Writers Lounge – Auckland

Writers Lounge 2017 – Session One

19 June – Songwriting – Words and music

An hour with Bernie Griffen in conversation with Graham Reid


Bernie Griffen Bio

Bernie Griffen’s original music is dubbed roughhouse or psychedelic folk, “… dark, gothic-tinged rock dragged kicking through swampy southern blues and dusty country music plains,” according to Under the Radar’s Chris Familton. “He seeks and achieves a wounded grace in his singing as he explores the darker societal corners like a tired and battle-scarred narrator.  His is a unique voice on the New Zealand cultural landscape and one that should be widely acknowledged as such.”

His songs are melodic, soulful tales of a life well and truly lived on the fringes, full of love, pathos and colourful stories. 29 Diamonds, his song for Pike River, may go down as the ultimate anthem to the miners lost there.

“Some songs roll along with the dramatic fury of Neil Young at his most raggedly electric, while other sound like they’re conducted on a lonely country porch,” says Rip It Up’s Sarah Thomson.  “The bonus is that even though the music form is traditional Americana, the lyric content is specific to New Zealand.”

Bernie is about to release his third album recorded in Melbourne last year with musical partner Kirsten Warner who plays with him in his band The Thin Men. He is the host of 95 bFM’s long-running American music show Border Radio and the show’s podcast regularly attracts thousands of listeners world-wide.

Graham Reid Bio

Graham Reid is an award-winning former journalist with the New Zealand Herald, a long-time music writer and critic who hosts his own music, travel, arts website www.elsewhere.co.nz and currently lectures at the University of Auckland in the School of Music. He was also the content advisor for the Volume: Making Music in Aotearoa exhibition at the Auckland War Memorial Museum.






Writers Lounge 2017 – Session Two

26 June – Mother’s Milk – Writers in first language and translation

with Leanne Radojkovich, Ya-Wen Ho and Ria Masae


Leanne Radojkovich Bio

Leanne Radojkovich’s short story collection First fox was launched during the Auckland Writers Festival in May 2017. Published by The Emma Press in the UK, illustrated by Rachel J. Fenton, it will be available from Unity Auckland and The Women’s Bookshop.

Her stories have appeared in a number of journals including Headland, Numéro Cinq, Litro and Ika, and have been placed in numerous competitions. She presented at the 14th International Conference on the Short Story in English held in Shanghai in 2016, where one of her stories was published in Chinese.

She has a series of readings on YouTube and SlideShare, and her post flash fiction street art – PinUps – have popped up in Sweden, USA and Tanzania.

She won the NZSA’s Lilian Ida Smith Award in 2009 and holds a Master of Creative Writing (First Class Honours). See her SlideShare presentation Literary Benefits of Linguistic and Cultural Hybridity for an overview. Her favourite authors include Grace Paley, Lucia Berlin and Katherine Mansfield. Other loves are opera and beer.


Ya-Wen Ho Bio

Ya-Wen Ho folds bilingually between Mandarin and English and is currently working on a Masters in Literary Translation at Victoria University of Wellington. Her first book of poetry last edited [insert time here] was published by TinFish Press in 2012. She was a 2015 recipient of the Horoeka/Lancewood Reading Grant, for which she wrote a hyper-textual essay Dear You.







Ria Masae Bio

Ria Masae is a Samoan New Zealander living in Auckland. She is currently studying towards a BCA at the Manukau Institute of Technology, after attaining a BA at The University of Auckland. In 2015, Ria won the New Voices: Emerging Poets Competition, as well as the 2016 Cooney Insurance Short Story Competition. Her work has been shared in several New Zealand and Australian publications including, Landfall, Blackmail Press, Snorkel, Ika, and Otoliths. Ria was delighted and honoured to have her poetry translated into Spanish on the online Mexican journal, Círculo de Poesía.



Writers Lounge 2017 – Session Three

3 July – Publishing in the new age – Focus on independent publishers with Eunoia Publishing’s Rod Fee, Anahera Press’ Kiri Piahana-Wong and Cloudink’s Thalia Henry.

Host Catriona Ferguson


Rod Fee Bio

Rod Fee is a barrister of some 35 years’ experience and a practicing teacher with post graduate qualifications in gifted education. Rod has a MCW from AUT and graduated with AUT’s first PhD in creative writing. His creative works include the critically acclaimed novels Vivienne’s Blog and The Several Minds of Richard and he will soon have two miscellanies of short fiction and poetry published.

While at AUT completing the MCW and then at the yearlong Advanced Fiction course at Auckland’s Creative Hub, Rod formed close ties with several authors leading to a very strong writing group that has met weekly for almost a decade. It was here that the publishing company Eunoia Publishing Limited was formed.


Sophia Egan Reid Bio

Sophia Egan-Reid was born into the publishing business. For as long as she can remember her parents had a home office producing high quality books. She started in an admin role for their company, Egan-Reid Ltd, and when it was sold to Pindar NZ, she ran the self-publishing department, before leaving to start up Mary Egan Publishing. Sophia’s father, Gerald Reid, wrote a business plan for the company he envisioned would focus on doing the absolute best for a small group of clients, offering a publishing package from start to finish. Sophia started the business, with mother Mary and sister Anna coming on board later. Sophia manages the full project from the initial pricing, specifying and once the job comes in, follows it through production, print and delivery. She aims for her clients to have the best experience possible and to end up with the most beautiful book.





Thalia Henry Bio

Thalia Henry is a member of Cloud Ink Press.  She became involved in the inception of Cloud Ink as a website designer and social media promoter. Her interested in publishing and the changing nature of the publishing model in New Zealand stemmed from her studies at AUT, where she completed a Masters of Creative Writing – and her ensuing awareness that publishing in New Zealand in the current climate is evolving. During 2017 Cloud Ink will publish an anthology, Fresh Ink – encompassing New Zealand authors from within Cloud Ink and beyond.  Cloud Ink will also publish Thalia’s manuscript Beneath Pale Water.






Writers Lounge 2017 – Session Four

10 July – The Art of the Editor with Alex Hedley from Harper Collins and Linda Cassells from Calico Press.

Host Geoff Walker


Linda Cassells Bio

Linda Cassells has been in book publishing for over 25 years. Starting off as a non-fiction and children’s editor with Reeds, she then became New Zealand publisher for Oxford University Press for eight years before joining Hodder Moa Beckett (now Hachette) as their managing editor, overseeing the publication of brand and celebrity books. She has helped shape hundreds of books, many of which went on to win national awards. Linda set up Calico Publishing in 2003, initially offering publishing services before starting her own non-fiction list under the Calico imprint. She now offers a rights management service to selected authors and provides a full editorial, design and publishing service to organisations and individuals.




Alex Hedley Bio

Alex Hedley is the publisher at HarperCollins New Zealand. He was a general non-fiction publisher at Penguin Random House for four years, is a three-time New Zealand author, and former bookseller with his family’s 110-year-old bookshop in Masterton. He has worked for publishers in the UK and Australia and is a passionate photographer and traveller.






Geoff Walker Bio

Geoff Walker is active in New Zealand book publishing as a freelance publishing consultant, writer and editor, working closely with others in the field. Geoff is also commissioning editor for the Bridget Williams Books short-form BWB Texts series and is one of New Zealand’s most experienced publishers and editors. He is a former publishing director of Penguin New Zealand, where he was responsible for building Penguin’s local publishing list over a period of several decades. As a consultant Geoff assesses original manuscripts and offers expert advice on writing, rewriting and editing. He also advises on the best way to publish. He has extensive connections with local publishers and knows precisely who to approach with which sort of book. He is also familiar with self-publishing channels and offers many different options.




Writers Lounge 2017 – Session Five

17 July – The Riches of New Zealand Poetry – Auckland Poets read and discuss their work with Elizabeth Morton, Simone Kaho, Stephen Touissant, Jo Emeney and Michael Morrissey.

Host Siobhan Harvey


Simone Kaho Bio

Simone Kaho is a graduate of the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington. Noted for her lyricism and powerful stage presence, she’s a performer in demand – at bars like The Thirsty Dog and theatres like Galatos, The Basement and The Mercury Theatre. Simone’s first book, Lucky Punch, was launched November 2016. It straddles poetry and memoir, as the narrator comes of age in New Zealand’s rich and confusing intersection of pacific and colonial culture.


Steven Toussaint Bio

Steven Toussaint is the author of the poetry collection The Bellfounder (2015) and the chapbook Fiddlehead (2014). A graduate of both the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the International Institute of Modern Letters, he holds the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship for 2017.


Jo Emeney Bio

Johanna Emeney lives with her husband, David, their six cats and two goats, on five acres north of Auckland. She works as a Creative Writing tutor at Massey University and as co-facilitator of the Michael King Young Writers Programme. Her poems have been commended and placed third in the Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, and shortlisted for the International Montreal Poetry Prize. Her second collection of poetry, Family History, is published by Mākaro Press.


Michael Morrissey Bio

Michael Morrissey has published 22 books with the 23rd due out later this year from Cold Hub Press. His books compromise 11 books of poetry, four novels, two collections of short stories, one memoir of amiable madness entitled Taming the Tiger, a book of top ten lists and five other books mainly anthologies of short stories. He has published many uncollected short stories and been active as a book reviewer. Recently he has published several biographical essays in Brief magazine including ambiguous encounters with Susan Sontag and Samuel Beckett.


Elizabeth Morton Bio

Elizabeth Morton likes to write about broken things and things with teeth. She is published in journals including Landfall, Takahe, PRISM International, The Moth, Cordite, and Island Magazine, amongst others. She is included in Best Small Fictions 2016, and placed second, twice, in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story competition. She won the New Voices Emerging Poet competition (2013), and was highly commended in the Kathleen Grattan Award (2015). She is feature poet in the 2017 Poetry New Zealand Yearbook. Her first poetry collection, Wolf, is published by Mākaro Press (2017).


Writers Lounge 2017 – Session Six

24 July – Short Sharp Shock – Get a kick out of flash fiction with Eileen Merriman, Rachel J. Fenton and Trisha Hanifin.

Host Graeme Lay


Eileen Merriman Bio

Eileen Merriman’s awards include three times third place winner in the 2014- 2016 Sunday Star Times Short Story competitions, second in the 2015 Bath Flash Fiction Award, and commended in the 2015 Bath Short Story Competition. Her work has previously appeared in a number of journals and anthologies, including the Sunday Star Times, Smokelong Quarterly, The Island Review, Literary Orphans, the Bath Short Story Anthology, the Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, F(r)iction, Takahe, Headland and Flash Frontier. Her young adult novel, Pieces of You, was published in May 2017 (Penguin Random House). More information can be found at her website: www.eileenmerriman.co.nz


Trisha Hanifin Bio

Trisha Hanifin writes short stories and flash fiction as well as attempting to complete her novel, Ghost Travellers. Her work has been shortlisted in a number of New Zealand competitions, including the Sunday Star Times and the BNZ Literary Awards. In 2014 she won the Auckland University’s Ingenio magazine’s short story competition with her story, Me and Bobby Magee. Her flash fiction has been published in Turbine, Flash Frontiers, Heartlands, and the 2016 Bath Flash Fiction Anthology, To Carry Her Home. She has been shortlisted a number of times in the New Zealand Flash Fiction Competition and in 2014 was the Auckland Regional winner, and second place getter with her story, With Our Eyes Closed We Began to Dance.


Rachel J. Fenton Bio

Rachel J Fenton, aka Rae Joyce, is a writer and graphic poet, published in national and international literary journals and anthologies. She is currently researching and writing a graphic biography, for which she has been awarded a Creative New Zealand arts grant. Her short fiction, novels, poetry and graphic poetry have won and been runner-up in the AUT Graphic Fiction Prize, Short Fiction Prize, 2016 Ambit Summer Poetry Competition, Dundee International Book Prize, the 2016 Cinnamon Press Debut Novel Prize, Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize, and many others. She lives in Auckland and Instagrams @redhousemary


Graeme Lay Bio

Graeme Lay was born in Foxton, grew up in Taranaki and graduated from Victoria University of Wellington. He has published collections of short stories and travel writing, non-fiction works and novels for adults and young adults. His most recent work is a novel trilogy based on the life of the explorer James Cook. They are: The Secret Life of James Cook, James Cook’s New World and James Cook’s Lost World. All were published by HarperCollins. 2017 will see the publication of his novel Fletcher of the Bounty and A Guide to James Cook’s New Zealand.

Photo credit Grahame Sydney