Cliches are that because over time they have proved their truth. So when I describe current Tauranga Writers Inc Chairperson, Jenny Argante, as a “force of nature” you’ll know exactly the larger than life, driven and effective personality I’m talking about.
If you’re hoping to read a detailed “obituary-like” history of Ms Argante, this article is going to sadly disappoint you. I’m writing about the Argante, an almost contemporary, I’ve observed since coming to Tauranga. From our many conversations in local cafes, our homes, or in less likely venues such as her daughter Andria Goodliffe’s organised “Mediaeval Faire” I’ve come to know the many faces of a mature women who is committed to developing the creativity of local poets and writers, and to promote writing and literature as part of the local cultural palette.
The paint of tragedy and life experience has brushed over and through Argante’s life. Well-educated, a trained librarian, with an impressive professional work history and long list of creatively-focused community volunteering, Argante originally came from England to visit one of her children – and stayed. Now firmly based in urban Tauranga she has had on-going roles with Tauranga Writers – an incorporated society dedicated to promoting emergent and established literary talent. She’s also had extensive personal involvement in the local literary scene as a professional book editor, new book promoter and supporter of the wider creative arts.
And to borrow the phrase of a recently promoted women’s event – Argante’s a woman who “gets shit done”. Never too proud to get down to the hands on stuff. I’ve seen an agitated and bustling Argante sorting last-minute catering arrangements for a long-planned event – no it wasn’t her job but it didn’t get done so now she’s doing it. This is the same woman who, some years ago now, wrote (with input from Dhaivat Mehta) – Te Whata Toi – a cultural strategy to advance the arts in Tauranga and the region. Who took over and updated “Freelance” a nationally distributed magazine for writers and had a major role in the production of the Tauranga Writer’s annual anthology – Byline. And, someone who having contributed to the creative fulfilment of many authors, is still happy to sit and light up local poet and musician John Baxter reading at the National Poetry Day 2016 evening event.
In the cause of Tauranga Writers Inc. and literary projects Argante is one of the most effective hustlers and fundraisers the community may have ever seen. She’s spoken of by fellow Writers members in tones of awe when they are discussing her submission writing and funding application efforts. While it is comforting that the wider community and charitable organisations are there to provide support and funding for creative projects the amount of effort required to obtain that funding and support is often not seen or overlooked – Argante could give master classes.
Jenny will acknowledge she can be difficult to work with and “hardwork” – she expects the same dedication to craft and the same effort with events and projects that she herself is prepared to commit – that does occasionally lead to some muttering in the ranks. However, every voluntary organisation (because that is what Tauranga Writers Inc is) needs almost driven leadership and involvement to move it along and keep it ticking.
It would also be difficult to describe Jenny as discrete if what is being disclosed to her is not kosher, legal or within accepted professional conventions – Argante will overtly challenge. Not so much a whistle-blower but someone who knows process, legality and ethics. I’ve been there when Jenny has been exploding with indignation about aless than acceptable practice or event affecting the creative and wider community. And it’s not just behind the scenes muttering Argante will use her established network and formal channels of communication to confront.
Like my late Mother, another very clever English migrant, Argante has a wit and intellect that can cause pain with the traditionally acerbic comment and critique and what I call a tongue honed to razor-sharp effect. I often think of Ms Argante when I’m reading that “quinessentially English” magazine for the functioning mature – “Oldies”. As with Argante – it’s a certain style.
Perhaps it’s also this “Englishness” that I’ve observed in Argante’s self-denying attitude to the care of a once feral cat. It required significant veterinary attention and care. I listened in awe as Jenny outlined the tolerance shown to the initial trauma and dysfunctional behaviour of this now adjusted, loving and much-loved house cat.
The organisation Jenny leads exists as a group of “writers helping writers”. They meet regularly at the Alzheimer’s Society rooms on Thirteenth Avenue and can bring work in progress for discussion and comment. The group runs professional development courses which “outsiders” can attend. I’ve personally sat in on some of these and had interesting and enjoyable experiences. In fact at one of these events I was “helping” Jenny pack up and I “packed” her handbag along with other event associated stuff into the wrong car – we still speak.
There’s a real focus within the Writer’s group of enhancing natural talent and providing pathways to publication. The current members of the group are “a diverse and eclectic bunch” whose work covers all the genres of literary creativity so you’re bound to find someone with similar interests even if it comes as a surprise that the writer of torrid romance fiction is a significantly mature female!
2017 is the fiftieth anniversary of Tauranga Writers Inc – it’s obviously an organisation that has benefited from years of contribution from an ever-changing team of literary interested people. It’s encouraging to see a younger demographic filtering into the ranks of its members ensuring continuity.
This coming week 21st June 2017 is the “birthday” – there will be a performance of an original work at Papamoa College and a “cake” to be cut by Mayor Greg Brownless. There’s been an exhibition of photo portraits at the Creative Bay of Plenty gallery and an associated individual submission and record project. It was Argante’s plan to have a special project each month of this 2017 year.
Argante alleges that this celebratory year will be her last in major roles for the Tauranga Writers group – her “swansong”. She has personal plans, projects and goals to achieve – why am I not surprised. Congratulations to both Jenny Argante and Tauranga Writer’s Inc for their contribution to the flavour and creativity of Tauranga Moana.
“Like spiders we spin yarn from deep within…” Check out the Tauranga Writers Inc. website http://www.taurangawriters.org.nz/
ARTbop benefits from the contributions of original content, reviews, poetry, articles and support from a variety of talented members of the Tauranga Writers Inc community and Jenny Argante. Thank you all and best wishes for a great event on the 21st.
And watch our facebook pages and Twitter for Rosemary’s upcoming article about TWI member Diane Hume-Green’s Byline presentation to the Lyceum Club of Tauranga – coming soon.
Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
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