International Writers' Workshop NZ International Writers' Workshop NZ Inc

Auckland, New Zealand

Shirley Ayers

All my life I promised myself that someday I would take my love of words seriously and start creative writing in earnest. Once I retired from the workforce and came to live on the North Shore, I realised that if I didn't start soon, it would be too late! In several folders tucked away in a box, I had numerous bits and pieces as well as some complete short stories – one of which had been published in a New Zealand magazine in the late 1990s and also, the skeleton of a novel. Then fate took a hand. I was browsing in the Northcote Library one Tuesday morning in 2004, when I spied a group of people sitting chatting in the furthermost isle. I sidled up to the end of a bookshelf and unashamedly eavesdropped. I was spotted, caught and netted into that group – International Writers' Workshop NZ Inc.

Since then I haven't looked back. I began having success in club competitions and in 2006 I won the club's prize for Highest Aggregate points for the year, and in 2009 I was runner up for Highest Aggregate. What I have learned from those competition judges – and the workshops IWW runs, has helped me immensely with focus and structure in my writing. I have, during my time with IWW, been successful with articles in New Zealand Memories magazine, and a short story on National Radio. In 2009 Graeme Lay judged an IWW competition – 'First chapter of a novel or novella' (in which I came second equal). His comments were to encourage me to 'finish it,' and I did just that. The result is my novel Wild Tussock.

I have, for the last two years, been putting a little back into the club that has helped me so much, and I am currently Club Secretary. Now that I have achieved my goal of writing that novel, I may put more time and effort into writing for external competitions – and perhaps even, a sequel to Wild Tussock.

Shirley Ayers
July 2011

Wild Tussock

Many children are caught up in the beauty and passion surrounding horses of all breeds. On the farm where Shirley grew up, horses were still being used for farm work, and her father would often find her sitting on a fence grooming their beautiful chestnut draught horse Nugget. Her first wages went on buying a horse and becoming involved with Pony Club and competing at local gymkhanas.

In Wild Tussock, Melanie’s passionate vow to find out what happened when her father’s valuable thoroughbred stallion disappeared during a violent storm leads her into danger in the wild country below the mountains, and traces an intrigue back to the rural areas of Auckland province.

Family loyalties are tested, and a new romance is revealed. Set loosely in the high plateau area of New Zealand’s North Island, this story will appeal to a wide range of readers.

From the Book

The violence of the storm, with rain falling on the snow-covered mountains above the tussock country, had caused an early thaw. The resulting floods sent raging torrents of melted snow surging down the valleys in a deluge which had destroyed anything in its path. It showed no mercy as it ripped up trees and flattened fences, leaving behind a trail of washed-out bridges and gouged-out streambeds across a ribbon of land marking its cruel rampage through the district. The further they rode out over the farm, the worse the scenes became.
“Melanie, it’s time to give up. When that tree came down, I reckon he was spooked, fled in terror and became caught in one of the heavier floods.”
Her voice shook with emotion. “No Dad please, he’s too strong and smart for that. He could be hiding still or he might be lame or something. We can’t just give up, we can’t.” Tears streamed down her face. “I will never give up until I know what has happened to him.”
“Enough is enough Melanie, we’re going home.

Paperback: 21 x14.5 x 17mm * 274 pages * 408 gm * ISBN 978-0-473-18829-0
Order Direct from Dreamstime Press or Ph: (09)442-1335 or 021 2968648 in New Zealand.

Sample Short Story Writing

Spring Contradiction
Published in New Zealnd Woman's Weekly

    Spring is the beautiful soft time of the year when wistful moods hover around. For me it is anyway. If you are wondering why I say this, let me tell you why.

    My name is Kathie Jones. I am of average height; average looks, and - well, just average everything I suppose. The only exception as far as I can see, is that most average females of my twenty four years are at least happily living with the man of their dreams, if not already pushing prams through the park on a warm spring ay. But, here I am sitting on a park seat all by myself with one eye idly watching the passers-by and the other on the clock. I am on my work-day lunch break so I only have an hour to wallow in this melancholy.

    When I first left schooldays behind and set off into the realm of files and telephones, I told myself it wouldn't be forever. Marriage was my vocation – not just living together, but the whole bit with all the trimmings. I know what you are going to say; how old fashioned. Well, that's me. Miss average, with a romantic notion about being part of a twosome, building the nest and all that stuff.

    I'm not completely on the shelf, and everyone except me seems to think I'm far from it. The trouble is, the man in my life is the happy go lucky type who worries not and wonders not – in other words the future to him seems to be some dim faraway thing that will take care of itself. Somebody in the older generation once said to me; "It's the woman who wants to get married and the man who just finds himself arriving at the altar." If I could only remember who said that, I would shake their hand and tell them they should be an honorary Professor of something in the philosophy line.

    I have decided that men have no deep sensitivities. Graham hasn't, anyway. He never notices the new green shoots and buds on a tree in spring. He doesn't feel the heavenly sensations of anticipation that come with the first warm spring sunshine and he definitely does not give any indication of thinking about nests and prams. He is more likely to want to rush home to watch the latest soccer match on the box.

    I have suffered this melancholy right through the last two spring seasons, and now this – the third one. Last year I thought – perhaps by this time next year my dreams will come true, but here I am again. Nothing has changed. I am once more spending my spare time wandering, in both mind and body, experiencing the capricious spring breeze blowing in my hair, filling me with improbable dreams. Every time I take a deep breath, I can smell everything around me; the flowers, the fruit trees and the balmy salt breeze drifting landward off a sea which seems to have an extra sparkle of hope. The fact is spring furnishes a climate for that everlasting committed love, that all those romance books say it does – except for me. The books don't mention the Kathie Jones' of this world.

    Last night when I got home from work, I kicked off my shoes, threw my office skirt in a corner, donned my favourite pair of old jeans and went for a wander along the beach at the bottom of our street. The beach is my refuge in all sorts of emotional storms so it naturally has an extra appeal when yet another uneventful spring has descended on me. Unlike me, the little beach at the bottom of the street doesn't experience storms. It is sheltered and serene. A narrow slash in the coastline where hardly anybody ventures. Most people go to the beaches further around the coast where they can swim. Even at full tide my beach is too shallow for swimming. All it consists of are rocks at the bottom of the cliff and a metre of sand meeting the water with a comforting slap-slap sound, while above, the trees lean down over the cliff, whispering softly to each other.

    When I sit on the rocks like I did last night, or languish in the park at lunch- time, like I am now, I think about the years of growing up. I think about all the hopes >and ambitions that come with that last step into adulthood, when schooldays are discarded and the wide world of 'going to work' and being independent conjure up all sorts of exciting scenarios for the future. Then I think of Graham and of when we first met. I remember the way we were drawn to each other. Our love had grown from an intense surging unsure thing, to something steady and gentle that goes on and on.

    Sometimes I wish we were still like at the very beginning and I long to go back. Back to when the raw passions that go with a new romance set our hearts on fire and our heads whirling. Then I tell myself, surely what we share now is far better and more enduring. It is at this stage in my thought processes that I start having doubts. Terrible gut rending doubts. If he loves me, why doesn't he 'pop the question?' Then a nasty little voice inside says "Next spring you could be on your own again Kathie; sitting here with nobody to think about." That thought is like opening the door during a hurricane. All the doubts and questions imaginable come hurtling into my head.

    I am brought back to the present by the feel of a cooler breeze and I look up to see the sun has disappeared behind a cloud. Very appropriate to the way I feel I reckon, and my thoughts do some more wallowing as I stare down at the grass again. Suddenly there is an extra shadow on the ground in front of me, so I look up to find the cause.

    "Graham ... what are you doing here ... how did you find me?" I am completely thrown and am stupidly blushing and wondering if I had spoken my previous thoughts aloud.

    "Well Kath, it is lunch time," he paused, hands behind back, a grin on his face. "Where else would I find a sentimental female at lunch time on a spring day like this?"

    With that, his hands come out from behind his back and he presents me with one beautiful red rose.

    "Just came to tell you to put on your best gear tonight, for a very special occasion."

    Something tells me next spring is going to be different for me after all.

© Shirley Ayers