Story: Te Ara – a history

Carl Walrond, writer, 2006 (2nd of 5)

Carl Walrond, writer, 2006

Veteran Te Ara writer Carl Walrond, who holds a PhD in 'something to do with fish', is seen here with daughter Greta on Kapiti Island in 2006. The entire Te Ara team made a field trip to Kapiti before starting work on The Bush theme.

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Contributed by Carl Walrond

So I hear that the first stage of Te Ara is coming to an end with the completion of the last theme on Creative and Intellectual Life later this year. Now I could be miffed about the lack of an entry devoted to my good self – standing as I do as a colossus among the intelligentsia, artistes and creative elite of these fair isles. I could, but am of course not. I am bigger than that – way bigger.

That was one thing I learned working on Te Ara – you have to cut up the world if you are writing an Encyclopedia. For eight years I toiled in the sausage factory – churning out entries or editing those written by others. It was a remarkable time and one which I was privileged to endure.

In 2003 I left a job at a ministry which no longer exists to take one up at a recently created one. It was just a matter of walking a bit further up the Terrace from the Reserve Bank Building (where I reside yet again) to Radio New Zealand House – where on the first floor the factory was established. The team began with what was left of the Dictionary of New Zealand biography project and was led by Jock Phillips. I was employed along with two other writers. There were editors, digital designers, resource researchers (those who got the images) and other cats.

In the early days it was a wide open world and there were debates about what to call it (Te Ara of course being settled upon), whether we would have footnotes, and other such minutiae around commas, semicolons and such like that only copy editors can become excited about (they’ll copy-edit this no doubt). [Ed's note: well, obviously Carl, what do you expect?]

Over time we grew, as more digital designers and those who sourced the multi-media resources were required. People came and went as we needed specialist writers for different themes. But a core group remained for many years. It was a once-in-a-generation opportunity to work on such a project – and along with my colleagues I could put down my profession on government forms as ‘Encyclopedist’. I never knew there was such a creature until I became one.

Writing is the skeleton but the bling of the web is the images. I am pleased to have got the topless sketch into the first theme – although it was apparently a boy which the artist turned into a girl – which is taking licence about as far as you can. It is difficult to know why some images produce such an attraction but these cross-dressing boys – who apparently dressed up in ‘rags from the cleaning bag’ (uh huh, they look like dresses to me) – sure tickled my fancy, as did the proud man of the Chilean rhubarb. And those ice axes don’t hide much boys.

I stand accused of dragging things into the trough, but boy an Encyclopedia is the world writ small, and not to document certain aspects of it due to sensibilities is censorship. That was my line anyway, and pleasingly occasionally it held sway.

Salomati!

Carl Walrond

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How to cite this page:

the Te Ara team, 'Te Ara – a history - Writing and editing', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/community-contribution/44928/carl-walrond-writer-2006 (accessed 17 June 2019)

Story by the Te Ara team