Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A legend in my own lunchtime

It was a bit weird at work today as they ran a story about me on the Ministry of Education’s intranet. Weird because everyone got to see this photo of me (with this caption) when they opened internet explorer (always for work related queries, I’m sure).

Craig – taking the reader ‘somewhere different with every sandwich’
I’ve worked in the public service in Australia and New Zealand and can safely say that drawing attention to yourself is normally not a good idea. Hopefully this time it will lead to book sales, but still… weird.

The article itself was another Q&A, but comes at things from a slightly different angle to the other coverage to date. I thought I’d repost it here for all the non-Ministry people out there wondering how my day job and my night-and-weekends job overlap.


A Man Melting – in our midst
4 August 2010

Craig Cliff, in our Schools Property Infrastructure Group, tells us about his recently released short story collection – A Man Melting – and reflects on being a published author and a policy analyst at the Ministry.

How did you come to be a published author and a policy analyst at the Ministry?

When I went to university I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study so I had a bob each way, studying both commerce and English literature. With my commerce degree I went across the ditch to work for the State Treasury in Queensland and really enjoyed working in the public sector. At the same time, I still enjoyed reading and writing, so that soaked up a lot of my spare time.

In 2006 I came back to Wellington for eight months to do my MA in Creative Writing with Bill Manhire at Victoria University, which helped set me on the path to getting published.
Being able to string a sentence together definitely helps when writing reports and Ministerials at work. Apart from that there aren’t many similarities between creative writing and working here. I enjoy both for different reasons and I guess I’m still having a bob each way. Writing is a very solitary act, so I enjoy coming to work at the Ministry and being forced to use another part of my brain.

When did you find the time to write these stories?

By the time I started with the Ministry in September 2009, I’d already finished writing A Man Melting and had it accepted for publication. All of the stories in the collection were written and revised in evenings and weekends while I worked full time in Brisbane, and later Edinburgh.

There are a few office workers that pop up in the book, but I can safely say they’re not inspired by any experiences at the Ministry.

What are the stories about?

The eighteen stories cover a real range. The blurb on the back of the book mentions three: “A son worries he is becoming too perfect a copy of his father. The co-owner of a weight-loss camp for teens finds himself running the black market in chocolate bars. A man starts melting and nothing can stop it, not even poetry.”

Characters pop up in places like Cambodia, Ecuador and Zanzibar, but equally there are lots of local settings like New Plymouth, Motueka and Midland Park.

One of the great things about reading short stories is you can often knock one off in your lunch break. I guess I wanted to make sure I took the reader somewhere different with every sandwich.

Are you still writing?

When I find the time: yes. This past year has been full on, what with moving back to New Zealand, full time work at the Ministry, and all the extras – editing proofs, selecting a cover, giving interviews – that come with getting a book published.

My goal is to have a novel published next, but I still find myself writing the odd short story – it’s great to get that feeling of finishing something, especially when your energy and enthusiasm starts to wane near the end of the working week.

Find out more
You can find out more about the book A Man Melting and Craig at his own website.
A Man Melting has just been published by Random House.



Credit where credit's due: the taking the reader ‘somewhere different with every sandwich’ line is a semi-conscious echo of Warren Zevon’s reply when asked by David Letterman what a terminal mesothelioma diagnosis had taught him: ‘Enjoy every sandwich’ (youtube clip here). This is also the title of a great tribute album to Zevon featuring Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, The Wallflowers, Steve Earle, Billy Bob Thornton and Adam Sandler (yes, the actors), among others.

No comments: