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Publisher celebrates success in her grove

Mary McCallum in her olive grove in Martinborough with Aue. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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Martinborough-based publisher Mary McCallum spent many, many hours editing the 2020 Ockham New Zealand novel of the year, Aue, on her rural property out the back of South Wairarapa.

“It’s very calm out here and conducive to writing and working,” she said.

On Tuesday night, Aue by Becky Manawatu [published by Makaro Press] took out the MitoQ Best First Book Award and the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for the overall winning novel at the Ockham Book Awards.

Westport News reporter, 37-year-old Manawatu drew on her experience of the death of her cousin, Glen Bo Duggan at the hands of his stepfather when he was 10 years old and she was 11. He was regularly beaten and his last beating put him into a coma and killed him.

“The novel is about separation, love, and loss, and is written from the heart – this allows the reader to identify with the pain and the journey,” McCallum said.

“The editing for Aue went through five passes over a year before it was typeset, and then there was one more edit before proofing.

“This is about double what novels usually get, but no less than first-time novels deserve, I believe.

“Becky thrived on feedback and the edits, she drank them in. She wants to learn and learn and learn – if she trusts you, if she thinks you understand what she’s trying to do.”

Aue has sold 3500 copies and another 2000 are being printed due to increased demand after the awards last week.

McCallum and her husband Ian Stewart bought their South Wairarapa block 25 years ago and moved an old Pain family barn on to it. They planted an olive grove – Dry Rock.

McCallum works in her Wellington office too but says being out at her Martinborough property gives her space and time to think.

“I find that when I am here, I can immerse myself in reading and writing. I look out at the emptiness of the rural view, at the birds and the olive trees with no one in sight, and I have that space I need.

“To write and edit I find you need a lot more time than you think you do, to find that thing you need to find. It is so conducive to editing to be out here.”

McCallum said she had written a lot in this part of the world and had written poems about Wairarapa rivers.

She said the region was now full of creative and inspiring people involved in creative arts.

“Mary and Peter Biggs’ work on Featherston Booktown is huge for Wairarapa and really puts us on the literary trail map. It is the place to go for writers.

“The writers are treated well and want to come here because the event is warm and intimate. It’s a huge gift to Wairarapa.”

Aue can be ordered at: www.makaropress.co.nz

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