Monthly Archives: June 2015

A 24-hour teddy-bear challenge for you that requires some imagination

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Today I went to Fairburn School where I will be Resident Poet next term and  spotted this in a car outside the school.

I decided this teddy needs a poem. What is his or her story? What happens next? What has just happened? What is the teddy dreaming of? This poem can go anywhere, do anything but it must star the teddy.

It might be a very very short poem or a longer poem but it needs a dollop of imagination and an even bigger dollop of words and lines that sound good.


TIGHT DEADLINE:    Send your poem to me by 8pm on Wednesday July 1st (TOMORROW!) and I will post my favourite poems on Thursday morning. I will have a surprise book for one poet.

Write teddy challenge in subject line please.


Visiting Ranui Library I found a warm and cushty reading spot – So here’s a Library challenge for you


 On Saturday I popped into my closest library and discovered the best library reading spot ever. A fire was shimmering next to comfy chairs. 

 A bunch of children were singing in the children’s section. 

People were reading books. 

I walked out with a very cosy book feeling. 
A challenge for you

Tell me what you love about your local library or favourite library. Include a photo or two if you can. If you are in the photo reading a book, I need parental permission. 

Deadline August 30th

I will post them all and pick one child to send a copy of my book A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children to. 

Send to

A Year 7 reading group interviews Gary Cross — this is a fabulous interview! Thank you from Poetry Box

We are a reading group from a year 7 class at Saint Peter’s Prep School in Cambridge. We are really into our reading and have easily reached our fifty book target this year already! Fantasy is a huge part of our reading and we really enjoyed Gary’s Super Sister because it included the element of fantasy in everyday life. We have also been studying heroes so  this theme fit into the conversations we were having in class. Most of us are also really into writing! We write in our spare time and would love to know more about the writing process where which will help to get our own work published!

The interview


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Gary Cross is a junior fiction writer who usually writes horror stories. Some of his books are Super Sister, Borderland and Empire of the Dead. He lives with his wife Karen and his three kids in Auckland. He used to run his own advertising agency, but now is a creative director for others. He has several picture books and children’s novels published. He went to Horahora Primary and Whangarei High when he was younger and lived in a hotel that his parents owned and met a resident who told him horror stories which inspired his passion for writing them for his work.  (Note from Paula: I went to Horahora primary school too! I wonder how many other writers went there?)

  1. How do you get ideas for your books and titles?

Historical events (Plague of the Undead sprang from the idea of “what if the Great Fire of London was started to get rid of an infestation of vampires?”), current events, folk tales or legends, things that have happened to me, or even a casual conversation with a friend. Another inspiration was a guy called Paul Rogers who used to stay at the hotel my parents ran when I was a kid. He was blind – in exchange for me reading stories to him, he’d tell me stories he made up on the spot. They were always horror stories and featured my friends and myself – and would invariably end up with us getting torn apart by some sort of monster.

The titles tend to come while I’m writing the book – there might be a working title when I start but that often gets discarded as the novel progresses (The Infected, for example, started life as Dust Monsters).

Hammer Studios, who used to make horror movies starring Christopher Lee, used to come up with the title first (the more outlandish the better, like Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed! or Die, Die My Darling) and then write a script to suit, but for me, writing the story comes first, then the title. But what I have picked up from Hammer is trying to come up with titles that are as enticing as possible.


  1. What inspires the ideas for your characters and their names?

Some of my characters have been drawn directly from history (Plague of the Undead, Facing Jesse James and Walking into the Fire for example). Others are based on people I know – I had a major disagreement with someone once and they ended up being the inspiration for a villain in one of my books.

Virtually all of the characters from Super Sister were based on people I knew as a kid.

Character names are very important – they should reflect the character’s personality (think Jack Reacher, for example – very short, sharp, to the point and macho). For a villain, I try and concoct a slimy or brutal name. A gentle character should in turn have a more sedate, gentle name.
When I’m “inventing” a character I try and draw on character traits of people I know (one character can be made up of a number of people) – I find it easier to create a more fully developed character that way.


  1. How long do you spend on planning/drafting/editing?

It varies from book to book. Plus, if a book is accepted for publication, the editor or agent usually suggest a number of changes/edits.

Typically I draw up a broad outline first and write profiles for all of the main characters, then break the story down into chapter synopses and then start writing from there. I’ll often go back and change things as I write and sometimes, even when I had the ending all planned out, I may end up changing it because it doesn’t logically fit with the rest of the novel.


  1. When you were young, did you write? If so what/how?

Yes. My favourite subject at school was English – specifically when I got to write stories. When I was in high school I wrote stories that were revamps of old movies (like King Kong and Jaws) that featured my friends as the heroes and the local bullies as the bad guys. There was one time when one of the stories ended up in the hands of one of the bullies (he was rummaging through my school bag looking for something to steal) – it ended badly.

  1. What was your dream profession when you were young?

Being a movie director (and a movie critic).


  1. Do you plan the entire story before you write?

Yes. I find that if I don’t know where the story is headed, it’ll go off in all directions and writing becomes a hard slog. There have been a few instances when I haven’t had the plot planned before I started and it has shown in the finished product (I’ve had three books that haven’t been accepted for publication and in all cases these were ones that I wrote without having the story planned).

Leon Uris, who wrote lots of best-sellers in the 1970s, said that you shouldn’t start writing a book unless you know how it ends – and while there are people who have different views, I tend to agree with his.


  1. Are you currently writing a book? If so, what?


Yes. It’s called ‘The Infected.’ It’s a horror story set in the American Dustbowl during the Great Depression in the 1930s. A top secret army experiment that involves injecting soldiers with an aggressive strain of rabies (who the army then intends to let loose in enemy countries) goes out of control. The infected soldiers escape and everyone they bite turn into rabid maniacs and everyone the rabid maniacs bite turn into rabid maniacs and… you get the idea. The only chance the locals have of surviving comes in the form of gangster John Dillinger and his gang of psychopathic killers – and in the meantime the army is getting ready to use its new super bomb to cover up its mistakes.


  1. Do you have any tips for helping young writers such as us about writing/publishing?


  • – – Create characters that your reader can believe in. Readers are going to join your on your journey if they have strong emotional ties to the characters they’re journeying with. Try and base your characters on people you know – that way it’s easier for you to get a handle on them – their strengths, weaknesses, foibles etc. Before you start your story write a couple of paragraphs about each character. Not only what they look like, but how they feel. Their personality. Give them a background – where they came from, where they lived, did they have a happy childhood. It’s all stuff that will help create a three dimensional character – and help them to stay IN character throughout the book.
  • – – Treat even your minor characters with respect.
  • – – Know your world. Draw a map so you know how your characters get from A to B. If your story is set in a small town, map out the town and pinpoint where each character lives.
  • – – Share your creation. Get feedback from people you trust – friends, family, even a teacher. Invite feedback. And don’t be too protective. You’ll be surprised at how helpful some of that feedback will be.
  • – – Form a writer’s group and share your ideas.
  • – – Don’t “write what you know about” – what good is that going to be if you’re writing a science fiction story set on a far off planet or a tale about the zombie apocalypse. Instead, “write what you feel”. Write from the heart. You can draw on your own experiences and feelings and then adapt those to your narrative (let’s say you’ve had to walk home late at night. How did you feel? Were you scared? Vulnerable? Now use those emotions to describe how your hero feels when he’s trapped in a shopping mall with thousands of flesh-eating zombies.)
  • – – Always ask yourself “What If?”
  • – – Above all, have fun. And don’t give up. I got about twenty rejection notices before my first book (Borderland) was finally accepted – and ironically, it was accepted by the publisher who had rejected it several years before. I’d gone back and did a major rewrite, turning it from a gentle fantasy into more of a fantasy horror.
  • – – Which brings me to my last bit of advice – don’t be afraid to make changes. And keep making those changes until you feel you’ve written the best story you can.
  1. How many books have you started and not finished?

Two – but they literally didn’t get beyond the second page. I can usually tell at an early stage whether the idea is going anywhere. Having said that, some of the books I have finished didn’t really deserve to be.


Thank you so much for the hard work that went into this – Gary and all the students! A fascinating read for older children.

My favourite poems with made-up words

So many poems with made-up words arrived for me to read. Inventive! Imaginative!

Such fun to do this!

Fabulous poems didn’t get picked this time as it was a fabulous bumper crop.


A class at St Peters even made a poem together! Yeah!

Do try another challenge next term.


This time I am sending a book to Meg and a book to Tessa.

I adore Tessa’s poem, the made up words are so so good! The poem is full of joy and inventiveness and Margaret-Mahy-word juiciness.

I also adored Meg’s poem as it had so much strong detail and was so imaginative. I loved the flow of the poem.

If yo read these poems you will find great things in each of them. Which is your favourite? Why? Add a comment!



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Tessa A, aged 11, Selwyn House School




Crack, thump, cadum, cadum.

Squeak, creak, crackaladoo.

Pitter, poggle, patter, poggle.

Yelp, yoo, yack, clack.

Strike, boom, bash, dash.

Here we go again.

Step, walk, stride, stride.

Open the gate wide.

It starts to rain.

Quick get inside.

Thunder and lightning.

Very, very frightening.

Sofia R,10 years old, from Columba College school, Dunedin, Year 6.



Beace my made up word.

Means your peace.

Beace is as good as a honey jar

And the honey is as yellow as a sunflower.

Beace is good and bad.

Beace Beace Beace means

Your peace

Your peace

Your peace.

William S Year: 3  Age: 7 years  School: St Andrews



Iginoligee is a word that means

There is absolutely nothing about it to know.

And absolutely no one that knows how to
spell it.

There was iginoligee in the desert.

The book had iginoligee on the pages.

Some people believe pollution is iginoligee.

I see it as a loss of lives.

All war left was iginoligee.

Meg B Year 5  Paparoa Street School   Christchurch



My brother teases me,

Every day.

I call him Qwerty,

Every day.

He says,

“What’s Qwerty?”

Every day.

I say,

“Qwerty is Qwerty.”

Every day.

Isis W Selwyn House School 12 years old Year 7


Fillopity Fishing

Floppity, bobbity, flop,

Down to the large rock,

Skippity, dippity, doo,

Look at the great view,

Stop for a minute, take it all in,

Let it linger under your skin,

Tappity, toppity tee,

Finally we can see the sea,

Rallity, remmity, ray,

The sun has come out, hooray!

Now hush, as we wait, for the catch of the day,

And when we get it, we all shall race home,

For another supper, of picking out bones.

Mimi’s Year 7 class made up this poem St Peter’s School (how cool is that!)



The Dish-q-bupp is a great machine

Its lean it’s green and it can clean,

It sings it rings it smell it tells,

It also wakes you up and feeds your pup,

The Hoggensnert is good to

It reads and kneads your sourdough

And tells you things when you don’t know,

It also helps you cook while you read the latest book,

The Rollimwallipp is a great thing

It teaches your kids how to sing,

It brushes your cat and cleans your mat,

It also turns of the TV show just as you’re about to go,

These machines are wonderful things if you want one just give us a ring

Where just down the road  be careful though.

You might find that this poem, gets stuck in your mind.

Mark N Year 7 Age 11 St Peters School Cambridge NZ



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Daniel L Year 2 Age 6 Adventure School Whitby



Hail and thunder storm

Hickklethump hickklethump bang bang kaboosh

The sounds of the hail on top of the roof

Tickle tackle thumpdathump balkaloosh

The sound of thunder in the wet damp sky

Boom gallooom lightning is covering all over the dark horrible sky.

Georgia age 11 Grantlea Downs School


From Up Above…

Dropping down,

‘dlonking’ on

my head,

I look

up and

see a

blurry, flurry,

murwhirly, cloudy…


Ewen W aged 12, Year 8, Cobham Intermediate School, Christchurch

glorious frosty sand

This morning I wore my puffy

jacket, thermals, a scarf, hat

and gloves as I ran across

the frosty sand,

the white black sand,

at Bethells, past

the steaming lagoon

and the sea cloud,

the golden sun

peeking over the golden hill

and I felt as warm

as toast.


* hardly ever do I see frost on the sand at Bethells. It was at least minus 1.

A rare and beautiful  occasion. Normally I would be exploding with heat if I ran in so many clothes but not today. It felt like I was up the mountain about to ski down the slopes with the wind biting chunks out of my cheeks. Glorious.


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Poetry Bonanza Monday: winter challenges for our shortest day, the cool LIANZA notebook to giveaway

1. If you vote for the  Children’s Choice books at The NZ Children’s Book Awards you and your school will go into the draw to win some books. A vote for The Letterbox Cat is a vote for Poetry! Voting form here.

2. Don’t forget I am on the hunt for children to pick a NZ author to interview. You pick – I try and set it up for you (class, reading group or an individual). It is a golden opportunity to do something special.

3. I am on the hunt for children to review NZ books – any genre!


4. Still time to enter Fourth fabulous Poetry Competition

You send in 12 poems in total from your school  (an age range is an advantage but not essential).

There is no theme.

You can write any kinds of poems you like.

They get sent to The New Zealand Book Council not me.

Only winners will be notified.

Finalists and winners will be posted on the blog and on NZBC web site on Monday August 10th.

You need to send in one entry form with all the details completed.

Each poem must have child’s age, name and year.

Entry Forms here


5. I got some really cool notebooks at The LIANZA Children’s Book Awards. I have some to give away for this challenge.

It is the middle of winter, so time to write a winter poem. Remember real detail will make your winter poem sing.

Collect words first using your senses.

Collect things you do and see and eat.

What does it look like out your window in winter?

Does your poem sound good?


DEADLINE for your Winter-Poem Challenge: Wednesday July 1st

Send to Include your name, year, age and name of school. You can include your teacher’s name and email.

PLEASE say it’s for the Winter-Poem challenge. Put in the subject line of the email please.

I will post my favourites and have cool notebooks for a poet (Year 0 to Year 8).

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Harriet Rowland’s The Book of Hat – It makes me want to go out and live life to the fullest whatever hurdles and blows I face.

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Harriet Rowland, The Book of Hat Submarine Books  (Mākaro Press) 2014

Storylines Notable Book 2015

NZ Children’s Book Awards finalist 2015

LIANZA Elsie Locke Award finalist 2015

Runner-up Ashton Wylie Awards 2014

This astonishing book is for older readers, perhaps even high school at a minimum, but I wanted to share it with you. Harriet was diagnosed with a rare cancer when she was 17 and kept a blog as she underwent treatment. Those blogs were then edited down to become The Book of Hat.

The book is a magnificent and utterly moving read because Hat (she is called Hat rather than Harriet) takes you into the heart of her tough experience. She is honest. She is up and she is down. She finds ways to be unbelievably happy when she could be so very very sad. She holds onto the good in life, the best in people, the way little things can make such a difference.

Her family and friends matter more than anything.

When she is going through her hardest challenges, she finds ways to embrace life more and more. Even more so, when she discovers she is dying.

There are lot of sayings in the book that she discovered or that friends gifted her. They were like golden gifts she could put in her heart to strengthen her. This is one of my favourites: ‘I didn’t stop for the storm to pass. I simply learnt how to dance in the rain.’

She often says how things might be bad for her, but how things might be so much worse for others.

She was worried more about the loved ones she was going to leave behind and they way they would miss her so much.

What an extraordinary young woman. What a gift she has given us. This book is uplifting because it shows how you can find courage, love and happiness when you are facing the most terrible blows that life can deal you. The writing sparkles with life. With joy. With fatigue. With love.

It makes me want to go out and live life to the fullest, whatever hurdles and blows I face.

Thank you Hat. Thank you Mākaro Press for publishing it.

The Book of Hat web page.

Some of my favourite moon poems

A record number of poems arrive for the moon challenge. The moon is a really popular thing to write about. I love it because it is both beautiful and mysterious.

And such good poems. It was really hard picking just a few so I have picked just a few more than just a few as they were so good and all so different.

A number of classes sent a bundle of moon poems. Wonderful!

Congratulations if I picked you this time. If I didn’t, do have a go at another challenge.

I am sending books this time to Sophia, Ansh, Razan and Clara but every moon poem sent in deserves a book.


Albatross Moon

The moon is a big albatross

on the lookout.


The moon is

red as blood.


The moon sets

the sky on fire.

Sophia M (year 3)  Russley School


The Moon

The moon is an orb glowing big and bright.
This is the beautiful thing I see at night.
The big mysterious white circle in the sky.

It’s in the sky, up so high.

Ben H Age 11, Year 7, St Peter’s School


My Lunch

It feels like
or Swiss
but rocky
Zero gravity…
takes rockets…
the moon….
or my lunch…
on a string
(with tomato sides).

By Clara M Age 8 Ilam School


Pounamu Moon

The moon is a pounamu ring

worn by one of the Gallipoli men.

It is a beaming flashlight

flickering through the night.

It is a memory

dragging me back to my Loved Ones.

Raevyn H (year 7)  Russley School


A full moon

A full moon is like you and me, one half for you the other for me
A full moon is like moon cheese, nom nom nom I love moon cheese

A full moon is like a dinner plate, with chocolate pudding and strawberry cake
A full moon is like you and me, together let’s have moon glee

Ansh 8 years Golden Sands School



Big white balloon

shining at night

floating in the sky


Fin C 11 years old Yr 7 St Peter’s School



HAPPY MOON by Takeru Oki jpg version


Space Poem

Space has a silver sliced peach that floated away from the sun

it turned cold and froze, it became our moon

there was a clear view of earth from that ancient peach

it was where aliens watched it rolling around

they wonder if we see them as they see us

I wish I had a telescope, a shining metal tube

I wish to see Jupiter and explore space,

to ask people as many questions

about things I am interested in

or to find out myself.

Izak K Y6 Russley School



Monstrous ball of grey marble
Oh you spin and spin around our planet
On and on you go growing and shrinking between your phases
No more of you until it falls nighttime my grey ball of marble

Nerissa 11 years old, Year 7 St Peter’s School


Up High

Up high the moon smiles,
glow sticks on its face,
the crystal ball that
predicts the future,
of the day to come.

Up high there’s a torch,
and a banana,
slowly but surely,
orbiting the Earth.

Up high sometimes it’s
full, sometimes it’s half,
sometimes it’s empty,
each day it changes.

Up high there’s a moon,
so far, yet so close.

Ewen W aged 12, Year 8, Cobham Intermediate School, Christchurch


Moon messages

I stare up at the moon,

Shining in the night.

I think of Lola,

Looking up at the same moon.

Miles and miles away.

Across the ocean.

But it’s still the same moon.

The day I left,

We made a promise,

To send our messages for each other,

To the moon.

To talk to each other.

I listen hard.

I make myself nothing.

And feel,

I miss you Freya.

Echoing through the night.

I call back,

Thinking with all my might,

I miss you too, Lola.

I hope she gets my message.

I hope the moon will hold my message for her,

Until her night-time.

Isis W 12 Years old Year 7  Selwyn House School



The Moon

The sun inhales it’s final breath
The moon grabs it’s first breath
The ball of rock lights your way
Mysterious yet delightful
The moon will always be watching you

By Ted 8 years Golden Sands School



The Shadow

The moon is a sad face

shining light down to us


The moon is a yellow banana


It is a rugby ball

flying through the stadium


The moon spins really fast


The moon shining silver shadows

on the world

Josh T. (year 4) Russley School


The Moon

The moon

was once

a rock in a lagoon,

before she rose into the sky,

and became something

we all admire

shining through with her angelic halo

through the shadows

with her beautiful silvery glow.

Imogen C, aged 8. Homeschooled



I stand next to the tide,

on the beach,

and stare up to the stars.

I reach out my hand,

thinking that it’s close enough,

but in my mind i know it’s far.

Out from the fog,

out from the shadows,

appears a circle of light.

A constant globe of beauty,

ghostly and mysterious,

that appears at night.

My name is Razan, I am Year 7 and 11 years old, I am from St Peters