Group boosts fe­male writ­ers’ con­fi­dence

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By AMY BAKER

Six months ago Nan­dita Mathur wouldn’t have dared to call her­self a writer, let alone an­nounce to her friends that she had am­bi­tions to work on a novel.

That is un­til the Delhi-born Auck­lan­der par­tic­i­pated in a month-long se­ries of writ­ing work­shops, New Kiwi Women Write Their Sto­ries.

This Sun­day the group will be launch­ing their sec­ond book New Beginnings, a com­pi­la­tion of work from mid-year writ­ing work­shops held at the San­dring­ham Com­mu­nity Cen­tre.

Ms Mathur em­i­grated to New Zealand 11 years ago with her hus­band and says one of the rea­sons for join­ing the work­shop was to make a con­nec­tion.

‘‘I felt too far away from that role of writer, writ­ing and peo­ple who write,’’ she says. ‘‘I wanted to be with peo­ple who were try­ing to write, be­cause I was do­ing the same.’’

Be­fore com­ing to Auck­land, Ms Mather worked in com­mu­nity devel­op­ment and pub­lic health, as well as writ­ing plays and teach­ing drama in var­i­ous set­tings, in­clud­ing at schools.

She is no stranger to the dra­matic form but says writ­ing re­quires an un­der­stand­ing of the dif­fer­ence be­tween oral story telling and telling a story on the page.

‘‘When you’re writ­ing a story, you have to use words dif­fer­ently,’’ she says.

‘‘That be­comes the dis­ci­pline part of it, to see whether you were able to pro­ject what was hap­pen­ing to your char­ac­ters in your own mind for the reader.’’

She say that the pow­er­ful group dy­nam­ics of the work­shop contributed hugely to the suc­cess of the writ­ing pro­gramme.

There were 28 women in to­tal, from coun­tries as di­verse as South Africa, France, Ire­land and India.

‘‘I found the teach­ers and stu­dents very gen­er­ous,’’ Ms Mathur says.

‘‘Ev­ery­body who came had so much gen­uine in­ter­est and pas­sion in cre­at­ing a new voice.’’

New Kiwi Women Write Their Sto­ries was started in 2012 by sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion Chi­nese Kiwi writer Re­nee Liang when she was ap­proached by the Auck­land Coun­cil to de­velop a writ­ing work­shop for mi­grant women.

The work­shops run for four weeks and are led by a di­verse range of New Zealand writ­ers.

Each week is fo­cused on a dif- fer­ent as­pect of writ­ing, such as ba­sic prin­ci­ples, po­etry, prose, edit­ing and per­for­mance.

Ms Mathur says the sense of mi­gra­tion, iso­la­tion and change is a bond all the women in the work­shop share.

‘‘One of the things you lose most when you move is your sense of art,’’ she says. ‘‘It’s not a pri­or­ity for you; it’s not some­thing you want to in­vest in im­me­di­ately.’’

De­spite the ini­tial chal­lenges, Ms Mathur says she now feels as ‘‘at home’’ in Auck­land as she does in Delhi.

This sense of belonging is re­flected in her work and she says she finds it hard to con­fine her sto­ries to any one sin­gle place or cul­ture.

Ms Mathur says the book is like ‘‘opening a new door’’ to her fu­ture, which she hopes will hold time for cook­ing classes, food writ­ing and work on a novel.

‘‘I feel more con­fi­dent about be­ing able to write a book after the work­shop,’’ she says.

‘‘They [the tu­tors] gen­uinely made you feel that you were just one of them, that ‘ just did it’.’’

New Beginnings will be launched on Sun­day from noon till 2pm at Fern­dale House, 830 New North Rd, Mt Al­bert.

Photo: AMY BAKER

New voice: Nan­dita Mathur will fea­ture in the lat­est com­pi­la­tion of writ­ing from the New Kiwi Women Write Their Sto­ries work­shops.

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