The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

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Sunday Star Times
March 20 2005

Literati up in arms at author's CD threat
by Tim Hume

A war of words has erupted among New Zealand's literati after an author threatened to sue Creative New Zealand over a biographical error on a CD-Rom it produced.

The government arts agency is destroying hundreds of CD-Roms about New Zealand writers - and asking those who have already received them to destroy their copies after Dunedin author Lynley Hood threatened legal action.

She was upset her profile said her Otago University doctorate was honorary, when in fact it was an examined degree.

Hood has been criticised by other writers on Creative NZ's "The new word" CD-Rom, who accuse her of vanity and paranoia. Reissuing the CD will cost up to $5000.

Hood last week demanded Creative NZ order the destruction of all 2000 copies of the CD, intended to build an international audience for Kiwi writers, and reissue the directory with a biographical error corrected.

Hood, author of A City Possessed about the Christchurch civic creche case, told the Sunday Star-Times she believed the error was deliberate, as she had clearly stated in her biographical material that her degree had been earned.

"It wasn't an accident."

In a letter to Creative NZ, Hood said the error had "turned legitimate use of (her) hard-earned doctorate into an object of contempt", because "anyone with an honorary doctorate who uses the title Dr, and who fails to add (Hon) to the letters after his or her name, is deservedly regarded as a pretentious ignoramus".

Children's author Kate de Goldi said the debacle was "crucifyingly embarrassing" for New Zealand literature.

"I can't believe that someone would threaten legal action or require that the mistake be amended at considerable cost simply for their own vanity," she said.

"The arts are so stripped of money, and this was such a wonderful initiative. I feel sorry for Creative NZ - they try their very best, and this is the sort of crappy thing that happens."

Poet Jenny Bornholdt, who is among the 44 writers on the CD, said other writers she had spoken to were outraged. "They think it's ridiculous," she said. "It's overkill."

Wellington novelist Lloyd Jones said Hood's belief the error was deliberate was "probably paranoia working overtime".

"It's a bit precious," he said. "It's a very slight mistake."

Hood said she could understand fiction writers querying her insistence on the correction, but as a non-fiction author her academic qualifications mattered.

"It's really important when I work in the field of sex abuse hysteria and false allegations to have my level of scholarship acknowledged."

She believed minimal cost would be involved in reissuing the CDs, which "only cost a few cents to run off".

A Creative NZ spokeswoman said about 200 recipients of the CD here and overseas had been sent letters to destroy their copies, which would be replaced.

A further 600 copies which had not been distributed would be destroyed, and amended copies produced.

At last week's London Book Fair, where Antipodean writing was the central focus, about 1200 of the CDs were issued with an "erratum slip" of paper correcting Hood's profile

Hood said she hoped Creative NZ would reissue the 1200 CDs distributed in London, which included Spanish and French translations, as erratum slips were "not good enough