Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: A turn-up for the books

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  • Geoff Lealand,

    So Auckland Uni gets Witi's royalties and pays him a salary in return?

    I shouldn't think. The formula my university works (and I suspect others do the same) is that you can earn up to 10% of your salary from other income sources. Not that there is any way of verifying nor monitoring this.

    I wonder, for example, about all the $$$ Dennis Dutton must have earned from Arts & Letters Daily, when most of his contribution was probably done in university time.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2539 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    But this stuff does get counted towards PBRF, right?

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Yes, it's part of the university's research output.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    So if you're a university lecturer, your work must be of "academic" standard? You wouldn't be allowed to write a semi-pornographic scurrilous novel, for instance?

    Also, if universities are responsible for their staff's work, can I raise a complaint about the barista at [redacted] who served me a mochachino that was oversweet and way short on the espresso? I believe they are an doctoral student in Chemistry, and should be a lot more competent with basic process.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Tania Roxborogh,

    Dianne Brown, in her Here Comes Another Vital Moment, says something along of the lines of this (and I'm too lazy to go find her book and find the passage) 'Such is our predatory nature...we are word thieves; scene stealers' or something like that. Our job as writers is to turn it inside out and filter it back to the world through our own unique lens.

    This whole situation with Witi has given me much pause for thought because right now I'm having to do a shite lot of reading about really tedious things to do with 11th Century shipping and battles and religious ceremonies. I need to do this. And, I need to find out a whole lot of stuff about the times and attitudes of the peoples.

    On the one hand, I don't want people criticising me for being historically inaccurate. (A few have already tried but they are wrong, not me, so I'm nonplussed about their erroneous assumptions) but that I might INADVERTENTLY incorporate someone else's phrase into my narrative without realising that it had become part of my psyche, is a huge stress.

    People criticise me for using words not used in 11th Century even though I said I was using 17th Century words. They said some of the phrases are ‘too modern’ yet the ones they’ve quoted have come directly from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and 12th Night.

    What I’m saying here, I think, and as I said on Beattie’s Blog, I am disinclined to join the others who have so quickly rallied to throw stones at a man who’s novel Whanau was the first ever non children’s book I read as a child. (My step-brother won it as a school prize). Here was a narrative which told my story with all it’s glory and heartache and laughter and tears and violence.

    Sad for him. And sad that people have been so horrible and unforgiving. Whoops – stuff up. Could happen to any of us. All writers of historical fiction could get caught out. Me. Or Jones. McCullum. Or Alterio. Could. Shouldn’t but it might so we all have to be careful.

    But. But. My words, though universal to all who use English, are my own when I speak them. My images, though not unique – never could be – are special to me because they are seen through my imagination. And, the stories I tell, (which could never be considered original) are owned by me because I tell them and, I’d like to think, there is only one of me.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2009 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Whoops – stuff up. Could happen to any of us. All writers of historical fiction could get caught out.

    I see what you're trying to say here, Tania. I imagine that it's possible to make a genuine mistake in your field.

    One mistake -- or possibly two (if you're terribly unlucky). But do you think you could accidentally do it dozens of times in a novel?

    And do you think that you could do it accidentally in one novel (the Matriarch) and then be careless enough to do it dozens of times again in another novel?

    And don't you think it makes a difference if you're a university professor (as opposed to a regular non-taxpayer-paid writer)? A professor in an academic environment where, if one of your own Ph.D. students had done such a thing, they'd be kicked out on their arse? (Or they certainly would have at my university -- perhaps Auckland isn't bothered by such things).

    I have compassion for Prof. Ihimaera's plight -- as I would if he'd been caught shoplifting or drunk driving -- but don't you think all of the above is relevant to the case?

    And sad that people have been so horrible and unforgiving.

    I hope you're not suggesting that Dr Gracewood is in this category. That would be an outrageously unfair assertion.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    Auckland Uni gets Witi's royalties and pays him a salary in return?

    I have never heard of academic contracts that would garnish book royalties (although very few academic books earn enough royalties for this to be an issue). Most (all?) places in the US do require you to assign patents to the university, and will then split the resulting revenues, if any, on some designated scale. I assume New Zealand is the same.

    I shouldn't think. The formula my university works (and I suspect others do the same) is that you can earn up to 10% of your salary from other income sources. Not that there is any way of verifying nor monitoring this.

    I wonder, for example, about all the $$$ Dennis Dutton must have earned from Arts & Letters Daily, when most of his contribution was probably done in university time.

    10% of salary sounds a little harsh -- I work in the US, and the limit is based on time. From memory, it is one day a week, but I have never gotten close to it.

    I am required to fill in an annual disclosure of income from outside work, and directorships / consultancy that might amount to a conflict of interest with my academic work. Unfortunately this form is always exceedingly short :-)

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    @Rich

    So if you're a university lecturer, your work must be of "academic" standard? You wouldn't be allowed to write a semi-pornographic scurrilous novel, for instance?

    It appears that Ihimaera himself asked the university to adjudicate this issue, and the university accepted jurisdiction -- and since he is paid to teach novel writing, the writing of his own novels is probably something his employers have a legitimate interest in.

    I agree that if a chemistry lecturer was writing (say) Mills and Boon novels under a pen name, it is far from clear that any plagiarism in these would be an issue for the university. (Other than as a matter of "bringing into disrepute", if they have such a clause in their contracts.)

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Tania, thank you so much for chiming in here - it is always good to hear from practitioners of the art, especially one who is currently tackling precisely the question we're talking about (how, and how much, to weave one's research and primary and secondary sources into a novel).

    Apologies for misspelling your name upthread (am sensitive to such things) and let me say that I am eager to get my hands on Banquo's Son -- to read and enjoy, I hasten to add, not to run through my Naughty Writer Filter (pat. pend.).

    Your thoughts and this fine blog post at Reading the Maps have me cooking up a follow-up post of my own. A sort of contemplative how to/how not to, based not (or not only) on what's permissible, but on what works.

    In the meantime, I'm eager to hear examples -- mostly novels, because it seems to me that poetry makes different rules for itself, and that they work just fine -- of contemporary literature that cites or incorporates other material, and does it well and productively.

    I'll start: Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictée, UC Press, 1982.

    And Peter Carey's My Life as a Fake (!) as well as his Ned Kelly book.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1472 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    @Tania

    What I’m saying here, I think, and as I said on Beattie’s Blog, I am disinclined to join the others who have so quickly rallied to throw stones at a man who’s novel Whanau was the first ever non children’s book I read as a child. (My step-brother won it as a school prize). Here was a narrative which told my story with all it’s glory and heartache and laughter and tears and violence.

    It is a real pity that this incident appears likely to tarnish Ihimaera's overall reputation.

    But I think it is also true there was actually a good deal of reticence about this issue when the news first broke, and outside of a few fairly predictable commentators (Holmes, for instance) very few people engaged in public exhibitions of schadenfreude. If anything, the public reaction by the "establishment" was remarkable for its delicacy.

    This would probably not have been a full-blown scandal if a) he had not accepted a $50k prize a week after the news broke (and he could have said privately to the Laureate people that perhaps they should revisit the issue in a year), b) Auckland had not conducted a risibly abbreviated "investigation" (and still shows no sign whatsoever that they "get it") c) his publisher had not harped on the "16 instances " and "0.4%" (or whatever it was) when it was far from clear that this was the full extent of the copying -- and it is now very clear than it was not -- and presumably after Ihimaera had reassured them that this was all there was d) he did not have previous lapses in this department.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    And sad that people have been so horrible and unforgiving.

    That seems an extraordinarily poor characterisation of the tenor of the conversation in this thread.

    Can't say I'm terribly impressed with the "asthetics is the only metre" argument in Scott Hamilton's post either. The Eliot analogy is just so unfit - of course if Ihimaera had processed the source material to that same extent it wouldn't have been plagiarism. It's a point that has been recognised at least a dozen times in this thread, but of course we've got it all wrong according to Hamilton.

    Man, we suck.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • richard,

    This piece by Rosemary McLeod seems very even-handed and humane.

    (Although I will spoil it by adding that the inclusion of Alan Duff in the story makes me think that it is just as well Witi never became Sir Witi, so there is no opportunity for the headline "One Knight Out Stealing")

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Tania Roxborogh,

    Horrible and unforgiving comment directed mainly at the tenor/tone of some national radio reports and 'the panel' and the word of mouth gossip I'm hearing in the staffroom and reading - not this forum which I joined precisely because I find the discussion helpful, measured, intelligent.

    Yeh, and I think it would have helped to have declined the award.

    I always find it a tad scary (despite being highly opinionated) having my say on things like this, afterall, I'm not an academic - just a high school English teacher - and not an award wining writer (hell, hardly anyone knows the names of NZ Children writers except for Margaret and Joy). But my latest novel is my 23rd published book.

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2009 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    And Peter Carey's . . . Ned Kelly book.

    Just subjectively, there are occasional speeches delivered by Carey's characters that struck me at the time of reading True History of the Kelly Gang as rather inadequately masticated slabs of anthropology. For example, Mary Hearn's account of the ritual killing of a horse back in Ireland. The impression was of source material being paraphrased, rather than lived and felt. Little glitches that briefly derailed the willing suspension of credibility.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Apologies, Tania, I misunderstood your point.

    Very much looking forward to reading Banquo's Son. (I had this crazy plan of translating Ophelia Thinks Harder into Italian once, but things fell through. Different author, I know, but it's an intriguing genre.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    (despite being highly opinionated)

    But my latest novel is my 23rd published book.

    Well, I think that qualifies you for the high opinion :)

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6796 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    Richard - Witi has passed the Knighthood equivilancy test.

    He was made a Distinguished Companion in the New Zealand Order of Merit (equivalent to a knighthood in the old honours system) in 2004 for services to literature.[1][3]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witi_Ihimaera

    It is definately a case of "One Knight out Stealing" - well done on that call sir.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • HenryB,

    George Harrison was sued for over £3 million for using an old song by the Ronettes ( He's So Fine )...

    Not the Ronettes; the Chiffons.

    But George Harrison's use was more than thinly veiled.

    Wouldn't a "I made a mistake. I am sorry. Here is a corrigendum with ALL unattributed materials properly attributed which will go out with every volume sold" have done, rather than tearing down another tree to reprint the other 520 something pages? Like others it is attempt to bluster his way through this by talk of writing a new kind of fiction that is truly hard to swallow.

    I know that Jolisa would like a novel which tells the story well ... but that may have to wait for rewrite some years down the track.

    Palmerston North • Since Sep 2008 • 106 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    The inclusion of Lee Tamahori by McLeod is just wrong. In NZ he would have committed no crime and he has got the 2007 film Next out with a few big name stars, ok it flopped but he's still doing what he does.

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    The inclusion of Lee Tamahori by McLeod is just wrong.

    Weird innit? Just more of McLeod's prurient fixation with such things.
    There's an uncomfortably patronising tone about the piece, as if all creative endeavours by Maori are somehow subsidised by a patronising establishment liberalism. The silly stretched comparison with Alan Duff simply plays into the latter's garbled racism. Why not, say, Patricia Grace? Personally I suspect that it's because there'd be no scandalous angle, and also because McLeod believes that all Maori success in the arts is underwritten by a kind of affirmative action.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4591 posts Report Reply

  • Tania Roxborogh,

    Okay, just reading a book called 'Medieval Scotland' by Peter Yeoman which is mainly a summary of all the archaeological information gathered over the past twenty years. Have written at the top of my note book the title and author of the book, the ISBN and date. Am copying notes as I read such as what the latrines in the monstrey's were like (and what they have discovered in some of them!)

    Am glad the author is boringly dry and factual with only a wee bit of personal conjecture. Less likely for me to graft a tidbit into my memory.

    As others have said, it's about the power of the story and I don't want anyone reading what I've written to 'see the seams' as Jolisa said in her interview. I want people to be carried away by the thrill and passion and arc of the narrative but at the same time completely trust me that the colours I've painted in the background ring true.

    Jolisa, I think it would be useful to post an article about what are the key ingredients to great historical fiction. See, though I love Gabaldon, I'm finding her latest hard going because it has SO MUCH detail.

    Anyway, I need to get off this forum, my blog, Beattie's blog and facebook and get back to writing - I have a deadline!

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2009 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    George Harrison was sued for over £3 million for using an old song by the Ronettes ( He's So Fine )...

    Not the Ronettes; the Chiffons.

    But George Harrison's use was more than thinly veiled.

    They made him pay for that:

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    Heh! I love the way they use lines from 'He's So Fine' in the outro.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I always find it a tad scary (despite being highly opinionated) having my say on things like this, afterall, I'm not an academic - just a high school English teacher - and not an award wining writer (hell, hardly anyone knows the names of NZ Children writers except for Margaret and Joy)

    Just a high school English teacher? Well, I'd have a little more respect for those on the front lines of trying to beat back ignorance and illiteracy. Nothing "mere" about the best of that breed, in my not at all humble opinion.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Just thinking,

    Alan Duff used to come down and watch me play rugby.
    That might be overstating it somewhat. He's mates with my then coach. Who subsequently got a 1 yr ban from Rugby for punching the ref.

    Anyone had a squizz at Duffs new book "Who sings for lu"?

    Putaringamotu • Since Apr 2009 • 1158 posts Report Reply

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