Posts tagged Star Author

Stranger and Stranger

A few weeks ago I was wandering through a Greek olive grove, searching for a 3300 year old city (as you do). The first thing I came across was a herd of goats.  Soon after that I came across the goatherd, and when I asked him – in my very bad Greek – about the ancient city, he beckoned to me and set off through the trees.

Goatherd

I decided he must be leading me to some spectacular ruins, but instead we ended up at his camp, an untidy clearing with a rickety tin shed, some goatskins over a pole, a very friendly dog and her two young pups. By now I was starting to wonder what was going on.

Goatherd's camp

I soon found out. The goatherd produced a battered saucepan into which he poured some white liquid from a 20 litre plastic container. When he handed it to me, I knew I had no choice but to drink. It was fresh goats’ milk and it was absolutely delicious. This from a man who had almost nothing – by our standards. But because I was a stranger, he wanted to give me something.

What I’d just experienced was a Greek tradition called xenia that goes back thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, kindness to strangers was a sacred duty. The sharing of food and shelter bound people together almost like family. In Homer’s Iliad, the Greek hero Diomedes and his enemy Glaucus, a Trojan ally, stop fighting and swap armour because they find out their ancestors were guest friends.

Diomedes and Glaucus

And early on in my new book The Bow, Odysseus and Diomedes know they can trust each other for the same reason.

My Family and Other Animals book coverIf you’ve read Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals – surely one of the greatest (and funniest) books ever written – you’ll remember how Durrell was plied with food and wine by the peasants he met .Tourism is eroding this deeply embedded tradition, but you can still find amazing generosity in Greece if you travel off the beaten track – as I did.

These days, we’re increasingly careful around strangers.  A famous Dame Edna Everage quote goes: “My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet. She’s now in a maximum security twilight home.”

Dame Edna Everage

I think my goatherd would have agreed with Edna’s mum.

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Hi from Catherine Mayo

Hi! I’m really pleased Christchurch Library has asked me to share some of my writing adventures with you this month.  Writing – and reading – can be an incredible adventure, even when most of it happens inside your head.

I should say, because most of it happens inside your head. How else can you go back in the past or forward into the future or sideways into another world? How else can you “become” someone else and experience all their fears and dramas and successes, and wake up safe and sound in your own bed the next morning?

Just occasionally we can actually travel to that other place and experience it face to face. I have just come back from a couple of weeks in Greece, where I visited some of the places I wrote about in Murder at Mykenai and The Bow – the fortresses of Mykenai and Tiryns, the site of the lake and the river in Argos, and the secret cave that occupies the middle of The Bow.

Mykenai, even in ruins, is huge and rather spooky. The fortress walls are made of enormous blocks of stone, some of them longer than me, and a good deal heavier. ImageHere I am standing in the entrance – it makes you wonder how people 3300 years ago ever put that huge capping stone over the gate without modern cranes and machinery. The Classical Greeks later thought it must have been built by giants – by  Cyclopses.

Even the doorways to the tombs are huge. Image

The lake my heroes hide in, in The Bow, has silted up, and people now live on it and grow their crops. But the river is still there, and the reeds. Image

The shingle spit is there too – it was pretty freaky to find something I thought I’d made up – though the weather was too calm to make lots of waves.

The big excitement of the trip was going down into the cave, which was explored in 1893 but forgotten about since. I met up with a bunch of Greek cavers and we had a fantastic time exploring it. Here’s a photos of me and Elissa at the far end, just before the crevice which … but I’d better not say any more, so I don’t spoil the story for you.Image

In the next blog, I’ll tell you what we found down there …

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Meet our July Star Author – Catherine Mayo

Our fantastic July Star Author is Catherine Mayo.  Catherine’s first book, Murder at Mykenai, is a Young Adult book all about the early life of Odysseus, the hero of The Odyssey.  The sequel, The Bow, has just been released and is available at the library now.  Catherine is one extremely talented woman, not only is she an author, she is also a musician and a luthier (a violin maker and restorer), she loves gardening, horses and she’s been to Greece 3 times!

Thanks for joining us Catherine.  We look forward to hearing all about your books, your writing and your other interests.

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Saffron calling from Uruguay again!

Hola again,

Remember Saffron’s story from Uruguay? Here is what happened next…by Saffron

 

This is what happens when I take my two little sisters for a walk in Colonia del Sacramento:

‘Why is everything so old?’ Sage asks

I tell her that Colonia is very old and precious and that that’s why it needs to be preserved.

But Sage is not listening and keeps complaining about everything being really old. She keeps saying that there is no one around and that she feels scared.

We start walking around the block. Then we stop. Then we try to walk. Then we stop again.

‘Saffron, I told you this place is all broken,̕̕ Sage says.

The street is all made of sharp pointy stones. Star Anise’s pram is completely stuck. I can’t move it. She starts crying. Sage starts whining. I tell Sage and Star Anise to be calm. I tell them that we are just stuck in a charming street. I also tell them not to worry because we are definitely protected by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.’

 

‘Saffron, are you sure you are all right? Your little sister seems very distressed.’ Lovely lady says on the phone.

‘Yes, I am quite excellent at the moment. Mum’s uncle Bonifacio is meeting us in an hour to take us around the tourist attractions in Colonia del Sacramento. Bye now. I might call you later.’

 

Star Anise’s crying is getting really loud now and Sage is saying she needs to go to the toilet straight away. I keep pushing the pram but it’s still not moving. I think my little sisters need me at the moment so chau, chau for now.

Oh, forgot to explain: chau chau means bye, bye in Spanish.

Image

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Lovely children

Hola again!

One of the cool parts of my job is going to schools as a guest author and illustrator. Last week I was lucky enough to visit Al Madinah School in Auckland and what a lovely group of children they are! The best thing was that they were celebrating their book week so every day they were having a different activity to do with books.

From the moment I arrived teachers and children welcomed me into their school. Have a look at this:Image

I am the author on the right, the one on the left is lovely Sally Sutton who had visited the school the day before. I was so impressed with the children’s enthusiasm for books and for the craft of writing and illustrating. A real treat for me to see!

Do you have Book Weeks at your school? If so, what kind of activities do you do?

Victoria M. Azaro

http://www.victoriamazaro.com

http://www.saffron-sage.com

 

 

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Hola again!

Last night I was deeply asleep when the phone rang at midnight. It was Saffron. We had a nice chat and this morning she sent me this photo and this note. Have a look:Image

 

Right now I am in Uruguay.

This is what happens when I call Victoria at 3 p.m. my time:

‘Hello… This is Saffron, calling from Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay!’

‘Oh yes, yes, hello,’ she says

She sounds really sleepy. I am sure this is not a problem. So I just start telling her all these really interesting things.

This is what I tell her:

I am quite excellent at the moment. I am speaking perfect Spanish and doing all the right things. Mum is so impressed with me. I don’t think she is impressed with Sage though. Sage keeps complaining about having to travel all this way for Star Anise’s Baptism.

We are baptising Star Anise in the same church that I was baptised at. It’s a very special occasion for the whole family.” Mum says.

All of Mum’s cousins and relatives have come from Argentina.

They are all practicing this very high pitched song for the baptism and they are all hugging and kissing each other, ’specially Mum. Dad is also hugging and kissing everyone. He keeps checking his little notebooks for things to say.

I tell Sage to come to the corner to avoid all this kissing. I also tell her that UNESCO has declared Colonia a world Heritage site and that it is full of history. I tell her that UNESCO is very important. I am not exactly sure what UNESCO is but it sounds really interesting.

Sage says, ‘Dad says UNESCO is the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.’

Of course I already knew all of that..

We are staying at a charming hotel in the historic quarters and I decide that I should take Star Anise and Sage for a walk to make sure my little sisters appreciate all the history and to stop Mum’s relatives kissing me all over my face.

OK Victoria, I will write you again later to tell you what else is going on.

Bye, Saffron

Image

Hopefully Saffron will contact me really soon and I can share it with you here.

Chau

Victoria M. Azaro

 

 

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Star author for June – Victoria M. Azaro

Hola! I am Victoria M. Azaro and I am so happy to be the Star Author blogging this month!

I am supposed to talk about my books, my writing and my illustrating….hmmm…where do I start?

I guess I can say that I am a writer that writes about things that have happened to me, or to my friends or to my children. I also have this need to laugh every day. At least a minimum of 20 times a day. I would also add that I really need to feel very strongly about something to write about it.

Image

Last month I launched “Super Saffron”, which is the fourth book in the “Saffron” series. It’s a compilation of the three previous books plus a lot more new material at the back. The series has been in the market for the last 5 years so I have had a chance to talk to many children, teachers and librarians and discover exactly how they were using and enjoying the books in the classroom and at home. I found out that children were eager to learn more about Geography.

Like Saffron, children told me that they wanted to know what country was in what continent and what city belonged to what country. They also told me that they were really interested in some of the foods that Saffron ate in the stories and they all wanted to learn a bit of Spanish, just like Saffron too.

So, with all this in mind I created a section at the back of the book.

One of the pages looks a bit like this:

Image

 

When I look into what really grabbed me to write this new book, it’s very clear to me that I am passionate about children learning about other cultures, their foods, their dress, their customs and traditions through a humorous and fun approach.

We are so lucky to live in New Zealand at this time in history, where different cultures are embraced and celebrated. I have a son that is at Intermediate School and in his classroom alone there are at least 14 different nationalities. It’s not always easy to accommodate and celebrate customs and traditions that are foreign to us but the more we learn about them and the more we discover about them, the more tolerant and open minded we will be.

Sometimes little Saffron is not as open minded as I would like her to be. Have a look at this:

Image

Throughout June I will be sharing with you different little adventures that my character Saffron has had to overcome in different parts of the world. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them!

Chau

Victoria M. Azaro

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