Photo taken by Joy's grandson Weston
PO Box 42
This is a good day for writing one of my rare web letters: the diary has a full blank page, the sun is streaming through my office window, a vase of white freesias fills the room with that scent we can never quite describe, and there is a Chopin prelude creeping in from the next room. Terry had a good night, is showered, dressed and in his armchair reading the paper. It is rare for so many good things to come together to form a background for a letter – which is why I am sharing them with you in this first paragraph.
It will also let you know that I am still writing, although in very big pint which will be shrunk for the website. I call it kindergarten print and claim it as belonging to second childhood. Even so I struggle with errors and think I need to go back to the Blind Foundation to get a big screen for the computer.
Dear Terry, now 89, has had three strokes in the last two years and has needed care 24/7. It is important that he stay here in his own home with all that is familiar, and indeed, he is a very easy man to look after – gentle, kind, doesn’t complain. If I have to be away somewhere, his nephew or niece come in to be with him.
Macular degeneration aside, I am physically strong and these days together are very precious for us both.
Writing? "Veil Over the Light" a book of spiritual reflections, published by Fitzbeck, Wellington, has sold well with surprising outreach. This year there has been a lot of interviews and while these have been about writing for children, there have also been questions about spiritual writing. One question was: "What is the difference between religion and spirituality?"” That answer was easy. "Religion is a path we choose: spiritual is what we are." Another question was: "What do you say to people who say that religion causes war?" The answer was: "Religion doesn’t cause war unless it is corrupted by politics."
Another interesting aspect in interviews is that the young journalists have grown up reading my books. Some of them want their old favourite titles to read to their young children.
Greedy Cat has always been a favourite. The new Greedy Cat books come alive with Robyn Belton’s marvellous illustrations and soon will be available in the United States through Hameray, California.
Clean Slate Press, Auckland, my educational publishers, are bringing out a new series of books "Building Bridges". I’ve loved writing these. The stories are in easy prose for reluctant readers aged 10 – 12. The setting are urban and each book has three stories about a group of characters, and mature themes.
Humour is important. I’ve been able to draw on the multi-ethnic experiences of my relatives, descendants and friends: Maori, Chinese, Dutch, French, Samoan.
Gecko Press, Wellington have brought out two beautifully illustrated and designed picture books of recycled stories: "Song of the River" with Kimberly Andrews’ art. And "The Gobbledegook Book" a collection of rhymes and stories illustrated by Giselle Clarkson.
Recently I’ve appreciated the work done by Copy Press in Nelson. If anyone wants a book published, I would warmly recommend them. There rates are reasonable, and they do very fine design. The first of the two picture books they’ve done for me, was "One and a Half Million Buttons" a fundraiser for the children’s Holocaust Memorial. It was the story of buttons collected by children to represent the one and a half million children who died in the Holocaust. The other book "Ethan’s Riar" is a story written by my great-grandson Ethan age 8. Philip Webb illustrated it, and Copy Press put it together to make a charming book.
You probably know that Terry and I live in Featherston, a little town about an hour north of Wellington. Featherston has a population of three thousand – and six book shops. It is also "Featherston Booktown" part of the registered book towns in the word that celebrate reading and writing. I am fortunate to be a patron of Booktown. There is a big weekend celebration that attracts thousands of visitors and during the year there are bookish events such as poetry readings and visits from authors. Recently we had a huge children’s party to launch the "The Gobbledegook Book". Hundreds of children had stories and then afternoon tea with old favourites – triangles of bread with hundreds and thousands, little muffins with a jelly bean in top and those miniature frankfurters we call cheerios. I told my neighbour that children were welcome to bring old children with them to the launch. Her four years old son said, "I know what old children are. They are adults."
In Featherston we live with small town kindness. I have a nine year old friend Jac who knocked on my door a few months ago, and said, "Joy, you are old and I want to help you." Yes, he loyally helps to keep my lawn tidy. He also helped when I was signing books at the Gobbledegook launch. He was very pleased to find himself on television that night.
The other half of my writing life is concerned with preparing material for retreats, and writing spiritual reflection pieces for a free on-line blog called CathNews. I’ve done a two year course in Ignatian Spiritual Direction and am a member of the wider NZ Ignatian Spiritual Council. On retreats I enjoy sharing new language for old basic religious truth.
It is time now to wind this up and send it to my dear, patient webmistress Irma. I am sure she will be very surprised.
He mana te aroha