A new direction: Focusing on Non-Fiction

Blue Mushroom Books, News, News & updates

I’m starting a new publishing company called Blue Mushroom Books. Everything is still a work in progress right now, but this is the story behind the move:

For love or money?

Some time ago, my writer friend and official encourager J. C. Hart put me in the direction of a book titled For Love or Money by Susan Kay Quinn. There seemed to a be a divide in the indie publishing space – either you wrote for the love of it (and made little or no money) or you wrote to trend, made lots of money, and were considered a sellout.

We all know that life is never that black and white, but Quinn’s book not only built a bridge between the two, it showed that really there was only one side to it. Quinn talked about an author’s ‘wheelhouse’, that is the strengths of an author; what is easy for them to do well. She said to take the skills in our wheelhouse and see what successful genre it may match (disclaimer: I read this aaaages ago, so I might not be 100% accurate, but this is the gist of it anyway).

From then to now

I’ve been thinking about my wheelhouse ever since. I’ve published a fairly wide range of books, and it’s been fun experimenting. Looking back, my mindset has shifted significantly. At first, I was in it to be a children’s author. I love reading children’s novels, so that’s what I wanted to write. I held children’s authors in high esteem. But I also tried wordless picture books, non fiction, zines, anthologies, and colouring books.

I loved writing those books, but I think I’ve got them ‘out of my system’, so to speak. Like, I’ve said what I needed to say. Now I’m just forcing myself to write more – and that’s not good for anyone. I enjoyed the colouring book art, but it wasn’t challenging enough to keep me interested long-term. The zines were also fun, and I intend to keep making them, but I only really played the publisher role so I wasn’t involved enough.

Crafternoon Tea, March 2017

My author wheelhouse

What I’ve realised is that my wheelhouse is semi-collaborative non-fiction. I just have so much fun with it! It’s fun discovering new things, it’s fun publishing other people’s work, it’s fun illustrating, it’s even fun formatting (except when it’s not, then it’s extremely frustrating).

I’m focusing on New Zealand. New Zealand is a fascinating place. We have a ridiculous number of native / endemic plants, animals, and fungi, and some places that are still largely untouched by humans. I’m learning about the weirdness of nature, and I get to share my fascination and excitement with other New Zealanders. I get to draw on the expertise of people who know more than me – people who may not otherwise be published – and describe the wonders that make New Zealand worth celebrating.

The extinct huia bird.

Blue Mushroom Books

I had a couple of options before this name was chosen. First was White Pine Press, inspired by the kahikatea (which interestingly, isn’t actually a pine) but that was taken. I then tried Pohutukawa Press, since the pohutukawa feels like a sign that I am home. That was taken, too. Recently, I’d heard about these blue mushrooms (entoloma hochstetteri) which are native to New Zealand, but also found in India (for those of you who don’t know, I am an Indian-born New Zealander). It seemed like a good fit.

And it wasn’t taken! I registered the domain straight away, and over the next week started building the logo and the book topics. I’d done Ramble On, and I will also be including I Am A Writer / I Am An Artist in the Blue Mushroom Books catalogue, as they are based in New Zealand.

Following on from these I’ll be writing about our plants, insects, fungi, sea and river creatures, slugs & snails, and a whole raft of other things. The leatherback turtle book will also be published with Blue Mushroom Books, as well as a picture book about our native carnivorous plant, drosera arcturii. I don’t know whether I’ll branch out to publishing other people’s work.

Obviously I’m only just starting out, but I’d appreciate if you could follow me on Instagram and Facebook where I’ll be posting interesting stuff about New Zealand’s natural world.

Call for sponsors – Ramble On: A celebration of walking in NZ & around the world

News & updates

I’m in the final stages of drafting Ramble On, and then I have a long list of illustrations to do – but those are heaps of fun so I’m not too worried.

Ramble On illustration work in progress

For those of you who don’t know, Ramble On is a book celebrating walking. For me, walking (especially walking in nature) became the key part of my self-treatment of depression and anxiety. I’m incredibly grateful for the tracks and parks that are available to us in New Zealand, free of charge, and well-maintained.

My aim is to get on board with Mental Health Awareness Week, and launch this book in October (hopefully Saturday 14th) – I think Spring is the perfect time for a book on walking.

While I can’t confirm much at this point, I’m in discussion with some awesome people & organisations to make this a fun event. My aim is to have some guest speakers, interactive stations, and make this a celebration of our health and walking – not just a book launch.

So this is where you come in. I’m looking for sponsors, in the walking / health / nature industries for:

  • goody bag items, including branded merchandise
  • interactive stations like photo booths, digital technology, demos & games
  • spot prizes like shoes, socks, health items, books, art, toys, first aid kits & gift vouchers
  • guest speakers
  • drinks and nibbles
  • and a few select stallholders – highly relevant products, around $15 or less

Or if you’ve got something else you think would fit these themes, I’d love to hear from you! I’m on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram, or you can email me zee@zrsouthcombe.com and we can discuss what we can offer each other. I’ll keep you updated via my blog and social media, and once the date is confirmed you can get updates from there, too.

Thanks in advance xx


A note from a superhero author and an update on the NZ Young Writers’ Anthology

Children's Fiction, Events, News, News & updates

So the super creative young writer, Ella, has written the most awesome foreword in history. Or something like that. Read it here (opens in new window).

In case you’re not familiar with it, the NZ Young Writers’ Anthology is an idea I dreamed up to help encourage young writers. We all know I have issues with the phrase ‘when I grow up’ and one of those issues is that being a child should be reason to not be a writer / artist / scientist / dancer / yogi etc.

From its first year (last year) I started calling it an annual, mostly so I wouldn’t have an excuse to give up on it if it didn’t meet my expectations. It’s now in its second edition and quickly gaining momentum.

Speaking of gaining momentum, there’s another exciting annual: The NZ Book Festival. I’d already decided to match this up with the anthology and release it on the day, but then I was informed that one of this year’s winners, Poppy, was flying up to be here for the festival. After a brief chat, we decided: what better way to celebrate young authors by getting one of those authors to read their story?

Poppy Nightingale-Ayson, age 11, will be reading an extract from her story, Endangered, at the NZ Book Festival Storytime at 11am, and will be available for a short Q&A afterwards.

All my books will have festival-only prices, and I’ll try to get some bundles together as well, so if you’ve been thinking of picking up any as gifts, or haven’t gotten round to buying one for yourself yet, the festival will be the best place to get them.

As always, I’m happy to sign them or write a personal message for the recipient 🙂



Artweek Auckland 2016 at the Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop

In the studio: a few updates, and the NZ Book Festival

Events, News & updates

I’ve been a bit quiet online, partly because I’ve been plodding away at the various projects I’m working on at the moment (you can read about them here if you want), and partly because sometimes social media just isn’t healthy for me.So I thought I’d let you know how some of the things are going in the studio 🙂

Artweek Auckland

All the drawings went up last week for Artweek Auckland 2016, and we had quite a few people in and colouring. They’re not finished yet, though, so I’ve been allowed to keep them up until they’re done. Yay! If you’re in Auckland pop into the shop (open 7 days) and add to the pages.

Artweek Auckland 2016 at the Dorothy Butler Children's Bookshop

Artweek Auckland 2016 at the Dorothy Butler Children’s Bookshop

NZ Young Writers’ Anthology

I’m doing the final proofreading and formatting today (accompanied by the Harry Potter movie soundtracks and my… third? cup of tea) so I can get the files off to my printer. There are a great mix of poems, stories, and even a wee non-fiction piece (personal essay) about heroes of all sorts.

This anthology has been interesting, because sometimes it feels like I’m too small a fish to be behind something like this. But then again – isn’t it more impressive for a small fish to be doing this? 🙂


The NZ Book Festival

I’m also excited to be releasing the anthology at the NZ Book Festival alongside one of the contributors, Poppy Nightingale. Poppy will read some of her contribution, and I’m sure she’d be happy to sign some books as well. She’s looking forward to meeting lots of authors!

The colouring pages are almost done, and the bookmarks are on today’s LONG to-do list. The posters are being distributed, and after a great meeting last weekend the whole committee is looking forward to this year’s event being fabulous. More info here if you’re interested.