The Whitireia Creative Writing Programme celebrated three significant events this week: 20 years of teaching creative writing, the establishment of an exciting new imprint (Escalator Press) and the launch of its debut publication.
On Wednesday 25 September Escalator Press hit the market with The Score, written by Adrienne Jansen – novelist, poet, non-fiction writer and founding tutor of the Creative Writing Programme 20 years ago.
At a time when mainstream publishers worldwide are retrenching, Escalator Press is a bold new move by the Creative Writing Programme. As Programme leader Mary-Jane Duffy says: ‘A wave of change is sweeping through the publishing industry and with it an opportunity to be part of the future of publishing. Escalator Press will provide an exciting platform for some of New Zealand’s most gifted writers.’
The Creative Writing Programme is already a major contributor to New Zealand writing, with more than 140 publications from graduates as diverse as Alison Wong, Tusiata Avia and Mandy Hager.
As the first full-year full-time creative writing programme in New Zealand, it broke new ground in many ways. Until then, any substantial writing programme had been in a university, and was generally associated with one writer as tutor.
The Programme was distinctive from the start because of its commitment not only to teach the craft of writing, but also the business of writing. It was important that graduating students would know a lot about the writing world, and how to find their place in it.
The Programme was also distinctive in having a range of tutors, so that students were exposed to a range of writing styles and approaches. This was vital, because from the beginning the Creative Writing Programme was committed to encouraging diversity.
That diversity can be seen in the work produced by graduates of the programme, and in The Score – the first book launched by its new imprint by Joris de Bres this week. The Score mines the rich world of the inner city – a block of council flats where migrants and misfits create their own community. A grand piano falls off a crane and by bad luck ends up the responsibility of Stefan piano restorer, illegal immigrant and victim of immigration fraudsters. His neighbours, a diverse bunch with their own messy lives, weigh in to help him rebuild it.
Adrienne Jansen’s previous novel was described as ‘a page-turner with real class, falling squarely between the arthouse and the blockbuster’ (Dominion Post). The Score continues her distinctive combination of compelling story, compassionate insight and fine writing.
With production and marketing by the Whitireia Publishing Programme – New Zealand’s highly regarded training course for the publishing industry – Escalator Press is built on traditional publishing values, whether in print or digital media, while developing its own distinctive model. The press will publish work by new and established writers associated with Whitireia.