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Children’s fantasy takes shape in Wairarapa

A new children’s fantasy epic, featuring gem-powered islands, sinister forces and a heroic team of “mythical beasts”, is coming to life in rural Carterton.

The Chronicles of the Fade, a series for nine-13-year-old readers, is the handiwork of Porirua-based author Juliette MacIver – the recipient of the 2023 R.A.K. Mason Writer’s Residency by New Zealand Pacific Studio [NZPS].

The three-week residency, completed at a private studio at Taratahi, has been offered to international and New Zealand writers since 2014. The programme supports writers by giving them “time and space for sustained work, creativity and exploration”, uninterrupted by everyday stressors.

MacIver is best known for her multi-award winning children’s picture books, but has recently made a transition to junior long-form fiction – and is spending NZPS residency working on the first volume in her new seven-part series.

She impressed the NZPS selection committee as “a focused writer, keen to delve into new writing genres” – which embodied the creativity and “intense energy” of New Zealand author R.A.K. Mason.

MacIver’s new series is set on an archipelago of seven islands, each with its own customs, geography and wildlife. Each island is associated with a different colour of the rainbow, and receives its life force from a gemstone buried in the soil.

The archipelago is threatened when malevolent forces conspire to drain the islands of their light and colour – and it’s up to the heroine and a team of fantastical creatures to “save their world from turning gray and its people into drones”.

MacIver, a mum-of-four, applied for the residency on a whim – unable to resist the lure of peace and quiet to work on both Chronicles of the Fade and some new picture books.

“I thought, ‘wow, three weeks in Wairarapa where I can just write all day!’ I had all the information collated already for a Creative New Zealand grant, so it was meant to be!

“The residency has been a huge gift. Having such a big chunk of time to dedicate to writing has helped things start to flow. And the environment plays a big part – and I find going for walks in the Tararuas gets the creativity bubbling away.”

MacIver has enjoyed writing rhyming verse “since [she] knew how to write” – but didn’t attempt writing a children’s book until her early 30s, hoping to cross off an item on her bucket list.

“I didn’t see myself as an author – that would mean way too much time on my own. But I wanted to try writing at least one book.

“I started writing, and it was immensely enjoyable. I thought maybe I could do this as a career!”

Since then, she has written 20 picture books, several of which have been translated into Mandarin, te reo Māori and Dutch.

She has won the Storylines Notable Book Award five times, the Picture Book Award at the 2017 New Zealand Children and Young Adults’ Book Awards and the 2022 Global Children’s Entertainment Awards Picture Book of the Year.

While in Wairarapa, MacIver has been “making significant rewrites” to the first manuscript for Chronicles of the Fade, taking into account “insightful feedback” from friends, family and fellow writers – and future audiences.

“I seek feedback from child and adult readers. You want to connect with the targeted age group, but you don’t want parents to get bored reading to them!

“Kids are pretty direct when giving critique. I gave [the draft] to a 10-year-old girl to review, and she made copious notes in the margins – with lots of suggestions.

“This time, the book needed a significant overhaul! The ending was a bit weak, and I needed to put more pressure on my characters and give them higher stakes.”

On May 23, MacIver will host two free events at Greytown Library: A storytelling and song session for children, and a writing workshop for teens and adults.

    For more information about Juliette MacIver’s events in Greytown, go to Wairarapa Word’s Facebook page.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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