Flash Frontier

Editors in 2021: New books, new poems, new projects!

Interviews and Features

The Flash Frontier editors have been busy this year, producing poetry and short stories, novels for young people, translations and more! They have all had a big publishing year, with work in anthologies and journals in NZ and abroad. Here is a peek at some of their news from 2021 – and watch for more in 2022!

Michelle Elvy

the other side of better

This year, Michelle launched her second book, a hybrid collection of small fictions that criss-crosses the line between truth and fiction, prose and poetry, past and future. Sometimes sharp and focused, sometimes dreamlike and expansive, these stories captivate on every page and question assumptions around the beginning, middle and end. Called a ‘masterclass in the short form’, the other side of better is both instructional and engaging, as well as surprising, with an idiosyncratic editor’s voice cleverly woven throughout.

‘A wonderful reminder that longer is not always better. Sometimes neatly packaged, well written prose creates as much of a lingering connection as any lengthy novel.’

– Chris Reed; full review at NZ Booklovers

the other side of better was launched in Ōtepoti Dunedin in June 2021. NZ Poet Laureate David Eggleton launched the book, with guests Tracey Slaughter and Diane Brown. The launch also included an art show with Jennifer Halli, whose collagraph print is featured on the cover of the book.

At the launch, David Eggleton noted:

Virginia Woolf in her novel To the Lighthouse writes: ‘The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark.’
‘Illuminations of the unexpected’ – that statement captures something of the sense of what I get from gathering my thoughts after having read Michelle’s new collection of stories, the other side of better.’

Others note:

Here, with Michelle Elvy’s the other side of better, are wise reflections cast through refracted light. Here is an absorbing cinematic poetry in the telling – breathtakingly honest and elegant stories (personal, yet universal) about how we live, how we struggle and, most enduringly, how we thrive. A wondrous collection!

~ Robert Scotellaro

A collection that surprises not just because it can, but because it understands the surprises of the world.

~ Erik Kennedy

Michelle Elvy needs no more than this, the smallest white spaces, in which to swim the waters between story and poem with humour, colour, imagination and a sharp grace.

~Tania Hershman

To read Elvy’s work is to move closer to discovery – is to find a larger view of possibility.

~ Sam Rasnake

An interview at the publisher’s site is here.
An interview with RNZ’s Lynn Freeman is here.

The beautifully mysterious collagraph print on the cover is by Jennifer Halli; find out more about the artist here.

The book can be purchased directly from the publisher here. Also available at Nationwide and in a bookstore near you.

Where to find the book:

Other news

In other news, Michelle Elvy is judging the 2022 Ad Hoc Novella-in-flash competition – so if you are working on your novella, see how to submit here!

And watch for a new and exciting 2022 anthology of flash fiction edited by Michelle Elvy and John Wentworth Chapin, which includes writers sharing work from earlier in their careers, with new work in response.

James Norcliffe

Besides being an editor and prolific poet, James is also an award-winning children’s book author and novelist. In 2021 he published the second in his Mallory, Mallory series, and forthcoming is his new novel, The Frog Prince. Both books are from Penguin.

The Frog Prince

A disappearance. An infatuation. The Frog Prince is an intriguing, multi-layered novel giving us a story, within a story, within a story.

This is a stunning debut adult novel by James Norcliffe, who is renowned for his award-winning children’s books and for his poems, which David Eggleton says ‘invariably get us to attend more closely to the spirit of existence, to moments of being’.

Where to find the book:

  • Published: 1 February 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143775492
  • Imprint: RHNZ Vintage
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $36.00

Find out more at Penguin Books!

Mallory, Mallory: Trick or Treat

It’s Halloween and Mallory has a trick up her sleeve!

Scheming Mallory and her reluctant sidekick Arthur have a Halloween misadventure involving nasty tricks, time travel and a sneaky cat.

Mallory wants candy, as much as she can grab, and she’s prepared to play some tricks (and kick a pesky black cat) to get it. But when she and her reluctant sidekick Arthur tangle with the owner of a spooky old house, the trick is on them. In the beat of a bat’s wing, they’re a century back in time with a mission to find that slippery cat, or Mallory will change shape forever . . .

From the magical pen of James Norcliffe, and with fantastical illustrations by Emily Walker, Mallory, Mallory: Trick or Treat is a spooky tale of time travel and intrigue, and people getting their (un)just desserts.

Don’t miss Mallory and Arthur’s first hilarious misadventure Mallory, Mallory: The Revenge of the Tooth Fairy!

Mallory, Mallory is a treasure of a book with its story bends, its very cool characters, its wisdom gleams and its excellent ending. I finished this book and I felt warm inside. It is a quiet book that will show you the woods and trees, the tooth and the truth, and make you hungry for more! Which is fortunate as there is a second one in the pipeline: Mallory, Mallory Trick or Treat. Bravo James Norcliffe!

– Paula Green, NZ Poetry Box, about Mallory Mallory and the Tooth Fairy

Where to find the book:

  • Published: 28 September 2021
  • ISBN: 9780143775836
  • Imprint: Puffin
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $17.99

Find out more at Penguin Books!

ReDraft: One of the Wild Kids

And this year, James edited, with Michelle Elvy, One of the Wild Kids, the 2021 ReDraft anthology of writing by young voices from Glyn Strange and Clerestory Press.

Now in its 21st year, ReDraft brings Aotearoa’s young writers together as they pour their minds and hearts into stories, poems, graphic arts and reflections that make up this rich volume. From familiar New Zealand landscapes to surreal imaginings, these offerings demonstrate a remarkable resilience in the face of what has been yet another difficult year. There is displacement and ambivalence, even grief. The darkness lurks here: these writers have, after all, grown up in our post-everything century.

And yet in these pages you will find humour and perspective, a sense of the absurd and the joyous. If these young writers represent the future, we can be assured by their sense of reality that also holds a thread of kindness, of hope, of looking ahead. In the pages of One of the Wild Kids, you will find ‘a world alive, where it all begins’.

from Nikki Li, ‘Discover’

Vaughan Rapatahana

Prolific poet Vaughan Rapatahana has produced a handful of new books/ resources in 2021! Here’s a bit more about his brand new poetry collection…


ināianei/now was published by Cyberwit (Allahabad, India) in August 2021. This collection of poems is Vaughan Rapatahana’s eighth. It will not surprise readers to see many translations in this collection, as Rapatahana writes more and more in te reo Māori these days. Many poems are in tēnei reo, but all have translations into English too. The cover art is by Pauline Canlas Wu. (See interview with her in this issue.)

The collection is available via amazon.com and via the publisher – https://www.cyberwit.net/publications/1773

A poem from the collection

he papakupu o aroha

kāore he kupu ki tēnei reo
kia whakaahua i a koe.
e tarai ana ahau
kia kitea ētahi tūāhua.

kāore rawa.
mirumiru? he rite tangi ki te waireka.
mamahi? he pūhonga rite ki te kupu-ā-kaupapa ki te kura.
ātaahua? pono, engari he kīwaha tonu.
ko ‘he tangata pai’
i tua atu o te whakarehurehu.

pai ake kia whakarere
te kōpaki i a koe i roto i te tā.

kei te noho pai koe i tua atu
i te toikupu;
i tētahi ture tātai i te katoa.

kāore e taea e ngā arapū ki te hopu te aroha.

a lexicon of love

there are no words in this language
to describe you.
I attempt
to discover some adjectives.

there are none.

bubbly? sounds like a soft drink.
diligent? reeks like school jargon.
beautiful? true, but so clichéd.
while ‘a good person’
is beyond amorphous.

better to forgo
encapsulating you in print.

you exist well beyond
any formula at all.

alphabets cannot spell love.

Other new books

The 13th Animal, Why Taffy the Cat Missed Out (User Friendly Resources, 2021) is both a resource and a storybook for schoolchildren. It explains via several stories (with associated exercises) why the cat is not in the Chinese zodiac; all stories are set in Aotearoa. And Bod the Odd/Hokē te Whanokē (User Friendly Resources, 2021) is a storybook for younger children, with associated resources. It is bilingual. It tells us that being different is fine. Pauline Canlas Wu was the illustrator for these two books.

Te Whakaako Toikupu/Teaching Poetry (User Friendly Resources, 2021) is a bilingual collection of poems written by Māori. Suitable for all age levels, the poems are accompanied by sets of exercises to clarify language, poetic technique, understanding and evaluation. With follow-up activities too. Vaughan Rapatahana edited the resource, composed the exercises, and did most of te reo translations.

Te Kinakina, E Ngara i te Ngari

Te Kinakina, E Ngara i te Ngari (Read NZ/ Te Pou Muramura, 2021) is edited by Rapatahana and is a collection of personal experiences about coming to and living in Tokoroa, by several Cook Islands women. Some amazing writing here!

Rachel Smith

I am currently working on a novel, quite a change and a challenge from my usual form of flash fiction.

This year I was a recipient of the NZSA manuscript assessment. The feedback received from my assessor, Tina Shaw, has been invaluable in working on the final edits, which will be completed early next year (all going well!) Watch this space.

A micro-excerpt from novel in progress

KM 01

The road begins here, where the footpath leans out of the bus cum ferry terminal. The ferry has come and gone. Inside, the ticket booth is closed. The vending machine is out of order. An upholstered bench seat lines one wall, filled top-to-tail with people wishing they were someplace else.

There is room on the damp wooden seat outside where the smokers wait. A young man waits. Rain blows under the covered frontage as the wind gusts, dampens socks and shoes and the bag that rests at his feet.

You can catch one of the buses that departs every hour all through the night. Some will go west, over bush covered hills to small towns. Most will go south, along the main road that runs like a broken limb from top to bottom.

Or you can go it alone, walk out into the night, one step after the next.

Gail Ingram

This year I’ve been pulling together a book of poesies, literally an anth-ology – each poem in the collection is centred around an alpine flower of New Zealand and comes with a photo. Some of those poems I performed at the wonderful spring season of the Canterbury Poetry Collective, where I was lucky enough to be voted winner of the open mic (twice!). The open-mic winners this year were featured on the last night, sharing the stage with guest poet, the inimitable David Eggleton – an evening of starry brilliance for the poetry community of Ōtautahi!

In editing news, I stepped down as volunteer joint poetry editor of takahē magazine and took up the editorship of a fine line, the flagship journal for New Zealand Poetry Society. What a privilege it is to continue to be involved in the world of short fiction, poetry and the cross between, to be able to read and celebrate the words a world makes. I’m so looking forward to our Flash Frontier 10-year celebrations. Bring on 2022!

Kākā Beak, Clianthus punicens
a climbing glory pea also known as Lobster’s Claw
in a garden in Akaroa village

Flora has a house

for the botanists of Aotearoa

On the entrance wall you will see the kete,
but I see the wiri of long-ago hands
of she who is practising the healing, calling
a prayer to Tāne Mahuta for the taonga te harakeke
and her brown deft fingers sawing
grandmother shoots, now weaving, now
pounding, I feel the trembling and the firm touch
of flax sap to skin – do you not feel it too?

And welcome to my kitchen, thank you, botanists
Joseph and Daniel from across a different sea,
for these plates of specimens, collected
for British bosses and their scientific house;
I am not British, I am
pākehā, a kind that cannot be defined
without this land, te māori and te reo
that has made the shape of me, Flora.

I am Flora, and I am showing you my house, this is:
Plate 413 Pittosporum ralphii – karo
Plate 420 Metrosideros diffusa – climbing rātā
Plate 432 Clianthus puniceus – kākā beak
Plate 452 Fuchsia excorticata – kōtukutuku
Plate 540 Knightea excelsa – rewarewa
See these red flowers that grow in my eyes,
fingers, between my toes, in my breath,
I take in their filigree, their delicacy
you have captured, engravers, on the tiles
of my splashback.

And over here is my living room, welcome
the necklace fern, Asplenium flabellifolium,
so many strands of heart-shaped leaves
running down my wallpaper of tree trunks,
a taonga from King Tāwhiao and
Queen Te Atakohu’s collection. I claim it
for my birth-family since Rennie was a Canadian
and so was my grandmother; they must have been
grateful beyond measure for this gift
of Fern (my mother). See, on the coffee table,
my mamaku, made of silver, only two centimetres tall,
but watch it grow and
grow, dark-grey streaked and delicate, so that I am
but a Victorian flea, looking up at its
magnificent drooping fronds, no ceiling for this
blackened tree and its three uncurling koru, opening
fists to the heavens.

And so upstairs now to the last room – our bedroom,
of course, my bed of moss, my velvet green pillow
dotted with tiny flowers (D. novae zealandae), arranged
in a paisley pattern of which I am fond,
and a bedspread of liverworts like tiny pale butterflies,
like the hair of a kauri, like a mass
of fuzzy caterpillars, botanical friend,
check out Nancy Adams on the shelf. And look
out my window! See the orange tussocks,
lining the Ōpāwaho, (Trip Me Up, NZ Hair Sedge),
to the tōī on the crater rim of
Hugh Wilson’s horizon, spin back to the beech
of Arthur’s Pass, the last thing I see, wavering
on the haze of sleep – the mighty Southern Alps –
like a line of white raoulia flowers, raising their
shining heads over the scree
to the bowing sun.

First published in More Than a Roof (Landing Press 2021)

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