May 18, 2010

AWRF10 - Friday May 14: An hour with Alison Wong


Thanks to Carolyn from Central Library for contributing this thoughtful write-up of an AWRF 2010 event which I heard many people speaking highly of -- as you would expect with Bookman Beattie at the controls.
Alison Wong. Photo credit: Alan Knowles. "An Hour with Alison Wong" proved to be both enlightening and entertaining. Alison Wong is an emerging voice in New Zealand literature. Her work reflects her heritage – she is a New Zealander of Chinese descent who has lived in the Hawke’s Bay, Wellington and China, and is now residing in Geelong, Australia.

Wong described the long path to becoming a writer. As a shy girl growing up in the Hawke’s Bay in the sixties she was always seen with a book in hand, but the books were usually bought from a fair and she didn’t believe them to be of a great quality. Back then writing wasn’t thought of as a responsible job – her family and peers thought of a career in terms of becoming a lawyer, accountant etc. and she initially followed this path by studying mathematics at University.

However, from an early age her love for poetry was evident. She frequently wrote short poems before going to sleep, and once even wrote an entire school social studies project on India in poetry. After attending University, Wong worked in IT and spent several years in China, where she began writing. She later was accepted for the legendary creative writing course at Victoria, where she was encouraged to pursue her interest in writing and introduced to some of the writers who would influence her own work.

Alison read us the poem "Playground" from Cup, her first poetry collection and a finalist in the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards for Best First Book of Poetry. It’s about her three year old son and is set at the playground next to the Titahi Bay Shopping Centre and at Porirua McDonalds. Real places and events are scattered throughout her works.

The chair of the session, Graham Beattie, pointed out that As the Earth Turns Silver is more than just the love story between a Chinese-born immigrant and a Pakeha widower. It also is an historical novel chronicling a dark period in New Zealand history when racism was commonplace and Chinese immigrants were forced to abide by laws which adversely affected them, such as the Poll Tax and naturalisation legislation.

Alison Wong provided an insight into the craft and practicalities of writing her first novel. She commenced work on As the Earth Turns Silver in 1996 but it was not published until 2009. She talked about the long struggle and meticulous research undertaken to complete this book. The result is a tribute to her artistry. Her poetic acumen influences her prose to provide the reader with a significant œuvre d'art. Her style is highly readable, but it may take several readings to discover some of its nuances and subtleties. I recommend you try some of her work. You won’t be disappointed.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 02:30
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