Monthly Archives: October 2014

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.

Help! I have lost all your titles I have collected on tour

Some of you know now I have been collecting titles of poems from you at every event and school visit. I decided I would like to try and write a collection of children’s poems using your titles.

Fun! Challenging. Takes me to new places.

I had collected over 60 on Notes on my iPhone. Usually I write with a pen in my notebook.

Last night at the Remarkables event I accidentally deleted the lot.

I am gutted.

Maybe a whizz can find them. I can’t.

Meanwhile if you remember any titles I picked and short listed can you let me know please?

I need title, name of child and name of their school or email address.

If you can share this with anyone who can help …. Thanks

I am heartbroken. The children will be disappointed.


When I get home will email everyone I can think of and try and rebuild the list. With a pen in my paper notebook.


The Treasury Interviews: Max S interviews Doc Drumheller

The Interviewer: My name is Max Sinclair. I am a Year 6 student who lives in Queenstown, New Zealand and I like soccer. I go to Remarkables Primary School.

The Interviewed:


Doc Drumheller (2)

Doc Drumhelller (Jason Clements) was born in South Carolina but now lives in NZ as an author. He teaches in the School for Young Writers and has won numerous awards. He edits a literary magazine called Catalyst.


The Interview:

What inspired you to become an author?

I have always enjoyed writing, as a young boy I enjoyed writing stories, funny rap songs, and parody lyrics of popular songs. One of my first loves in the arts is music and as a teenager I became obsessed with the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan. His songs are like musical poems and I love how he expands awareness. I carried my harmonica with me everywhere and made up songs while I went for walks, then I began reading poetry that influenced Bob Dylan, and have been writing poetry ever since.


What were you feeling when your first book came out? Why?

The first time you see your work in print is very exciting, it’s a bit like Christmas time and birthdays rolled into one. I still feel a sense of joy when a journal arrives in the mail, not only because I like to see my poems in print, but because I love to read other writer’s work. I believe you never stop learning, and keeping that excitement alive makes all the hard work feel like fun.


Are you an illustrator as well?

I love art, and enjoy drawing, but wouldn’t call myself an illustrator. I have worked with many artists, and have had one of my poetry books illustrated.


What poem of yours is your favourite?

My favourite at the moment is: ‘The Republic of Oma Rāpeti’ (see below). I am a very keen gardener and was annoyed when GST was increased, especially the tax on food. Instead of staying grumpy, I worked harder in the garden and wrote a poem about it.


When you were young, what did you want to be?

My father died when I was seven years old and I wanted to become a medical researcher and find a cure for cancer. This experience is what made me become a writer, because at an early age I asked questions about the world around me, and now that I am older I still ask questions, and my poems are often attempts at finding an answer.


What was your first book?

My first book was called: Blueprint for Resurrection or Destruction and it was inspired by the mapping of the human genome. Science is still one of my interests and this book was the first part in a ten-year, ten-book project I have just completed called: 10 x (10 + ˉ10) = 0. My first book of haiku is called Snake Songs and it was illustrated by my friend Rua Pick.


Note from Paula: What a great interview Doc and Max!  Thank you. Doc has a poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children that has such delicious detail and it sounds good in the ear.


The Republic of Oma Rāpeti


I planted a fruit and vegetable garden

out of protest against the rise in GST.


The finance minister disguised as a rat

hides in the corn row counting my kernels.


The opposition leader is a bumblebee

passed out drunk from the marigold’s nectar.


The minister of education is a caterpillar

growing fat off the cabbage patch kids.


But I refuse to use sprays or lay poison

because all are welcome in my garden.


To all the urban hippies waging invisible wars

go and plant a cucumber in your combat boots.


Sow a field of carrots to fuel your rebellion

like a roving republic of running rabbits.







The Treasury Interviews: Giselle interviews Fifi Colston

Fifi Head shot 2014   Wearable-Wonders-pages-and-cover

Fifi Colston Fifi Colston was born in Yorkshire, U.K and came to New Zealand in 1968. She left to go to England for two years, then came back and settled in Wellington. Fifi writes and illustrates books and has illustrated over 33 books and her illustrations can be seen in NZ School Journals, as well as on book jackets for publishers including: Scholastic, Learning Media, Shortlands, MacMillan and Longman Paul. Fifi’s book, Wearbale Wonders, won the LIANZA Elsie Locke Medal for Non Fiction this year. She has a blog called Fifi Verses the World.

About Me My name is Giselle. I’m a 10 year old, in Year 5 and I love to read and write. I live in Queenstown, New Zealand. I have a great imagination which can come in handy in writing.

The Interview

Who was your inspiration, that made you want to become a writer ?

If I look back a long, long way, it was the first book I can remember being able to read ‘all by myself’. I was 5 and the book was The Silver Thimble Storybook by Rie Cramer who was a Dutch illustrator and writer and the book was her retelling of fairytales like ‘The Little Mermaid’ and ‘Cinderella.’ I loved her pictures and I wrote and illustrated my own stories when I was a kid.

When did you first realise you wanted to be a writer?

I started writing poetry for a magazine called Next after I went to a flash dress up ball and wrote a funny poem about making the dress. The magazine liked it and I ended up writing and illustrating a poem once a month for 8 years for the magazine. That’s 96 poems! After that I thought it would be fun to write a novel, so I did and it got published. Then two more after that and two non-fiction books too.

Do you use family experiences in your books? And if so, could you give me some examples?

The first book, Verity’s Truth, used lots of experiences of family camping holidays, from the house-bus fairs we’d go and visit, to the adventure playground in the camping park. The second book, Janie Olive, drew lots of inspiration from my son’s experimentation with fireworks!

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m always busy with something; wearable art, running workshops, doing school visits, drawing, painting and making things. My work is also what I choose to do in my spare time, I love it so much. I also make myself go for long walks because if you don’t exercise your body even just a little bit your mind gets flabby. I hate sports so walking is great for me- and you see so many interesting things to write about on the way.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?

It’s how many people are involved. It’s not just me- there’s a publishing manager, an editor, a book designer, sometimes a photographer, printers, the sales team, bookshops…when I think I’m working by myself, I’m actually working with a lot of people to create a book.

What does your family think of you being a writer, illustrator, poet, Wearable-Art designer, film costumer, television presenter and occasional columnist?

They are really proud of my work and they have learned to live with a LOT of mess! They also make me feel better when I’m feeling my hard work isn’t noticed for some reason. They believe in me and that’s about the best thing your family can do.

Do you tend to read your published books over again? And if so, which books do you do it most to?

Not really, but every so often I need to go through one to pull out examples of things to talk to a school about and I’m always surprised that I still like what I’ve written. And quite often I think ‘Hey, that’s actually pretty good!’ which it probably should be if it’s been published!

We are doing a wearable art show at the end of the year, do you have any tips for us?        

Don’t just try and make a pretty dress. Wearable Art isn’t a fashion show, it’s about you trying to tell the world a story, but instead of writing, you tell your story through a piece of art that is worn. It doesn’t have to be really complex, sometimes simple ideas and shapes look the best. But make it a really, really good story…and hold it together with sewing or cable ties, not a hot glue gun!


Thanks for a great interview Giselle and Fifi. Fifi has a longish poem in A Treasury Of NZ Poems for Children called ‘The Schoolbag.’ It is a funny poem that tells a story.