Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Treasury Interviews: Room 5 at Bayswater Primary interview Peter Millet

Room 5’s Biography:

We are a year 5/6 class at Bayswater Primary on the Devonport Peninsula of the North Shore. We love reading and have a book club on Fridays where we share what we are reading with the class. This week we are learning to take care of ourselves and others by looking after an egg! (It is harder than it sounds) Last term we wrote poems around the themes of Duty and Adventure to commemorate World War One. We are looking forward to interviewing Peter Millet and finding out if he did adopt a cricket after all.*



Peter Millet’s Biography: Peter Millet’s favourite football teams are the All Whites and Tottenham Hotspurs. He doesn’t have a pet, but is thinking about adopting a cricket. Peter’s favourite colour is blue, although it was aqua. One of his favourite authors is Roald Dahl. He is nearly two metres tall and has never been to space. If Peter could have a super power he would choose invisibility, so he could get out of doing the dishes. He is the author of the Boy Zero Wannabe Hero series and The Anzac Puppy. When he writes his books Peter is helped by his wife Ruth, who co-writes and also edits them.


The Interview:

What was the first book you ever wrote? Earlybird. It’s the story about a chicken I won in a raffle at Hauraki Primary school when I was 10.

How many books and poems have you written? My first published poem was written when I was ten. ‘There’s a Snake in my Coffee’ was printed in The NZ Herald. I was even paid for it! Since then I have written two books (Humpty Rugby and Moa’s Ark) that contain poetry and about thirty other books that are normal prose.

What inspired you to become a writer? Listening to my teacher read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And also listening to Pam Ayers read funny poems on the radio.

Where do you get your inspiration for your stories and poems? My family. Pets. My uncle’s farm. The outdoors. And TV and movies!

How did you become a writer? My wife who is a teacher taught me everything I know about being a writer.

What’s your  favourite story or poem that you have written?

Favourite story – The Anzac Puppy

Favourite poem – ‘Moa’s Ark’

What’s your favourite story or poem by another author?

Favourite story – Bad Jelly the Witch by Spike Milligan

Favourite poem – ‘I Wish I’d Looked After Me Teeth’ by Pam Ayers

*Cricket adoption update: No cricket yet, but a skink ran into our house and has been hiding for a while now. I’m not sure what to feed him. I think I will call him Larry.

Thanks Peter and Room 5 for a terrific interview. You will find several of Peter’s poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. They make me laugh! It was hard to pick which ones to include.

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The Treasury Interviews: Joni interviews Renee Liang


About Joni  Year 3 (7 ½ years old), Haumoana School.

  1. My mother and father named me after Joni Mitchell (one of their favourite folk singers), Dad’s grandma Beatrice Ashton, and of course, I have my Dad’s family name (Uytendaal – pronounced Oh-ten-darl), originally from the Netherlands.
  2. I was born in Tasmania and then I moved to New Zealand four and a half years ago.
  3. I live in Te Awanga with my sister, Erin, and mother and father.
  4. I love to write stories and draw pictures. At the moment I like to write about haunted places (mansions, streets, ships) and draw people and plants and animals.
  5. My birthday is on October the fourteenth, the day after my father’s birthday. This year I’d like to go camping under the stars with a few of my mates and family at Kuripapango and eat birthday cake and hard-boiled lollies!


Bio about Renee Liang

Renee Liang is a paediatrician (a doctor who specialises in children’s illnesses) who also writes poems and plays. Her parents moved to New Zealand from Hong Kong before Renee was born. She has two sisters. Her Chinese Wen-Wei which means literary blossom. She lives in Auckland with her husband and two children.

When did you decide you wanted to be an author?
When I was about your age. When I was six my teacher started reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis, to us in class.  I must have talked about that book all the time because for my seventh birthday my parents bought me the entire set of Narnia books.  From then on I was hooked on reading – whenever I got the chance, and even sometimes when I was supposed to be doing something else, my nose was in a book!  I remember reading C S Lewis’ introduction to his stories, when he said that he wrote the stories that he himself wanted to read. That made complete sense to me. And from that day on I wanted to be an author.
What is the first story you wrote called?
It was called “The Hole In the Forest”, and I wrote and illustrated it aged five. I still have it. It features a tiger who falls through a hole in the forest into a magical world. And it has a golden spine, made of stapled cardboard.
Where are you from?
I am from New Zealand, but my parents are from Hong Kong and they were born in China.  My family has always loved travelling – my parents must have been on the biggest adventure of their lives when they decided to come a third of the way across the world to live here!!  I have their sense of adventure to thank for my wonderful life and opportunities.  I love to travel too. I’ve been to Europe, Africa, South America and Antarctica.
When do you mostly like to write stories?
My most creative time is at night. I’ve always been a night owl. There’s something about staying up past everyone else, and staring out my dark window, and dreaming of far away worlds.  Sometimes I’ve stayed up so late it becomes morning again.
Why did you choose to be an author?
I don’t think people choose to become writers….writing finds them.  When people tell me that stories bubble up inside them and they can’t stop thinking about them, then I know they are true writers. And my advice to them is, to write. To give in to the delicious urges and let themselves indulge in creating these worlds and characters that only they could make.
Who is your inspiration?
I’m inspired all the time by everyone that I meet. When I meet people, whether it be in my job as a children’s doctor or at the supermarket or elsewhere in my daily life, I start wondering about what it is that makes them tick.  Sometimes the wondering turns into a character in a story. Other times I learn something from the things that they tell me.  I read a lot too, and watch a lot of plays. I think, ‘oh, this is an interesting question’ or ‘I’ve never seen a story told this way before’, and it all goes into my brain for later.  Right now I’m watching my kids (a toddler, and a baby) a lot as they’re constantly exploring and learning. They teach me how to see the world in new ways.
7.  What do you like to write about most?
I write about whatever’s affecting me in my life. It’s changed over the years.  I wrote a lot about love; about family; and about who I thought I was.  I’m used to people asking me where I’m from and complimenting me on my English, even though I was born here! So I write about identity.  Now that I have kids, I’m starting to think about writing stories for them.

Thanks for the questions Joni, and also sharing the information about yourself!  I hope to read some of your writing one day. Renee


Note from Paula: What a fantastic interview. I loved reading this.  Thanks Joni and Renee. Renee has a cool poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children called ‘Caterpillar’ about a children’s game.

The Treasury Interviews: Eloïse interviews Raewyn Alexander


My name is Eloïse M, and I am 11. I go to Balmoral School in Auckland. I love to read (I used to be told off by my teachers for reading books under my desk!) and I also play the piano.

Raewyn Alexander pic by Geneva Alexander-Marsters

picture credit to Geneva Alexander-Masters

A biography of Raewyn Alexander:

Raewyn Alexander has written novels, poetry, and non-fiction (guides co-written with Olwyn Stewart).  Her writing has been featured in publications such as the NZ School Journal.
She has performed her poetry at literature events. Raewyn was born in Hamilton but currently lives in Auckland. I have seen some examples of Raewyn’s poems online and they’re wonderful.


The Interview:
Hi Eloise,
I hear you go to Balmoral School. I am so pleased you study poetry and writing there. The study and writing of poetry is my life’s joy, while other writing compliments and feeds from that.
When I was 11, about your age, we had a school magazine and we could send in our writing to be published. I hope you also have one and send your writing in to the school magazine.
Now here are replies to your questions. I hope my answers are helpful and entertaining in some way.

1. Where do you get ideas for writing?
The late great Michael King said to say in answer to this question, “I go to the ideas tree and pick them off there.” He was joking of course, but in a way it is like that. Ideas are everywhere.
A good writer can write about anything at all. The ideas are not as important as the writing, the work itself. Practice makes a good writer great, so I hope you practise your writing, and read lots of books.

2. Have you always wanted to be an author/poet?
I have deeply loved language and stories since I can remember. My mother was an excellent story-teller, mainly with fascinating anecdotes from her everyday life. Such an eye for detail, and a great turn of phrase. Love for people also came out in what she said and gave her stories vitality. Then too, my paternal grandfather played with language all the time and gave us grandchildren nicknames. Mine was Topsyana Whizz Bang Pom-pom. He sang to us and told us stories, too. My dad would come home tired from work, but we’d press him for stories at the dinner table. He sometimes made us laugh and gasp, the work-world was so exotic to us.
I grew up pre-TV, in a rich oral culture, conversations everywhere. Listening to people talking together is still a delight. This is the kind of experience that made me want to work with language.
My first paid work was a letter of the week when I was about nine or ten, in the Weekly News, against racism. I received ten shillings, a lot of money at the time. It was so exciting to think I could get published, and be paid.
I told people I wanted to be a writer from about 14, but no one took any notice.
I just ploughed on anyway. It was rare to be a writer in NZ, then. Those of us who kept on trying are the ones who succeeded. Writing is always good, however, keeping on learning and mastering the form.

3. How hard was it to get first published?
Well, to be published as a letter of the week was easy in a way, it was the first time I’d sent a letter anywhere like that, (but I did write to relatives and pen pals, previously). Before that I had written lots of work at school, and writing at home in notebooks. I also told many stories I made up, or knew, to the little children in the neighbourhood, and read about four or five books to myself, a week. So lots of work went into becoming a writer, however it was a joy to take it on and simply feels great to do, even if it gets difficult. I call it ‘Exploring the infinite world within.’ I love how time expands, how I go into my own world, so good for my spirits.
For years in my twenties I wrote stories and sent them off, to places like Metro, The Listener… and got them rejected. Some rejection letters were encouraging, though. But I did often have letters to the editor published in The Herald. I also wrote many advertisements and press releases for our fashion business, Zephyr. (We are mentioned in The Dress Circle, A History of NZ Fashion). Then my various boyfriends were in bands and I helped write some song lyrics, and also, with inventing names for bands. Words and writing have many applications.
It took me many tries to get a poem in Poetry NZ, but I did get a few into smaller literary magazines before that, Printout, Spin, and so on. That also took a while to happen. I always looked at the poem again, thinking how to make it better, if it was rejected. Some editors sent me suggestions for reading and so on, so lucky. I just kept reading lots of books and magazines, and writing.
Then, I wrote six novels to see if I could produce one I liked. The seventh one I sent away and it was accepted, but I had to rewrite the whole thing. The publishers asked me to. It took three bottles of Twink to get that redone, no computer in those days.
The other novels I had tossed under the sofa, and when I found them one day spring cleaning, I realised they’d all helped me write the last, successful first novel, so they were not wasted.

4. What is your favourite genre to write in?
Mainly I write literary work, poetry, stories, essays, novels and plays. I prefer thoughtful work, up-to-date playful language, with a strong sub-text. I also like to bring in my political stance, and explore serious issues through placing characters in difficult circumstances then having them change their lives to be happier, and more successful in decent ways. For poetry I try all kinds of things as my fancy takes me. Now and then I write for a competition, essays, stories and so on, then the deadline forces hard work out of me. I believe we have to write what we love, in any case, as Ray Bradbury says, or don’t write, do something else.

5. What is it like getting published and seeing your name on books?
I always find it startling and pleasing to be published. I feel truly blessed to even be able to write, to get published is unbelievable.
It’s such a lovely surprise when people say they like something too, or have some comment to make. People love my latest novel, Glam Rock Boyfriends, for instance, they keep telling me they cried, or laughed, or love it. I am always amazed, then delighted. They often help me keep going with their support or criticism.
The hardest thing is when someone gets the wrong idea. I find some readers do not understand what I meant, but everyone has their own opinion, it’s just the way life is.
Usually once a book is out I am onto a new project, the finished product often helps me move on, and feel like I did do something substantial.

Thanks Eloïse , for asking me questions about writing, it’s helped me see what I am doing in a fresh light.

Note from Paula: What a great interview Eloïse and Raewyn. Thank you! Raewyn has a cool skipping poem in A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children.


Too hot to drink by Venetia and a lightning bolt by Lily

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Venetia wrote this poem after my visit to Gladstone School this year. She was having a cup of tea with her Mum and Nana and was inspired to write it as she waited for her tea to cool down. Lily went for a lightning bolt moment. Both poems sound good and capture a moment perfectly.

The Lightbulb Moment


When thoughts strike

ideas and pictures


A bright light

shines from the rest

like a lightning bolt

shines suddenly

with a picture

and a sound


The lightbulb moment


By Lily

Posting poems on Poetry Box – a remarkable car or two excuse the pun

Next year I will introduce a new timetable of things on Poetry Box as I aim to have a busy year writing!

But this year I always post my favourite poems from the challenges I set.

I sometimes post my favourite poems that have come from a school visit.

I don’t post poems sent to me that don’t fit these two things as I need time to do my own work.

This poem was sent to me after my visit to the fabulous Remarkables Primary School in Queenstown on Wednesday. I suggested all kinds of poetry things but one thing we played with was the last line of poem. I suggested testing out five different endings. I really like the ending Maddy came up with in this poem. Great job Maddy!


Cars roar
Cars glide
Cars run along the highway
Cars crash
Cars smash
Cars slip here and there
Cars go to the garage and have a nap.

Maddy -Age 8-Year 4-Remarkables Primary School-Class Whenua 2

Hot-Spot Poetry in Queenstown and Arrowtown is as magnificent as the scenery

I’m back home today catching up on everything before I start back on the Hot Spot Poetry Tour events in Auckland and Tauranga tomorrow (they run until Nov 8th).

The first stage of my tour ended in Arrowtown and Queenstown for a few days, and it was simply wonderful. Yes, spectacular scenery that itches to take shape in the form of a poem. Yes, the lakes that gleam and make you stand still to look. But yes too, to  the  warm and friendly people, the scrumptious food, the keen children.

I had half a day at Arrowtown School (now this is one picturesque school!) where a small group of eager writers worked with me and then few hundred Juniors. I am not surprised such good writing comes out of this school with a teacher so dedicated to poetry as Wendy Clarke (she has a poem in the Treasury).

A quick visit to meet Maria Small and her writing group, and make up a cluster of poems. Loved this!

And then a half day session at Remarkables School (also unbelievably picturesque) with Juniors and then Seniors. This is another hot-spot school when it comes to writing and I got to see that live when we made up poems and shared ideas in the hall. I loved this so much too.

The Remarkables School evening event was a treat with Kyle Mewburn, Pauline Cartwright and Wendy Clarke reading poems (Brian Turner was sick) and the local children in the book (Lachy, Max and Becky). It was so good to meet them, to see how they are such passionate writers — like everywhere else I wish I had had enough time to stay and chat with them longer. We heard some great new poems and heard some terrific readings from the two poetry books from local children .

A big thanks to everyone who made my time at your place special — especially those hard working teachers. What a perfect way to finish the first part of my tour. Just perfect.

Here are some photos of the night event including one with Becky (the only child to have two poems in the book!). Man and Lachy have had quite a bit of media attention

photo IMG_0163 photo

The Treasury Interviews: Rusheen interviews Courtney Sina Meredith

Rusheen goes to Brooklyn School in Wellington.

Photo on 2014-08-28 at 17.17

Courtney with her little brother, Pele (9), that she wrote the feather poem in the Treasury about.

Courtney Sina Meredith started writing poems and songs when she was four years old, they were mostly about stars and ants. If she couldn’t be a writer she’d like to be a unicorn. Her passions include traveling, spending time with her smelly but adorable brothers in Auckland, and writing while eating ice cream – something she recommends to all budding wordsmiths.

If you could meet one writer who you look up to, to discuss your own writing with, who would it be?

That’s a tough one, I’d have to write down the following authors, throw them into a hat and pick one out! I have met Jung Chang previously in Berlin and discussed my writing with her then but I would love the opportunity to do so again, she gave me the best advice that I think about often, ‘you write great events slowly, just a little every day.’

  1. Kahlil Gibran
  2. Elizabeth Barrett Browning
  3. Pablo Neruda
  4. Grace Paley
  5. Jung Chang
  6. Janet Frame

What do you do when you are not inspired enough to write?/How do you get inspiration?

I like to go for walks around the city while I work through my ideas, stopping somewhere for a coffee where I might pull out a notebook and scrawl down various notes! I have a little display of around 14 journals full of my adventures abroad, they are my greatest treasures, overflowing with joy and grief, pure boredom and scribbled maps. I’m inspired by people who stand up for what they believe in, in the same way I’m moved by the intricacies of nature. I think a writer is a filter, all of the world moves through you and you learn to work with the residue, what remains.

If you could change one thing about your writing, would you and what would it be?

As you change, the page changes too. A lot of young writers often ask me, ‘how do I become a great writer?’ this was especially true of some of the students I worked with across Java in Indonesia. My response is always the same ‘live a great life so you have something great to write about.’ The things I’d like to improve upon can only come with time and experience, I cringe when I look at some of the things I wrote when I was a teenager but I keep it all because every word, every letter has its place within the tapestry of who you are.

What’s your favourite form of writing and why? Is it different to your favourite form of writing when you were in primary school?

When I was at primary school I loved writing stories, especially ones with a surprise ending – like the mum ends up being an alien, or the whole house turns into a boat and sails away, but my favourite things to write were speeches. My first speech didn’t go very well, I was 7 and I’d written it all about my desk. The day before I recited it to the class, my teacher changed the room around, in my speech I talked a lot about the little pod of desks nearest to me but of course everything was rearranged by then so most of the class laughed at me and no one clapped! I went home determined to turn things around, I rewrote the speech and learned it off by heart, the next day I begged my teacher for a second chance and I got through to the school finals. Sometimes I perform the poems that I write so I guess in a way, not much has changed in terms of my first love.

Do you ever have a mental block while writing? How do you overcome it?

There’s a little trick I have, a strategy that I put into place in my late teens. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, right from when I was just a teeny tiny girl. I realised that I was going to have lots of days where I might not be able to write anything because of writer’s block. Around 18 I chose particular songs to write to, just a handful that completely resonate with me, songs I knew I could never outgrow. If I come up against a blank page and I just can’t see what comes next, I play those songs and I write myself through the block.

The Treasury Interviews: A St Margaret’s College Class of Y7 and 8 interviews Maria McMillan


Our class is made up of 16 Year 7 girls at St Margaret’s College in Christchurch. We combine English and Social Science (ENSS) so that means we have the same teacher for 10 periods a week. We think we are fairly typical Year 7 girls because we like … yummy food (butter chicken, sushi, McDonald’s, pies, chocolate, Subway, ice cream to name a few), books (such as Divergent, The Dark Blue 100 Ride Bus Ticket, The Hunger Games series), sport (horse riding, netball, swimming, water polo, hockey, athletics, basketball, squash, climbing and touch rugby), subjects at school (LUNCH, PE/Health, ENSS, Art, Speech and Drama, Performing Arts, RE). We also love Margaret Mahy, Roald Dahl, lots of singers and actors and of course technology!


Maria (pronounced Mariah) McMillan lives on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand. She grew up surrounded by books and loved reading. When she was seven she was given an anthology of poetry and this was the beginning of her love of poetry. Maria is conscious of all the injustice in the world and said she “would prefer to write bad important poems than good trivial ones.”

The Interview:

1. What is your favourite type of poem to write?

I like writing poems that start with a big question or an interesting idea and then the poem tries to prove it or disprove it. Maybe it starts with an outrageous statement and then the poem defends that statement.

2.  Does it usually take you long to write a poem?

Sometimes I write the first draft of a poem in one sitting so it might be an hour or so. But I almost always have to go back to it at least once to edit it. I’ll spend a long time changing words around, or the order of the lines. I’ll read the poem out loud to myself a lot to help me understand when the lines sound awkward and when they sound like I want them to. I add things and take things away and then add them back in in a different way.  Some poems take ages, I need to sneak up to them over and over again, trying to get them to behave the way I want them to.

3. Do you have any pets?

We have a tabby kitten called Tuesday. One Tuesday someone found him crying and abandoned in a park near where we live and rescued him. The next Tuesday our family met him and brought him home so we think Tuesday is a lucky name for him.

4. Do you like curry, if so what is your favourite type?

I love curry. I would happily eat curry every day. I go through phases. I like Palak Paneer a lot at the moment. It has lovely blobs of creamy cheese which offset the curry sauce perfectly.

5. Do you have any children? If so, what are their names and are they writers? Is anyone else in your family a writer?

I have a daughter called Abbie who is eight, and a daughter called Lily who is five. Abbie writes stories now and wants to be a children’s book writer and illustrator when she grows up. Abbie and her friend Sophie have written comic books about a Pig and a Koala. My Dad is also a writer. He was a newspaper journalist for many years, and has written lots about international relations – how different countries behave to one another and why.

6. What is your favourite type of chocolate?

I think Whittaker’s Dark Peppermint Chocolate is really good.

7. If you were a celebrity who would you be?

Hmm, tricky, who do you suggest?

8. What is your favourite colour?

Greeny-blue, but sometimes blue-y green. I go into shops and try to look at things or clothes in other colours but almost always what I really want is the blue one.

9. Did you like English when you were at school?

I had a horrible time at my first high school so I didn’t like much of anything there. Some of my teachers were pretty dull too. If anyone should have had a good time in English it was me because I loved reading and writing. In my last year of high school though I swapped schools and my English teacher, Helen Leahy, was just fantastic. She had us reading lots of contemporary New Zealand women writers, and I got all inspired again.

10. Do you ever write poems about people you know?

I write lots of poems about people I know. Only the nice and interesting ones though otherwise I might get in trouble. The title of my poem in the book “I know just about everything now I know” was an actual quote from my niece Bridget. She said it when she was four and was about to start school. She didn’t know what they’d teach her because she knew everything already. She is twenty now!

Thank you for a fabulous interview Maria and St Margaret’s girls. Maria’s poem in the Treasury is a very cool list poem of things you might know. It is a great idea for a poem and I might use it on Poetry Box.