Toi Ōtautahi

The Toi Ōtautahi arts website has posted an interview with me:   at  Tap the photo labelled ‘Karen Zelas’ to find the interview.

The Arts are obviously alive and well in Ōtautahi. There is so much information on their site that I find it rather hard to navigate. So I shall also post the interview below:

Creativity Questionnaire for Toi Ōtautahi

How would you describe what you do?

I am a Christchurch writer – I still say that with some hesitancy.  I write poetry, fiction and plays. I commenced writing seriously, after a career as a medical practitioner, in 2006.

  • What is your most recent project?

My current project has been writing and producing a radio drama, called Falling (concerning Minnie Dean’s final journey, 1895). The script was developed from my most recent poetry book, a verse biography called The Trials of Minnie Dean. Writing this play for radio and podcast, so that people can listen to it in the comfort of their own homes, seemed a good idea in this time of Covid.

  • What project have you worked on that you’re the most proud of?

My first staged play was a verse family memoir, called Geography of Loss. This was an amazing experience for me. It brought to life episodes in our family history, and I “met” relatives who had died well before my time. It’s a spine-tingling experience for me to hear skilled actors speaking words I have written.

  • What is essential for creatives to have in their life?

From my experience, creatives need time and space to create, as well as the mental and emotional space and energy to do so. They need a suitable location that encourages inspiration and a lack of interruption. They require access to resources and funding, and a cocoon of supportive and encouraging family and/or friends.

  •  What inspires you about Ōtautahi?

The mountains – looking up at their rugged silhouettes, walking their many paths, looking out from them, down onto the city, estuary and sea. Street art, rivers, trees. The Arts are alive and well here, and occupy a significant place in our daily lives.

  • What piece of advice about your creative work has served you well?

In the first writing class I attended, I was told: “Don’t get it right, get it written.” If you wait for the perfect opening sentence, you’ll likely never get started. Get something on paper, anything. The flow will begin and then you have something to revise and shape.

  • What’s the biggest misconception about your creative work?

That it gets easier with experience. It doesn’t. You always have to work at it, be persistent, revise and polish.

  • What Christchurch artists do you most admire?

We have many talented Christchurch creatives. Those whose work I know best are writers, actors and directors. Some of those who have been important in my journey include Bernadette Hall, Joanna Preston, Martin Howells, Eilish Moran, Yvonne Martin …

  • What artwork/piece of music/performance has taken your breath away?

Eilish Moran, as Minnie Dean in Falling,on the night before her hanging, moves me to tears each time I listen to her.

  1. What do you wish you’d have known about creative work when you were younger?

When I was younger, my creative work was confined to sewing, gardening, a bit of pottery and raising children, as well as there being creative elements in aspects of my work as a psychotherapist. Some people can manage to write as well, but I don’t know how they do it.

  1. What’s your favourite hidden secret in Ōtautahi?

Spring – crocuses, daffodils, blossom. A new beginning each year.

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