Wednesday, August 28, 2019

2019 Janet Frame Prize for Christchurch Novelist

PRESS RELEASE Wednesday 28 August 2019

Novelist and historian Stevan Eldred-Grigg receives 2019 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award

Janet Frame’s estate has announced their biennial award to coincide with the celebrated author’s 95th birthday on the 28th of August. The award is currently worth $5,000. Janet Frame founded the Janet Frame Literary Trust in 1999 and bequeathed her ongoing royalty income to an endowment fund from which she directed that occasional financial gifts should be given to established NZ writers of fiction and poetry. Since Janet Frame’s death in 2004 her charitable trust has awarded over $120,000 in grants and donations.

 Janet Frame herself had benefited from well-timed literary prizes over her long career, most famously the PEN prize in 1952 that saved her from an imminent lobotomy because her doctor at Seacliff Mental Hospital read the newspaper report about it. The diagnosis of schizophrenia hanging over Frame at that time was later discredited. Frame understood that it was not just the award money that was welcomed but also the boost in morale for an author who may have been feeling under-appreciated.

2019 recipient Stevan Eldred-Grigg  has echoed this doubly welcome effect of an unexpected prize:

“What wonderful news! I was always aware of the way Janet would deflect, in her characteristic dry way, all the pooh-bah-ish pomposities of book awards by saying she was grateful for getting this or that grant because it would mean she could leave the lights switched on a little longer.”

“It does feel very much as though Janet has somehow reached out in encouragement.“

“Janet has been one of the brightest lights in my firmament of words, ever since I first read A State of Siege at the age of sixteen. I keep coming back to Janet's work. I learn new things each time I do come back. So it's very moving to think that now she's reaching me in another way, too, by way of this award.”

Stevan Eldred-Grigg was born in a speeding taxi in 1952, somewhere between Blackball and Greymouth Hospital. Just as his birthplace may be difficult to pinpoint, so does Eldred-Grigg sometimes blur the lines in his work between fiction, autobiography and social history. His prize winning first novel Oracles and Miracles (1987) earned him high praise for the realistic portrayal of the lives of working class women in Christchurch. His painstakingly researched work Diggers, Hatters and Whores: The story of the New Zealand Gold Rushes (2008) was cited by Man Booker winner Eleanor Catton as essential background reading for her novel The Luminaries. Dr Eldred-Grigg has published 20 books and is currently working on “a sort of memoir of the West Coast”. He has been described as “a natural story-teller” (METRO magazine).

 Stevan Eldred-Grigg, like Janet Frame, exemplifies the theme of “the expatriate returns”. He has lived in many places in New Zealand and around the world including China, Germany, Mexico, USA, Waiuku and Wellington, but has recently decided to make the move back to Christchurch where he grew up.

Portrait of Stevan Eldred-Grigg  © Gareth Watkins 

Stevan Eldred-Grigg

 Pamela Gordon, Chair, Janet Frame Literary Trust 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

An Anthology of VMC Introductions

Writers as Readers, the specially issued VMC40 anthology of introductions to Virago Modern Classics, is a wonderful read in itself, with the essays written by:

Margaret Drabble | Beryl Bainbridge | Angela Carter | Maggie O'Farrell | Elizabeth Jane Howard | A.S. Byatt | Penelope Lively | Sarah Waters | Jonathan Coe | Diana Souhami | Jilly Cooper | Elizabeth Bowen | Mark Bostridge | Alexander McCall Smith | Sarah Dunant | Rachel Cooke | Zadie Smith | Anita Desai | Sophie Dahl | Clare Boylan | Paula McLain | Diana Athill | Marina Lewycka | Claire Messud | Michèle Roberts | Simon Russell Beale | Amanda Craig | Hilary Mantel | Elizabeth Taylor | Ali Smith | Linda Grant | Jane Gardam | Julie Burchill | Carmen Callil | Helen Oyeyemi | Marian Keyes | Nora Ephron | Sandi Toksvig | Kate Saunders

Writers as Readers is a celebration of forty years of the Virago Modern Classics list.

"Started in 1978, Virago Modern Classics is dedicated to the rediscovery and championing of women writers, challenging the often narrow definition of 'classic'.

In this collection, forty of the most significant writers of the past century tell us about one of their favourite writers by introducing books from the Virago Modern Classics collection, offering a glimpse at the treasures that have been published over the past four decades: they may be great works of literature; they may be wonderful period pieces; they may reveal particular aspects of women's lives; they may be classics of comedy, storytelling, diary-writing or autobiography."

Writers as Readers includes the introduction Michèle Roberts wrote for Janet Frame 's The Daylight and the Dust, a collection of the best of her short stories.

Virago Modern Classics 40th Anniversary

This year Janet Frame publisher Virago Press has been observing the 40th anniversary of its Virago Modern Classics imprint: 1978-2018. To celebrate, they have published "a baker's dozen of stunningly designed deluxe paperbacks by some of our most-loved authors". The list includes Janet Frame's novel Faces in the Water, introduced by Hilary Mantel.

Perks of the job: this delicious haul of VMC40 promo material (cotton book bag, postcards, bookmarks, catalogue) arrived in my post box along with the VMC40 special edition of Faces in the Water by Janet Frame and Writers as Readers, an anthology of forty VMC introductory essays.

The other authors in the VMC 40 edition include Nora EphronMuriel SparkElizabeth TaylorRosamond LehmanAngela Carter, and Janet Frame's friend Grace Paley.

Our Wāhine: Janet Frame

Janet Frame

Artist: Kate Hursthouse

Our Wāhine is an illustrated history of New Zealand’s extraordinary women created by New Zealand artist Kate Hursthouse (

"To celebrate the 125th anniversary of Women’s suffrage in New Zealand, Kate will be illustrating extraordinary women from New Zealand’s history. The text is being researched and written by Kate’s mother Karen Brook. This passion project is done after hours with no funding and aims to create a visually exciting and accessible overview of the role of New Zealand women throughout history."

I love this image of Janet Frame because it avoids the stereotype that the occasional artist can fall into, of making their illustration resemble the actor Kerry Fox who played 'Janet' in the Jane Campion movie more than it looks like the real life Janet - who did live a happy fulfilling life and did grow old and wasn't by any means perpetually tormented.

An examplar of respectful quotation

Goodbye, Cruel by Melinda Smith (Pitt Street Poetry, Australia 2017)

I'm happy to recommend this book by Canberra poet Melinda Smith, who is a previous winner of the Australian Prime Minister's Literary Award for poetry. To learn more about the poet and the book, have a look at the excellent launch speech by John Foulcher.

"Smith’s newest collection is in part a paean to life even as it elegises several deaths. However, her primary concern is the binary opposition of scribing and erasure. She uses erasure to great effect in poems such as “Darkling with temazepan” (44), her version of “Ode to a Nightingale” and, through her inking and inscription, Smith forges a connection with the dead whom she memorialises and the living who read her work. That connection may be tenuous, a thread as short and slender as a line of poetry, but it is a link nevertheless, and one of great importance. This book is the work of a vivid, vitalic voice in Australian poetry." (from the Pitt Street Poetry website).

In Goodbye, Cruel Melinda Smith has cleverly and movingly drawn from excerpts of poems by Janet Frame for two of her poems. Before she published this book she  asked permission of the copyright owners (the Janet Frame Literary Trust).  I'm glad she did because it has been good to get to know Smith's work. 

It's always gratifying when an author does the right thing and asks permission (if a work is still in copyright) and also clearly indicates the source of the text they quote, enhance, chop up, play with or otherwise utilise for their purpose of following their own poetic vision.  

Conversely, it is disappointing to come across, as I do now and then, examples of Janet Frame texts used for 'erasure' or other exploitative poetic formats without the Janet Frame copyright being properly acknowledged.

I wish that more of the creative writing schools in New Zealand would teach the basics of professional ethics and copyright law, surely it isn't so difficult! 

A tasty smorgasbord of poetry

Poems from the Pantry: 135 years of food in poetry from New Zealand, 1863-1998 is an anthology of New Zealand poems that are either about food or that use food as imagery.

It is styled after the iconic Kiwi recipe book the Edmonds Cookery Book. It's even arranged in sections such as: 'Puddings and jellies', 'Bread, buns and rolls', Cakes and biscuits', 'Eggs' and so on.

Edited by Judith Haswell and Janny Jonkers. Ordering and other details on the website.

The included authors comprise a Who's Who of New Zealand poetry. Because the editors imposed a time limit ending in 1998, Janet Frame's posthumously published poetry wasn't considered for inclusion, but there is a piece of hers there from The Pocket Mirror (1967).

Happy snacking!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Playing the thought-game

Jess Berentson-Shaw
BWB texts (2018)

Here is another of those Bridget Williams Books "short books on big subjects from great New Zealand writers" that I have talked about before, because so many of them either quote Janet Frame and/or otherwise name-check her.

This book is about as topical as it can be, about being able to distinguish between good information and misinformation, and being able to communicate constructively about the gaps between.

 The author of this recently published book has employed a relevant quote from Janet Frame in a chapter discussing how to encourage and develop critical thinking.

Janet Frame wrote so profoundly and so profusely on a vast range of topics and it's good to be reminded that her writings are appreciated as a rich historical and sociological resource as well as a literary one.

"Unless we have the courage to use our inherited human riches to name, name, name things visible, things invisible, in our land, to play the thought-game from time to time, to raise a few more rich fat dreams and poems and get a fair price for them, we’ll be spiritually hungry and poor; we may not even survive."
~ Janet Frame

(from 'This Desirable Property', a talk broadcast on New Zealand YC radio stations and published in the NZ Listener, 3 July 1964, reprinted in JANET FRAME IN HER OWN WORDS)

Monday, December 3, 2018

More Janet Frame Quotes

Support Your Local Bookshop

Such an impressive shelf of Janet Frame fiction at the Paper Plus store in the Golden Centre Mall in Dunedin's main shopping precinct, George Street

Frame's autobiography omnibus An Angel at My Table is shelved in the non-fiction section, naturally!

Role model for the aspiring author

Many an aspiring author has been inspired by the words and the example of Janet Frame and Annabel Wilson is an 'emerging' New Zealand writer who has acknowledged Janet Frame as one of her influences in her ambitions as a poet and playwright. Wilson has written a play called Todo Verano based on her own holiday in Ibiza during which she was accompanied by a copy of Janet Frame's autobiography relating her own experiences on that island. In the play a character based on 'Janet' appears as a muse. Wilson has also published Aspiring Daybook, a volume of poetry covering the period of her return to New Zealand.

Poems by Annabel Wilson
Submarine, Mākaro Press, 2018

Janet Frame, Wool Lover

Janet Frame on a train
wearing a woollen crocheted hat that she made herself
Photo: Pamela Gordon

A new online journal called THE WOOL LOVER "dedicated to the wonder fibre wool" has recently been launched and it includes an excerpt from Janet Frame's novel Living in the Maniototo in the first issue.

"Janet Frame’s novels and autobiography capture an artistic sensibility attuned to the vulnerability and yet resilience of our world and humanity in the 20th century. This excerpt from her 1979 novel Living in the Maniototo also manages to weave the cultural value of woollen blankets to New Zealanders into the text."

Literary hobnobbing

David Eggleton, Derek Schulz, Jill Studd, Pamela Gordon 
(Photo: Lindsay Rabbitt)

This week I attended an event in Dunedin celebrating the winners of the Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize. In my role as Chair of Janet Frame's charitable trust I make a special effort to keep up with and support the activities of the other local literary trusts and The Caselberg Trust is one of these: they do fine work as you can see if you peruse their website. David Eggleton was the 2018 judge of the competition entries and he awarded the first prize to Derek Schulz who travelled to Dunedin to accept his award and read his winning poem 'You Can't Be Here'.

It was a surprise and a joy for me to meet up with Derek Schulz and his partner Jill Studd again after many years. Derek and Jill were close friends of Janet Frame's back in the 1970s and early 1980s when we all lived in Whanganui. We reminisced about the times we all (including Janet) attended public protests against the 1981 Springbok rugby tour and the team's visit to that town. Not an easy thing to do in the provinces. It was heartwarming to hear Derek and Jill refer to Janet as "Jan" which was her nickname among intimate family and friends. So many of Janet Frame's chums are gone now, sadly, but not all of us!

Janet Frame portraits by Frith Wilkinson

I was captivated when I first saw this image of Janet Frame by artist Frith Wilkinson. Gorgeous.

Apparently available as a greeting card!


Frith Wilkinson 2017

watercolour on archival paper

with frame 340 x 400 mm

painting 110 x 170 mm

N.F.S Frith Wilkinson collection

'The Third Place' (Janet)

Frith Wilkinson 2017

watercolour on archival paper

frame 300 x 280 mm


Nigel Brown painting inspired by Owls Do Cry

A 1997 painting ex the artist's collection referencing Janet Frame's novel Owls Do Cry was hung at Diversion Gallery in July 2018 in an exhibition entitled Matariki Ta Te Manawa as part of Matariki Festival in Picton.

"Stylistically unique, but a distinctive portrait - Nigel Brown's homage to icons both literary and environmental. Just a touch of gilt to that wonderful red hair, beneath a golden moon." - Diversion Gallery Facebook Page

Click this link to see another fine painting inspired by Janet Frame that was donated by Nigel Brown to the Eastern Southland Art Gallery at Gore.

Nigel Brown has new work in an exhibition 'Organic Thinking II' currently showing at Diversion Gallery in Picton until 15 December 2018 as part of his series 'Climate of Change' on themes of sustainability and social issues.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Wayne Youle Pop Art Portrait of Janet Frame

This Wayne Youle 'Pop Art' portrait of Janet Frame is based on a Jerry Bauer photo and appears in a travelling exhibition entitled Strangely Familiar: Portraits by Wayne Youle.

From the catalogue:

Curated by Helen Kedgley.
Strangely Familiar: Portraits by Wayne Youle showcases bold, compelling portraits of New Zealand art-world personalities including musicians, poets, writers and artists such as Colin McCahon, Rita Angus and Len Lye.
For this new exhibition, Wayne Youle, like many other artists of his generation, looks to Pop Art for inspiration with the bright, saturated colours, hard-edged style and appropriated imagery of his portraits. Wayne Youle is one of New Zealand’s most significant and influential mid-career artists. In this exhibition, he takes the portrait and reinvents it, demonstrating how portraiture can assert itself as a viable and relevant art form today.
Curator Helen Kedgley describes Youle as “A versatile and prolific artist who wants to create a whakapapa of New Zealand artists, past and present, who have shaped our culture in some way. His work is direct, fresh, accessible, often funny and always provocative”.
Wayne Youle was born in Porirua in 1974 and is of Ngapuhi, Ngati Whakaeke and European descent. He was the recipient of the 2010 Rita Angus Residency and the SCAPE Artspace artist-in-residence, Sydney. He now lives and works in Amberley, north of Christchurch. He is represented by {Suite}, Wellington.

The exhibition was developed and toured by The National Portrait Gallery/Te Pukenga Whakaata

Australian reprint of Janet Frame's autobiography

A refreshed Australian edition of Janet Frame's complete 3-volume autobiography was published earlier in 2018, now under the Penguin imprint.

In addition several other major Janet Frame titles are available from Penguin Australia as paperbacks or as ebooks:

  • Janet Frame in her Own Words
  • The Daylight and the Dust: Selected Stories
  • Faces in the Water
  • Living in the Maniototo
  • Towards Another Summer
  • An Angel at My Table (the Complete Autobiography)

See the complete list of Janet Frame titles available from Penguin Australia on their website.

Janet Frame VMC editions now available in NZ

Good News!! These Virago Modern Classic editions of key Janet Frame titles are now distributed in New Zealand through Hachette NZ:
  • Towards Another Summer, 
  • The Daylight and the Dust: Selected Short Stories, 
  • Faces in the Water, 
  • An Angel at My Table: The Complete Autobiography, 
  • Living in the Maniototo.
Affordable good quality paperbacks with brilliant and insightful introductions from illustrious Janet Frame aficionados such as Hilary Mantel and Jane Campion.

Available at all good booksellers. If they don't stock Janet Frame, please ask them why!