How Write On with Vanda Symon Can Inspire You

Write On with Vanda Symon is a long running popular literary radio programme and podcast from the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors.

After listening to the March 2019 Write On episode this morning, I wrote this post to share with you a few of the great reasons you should tune in each month.

Write On episodes are first broadcast on Otago Access Radio 105.4 FM the second Wednesday of each month, but fortunately you can listen to the current episode or past episodes anytime from any place by visiting the Otago Access Radio 105.4 FM website.

Write On showcases the work and lives of Otago and Southland writers, but that doesn’t mean you must be a Kiwi to benefit from the valuable tips, insights, and information available to those who listen to Vanda Symon’s delightful interviews each month. Whether you’re an author or reader, you will find much to inspire you by listening to the programme. Personally, I consider it one of the finest literary shows available.

I’ve always been enthusiastic about reading the work of authors from other countries. Not only has this helped me discover delightfully fresh and entertaining stories, it has also given me enjoyable insight into and appreciation for the cultures of writers from other countries. As a result, I have discovered many favorite authors from the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.

Reading books written by authors outside the United States broadens my appreciation for literature and exposes me to new writers in my favorite genre, crime fiction. Write On has introduced me to several great New Zealand authors. But I find listening to Write On just as inspiring as an author as I do as a reader.

My second crime fiction series, the T.J. O’Sullivan series, features a female New Zealand expat who lives in Honolulu, Hawaii and works there as a private investigator. My best mate Jess, an amazing Kiwi woman who lives in Queenstown inspired my decision to write the series. While not an expat, Jess has spent a great deal of time traveling and living in the U.S. and other places because of her work. From that I got the idea for the character T. J. O’Sullivan. You will find a lot of my interpretation of Jess’s lovely personality in the T. J. character. Sorry Jess, and you’re welcome.

While I have Jess to rely on in hopefully capturing in the T.J. O’Sullivan books the unique way Kiwi’s speak English, listening to Write On also provides me heaps of inspiration in this regard. It gives me the opportunity to listen to many other Kiwis speaking and hearing how they use many of the delightful slang terms, acronyms, and phrases unique to New Zealand. So, it’s a win-win, aye? I get to hear awesome and entertaining interviews with Kiwi authors, learn about great new books, and get inspiration I can use in writing one of my own book series.

If you’re unaccustomed to the way New Zealand people speak English, you will find it quite different from not only the “British Style” and “American Way,” but also a good bit different from how Australians speak the language. You can see a hilarious take on this by watching Air New Zealand’s “Santa Claus Can’t Understand Kiwis” 2018 Christmas ad. Part of difference comes from incorporating the Maori language into Kiwi English.

The Maori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand, settlers from eastern Polynesia who arrived in New Zealand in several waves of canoe voyages between 1250 and 1300. Over several centuries in isolation, the Polynesian settlers developed a unique culture, with their own language, a rich mythology, and distinctive crafts and performing arts.

Maori words and phrases in the general language of New Zealand is not only representative of the increased recognition of Maori culture, but an expression of a unique national identity. By recent accounts there are about one thousand Maori words used regularly by non-native speakers.

Words like waka (technically canoe, but often used to describe any motor vehicle), kia ora (hello), kai (food), and whanau (family) can now be heard interspersed in everyday Kiwi conversation. The development of Kiwi English in this direction is tumeke! (awesome)! But, this uptake of indigenous words and phrases, although significant, isn’t the only thing that makes Kiwi English different from the way English is spoken in the other fifty-eight countries where it is the official language.

The most obvious difference between the ways Kiwis and the British speak as an example is the accent. Kiwis flatten vowels into what can sometimes seem almost unrecognizable monotones which has to do with phonemes, those perceptually distinct units of sound in a specified language that distinguish one word from another. But that’s not all.

Kiwi English is often relentlessly tongue-in-cheek. When they say one thing, they may often mean the exact opposite. For example, if a Kiwi calls you a “winner” don’t celebrate right away as it could mean you’ve likely just made a fool of yourself and lost by a large margin. While “quite nice” is generally used in the English-speaking world to refer to something that is, in New Zealand the phrase often means the complete opposite.  Kiwis also cleverly tack the word “as” on ubiquitously to exaggerate any preceding adjective, like hungry as (very hungry), sweet as (extraordinarily good), and beached as (well and truly stuck or in difficult circumstances). And how about the rhetorical “aye” often tacked on to the end of a spoken sentence?

At any rate, I fell in love with the way Kiwis speak English when I was first introduced to it. Maybe I’m just enamored with the uniqueness. Over time, mostly from the influence of my friend Jess and other Kiwi friends, I’ve unconsciously incorporated a lot of Kiwi speech into my own.

You’ve heard all the great reasons I never miss an episode of Write On with Vanda Symon. You should really give it a listen and I’m confident you will find your own.

I’d be remiss if I ended this post without also telling you that Vanda Symon is not only a super radio programme producer and host but also a fabulous crime fiction writer. I’ve read and absolutely loved all her books. While she is best known for her awesome Sam Shephard series, Vanda has a darker standalone crime novel called The Faceless which is also terrific. Overkill is the first book in the Sam Shephard series and I’m certain it will hook any crime fiction fan who reads it for the series. All four of the current books in the Sam Shephard series are being re-edited, updated, and being made available as eBooks. Overkill and The Ringmaster, the second book in the series, are available now from most retailers including Amazon with the others to follow.

Between her books and outstanding radio programme, Vanda Symon has been such a personal inspiration I dedicated The Chinese Tiger Ying, the third book in the T. J. O’Sullivan series to her as a token of my respect and esteem for her work. That’s how truly inspirational I find this great Kiwi author to be.

Follow Vanda Symon on Twitter @vandasymon

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