Wednesday, January 31, 2018


It's almost a year since I worked on the illustrations for First fox, the debut fiction collection by Auckland writer Leanne Radojkovich, so it was a smashing surprise today to see Iona Winter has reviewed it in Landfall

"Radojkovich shows us things that are not often spoken of aloud, and I admire the way she illuminates the social, cultural and political in First Fox [...]"

"Stunning black and white illustrations by Rachel J. Fenton support the writing and lend another dimension to the tales."

It's a grand review, not least because it's so unusual for a reviewer to read* the illos with the text - but the benefits of doing so are clear from Iona's review. Many thanks to her, and to Landfall.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017


Cooked Up is the brainchild of writer and editor Elaine Chiew who managed to get Ben Okri to contribute fiction alongside Nikesh Shukla and yours truly. I'm still getting my head around that.

Overland were brill enough to publish my poem from their Transtasman issue on their website, but don't let that stop you from subscribing to this radical journal. 

I'm incredibly proud to have been invited to work on Sexual Textual Tennis, a graphic interpretation of an essay by Carolyn Gage, a playwright I admire immensely.  

This book is a wonderful fundraiser for Médecins Sans Frontières, edited by Mandy Pannett.

I have historical fiction in The Stinging Fly, "The Lawrence Tree".

Contains comics from NZ creators plus my graphic poetry and a very abridged version of my essay on comics and colonialism that first appeared in Three Words.

 In From 2014 - 2016 I worked on two books that I was lucky enough to represent at the Taipei International Book Exhibition in 2016, Island to Island and Three Words.

Three Words contains comics by New Zealand's most relevant creators, plus essays, including my essay on comics and colonialism, published and available to buy via Beatnik.

Island to Island is available to buy through Unity Books and Wheelers.

I subscribed to The Rialto for years and had such a fan moment when they published my poetry.

I have fiction in issue One and issue Seven.

New Zealand's oldest literary journal now contains my most recent poetry from a sequence about Charlotte Bronte and her friend Mary Taylor, whose biography CNZ are supporting me to write with an Arts Grant. Other poetry from this sequence is forthcoming from English: Journal of the English Association | Oxford Academic.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Wack's lyrical

My lyrical poetry submission made the shortlist of 25 in the Mslexia Pamphlet Competition - many thanks to judge Amy Wack of Seren Press, and editorial director of Mslexia Debbie Taylor.


English: Journal of the English Association | Oxford Academic are publishing two of my poems, 'Access to the Collection' and 'Brooklyn Bridge'*, Volume 66, Issue 255, thanks to Poetry Editor Dr Tony Williams.

*These poems, along with the one appearing in Landfall 234 were written as part of my research for my CNZ funded graphic biography of Mary Taylor, Charlotte Bronte's best friend.


Landfall are publishing my poetry in issue 234 - many thanks to Editor Dave Eggleton. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Poet tea

Many thanks to Poetry Editor Erik Kennedy for publishing 'Amazon' and 'Parting Gifts' in Queen Mob's Teahouse.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Wild wood review

“To walk In the Wild Wood is to enter worlds where the mundane is made magical” states the blurb on the back cover of Frances Gapper’s newest short story collection, published by Cultured Llama. I suspect for Gapper, what is meant by as mundane, daily life for most folk in England where many of her stories are set, is anything but. Not all writers have an ability to see magic in the every-day occurrence, however this is Gapper’s stand-out peculiarity; what would be dry description from the fingers of a less skilled writer is, in Gapper’s hands, the equivalent of a Grecian urn with a laugh-out-loud comic strip glazed around its vitreous fired girth. And just as the ancient Greeks understood the winning combination of high art with low art, so too does the author of In the Wild Wood, juxtaposing classical references with contemporary ones such as Come Dine with Me. Old with the new. 

I first encountered the title story in issue seven of Short Fiction. As I read the issue eagerly, excited to see what talent I was on a par with – my story While “Women Rage in Winter” had just won Short Fiction’s competition and was published in the University of Plymouth’s journal alongside stories by Catherine McNamara, Scott Pack, Annemarie Neary, Jenn Ashworth, Jill Widner, and others – I came across Gapper’s. Actually: I opened issue seven, read my story first and “In the Wild Wood” - illustrated by Claire Harper with an intriguing deceptively simple head from inside which grew a tree-brain - followed it, so. The story details the metamorphosis of a mother into a child due to the symptoms of dementia, but really what’s being described is the fear of a child forced to become a parent to their parent, the grief of losing their own life to the shepherding of the person whose care consumes them. Old age, filtered through a child’s lexicon, is made new, a contrast symbolised beautifully by the cover illustration for In the Wild Wood, an original artwork by Jane Eccles that evokes Oscar Wilde's "The Selfish Giant" for me. 

A simple thing representing a complex one, a youthful approach to an adult issue, is what Gapper does best. She has the ability, in the words attributed to Ezra Pound, to “make it new”. This is perhaps best showcased with the stories “In Bed with Miss Lucas” and “Observing Lucy”, lifting off as they do from literary classics of two of England’s most lauded women writers, Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë, with insights that are at times as hilarious as they are diverse.
“In bed with Miss Lucas” re-casts Pride and Prejudice from a LGBTQ perspective, in which “The younger girls might now form hopes of coming out a year or two sooner than they might otherwise have done”. Brontë scholars will be familiar with the setting of “Observing Lucy” as Monsieur Heger’s Pensionnat in Brussels, attended by Charlotte Brontë who went there first as a pupil, encouraged by her friend Mary Taylor, and later as a pupil-teacher, until her obsession with her master forced her to return to England and harass him via a one-sided correspondence. Gapper’s re-imagining of Villette is told from the perspective of Madame Beck, whose husband is the love interest of Lucy. In these two short stories, Gapper encompasses greater political and emotional terrain than the two original novels they are derived from.

From these longer historical pieces to the deft brevity of “The Leaf that Wouldn’t Fall” and “MyLion”, In the Wild Wood shows Gapper flexing all her story muscles, and leaves the reader in no doubt there is a lot more to come from one of the most exciting imaginations producing fiction today. I cannot guess where her next work will take me, her previous being The Tiny Key, I can only dream it will open up a world as yet un-imagined from the starry heights of a girl staring at the moon from a cartoon tree-top as In the Wild Wood.