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  • Published: 3 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781775532606
  • Imprint: Random House New Zealand
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 248

The Writing Class

This unique novel is both a compelling love story and an insightful writing manual.

This unique novel is both a compelling love story and an insightful writing manual.

'Writers take what we learn of human nature and, fuelled by our longings for other existences and other times, forge new identities that can be as real as she is, sitting with her dog on the weathered step of the old house, stories that move us to tears or laughter.'

Merle Carbury, an author in her own right, also teaches Creative Writing. Amid the tension of the final semester of the year, her many and varied students prepare to submit their manuscripts. As Merle mentors their assorted ambitions, observes the romantic entanglements of her colleague, worries about her husband and is intrigued by their mysterious German lodger, she both imparts and embodies how to write a novel.

Written by a prize-winning author, who is also an experienced teacher, the overarching intelligence, compassion and wicked humour in this inventive book make it a joy to read.

  • Published: 3 May 2013
  • ISBN: 9781775532606
  • Imprint: Random House New Zealand
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 248

About the author

Stephanie Johnson

Stephanie Johnson is the author of several collections of poetry and of short stories, some plays and adaptations, and many fine novels. The New Zealand Listener commented that Stephanie Johnson is a writer of talent and distinction. Over the course of an award-winning career — during which she has written plays, poetry, short stories and novels — she has become a significant presence in the New Zealand literary landscape, a presence cemented and enhanced by her roles as critic and creative writing teacher.’ The Shag Incident won the Montana Deutz Medal for Fiction in 2003, and Belief was shortlisted for the same award. Stephanie has also won the Bruce Mason Playwrights Award and Katherine Mansfield Fellowship, and was the 2001 Literary Fellow at the University of Auckland. Many of her novels have been published in Australia, America and the United Kingdom. She co-founded the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival with Peter Wells in 1999.

The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature describes Johnson’s writing as ‘marked by a dry irony, a sharp-edged humour that focuses unerringly on the frailties and foolishness of her characters . . . There is compassion, though, and sensitivity in the development of complex situations’, and goes on to note that ‘a purposeful sense of . . . larger concerns balances Johnson’s precision with the small details of situation, character and voice that give veracity and colour’.

Her writing has been described as ‘skilful, insightful, witty’, displaying ‘a truly light touch’ (New Zealand Herald). Belief, which was shortlisted for the 2001 Montana Book Awards, was called by Sara Wilson in The Historical Novel Review (UK) ‘a powerful novel, unsentimental and unflinching in its portrayal of the potentially destructive power of love and faith’. In North & South, Warwick Roger wrote that Music from a Distant Room saw Johnson in ‘top form’— a novel which is ‘immensely satisfying, utterly believable’.

Reviewing The Open World in The New Zealand Listener, John McCrystal praised the ‘deftness of touch’ with which Johnson renders her characters: ‘it’s often no more than a little detail, such as the habitual movement of a muscle in a face that brings a character to life’. After commending the lightness with which she wears her obviously extensive research, he noted the care she takes with language — ‘Best of all is her feel for the elegance of the Victorian turn of phrase.’

Novels include: Crimes of Neglect (1992; short-listed for Wattie’s Book Awards 1993); The Heart’s Wild Surf (1996, and Dymock’s/Quote Unquote Readers’ Poll’s Best New Zealand Book 1996; published in the United States in 2003 as The Sailmaker’s Daughter); The Whistler (1998; third prize in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 1999); Belief (2000; short-listed for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2001); The Shag Incident (2002;Deutz Medal for Fiction, Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2003); Music From A Distant Room (2004; long-listed 2009 Impac Prize, Dublin); John Tomb’s Head (2006; long-listed 2006 Impac Prize, Dublin); Swimmers’ Rope (2008; long-listed 2009 Impac Prize, Dublin); The Open World (2012); and The Writing Class (2013).

Short story collections include:The Glass Whittler (1989); All the Tenderness Left in the World (1993); and Drowned Sprat and Other Stories (2005).

Poetry collections include: The Bleeding Ballerina (1986) and Moody Bitch (2003).

Stage plays include: Accidental Phantasies; Folie a Deux; Strange Children; and Goodnight Nurse.

Also by Stephanie Johnson

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Praise for The Writing Class

Above all, this is a book fuelled and inspired by the act of writing, as lives and minds engage in a highly choreographed human tango.

Christopher Moore, Dominion Post Weekend

Stephanie Johnson is a New Zealand author who has an award-winning career. This book should certainly add another accolade to that illustrious line-up.

Jacqui Webby, Oamaru Mail

Beneath it all, shining through, there is the compulsive writer's transparent affection for and bafflement at the craft and business of writing. Also noteworthy is her collegiality: the names of writers are salted throughout, and they are drawn from the canon of the novel, from the ranks of contemporary luminaries and from among Johnson's New Zealand peers with a generous lack of discrimination. If you want to learn about writing, whether by rote or by example, then The Writing Class is for you.

John McCrystal, Weekend Herald

It is a compelling literary work and, since it stems from Johnson's experiences mentoring and teaching creative writing, it is a particularly valuable read for those with creative-writing ambitions . . . richly descriptive with a cast of intricately constructed characters

Kate Mead, Sunday Star-Times

Emphatically recommended.

David Hill, http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon

There are lessons to be learned - about life as well as writing - and Johnson teaches them pithily and well . . . The Writing Class would be an informative and entertaining read for anyone interested in the craft; from beginners to published authors, and firmly cements Johnson into place as one of our most accomplished.

Nicky Pellegrino, Herald on Sunday

For the reader, The Writing Class is a delectable novel that needs time and attention to fully appreciate its complexity. For writers, it is a reminder that "some of us are not satisfied with one life-- [we] take what we learn of human nature and, fuelled by our longings for other existences and other times, forge new identities".

Marilynn McLidollan, NZ Womens Weekly

"I think we will always need gatekeepers, people who do the quality control that publishers have always done." Intelligent, tender and funny, The Writing Class is evidence of that quality control.

Diane Brown, Listener

Stephanie Johnson explores whether writers are born or made in this engaging novel . . . Woven through The Writing Class is a lesson on writing that is informative and illuminating; well worth a read.

Australian Womens Weekly-NZ Edition

It's an astute, often funny book, part novel and part writing manual.

Sunday Star-Times

I loved the book. Merle is an immensely appealing main character, whose observations of people and life in general made me smile with recognition. The pupils' work examples are cleverly done and a neat fit with their personalities. And I enjoyed the way that, in spite of serious issues, Johnson's humour poked through the novel at often unexpected times.

Patricia Thwaites, Otago Daily Times

. . . a book that's sophisticated, witty and - best of all - generous in its attitudes to its characters. It's a love letter to reading and writing and things readers and writers share, especially the mutual effort to understand the world and the people in it.

Paul Little, North & South

The Writing Class is not only entertaining, but also refreshing.

Wendy A Mill, Timaru Herald

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