The Treasury Interviews: Emily interviews Emma Neale

Hello my name is Emily M. I am 11 years old and I attend Cornwall Park District School. I wrote my first ‘published’ piece when I was in Year 1, about a tree outside my house. I have been writing ever since. I prefer to write short snappy pieces such as poems or cameos because they can take any form, whether creative or a masterpiece worthy of Roald Dahl.

Emma Neale


Photo credit: Graham Warman

Emma Neale was born in Dunedin and raised in Christchurch, San Diego and Wellington. She writes lots of poems for adults, but an elk is suitable for all ages. Her primary publishers are Random House NZ and Steele Roberts. She has published a range of books, and is the winner of the Todd New Writer’s Bursary.

I like Emma’s poem ‘Elk’* because an elk is an animal unfamiliar to most children, therefore this poem is educating as well as quirky and creative. It morphs from topic to topic as smoothly as butter melts into liquid. Emma has her own NZ book council page.

* This is the poem that Emma has in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. It plays with language beautifully.


The Interview:

What advice would you give a budding author?

Read as widely as you can; share your draft work with other people whose critical opinions you trust; be prepared to rewrite in order for your work to really say what you mean it to say.

What is your favourite flavour of ice cream?

Only one?!?! Anything chocolatey and crunchy at at once – preferably covered in chocolate dip, too, oh and why not chocolate sprinkles, and a chocolate flake stuck in like a flag claiming the edible moon?

What is your favourite piece you have written?

I still really love the main male character from the novel Fosterling. There are passages in that book that feel to me as if they really happened – the passages where Bu’s mother, Lillian, recalls raising her small, disfigured boy in necessary isolation. They feel to me as if they came from some presence outside my own small and quiet life.

Who was your favourite author as a child?

Childhood has so many seasons,so there were different favourite authors for different phases. I loved the My Naughty Little Sister books when I first started school; then Judy Blume, Noel Streatfield, Madeleine L’Engle, John Wyndham, Penelope Farmer, poems by Eleanor Farjeon and John Masefield and AA Milne…. it’s a bit like ice cream. Very hard to choose just one flavour of book.

If you couldn’t become an author what occupation would you like?

An editor. I’m lucky enough to work as an editor part time at the moment: and it means I am involved in the creative process and getting my hands sticky with language even when I’m not writing my own work. I love it.

What inspired you to write?

Having fantastic English teachers, a house full of books, an imaginative mother, a father and mother who both listened and encouraged me to ask difficult questions, a sister who shared imaginary play with me, and just being immersed in the world of books from an early age. I think now that perhaps also having a mother who was a good actor helped: she read aloud to us from when we were tinier than the candlestick that Jack jumped over – and she has a wonderful sense of dramatic timing. So hearing her read was like sitting in on a private theatrical performance. I’m sure that this must have deeply embedded story as a sensuous experience as well as an intellectual one.

What a wonderful interview Emma and Emily. Inspired questions and inspiring answers. Thank you!

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