Group boosts female writers’ confidence
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.
New voice: Nandita Mathur will feature in the latest compilation of writing from the New Kiwi Women Write Their Stories workshops.