Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Two Girls On A Train

Somewhere between the cities of Hull and London (Grantham perhaps?), on a train, the idea for Rotorua Noir was born. Two good friends of mine (who shall remain blonde, Nordic and nameless – for the time being at least) starting chatting to each other about the possibility of a crime writers festival in New Zealand. As I was well over 11,000 miles away at the time I can only guess as to why this topic of conversation came up but that’s exactly what I’m going to have a crack at right now. You see, I had just returned home after a disastrous relationship and I suspect it may well have had something to do with that. One of these fine ladies knew that I had found myself at something of a loose end back here in New Zealand and she had guessed (very correctly) that I needed something to keep myself occupied. And she’d have been right. I was in dire need of something to do to take my mind off things.

So when she finally got home she got in touch with me and told me about their idea. The idea that was born on a train. First of all I thought it to be nothing more than a rather flimsy flight of fancy but the more I thought about it the more it appealed to me. Why shouldn’t we have a festival of our own? I had attended a few in the UK while I’d been living there and even helped organise one while I’d been living in Iceland. I knew how they worked and people loved them. They’re a great way of getting writers and readers together and that always has to be a good thing. It’s hard to think of a more disconnected job than writing books and the need for authors to get out there and meet their fans is a very real one. On top of that I had seen the visibility of Kiwi crime writers swell significantly over the last few years. Thanks mainly to the publicity they were getting through the work of Craig Sisterson and his Ngaio Marsh Award. I had met Craig in Reykjavik at Iceland Noir and knew that he was the man to help me see this through. He was the first person to ever write anything about me – on his Crimewatch blog – and I knew that that piece of exposure had led to many more. And I also knew that I couldn’t possibly be alone in feeling this debt of gratitude to him.
Surely other Kiwi crime writers would feel the same way. It was time to find out one way or another.

So I dusted off my old Facebook page which I’d happily mothballed over two years ago and got to work figuring out how many crime writers we had in New Zealand. It was a laboured and rather awkward job at first and I’m still not sure I know exactly how many there are – but after talking to Craig in great depth about this it appears I am not alone in this – but at least I was able to put something of a list together and find most of these wonderful people out there in cyber land. After that it was just a matter of testing the waters and seeing who might be interested in coming to Rotorua in a year’s time to meet everybody else. As it turned out pretty much everyone I contacted was keen to do just that and so the idea first conceived of by two girls on a train somewhere just outside of Grantham (I like to amuse myself) took root in the volcanic soil on the shores of Lake Rotorua and I now find myself about to put tickets on sale for the first ever crime writers festival to be held anywhere in Australasia. Yes, that’s right, we’ve got another one over on the Aussies which is just the icing on the cake really.

The festival will be held at the home of a local theatre company here in Rotorua. The Shambles Theatre was formed in 1951 and puts on three major productions a year. Rotorua Noir will be held during a short break in their rehearsal time on the 26th and 27th of January 2019. There will be two days of panels and interviews at the Shambles as well as a day of workshops at a different venue held by Kiwi crime writer, radio host and TV presenter Vanda Symon. The idea of the workshops is to engage aspiring writers and to encourage the next generation of novelists in New Zealand to learn their craft. To that end we will also be running the Rotorua Noir Short Story Competition. Entries will open next week and will close on October 31st. The stories should be set in or around Rotorua and in keeping with the theme of the festival they should be of a dark or vaguely menacing nature. Or even extremely menacing if you like. They should also be no longer than 10,000 words long. The winner will be announced in December and will win a free pass to the festival, access to Vanda’s workshops and the opportunity to read from their work on stage at the festival.

Details on how to enter the competition will be on the Rotorua Noir website which will be up and running next week along with a link to take you to the ticketing site where tickets for the festival will go on sale March 1st.

As far as who you might get to see at Rotorua Noir, well, as well as the two mystery girls on a train who are definitely coming because it’s basically their festival, we’ve already had two other international writers agree to appear for us. One Scot and one Australian. We’re going to keep their identities under our hats for just a little but longer though but you’re going to love them. That’s one thing I am happy to tell you right now.

Interest in attending the festival has not been limited to New Zealand either or to just authors. Fans of the genre from Australia, America and the UK have already been in touch to let me know that they will be scooping up tickets as soon as they go on sale.
So it seems that from darkness great things can indeed grow. With a little help from a couple of girls on a train. I’m starting to feel like a certain Ray Kinsella staring at what was once an Iowa cornfield slowly becoming more convinced that if I build it they will in fact come.

Rotorua Noir – January 26th and 27th 2019 – Shambles Theatre Rotorua – Two days of awesome panels and interviews – One day of inspirational workshops – Four international guests of honour and a whole bunch of Kiwi and Australian authors – Two girls no longer on a train.

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