This installment of the Weekend Name Drop features another tireless role model for those who want to pursue their passions and develop others without compromising either endeavour. Meet Joan Rosier-Jones.
Name: Joan Rosier-Jones
Creative field: Author, Playwright
Location: Whanganui, New Zealand
My connection: In 2013, as part of my “Murrihy River Tour”, I visited the Whanganui River Market where several people told me I needed to talk to Joan Rosier-Jones if I wanted to connect with the area with regards to writing. The way people spoke of Joan reminded my of the esteem held for William Taylor in our Ruapehu District. The next time I heard her name was when I entered my first short story competition run by the New Zealand Society of Authors Central Districts branch. Joan was the judge and awarded my story, “The Boy at Ohinetonga” a Highly Commended. In 2015, I met Joan in person at the Chorizo Book Fair, part of the Whanganui Literary Festival. Since then, we have maintained contact and Joan has bought my book, Redeeming Brother Murrihy with plans to include reference to it in her upcoming publication about literature inspired by the Whanganui River.
Inspiration for this writer: Joan is not only a highly regarded writer – she is also known as a friend to writers. She is a key organiser of the annual Whanganui Literary Festival and was very welcoming to me when I joined in with the Chorizo Book Fair. She is a key partner in Tangerine Publications which sees other writers in the area reach print. Joan’s website, Write With Me, is not merely a showcase for her own writing, but contains inspiring blog posts and helpful tutorials. Similar to the example I saw with William Taylor and his involvement with the Taumarunui Writers Group, I am inspired by Joan’s genuine interest in other people’s writing and careers. With this Weekend Name Drop series, I consider myself a friend to creative people as well and credit both William and Joan for showing me how one can pursue a passion and celebrate and encourage others along the way.
Why you should check her out and share with others: In addition to her website, Joan has produced several books about writing, including a guide to publishing family history, as well as writing guides for the New Zealand Society of Authors. Dame Fiona Kidman has described Joan’s fiction work as “immensely satisfying and thought-provoking.” Looking through her titles over the past few decades, she has visited a wide array of themes and settings. Joan has written for a plethora of New Zealand publications including Metro and North & South and she has even had her play, The Stars Go Down, performed off Broadway! All of this and much more make Joan one of the most knowledgeable figures in modern New Zealand writing. Even with such an extensive background, Joan also makes herself available as part of the Writers in Schools scheme run by the New Zealand Book Council.
Sample of work:
‘This all happened far across the sea…’ Morveen took a breath.
‘In the land of the English,’ Arthur said. They were lying on a thin bed of straw under the long kitchen table, at the far end from the fire or the baker’s ovens, cuddled together as much for warmth as out of affection. Grunts and snores came from the rest of the sleeping servants.
‘Do you want me to tell the story?’
‘Aye. I will be still now.’
‘Well then,’ Morveen paused for another breath. ‘It was the blackest time o’ night. The torch light… it flickered against the wall. It flickered and ran. The light ran. Someone far away was cryin’, “Help.” And the midwife ran as quick as her fat little legs could take her. It was a long run. Down the corridor, out into the light of the great hall, where some grand courtiers was leanin’ against the wall tapestries. They looked away when the woman came a-running. Even then she held her hood close, not to be seen, so. Across the hall she ran, out into the dark again, clutching her chest when she ran out of puff. At the chamber door a manservant held a torch to guide her. A lady’s maid opened the door and pushed the poor breathless soul in, then closed the door quick to stop the fierce din inside leakin’ out to other ears.
In the middle of the room was the grandest bed you ever clapped eyes on. It was hung with gold-trimmed red damask curtains. The tester was embroidered with a coat of arms and the matching valances glowed in the flames of the roaring fire. It was fierce hot. The bed curtains were parted, and eight women stood by. The red-headed woman on the bed gave another screech and grabbed her belly.
The midwife pushed the other women back. “Breathe deeply,” she ordered, still puffin’ her heart out.
A final scream and the babby came out, plop into the midwife’s out-stretched hands. “It’s a boy,” she said and the ladies clapped, politely like real ladies do. A boy. Just what they wanted. The mother groaned. The babby cried. The midwife put a hand over the babby’s mouth to squash them cries. When he stopped she looked him over, sighed and began swaddlin’ him.
“Let me see,” the mammy ordered. “Before you wrap him.” She held out feeble arms.
“Here’s cheer,” said one of the maids, holding out a glass of celebration. “We have the best glasses. Silver ‘n gold goblets are not good enough for such…”
The ma struggled up. “No,” she cried.
“It’s your favourite…”
“No,” the ma shrieked, and as her word was law, the maid put the glass down on the table beside the bed. “There is nothing to celebrate.” The mother collapsed back on the pillows. “Get rid of him.” There was a gasp, me’be in dismay, me’be in disappointment that they would not be gollopin’ down mead distilled from herbs and honey, out of the finest glass you ever seen. “I will not have it.”
Arthur nudged Morveen. ‘Why did she..?’
‘We go through this every time.’
‘Was it cos…she was a-feared to have a…boy…’ Arthur insisted ‘…or because of what the babby was..?’ Across the river an eerie howl came up from the wooded hills. Arthur shuddered.
‘The wolves won’t be after comin’ for you here. Should I be goin’ on?’
‘Then stop your blathering…The midwife bundled up the babby. She knew the boy was never going to live with his ma in any case. Plans had been made. “Is the wet nurse here?” she demanded.
The wet nurse came out of her corner.
“Take it.” The midwife handed over the bundle and looked at the bed. The curtains were closed around the mammy and her favourite maid was trying to comfort her.
“Get rid of it,” the mammy screamed from behind the curtains.
The mid-wife turned back to the wet nurse. “You know where to go?”
“Aye, Mistress.” She lowered her voice. “But what is meant by gettin’ rid of it?”
“Keep to the original plan,” the midwife whispered back. “We’ll be after taking care of things here.” She waved at the bed.
Now it was the wet nurse’s turn to run through them dark corridors. The manservant who had waited outside followed with his light because her arms were full. They ran and ran, causing a small stir in the Great Hall as they passed, then on until they rushed out into the bitin’ night air. The babby whimpered. ‘Sh-sh-sh.’ The wet nurse rubbed the babby’s back. The light led them down to the river. When they saw the wherry a-waiting at the water’s edge, the light turned to go. “Godspeed,” was all he said afore racin’ back into the dark.
“You’re in a big hurry.” The wherryman leered at the wet nurse and her bundle. “We ain’t going nowhere until dawn.” He helped her into the boat and she sat herself down. The boy whimpered again. The wet nurse turned her back to the wherryman and took out a pap for the babby to suckle on. At first he turned his head away. Then he took her nipple in his tiny gob and sucked. She had good strong milk, the wet nurse did. Nothin’ like the watery stuff newborns usually have. When he’d suckled a little she rearranged her clothing, lay the babby in her lap and turned to face the wherryman. “Will this boat get us across?” she asked. “I have heard that such boats bring danger of drownin’. I cannot swim….”
“That makes the two of us,” said the wherryman drily. He pulled the flaps of his leather helmet tight over his ears and closed his eyes, as if to say, “Enough talk, now.”
At first light the wherryman cast off and began paddlin’.’
Morveen looked at Arthur. He was asleep. ‘Oíche mhaith, good night, darlin’,’ she said softly before snuggling beside him. She was soon asleep herself, dreaming dreams nobody would, or should, believe.
The Weekend Name Drop is a weekly feature on this blog, promoting people I have encountered who are doing creative things.