New Kiwi Women Write Their Stories

Giving a voice to Auckland's migrant women

A beginning… 2012

One by one, we all arrived at the Albany Community Centre for our first workshop. The day outside was grey but inside, with the aid of cups of tea, we all warmed up pretty quickly! Just like school we were all asked to write our names on stickers on arrival.

Myself (Renee Liang), Janet Charman and Sarah Laing introduced ourselves as the course tutors (you can see our poshed-up profiles by clicking on the tabs above).  And then it was the turn of everyone else around the table.  One by one women told us their names, where they were from, and what they hoped to write during the course.  I found myself amazed by the range of stories and reasons for wanting to write and at the many different migration stories (around the table, we came from at least 8 different countries, many passing through more than one country to get to NZ). Some were beginners, others already had writing experience or were already artists, musicians and craftspeople.  One thing we all had in common – we all felt an incredible urge to tell our own stories.

Our course aims to ‘kick-start’ or encourage writing, and explore writing in its many forms.  There’s a number of ways we’ll do this. Firstly by using quick-fire exercises, we’ll stimulate ideas and memories and encourage these to be put down on paper. The result may not be a ‘finished’ piece of writing but may form a ‘seed’ to be worked on through the next weeks or months. Secondly there will be time to share these initial ideas and ‘seeds’ of writing, so that we all get to know each other as writers and can encourage each other.

Another thing we’ll do every session is to have an interactive discussion on aspects of ‘being a writer’.  This week the discussion was about how we (as very busy people!) find the time to write, find ideas, and find outlets for our work.  It proved to be a very stimulating discussion! Janet mentioned the importance of “catching” ideas as they occur – rather than waiting until we are less busy to write them down, as often they will have been forgotten by then. Renee and Sarah showed their ‘journals’ (a small, cheap notebook is enough) which can be carried around for these moments and which can contain words, scribbles, pictures or clippings – anything which can act as a later stimulus for developing a piece.

Sarah mentioned the importance of ‘making time’ to write – a contract with yourself to give yourself the time and space to write regularly. Even a small patch of time is useful and you may find yourself being incredibly efficient when pushed. And even when tired, it’s amazing how energising that time can be.  Janet pointed out that some forms of writing (such as poems) are more ‘compact’ and so might be a good form for those who can only manage small patches of time for writing.

In terms of sharing or reviewing work, the NZ Society of Authors has an incomplete list of local writer’s groups online:  It’s easy to form your own, though to get the most out of these it’s best to know what you want out of them – mutual encouragement, or more rigorous discussion of each members’ work.  The NZ Society of Authors, which can be joined for a yearly fee, offers advice, resources, weekly newsletters, and monthly meetings where you can go to hear and meet other writers.

Janet mentioned a local few poetry and fiction journals she recommends people who are serious about being published start accessing: these can be found at local libraries, partially read online, or bought by subscription. Poetry NZ:; JAAM:; Takahe:; Brief:; Landfall:; and NZ Listener:  There’s also a wide range of online writing blogs, communities and journals, for example Tuesday Poem: and Blackmail Press:  Sarah’s blog (musings on writing and family life in the form of entertaining comic strips) is  and Renee’s blog on writing is  Blogs are easy to set up and a free one works well as a writing blog!

A summary of the exercises we did this week:

A. Naming exercise (ten minutes): Choose a name (your own or one associated with your family, such as those of your children). Using any genre, write a short piece

B: Shopping List (ten minutes): Write a list of 5 things you need to get at the market next time you go. Then, either:

– relate each item on your list to a person, or:

– relate each item to an incident or memory, or:

– relate one item each on your list to a ‘who’ (might use it), ‘what’ (might it be used for), ‘when’ (it might be used), ‘where’ (it might be used), and ‘why’ (it might be used).

C: Heirloom (ten-fifteen minutes): Draw a floor plan of the first house you remember living in – ie a bird’s eye view of the rooms in that house. Choose one room you remember particularly well and draw a detailed plan of that room, including furniture, etc.  Now choose one object in that room and write a story about what it makes you remember.


Wonderful! We’ll see everyone next Monday, 1-4 pm when Janet and I will lead everyone on an exploration of Poetry!


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This entry was posted on March 13, 2012 by and tagged , , .
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