About Joni Year 3 (7 ½ years old), Haumoana School.
- 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.
- I was born in Tasmania and then I moved to New Zealand four and a half years ago.
- I live in Te Awanga with my sister, Erin, and mother and father.
- 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.
- 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.