Kapiti writer Mandy Hager, winner of the prestigious Katherine Mansfield Fellowship, says she intends to blog and tweet while at Menton in southern France — and she says she’ll send back columns for KIN.
She tells us: “As someone who has only had two years of French language a hundred years ago , I imagine I will have some ‘interesting’ moments to share with you!”
Mandy Hager has written a string of widely-acclaimed novels for young adults. Following the award announcement this week, she has shot into national, and international prominence, exemplified by her half-hour appearance on the Kim Hill show yesterday.
She lives in Raumati South with her husband Brian and follows local politics closely; taking part in citizens’ protests against the Kapiti Expressway and the KCDC’s water meter plans.
Of her award, Mandy says:” I’m thrilled and honoured to have been chosen as the 2104 Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellow.
“And right up front I’d like to acknowledge and thank the trustees of the Winn-Manson Menton Trust, Creative NZ, The Sheila Winn Charitable Trust, the Jack Jeff’s Charitable Trust and the French Embassy. Merci beaucoup!
“This is an extraordinary fellowship – generous, exotic, exciting, life changing. I have to admit that, despite being a writer, it’s impossible to put into words what this means to me.”
Ms Hager adds: “We have booked our tickets (my husband Brian is accompanying me) and will arrive in Menton, in the south of France on the French Riviera, in early April, at which time the Mayor of Menton will hand me the keys to a room in the building Katherine Mansfield once lived and wrote in – the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Room in the Villa Isola Bella!
“I’m incredibly excited to be able to research a project that has been brewing for the last 5 years.
She says: “In 2009, Brian and I spent 10 days in France, chasing up historical sites and links to medieval lovers Abelard and Heloise.
“At the time I knew little about them – had come to them via a project I was looking into involving Irish writer Helen Waddell (who wrote the novel ‘Peter Abelard’ in 1933.)”
Mandy adds: “But the more I read about their story, the more I realised it was Heloise’s story that stayed with me. Moved me. Called to me.
“I have spent the intervening years mulling over how best to tell her story. Should I give it a contemporary twist? A version played out in NZ with Destiny Church taking on the controlling role of the medieval Catholic Church? Switching from the Church all together and replacing it with the growing power and control of multinational corporations?
“In the end I’d always came back to Heloise – and the big questions around how and why she’d go through such emotional pain and hardship for the love of a man who ultimately spurned her (and their child) in favour of a brutal misogynistic medieval God?”
Mandy Hager adds: “I realised these were the questions that most interested me – and that, in order to explore them, I needed to tell the story straight – no devices, no time shifts – just a lot of good old fashioned research and a belief that somehow I could place myself inside her head, despite all the differences — or perhaps because of all the differences. I also came to realise that the only way I could do justice to the story was to go back to France and walk down the same corridors, feel the same touchstones, hear the same birds on a long hot French afternoon.
“This is the gift the Fellowship has given me – the chance to connect with Heloise on her own terms –and to meet and speak with those who can help me to colour her world.
I literally can’t wait! We have booked the tickets and will be away until the end of November next year! I am desperately trying to finish a book I am contracted to write so I can start shoe horning a little French language into my tired brain!”