Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Memoir of collecting, writing and the highs and lows

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Jennifer Beck’s new book ‘Bits of String Too Short to Use’ is out on August 20.

A former teacher and psychologist, Jennifer Beck, has published a memoir, Bits of String Too Short to Use.

The book comes out on August 20.

Beck, from Howick, has written a large number of educational children’s books, translated and sold internationally.

She is also the author of many children’s picture books, most of which have won awards.

Her newest book looks at her life as a series of ‘bits’, memorable episodes which, when joined together, form a pattern both fascinating and thought-provoking.

From early life in an unusual rural community, she describes growing up in a large family with money troubles, limited educational opportunities, a lovable but somewhat eccentric father and a determination to follow dreams.

These led to early experiences as a teacher and extensive overseas travel.

As budget travel meant hitchhiking, risks were taken which led to being stranded north of the Arctic Circle, avoiding sunstroke on a lonely roadside in Greece and, later, travelling overland on an unreliable old bus from London to Sri Lanka.

So many adventures, followed by new experiences back home.

These include romance, weddings, a surprise pregnancy and establishing a successful transport business from a phone in the kitchen.

Not easy while breastfeeding a baby and trying to watch out for another young child while trucks reversed around the house.

Being housebound in the 1960s led to extramural study towards completing a university degree and a lifetime interest in collecting antiques and restoring furniture.

Restoration was also an interest of husband Peter, who dismantled a historic vintage plane and stored it in bits under the house before eventually restoring it.

After giving birth to another two children in the 1980s, a new career as a writer for children and adults began, with many years of involvement in New Zealand’s literary scene.

The memoir includes behind-the-scenes encounters with writers such as Margaret Mahy, Fiona Kidman and Dorothy Butler.

Despite the traumatic loss of several loved family members and the challenges of ageing, this love of writing has continued, culminating in this memoir.

  • Bits of String Too Short to Use by Jennifer Beck
    Published by Mary Egan Publishing, August 20, 2023, RRP $40.

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