Auckland - three weather extremes in an hour, traffic mayhem even on a Sunday, every second retail outlet an eatery. I had a full schedule of meetings on Friday (the National Writers Forum, 17-18 September this year is going to be a cracker!), caught up with old friends on Saturday, walked from Beachlands to Maraetai and back on Sunday morning and attended the Children's Literature Foundation AGM and Awards Ceremony on Sunday afternoon.
I'd learned by tweet as I walked off stage after my first session at the NZ Festival in Wellington in March that Evie's War had won a CLF Notable Book Award (a lovely way to cap a fantastic hour), and it was great to be there in person to receive it.
Evie's War was one of only four YA titles to make the grade this year and two of those four came from Hawke's Bay authors - well done Aaron Topp! - plus there was the added delight of another HB lad, Gareth Ward (well, an adopted HB lad: he's from the UK originally but we're very happy he's here now) winning the Storylines Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished writer. It carries with it a publishing contract with Walker Books Australia, so Gareth - also half of the dynamic duo that runs Wardini Books in Havelock North - is well set to expand his writing career. We had to have an HB contingent pic, naturally!
Getting a toe on the ladder isn't easy in this industry, and it's great to see someone putting in the hours, the drafts, taking the risks, following up opportunities, and finally getting to this exciting stage. As well as that, he's a top bloke, and with partner Louise runs an excellent, supportive and thriving independent bookshop. In fact two: Wardini Books has just announced they'll be opening a second shop in Napier later this year.
Independent Bookstores are the meeting point between writers and readers, the celebration of authorly creativity, the shopfront of the backroom hours, weeks, years of work that go into every novel. As well as that, they're lovely places to be. Wish we had more of them.