Saturday, September 11, 2021

Remembering Erica van Acker, WTC 9/11



Remembering Erica van Acker who died at the World Trade Center 20 years ago today, on September 11, 2001. Erica was a close friend of Janet Frame's friend Barbara Wersba who lived in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York.
 When Janet Frame and I visited the Hamptons in late 2000, Barbara introduced us to Erica and her partner, and we enjoyed several dinner parties and outings in their company during our stay. Erica was an excellent chef and a stimulating conversationalist. We had a lot of fun and a lot of laughs. Janet was always much more relaxed when she was away from New Zealand where so many people unfortunately treated her like a 'freak' (her own words). New York is anything but narrow-minded, and Janet loved it there.

9/11

Erica had told me she worked part time at the WTC and so at first I hoped that she hadn't been there on the day of the attacks. Sadly, we soon heard from Barbara that Erica had lost her life there.


The injustice of this sentence in Erica's NYT obituary (below) is heartbreaking: 
"She has no immediate survivors." In that era same-sex partners of victims were seldom officially acknowledged.



In 2012 while on a trip to New York I made a pilgrimage to the memorial at Ground Zero and paid my respects to Erica. 
(Photo: Christine White)


Wednesday, September 8, 2021

From the Archives: Burns Fellowship Reunion 2018

TODAY IN HISTORY: The Robert Burns Fellowship 60th Reunion 

AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OTAGO IN DUNEDIN 2018

Tributes to Absent Fellows

At the 2018 Burns reunion I appeared on Janet Frame's behalf at an event honouring the deceased Fellows. It was a pleasure and privilege to appear with the other friends and family members who took part in this moving tribute. Each of the representatives of absent fellows gave a short speech and read an example of the author's work. I read Janet Frame's short story 'Between my Father and the King.'


"It was such a treat to have these lovely souls read at our Tribute to Absent Fellows event on Sunday at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. They did the 17 absent Burns Fellows right proud..." (Dunedin Writers & Reader Festival).
Here is a list of the deceased fellows and those who saluted them. Publisher Rachel Scott was the MC:
40th Reunion 1998
I also attended some of the events at an earlier Burns reunion, this time with Janet Frame herself, when Janet joined the other former Burns Fellows at the 40th Reunion in Dunedin in 1998. 
(Photo: Reg Graham)

What is the Burns Fellowship?

The Burns Fellowship is alive and well and as relevant and prestigious as ever. The current 2021 Burns Fellow is Becky Manawatu whose 2019 novel Auē  Makaro Press) won the 2020 Hubert Church Award prize for Best First Book and was also the overall winner of the 2020 Acorn Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand book Awards.