The Christchurch Civic Creche Case

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March 21 2005

Author stands by call for CDs to be destroyed

Dunedin author Lynley Hood is standing by her call for thousands of CD Roms containing incorrect biographical information about her to be destroyed, but rejects claims she threatened legal action.

Dr Hood last week wrote to government agency Creative New Zealand asking for the 2000 CDs about New Zealnd writers, which wrongly stated her doctorate from the University of Otago was honorary rather than an examined degree, to be destroyed and new versions made and redistributed.

As a result Creative NZ destroyed hundreds of CD-Roms and asked writers who had received them to destroy their copies.

But Hood's request has come under fire from fellow authors who in a Sunday newspaper were quoted as calling the author of A City Possessed - a story about the Christchurch civic creche case - paranoid and vain.

However, yesterday, Hood said the incorrect information could seriously damage her reputation if people believed her doctorate was awarded and not earned.

The CDs will be used to promote New Zealand literature internationally, specifically at the London Book Fair this month.

"Those CDs are going to be around for a long time and not only does the mistake take away my qualification, it's made it into a liability.

"If you've got an honorary doctorate and use the title, you're a joke. I can't afford for that to happen," she said.

In the letter written to Creative New Zealand, Dr Hood said she believed the mistake was deliberate as she had pointed out - in writing and on two occasions - the doctorate was examined, not honorary.

"Indeed, I am bound to conclude the error was deliberate, and that it was made by someone who clearly understands the difference between an earned degree and an honorary degree, and who must therefore be fully aware that misrepresenting an earned doctorate as an honorary doctorate to an international audience will seriously damage the honour and reputation of the degree holder.

"As you are well aware, 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.

"Consequently, by portraying my degree as an honorary one in a government-sponsored publication, CreativeNZ has not only failed to acknowledge my proper scholarly status, it has turned legitimate use of my hard-earned doctorate into an object of contempt," the letter said.

She was unperturbed by the public backlash of her literary colleagues.

"Well, the people the paper spoke to were children's authors and poets."

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

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

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".

While Creative New Zealand initially suggested inserting a correction card in every CD case, Hood said she told them it would be "just as easy" to reburn and distribute the discs.

She was baffled as to where the references to threatening legal action came from.

"That is totally incorrect. I have never made any threats. Legal action has never been discussed."

Hood's letter concludes by saying a copy of it will be forwarded to her lawyer.

A Creative NZ spokeswoman told the Sunday Star-Times 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".