New Zealand reminds me of California, and Auckland reminds me a bit of San Francisco – both places that I love. It’s something about the freshness of the air, the richness of the blue sky, the emerald green grass, and strangely, the trees, many of which species I thought I recognized from my teenage days running through SF’s Golden Gate park. In any case, NZ is a beautiful place, and though we had been told constantly by our daughter that it rains a lot, we had nothing but good weather during the two weeks we were there. A highlight was driving three hours north of Auckland to the Bay of Islands, taking a ferry to the town of Russell, eating at some great restaurants, and para-sailing a thousand feet in the air on a spectacularly clear and beautiful morning.
Another highlight was Brad, my son-in-law, inviting me to teach two creative writing classes to his 7/8th grade students at Hobsonville Grammar school in West Harbor just across the bay from Auckland. What a great experience! I don’t normally get to talk to kids that age, and I was blown away by their eagerness to learn, their respectfulness, and their degree of participation. I wish everyone could meet Brad’s class. If they did, they’d come away with a renewed confidence in the future. These kids were bright, fun, and highly imaginative. We did some writing exercises, including a fun one where they got to write a paragraph using only single syllable words. Try it sometime and you’ll learn a lot about the power and versatility of small words! I also left two copies of Einstein’s Trunk – autographed, of course – as a prize for a writing contest they’ll be having once they are back from vacation.
While on holiday, I also had a chance to read several thrillers including an early one by Martin Cruz Smith called Stallion Gate, and two by Olen Steinhauer: Liberation Movements and The Bridge of Sighs. Let me preface my remarks by saying that both men are exceptionally gifted writers. The problem is that both have written masterpieces and by that standard, for me at least, none of these books was quite up to their best work. However, all were still a quantum leap better written than the average thriller you’d pull off a book shelf. For example, as soon as I finished Liberation Movement, I picked up a thriller that came highly recommended on the Amazon Kindle book site. Compared to Smith and Steinhauer the writing quality was sophomoric. I read ten pages and put it down.
Next posting, perhaps an update on the battle to publish A Thousand Suns and the necessity to be true to yourself as a writer.
Auckland, New Zealand