holding out for the day we can lose the rectangle frames and walk through the sliding doors of Te Auaha, cross the foyer to the lifts, step inside and smile as we press the button for the third floor.
By Venice White
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, Can You Tolerate This? by Ashleigh Young, The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox, Freelove by Sia Figiel, Bridge of Clay by Markus
Zusak, Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez, Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee, Specimen by Madison Hamill, Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam and Auē by Becky Manawatu.
Claire Mabey, founder and director of Verb Wellington, is behind some of the city’s most popular art and literary events. Now, operating in the unknown world of Covid-19, Verb’s work has drastically changed. But Claire is energised by this challenge and the opportunity to rally around the local creative community. Verb’s two latest ventures, a publishing arm and the Verb Community, continue to forge connections between audiences and authors.
At the end of April, Claire launched the Verb Community with a focus on one key principle: ‘connecting the curious with the inspiring’. The Verb Community, a long-held dream of Claire’s, aims to bring supporters closer to Verb’s work through paid subscriptions. Member donations enable Verb to continue providing writer’s residencies, stimulating podcasts and accessible events at a low price – all of which make Wellington and Aotearoa a vibrant and interesting place to live.
Verb has also turned to publishing and will be commissioning three new pieces of writing every month for the rest of 2020. Their first set of writing explores love, sex, gender and isolation. To Claire, publishing new writing felt like the most meaningful way to share the stories that matter during this time and, most importantly, to ensure writers are supported.
As the full effects of Covid-19 unfold, Claire says, we must rally around our local creative community: our storytellers and small organisations, particularly the likes of local publishers. The planning and production of projects has become more difficult, but funding is still the biggest hurdle for the arts.
For Claire, the world of books – and the infinite ideas they contain – is one of the most inspiring places you could possibly be.
To find out more about the Verb Community and to stay updated with Verb’s work, go to verbwellington.nz
By Claudia Palmer
One of our exciting projects this year is A Vase in a Vast Sea from Escalator Press. This uplifting collection of poetry and short prose will capture the heart. It is
a reunion of some of our most celebrated writers, a collection of works drawn from the 15-year span of the 4th Floor journal and an important time capsule of
New Zealand literature.
Be the first to hear about the release of A Vase in a Vast Sea:
Sign up to the Escalator Press mailing list
Emily Hills and Dave Agnew, graduates of the 2019 Whitireia Publishing class, are now working as Hansard editors in the New Zealand Parliament. Hansard is the official written record of parliamentary debates, in which everything officially said in the debating chamber gets recorded, transcribed, edited and published.
What happens in a typical Hansard work week depends on whether Parliament is sitting. When it is, the editors start work at 1.00pm on a Tuesday, before Parliament begins at 2.00pm. The editors work in ten-minute shifts, noting down who is speaking while the debate is recorded. After this, they head downstairs to the office to transcribe and edit their ten-minute chunk. This is repeated approximately five times over the day, until they finish at 11.05pm. When Parliament is not sitting, the editors’ hours tend to be more regular, and they will often work on transcriptions of select-committee meetings. Dave and Emily have stayed busy during the lockdown, working at home on transcripts of the daily press conferences.
When asked what they love about the job, both replied that going into the parliamentary chamber is exciting. Emily says it’s ‘fun’ and ‘dynamic’, and it offers a change of scenery. Dave finds it awesome getting ‘paid to listen to the Ashley Bloomfield Power Hour’. They both love working in chunks – when the work is done, they can send it off and forget about it, and they have a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Emily loves analysing the language of the politicians. There have been times when she has heard an excellent-sounding speech and, while editing the transcript, found that the speech essentially communicated nothing.
And how well did Whitireia Publishing prepare them for their jobs? Dave says, ‘super well!’ Hansard editing requires highly accurate grammar, punctuation and spelling, so the weekly editing classes proved extremely valuable to them.
By Hugh Williams
Joanna Cho, another talented graduate from the 2019 class, recently had a piece published on The Spinoff, partially inspired by her study of publishing: ‘English is my first language: On being Asian and writing in Aotearoa’
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