Otago Daily Times agri-business editor Sally Rae and
illustrations editor Stephen Jaquiery teamed up to add a book
to the already groaning New Zealand bookseller's shelves.
This is their story of how that happened.
One a writer, the other a photographer, and between us we
have been on more than half of the 20 cavalcades, so
co-producing a book on the Otago Goldfields Heritage Trust's
horse and cart pilgrimages seemed to make sense.
We had an idea, a vision, a collection of many thousands of
photographs and loads of potential subjects for compelling,
highly entertaining stories. But before getting too serious,
we had to find a publisher.
The first email approach was to a well-known national
publishing house and received a firm, "Not our style". At the
next attempt, Graham Gurr, from Halcyon Publishing, replied
the same day he was contacted with a heartening "Yes, is the
answer", followed by an outline of how he would like to see
the contents, and concluding with, "How's that for a
That was November 29, 2011 ... the deadline was the end of
March 2012. This tight schedule was to ensure the book would
be in the shops by November this year, making the most of the
I was excited and daunted by the project, but the size of the
job ahead wasn't apparent until I rang Graham just before
Christmas to find out basically how to write a book.
His response was along the lines "I'm in a bank in downtown
Auckland in festive rush-hour. That's not the sort of
question I can answer right now. I'll call you back later",
and didn't settle my nerves.
While waiting for his call, Stephen suggested it would not be
a good idea to tell him that I already had concerns about
meeting the deadline.
Producing a book is no easy process. It is not at all like
the romantic image of an inspired writer pouring delightful
prose, written from the soul, on to pages. Then, handing the
loose-leaf manuscript to an eager publisher before an adoring
audience snaffles the resulting work from the shelves.
Here's a tip for wannabe authors: Never do a word count at
5am, only to discover that you have only reached 12,000 words
two weeks before deadline and the target is 25,000 words.
That may work for an Agatha Christie or a J.K. Rowling but
for the vast majority of authors, the initial explosion of
enthusiasm quickly becomes months, or years, of painstaking
toil with little guarantee of success.
Google estimates that since the invention of printing, some
130,000,000 unique titles have been published and other
research suggests as few as 1% of completed manuscripts ever
make it into print.
There are many reasons for writing a book. Academics do so
for small target audiences within their disciplines, a small
percentage are written "for the love of it", but the
majority, such as cookbooks, self-help titles and novels, are
aimed at the mass market.
Gold Dust and Saddle Bags - Tales from the Cavalcade (a title
eventually settled upon, after much debate, on the back of a
paper serviette in a Thai restaurant in Dunedin) came about
as a result of a shared love of Otago's glorious high
country, which, every year, since 1991, has become the
destination for a diverse group of cavalcaders.
Stephen says a photograph is more than just "the push of the
"First open the locked gate without a key; urgently get the
vehicle unstuck from a bog, follow the slippery, scary,
steep, shingle-slide goat track to the top of the mountain.
Finally, with streaming eyes, you peer into the gale-force
wind for an hour searching desperately for any sign of a
horse among this barren, unforgiving but beautifully
Doubts nag as you question arrangements made by telephone 10
days earlier. Unencumbered by track or road, the pack trail,
which travels unsupported, could change its travel plans for
any reason, leaving us windswept, frustrated and empty-handed
on the top of Mt Kyeburn with a precious day of cavalcade
Finally, far in the distance, what appears at first to be
rocks seem to be moving.
"Horses ... HORSES, I see them!"
After an excruciating wait, suddenly it is action stations.
Which route will they take? Where should I stand? What
background do I want? Will the sun be shining brightly or
dulled by the patchy clouds? Nervous tension as the trail
Suddenly, they are here. The riders walking, wrapped against
the conditions like polar explorers, lead their mounts and
their packhorses, which carry large boxes of supplies. There
is neither a wave nor a smile as they approach. Like me, they
are chilled to the bone.
"Click, click, click. I shoot a short series of images as
they pass. One image captured for the book, only 168 to go."
The quest was also on to capture the "romance and mystique of
the cavalcade", as suggested by our publisher, and to seek
out those characters that would captivate the reader: the
Barry Crumps of the cavalcade world, those individuals who
stand out in a crowd.
"Not that it was a difficult assignment, when you had the
likes of Brenda Harland, well into her 70s and on the 2012
cavalcade despite a broken foot, yet lamenting her inability
to dance in the woolsheds at night. Or Linda Barnes, who
defied the medical odds - and a brain haemorrhage - to take
part in her 20th consecutive cavalcade.
"Not forgetting the inimitable Maniototo farmer and All Black
sire Jim Hore, who described himself as `guard dog' to
long-serving trail boss Dave McAtamney."
But telling those stories was only half the journey. Writing
up all those colourful interviews - sometimes in the back
seat of the ute as it bounced along dirt tracks, balancing
the laptop on the knee - was, in many respects, the easy
For the next stage was probably the most painstaking and
challenging. It involved checking, checking and more
checking. Should the word "cavalcade" be capped? How about
the ellipsis in the captions? Should the next word be capped?
There were dates to sort, photographs to match to text and
the spelling of names to be double-checked - and checked
again. Proofreading seemed a never-ending process and there
was always the fear something obvious would be overlooked.
We spent a week on the 2012 cavalcade together. Stephen was
photographing the various trails while I interviewed a number
of hard cases. These characters were a photographer's dream.
They fitted in so well with the surrounding landscape. In
fact some of them, with their crags and multiple folds,
looked just like the surrounding landscape.
We are proud of what we have achieved. Despite the revisions
and reviews we are still being wowed by the photographs and
chuckle at the stories. If the book sells well we could
expect to make enough out of royalties to have a holiday in
Australia, (horse trekking perhaps?), but not England.
Meet the authors
Sally will attend a book signing at Oamaru Paper Plus between
12.30pm and 1.30pm on Monday, November 5.
Both Sally and Stephen will be at Cromwell Paper Plus on
Friday, November 9, from 5.30pm (6pm start). Tickets are $10
(nibbles included) and available from Cromwell, Alexandra,
Queenstown and Wanaka Paper Plus.
There will also be a book signing at the Wanaka Paper Plus on
Saturday, November 10, from 10.30am to 11am.
Gold Dust and Saddle Bags is available from Otago Daily
Times offices and book shops ($49.99).
The Otago Daily Times has five copies of Gold Dust and Saddle
Bags to give away.
To enter the draw for one, write your name, address and
daytime phone number on the back of an envelope and send it
to Cavalcade, ODT Editorial Features, Response Bag 500012,
Dunedin, or email email@example.com with
Cavalcade in the subject line, to arrive before Thursday.