Tag Archives: A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children

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.

The Treasury Interviews: Maddie, Benji, Tasman and Ella interview David Hill

Bio of Writing Group

The group is a Year 7 and 8 Extension Literacy class at Remarkables Primary School, consisting of four students: three Year 8 girls (Maddie, Tasman and Ella) and one Year 7 boy (Benji). All are avid readers, devouring a range of literature from classic to contemporary novels. The group are the Southern Kids Lit champions and came ninth at the National Championships earlier in the year ({Paula- Congratulations!). They meet once a week to discuss literature, looking at the thematic nature of books, the motive and nature of characters; and to swap ideas about new authors and quality books they have read (Paula — I am looking forward to meeting you all!).


Bio of David Hill

David Hill (born Napier 1942) currently resides in New Plymouth and is a popular and versatile New Zealand author, who writes juvenile and adult fiction, poetry, plays, textbooks and who makes frequent contributions to radio, newspaper and NZ journals. Graduating from Victoria University with an MA (Honours) in English Literature, David went on to teach English in secondary schools for 14 years, before leaving to write full-time. His books have won numerous awards and he won the much-coveted Margaret Mahy Award in 2005. His books include See Ya Simon, My Brother’s War, Running Hot, No Safe Harbour, Duet, Coming Back and Right Where It Hurts. In his spare time, David likes reading, tramping, astronomy, supporting the All Blacks and playing with his grandkids.


The Interview:

Hello, you remarkable Remarkables,

Thanks for the excellent and thoughtful questions. Here are some confused replies.

You are obviously a very versatile writer, able to produce quality novels, plays, poems and articles. How does your mindset or approach differ, when writing in these different genres?

Not very much, actually. For everything (except poems, possibly), I take heaps of notes, usually scribbled in my untidy handwriting in a notebook that I carry with me almost everywhere. Then I cluster other ideas/incidents/lines around these notes, and something starts to build, very slowly, like a whole lot of cells slowly linking up. Poetry – and I write very few poems – is the only genre in which I try to build the whole thing in my head before I write it down. Everything else, including plays, articles, reviews, are stories in one way or another, and I guess my approach is the same for them all.

If you could have been the writer of any book of all time, what would it be and why?

Very difficult. Animal Farm by George Orwell: one of the saddest, most honest books I know, because it’s the story of a noble, glorious idea gone wrong. The Road, by US writer Cormac McCarthy, a disturbing adult novel of a man and his son crossing America after some terrible holocaust. Very grim, yet full of love and hope. Or almost anything by Maurice Gee.

Which character in your books do you most closely identify with and how/why?

Actually, there are bits of me in most of my main male characters – and bits of my son Pete and my grandsons. Maybe Peter Cotterill in Journey to Tangiwai. He and I both grew up in Napier, went to Scouts, had a paper round. He’s named after my son; and “Cotterill” is a family name. And yes, there was a girl like Barbara Mason whom I was a bit sweet on….

If you could rewrite the ending to any of your books, which would it be and why?

No, none of them, sorry. I like to end my books with the main character starting on a new phase in their life, and I guess I’m happy to leave them like that.

How do you overcome writer’s block? I make sure I keep sitting there for at least 10 minutes. I’ll re-read ALOUD the last few sentences I’ve written. I’ll make the characters talk, or ask questions, or I’ll jump in time and place to a new scene. These don’t necessarily solve things completely, but they help.

 See Ya Simon is an all time favourite of our group. What inspired the story?

One of my daughter Helen’s best friends did die from Duchenne MD when they were in Year 10. His real name was Nick – you might notice the book is dedicated to NJB. Helen is in the book; the pretty little dark-haired Nelita with her terrible jokes is very like my daughter as a teenager. I wanted to write something to acknowledge how brave she was when Nick died. It was meant to be a short story, but it grew into a novel. Nathan has bits of me and my son. Other characters are often based on kids I taught when I was a high-school teacher.

Can you tell us how you go from an initial idea to writing the novel?

As I said above, I take heaps of notes. That includes research. I’m trying to write a novel just now, set in a POW camp for Japanese prisoners in NZ during WW2, and that’s needed lots of research. I also build up character profiles – what they look like, names, favourite sayings /food / music, etc. When I’m ready, I write the first draft in hand-writing for 3 hours a day, stopping EXACTLY after the three hours are finished. When it’s finished, I transfer it to the computer (which means lots of changes), then I revise and revise. I probably go over it about 12 – 15 times. I’m lucky; I’ve got time. Please don’t think that everything I write gets published. I have heaps of rejections.

Hope that helps, folks. Best of luck with your reading and YOUR writing.

David Hill


Thanks for a great interview David and the Remarkables! David has three poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. David’s poems often have an infectious sense of humour but sometimes they offer a striking image, such as in ‘Seasons.’

9780143305910 9781742532653 9780143308584 693056 9780143308157

The Treasury Interviews: Arrowtown School extension writing group interviews Wendy Clarke

Extension writing year 7

Extension Writing Group  Year 7 Arrowtown School
Here we are under our favourite tree, with the mountains of the Wakatipu
Basin in the background. The tree is a Pin Oak and we have used it as
motivation for our writing a number of times. We are from left to right,
Dom, Hamish, Lukas, Paddy, Sarah, Georgie, Greta and Lily. (Absent is Ben.)
We are all twelve years old and we love to write, we especially love to
write poetry. On National Poetry Day we tied our poems to the branches of
the oak tree. It was a ‘Poetree.’

Wendy Clarke bio


My name is Wendy Clarke and I live in the little gold town of Arrowtown. I do lots of other things other than write. I am a school teacher at Arrowtown School. Fortunately I get to teach writing to a gifted and talented class of year 7 and 8 students. These are the students who have a passion for writing, how lucky am I? I am also a historical educator at the Lakes District Museum (in Arrowtown.) I particularly enjoy this because the history of Arrowtown is so interesting and I get to show kids around our town and tell them stories about the gold rush. I also give historical tours to American tour groups. They often want to hear more about my life in Arrowtown rather than the history.

I guess you want to know how I became a writer. When I was a child I loved to read and read and read!! I lived in the country but my mother took me to the library every Saturday so I always had lots of books to read. I am still a very keen reader, but I can’t read all day and all night the way I used to. (I had a torch to help me read under the bed covers.)

I began to notice things about the books I read, that is, which books I thought had been well written. I wrote my first poem when I was 11. My teacher thought it was very good and awarded me a prize, so I began to read poetry too. Poems back then all rhymed, I didn’t find out that poems didn’t need to rhyme until I was at high school.

There is now a big gap when I didn’t write at all. I went to Teachers College, became a teacher, went overseas for three years, came back and became a teacher again, had two children, but kept teaching. I was very busy. But a little voice in my head kept saying ‘something is missing.’ Of course it was writing. I decided to study writing at Massey University, I did this for six years until I had completed my degree. Suddenly I was doing lots of writing.

Since then I have had poems published, won a short story competition and have written a whole lot of books that help teachers to teach writing well. I would really like to publish more poems and I would love to publish a children’s book.

I thought that I might finish with a little check list that might help you become a writer.

How to become a writer.

  • Read all sorts of books. Don’t stick to just one type.
  • Find friends who like to write.
  • Carry a notebook to write down good ideas or put it by your bed, you have good ideas at night.
  • Tell people you want to be a writer, they might help you.
  • Listen carefully to the way people speak, it helps you when you are trying to write dialogue.
  • Be interested in words, I love looking up words in the dictionary or reading famous quotations.
  • Read and follow writing blogs, there are lots of people like you out there.
  • And remember, write, write, write and keep it, never throw ideas away or cross them out.
  • And don’t forget to show your writing to people or to enter competitions.


Good luck.


The Interview:

What inspires you?

I often have ideas rattling around in my head for ages. The idea may have been inspired by a conversation, an observation or even a news item. I live in Arrowtown, which is an old gold mining town, so historical incidents often give me ideas. I enjoy imagining characters and getting to know them in my head, even having imaginary conversations with them.

What genre do you prefer?

I love to write poetry, followed by short stories. I think that I am an observant person, and poetry is often about details and framing those details within interesting words, so it is perfect for someone like me.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

I live in a very beautiful place, so sometimes I take inspiration from my surroundings. I am a big reader so good writing excites me and makes me want to write well too.

How do you fit writing into your life?

This is difficult. I can see why some writers lead very solitary lives. It is so difficult to find some quiet time. I need to be able to write without interruptions. I have a job and a family so my life is far from quiet. I find that going walking by myself is a very good time to think. I live near a lake so this is a good place to go and think.

Where do you write your ideas down?

I usually carry around a little notebook in my bag, I might slip little things inside this book or write down ideas in it. Strangely I like writing in red pen, I have no idea why.

Would you like to write a book?

I would love to write a book, but I don’t think I am ready to do that yet. It is a big time commitment, time that I don’t really have. One day I hope to.

How old were you when you were first published?

I was in my early forties, I started writing quite late in life, I wish that I had started sooner, but university study, travel and children kept me pretty busy.

How did you feel when you were first published?

Oh boy it was great. I won a short story competition, I won $500 which was a large amount of money to me. My story was published in a newspaper. Recently someone told me that they had cut the story out and still had it even though it was over ten years ago. I spent the money on an amazing pair of black boots!!

What is your favourite piece of writing?

I am very proud of some of my adult poems, a tremendous amount of work went into them. I wrote most of them when I was doing university study. I am very delighted to have a poem in the A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children, especially as the treasury has some wonderful New Zealand poets contributing to it.

Who published your work?

I have had work published in the School Journals but most of my writing is for an educational publishing company called Essential Resources. I have written a series called We Love Poetry and another series called Make Poetry Come Alive. These books are to help teachers teach poetry in an interesting way. Essential Resources sell my books all over the world, which feels very cool.

Which writers do you admire?

Gosh there are so many to choose from, but my favourite, favourite author is Margaret Mahy. I met her once and she signed a book for me. It is still one of my favourite possessions.



What a wonderful interview Wendy and the Extension Writing Group. Some great tips for writing too. Thank you!

5580s 5405s   Wendy’s Essential Resources page





The Treasury Interviews: Jasmine interviews Pauline Cartwright


Pauline Cartwright lives in Alexandra, Central Otago in New Zealand. Scholastic has published her books and poems for children. She loves to come and see Intermediate students to talk about writing.

About Me: My name is Jasmine. I’m a Year 5, nine-year-old girl that goes to Remarkables Primary School. I love to read books.


The Interview

Are any of your books in a National library and if they are which are most popular?
I’m sure I do have books in the National Library but I can’t list them all. I will list a few that I know you would be likely to enjoy.
GOLD!     Also published as FINDING MY FATHER

Do you have any new books?
I haven’t any new books out in the shops lately but you might come across some in your classroom eg AWESOME ANIMAL ADVENTURE! which is about very large creatures – dinosaurs to blue whales. And I have put a few titles online with Amazon Kindle. One of them I AM SOMEONE ELSE is my newest story but it is for older teenagers. You might need to wait a few years before you would find it enjoyable.

What schools have you been to to share your writing?
Over a lot of years I have been to many schools in the North and South Island (and one or two in Australia). There have been times when I have spoken to so many classes in one day that I have started to forget whether it was this class that I said that to, or whether it was the class I had just left! Sometimes I have just talked about writing and shared my stories and poems. Sometimes I have taken workshops. Sometimes I have been entertained by the children I have visited and that is a very nice thing to have happen. I have met a lot of wonderful children and wonderful teachers.

What books have you written in the past year?
In the last year I have written only articles and no books at all.

Do you speak to all years about your writing?
Yes I do speak about writing to children of all ages – and sometimes to adults.

What is your favourite book you have written?
I have written a lot of books. If I count every one, including all the small books that help children learn to become readers, I have written over 300. (I feel quite surprised by that!!) I don’t have a favourite from that list. A new story in my head always feels exciting and important and so my favourite is always the one I am writing!


Thanks for a great interview Jasmine and Pauline. Pauline has three poems in A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children including an old favourite of mine, ‘The Same Old Mum.’ I have seen children write versions of this which are really cool. They have sent them to me at Poetry Box.

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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!

The Treasury Interviews: Ashlee interviews Elizabeth Pulford


Ashlee Shum is 8 years old, and attends Redwood School in Tawa, Wellington.  She lives with her mother, father and younger sister.  Ashlee fills her life with netball, gymnastics, tennis, badminton and swimming.  She loves to learn, loves reading, and also loves playing the piano.

DSC01401 - Version 2

Elizabeth Pulford was born in Canada and her father was from Ukraine. Her mother brought her, and her two brothers and sister, on a war boat to NZ when her father died. Elizabeth has published all kinds of books: picture books, junior chapter books, novels for young adults and adult novels. She has had poems published in School Journals. You can find these all on her web site.


The Interview
How do you get ideas to write poetry, especially with those interesting rhyming words? My ideas for poems come from everywhere.  It can be the sound of the wind or waves of a beach.  It can be the sight of a leaf falling from a tree.  It can be a reflection in water.  Whatever that image is it will set off connecting thoughts which end up as a poem.  Even someone in a bad mood.  Usually a line falls into my head.  Not always the first line, but one that belongs to the poem.  Of course this usually happens when I don’t have a pen and a piece of paper so I have to keep repeating the one line in my head until I can write it down.
Rhyming poems I find hard to write.  I have bits of paper all over the house trying out different rhyming words until I am happy with the sound and rhyme.

What are your favourite kinds of poems you like to write? I like to write with nature, that has an underlying meaning.  If I wrote about about frost on the lawn, it might also mean that I woke up in a frosty mood.
I love the sound of nature and the weather.  Even on the stillest day in the garden there is always some sound.  A bee, a fly, a distant dog barking.

Do you like reading detective or mystery books? I love detective novels.  My favourites are mystery murders and trying to guess who ‘committed the crime.’  At the moment I am reading a lot of these.  It’s fun trying out all different kinds of crime novels to see which I like best.  The ones I don’t like have too much violence, blood and gore…ugh!

Does listening to music give you ideas in writing? Listening to music doesn’t really give me ideas in my writing.  Instead it helps me relax and stops me thinking about things such as what am I going to cook for dinner.  It keeps me focused.  After a while, if I am writing well I don’t even hear the music, but turn it off and I know it is missing!  Strange, eh?

What are your favourite instrument and type of music? I adore classical ballet music.  There is just something about the rhythm that suits me.  I don’t listen to anything with words, because I would end up singing along.

Do you write more during the day time or anytime in particular? I usually write in the mornings which can sometimes flow over to the early afternoon.

Do you travel around the world to find fun writing ideas, or do you get most of your ideas from time in your garden? I’d love to travel more to capture ideas, but most of mine come from when I am working in the garden and walking.  Usually an idea will come out of the blue.  And it is often when I am knee-deep in writing another book.  If the idea is strong enough it will keep at me until I jot down the idea.  The garden and walking are relaxing for me (well not so much when I am mowing the grass) so my mind is open to receiving ideas which is when they pop in and seed themselves.

I have read all of your Lily books!  What is your favourite book that you have written?
I had such a good time writing the Lily books and it’s great to know you have read them.  My favourite book is usually the one that is about to be published.  Next year Scholastic are publishing a trilogy of mine, called The Bloodtree Chronicles.  The first book is Sanspell.  It is a mixture of fantasy, fairytale and realism.  The idea for this just kept nagging at me until I did something about it, and I am glad I did.

Thanks Ashlee for asking such great questions.  I have loved answering them.

Note from Paula: Thanks for a wonderful interview Elizabeth and Aslee. You both put a lot of thought into this. thank you! Elizabeth has a beautiful poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children called ‘Sun Sonata.’

Going-Camping The-Stamp-Boy_larger Mrs-Begg Dr-Neals-Squeaky-Wheels_lar On-a-Rabbit-Hunt-cover The-Mysterious-Magical-Shop shut_the_gate_larger On-a-Rabbit-Hunt-Maori-coverFar-far-from-homeLily-The-Adventures Lily-More-Adventures


The Treasury Interviews: Joely, Caitlin, Sophie and Laila from Lyttelton Primary School interview Ruth Paul

About Us:

Our names are Joely, Caitlin, Sophie and Laila. We come from Lyttelton Primary School, in Christchurch. We are in Team Tuatara, two classes of Year 3/4’s, working together in a Modern Learning Environment. We are Year Fours. We love to research things and we also love to do literacy and numeracy.


Ruth Paul 2104

About Ruth Paul:

Ruth Paul is a children’s picture book writer and illustrator. She works from a straw bale studio in the middle of a paddock just outside Wellington, New Zealand. She loves to talk to schools, in person or via the internet.


The Interview

What is your favourite book that you have written?

At the moment, my favourite published books are the Flash ones (Bad Dog Flash, Go Home Flash – the last one due out in October) because they are about my dog as a puppy. He makes me laugh. However, I also love the book I am presently working on called “By Bye Grumpy Fly” because it is still in the fun development stage (and I can still make lots of changes).

What is your best-selling book?

My Dinosaur Dad, Stomp, Bad Dog Flash, Hedgehog’s Magic Tricks – they all sell well.

Why did you decide to be an author/illustrator?

I was always good at art at school, but not brilliant, and I had a family that liked talking a lot. I remember loving the family stories, and the stories my Dad made-up to tell me. My Mum was good at drawing princesses and ballerinas. Combined with the fact that I am sometimes too stroppy to be bossed around, being a self-employed author and illustrator makes sense for me.

How did you feel writing My Dinosaur Dad?

My Dinosaur Dad was in response to a request for a book for Father’s Day. Time was short, the money was good, and I’d already worked out how to draw dinosaurs. The poem had been lurking for a while so it came together quickly. For the first time, I even hired my friend, the excellent illustrator Harriet Bailey, to help me do the photoshop colouring so I could get the book out on time.

When did you become an author/illustrator?

It’s a progression. I have an English degree and a Diploma in Visual Communications Design (specialising in illustration). I illustrated for commercial projects when I first left Polytech (now Massey). I illustrated three books for other children’s writers, and then started writing my own. I’ve been doing my own books since 2004.

What was the first book you wrote?

The Animal Undie Ball.

What was your favourite book when you were young?

Amelia Bedelia (the original one, written by the mum of the guy who now publishes some horrible related series). Rikki Tikki Tembo. Are You My Mother? Horton Hears a Who. A Treasury of Poetry/Stories etc illustrated by Hilda Boswell. All the 1960’s classics!

Thank you Ruth Paul!

from Joely, Laila, Sophie and Caitlin

Note from Paula: What a fabulous interview thank you Lyttelton writers and Ruth. Ruth has a cool poem in the book called ‘Sparkle.’ I have a copy of Stomp! and Bad Dog Flash to someone who comments on this interview and tells me why they would like these books. Thanks to Scholastic.

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The Treasury Interviews: Jack P interviews John Parker — find that everyday things and activities have imaginative possibilities


John Parker is a very well published New Zealand author who writes a huge variety of children’s books, adult fiction, sporting and radio articles. I think he is a hilarious author because he makes the characters and story lines in his books really funny. I am so glad to have got John Parker as my given author.

He is Christchurch born and has degrees in English and History. He has also been a teacher and an opera singer before taking up full time writing. John loves golf, tramping, travel and skiing.

I have also read two of his books, Sucked In and Sucked Out, which I highly recommend for ages 7-10.


jack may 2014

Hi, my name is Jack. I am a 10 year old writer, who loves writing poetry and using technology.
I go to Fendalton School in Christchurch. I enjoy swimming, football, tennis, French, cubs and I am a tech wizard at school. I enjoy reading poems on Poetry Box and I have sent in a few of mine. I also belong to book club at school and have enjoyed researching my author John Parker and creating questions for him.

The Interview:

What primary school did you go to? I went to two Auckland schools: Royal Oak Primary and Remuera Primary. My teacher at Remuera, Miss Adams, was stern and scary!
How many books a year do you publish? It depends on how hard-working I am, whether publishers like what I write, whether the books I’m writing are short or long and other factors, including the state of the economy. One year I published 13 books; some years I’ve published none. My average is around 4-5 a year.

Do you remember how you felt when you first piece got published? Elated! It was a play, called ‘The Giants’ Attack,’ published by The School Journal in 1980.

Out of all your poems which is your favorite and why? I can’t answer that question, sorry! I find that a poem is itself, and seems to resist grading or an order of merit.

Many of your poems and stories are humorous where do you get the ideas from? From life. I find that everyday things and activities have imaginative possibilities. And my mind seems to work in ridiculous ways, at times. Can’t help it! Many poems come from a little jolt in my brain-cells – that something relates to something in a way I didn’t think of before. For example, a handful of wool might have the shape of a starry galaxy, or that a bumble-bee and a postie are similar in that one goes form flower to flower and one goes from letter-box to letterbox.

What is your first step you take when you are writing poetry? It depends. I sometimes write down thoughts, knowing or hoping that some words will stick for me and develop into something bigger. Sometimes I get a line flying into my mind that arrives fully formed and perfect and I build the poem around that.

In Sucked In and Sucked Out where did you get the idea for the character Zainey? I read that a school class in USA was asked to think of ways they might like their bodies changed. One kid, who was possibly short, wanted an eye on the top of his finger so he could see over crowds. Once I thought about that, Zainey started.

I would like to write a poem in 10 or 12 words about my sister and how she is addicted to macaroni. What would you write?? It’s your poem, but ‘macaroni’ is such a nice word to say and look at. So I might make up words like ‘macaroniac’ or ‘macaronly’ – stuff like that.  Or maybe change her name in a macaroni way? And you could do things with your own name, too. After all, ‘Jack’ rhymes with ‘macaroniac’. Wish you luck!


What a fabulous interview Jack and John. John writes terrific poems for children. There are 7 of them in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and lots more in The School Journals.

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The Treasury Interviews: Sapphira interviews Rachel McAlpine — It’s harder for me to stop writing than to start writing.


Rachel McAlpine edited Another 100 Poems for Children, an anthology of children’s poems for Random House a number of years ago. She has published lots of adult poetry books and has poems in the School Journals. She has a NZ Book Council author page. She has several poems in the A Treasury of New Zealand Poetry for Children.

Sapphira Harrington I recently turned 13. I enjoy writing and reading story, I prefer writing poems to a long story. Most people don’t understand how I write what I do for my age. I am looking for a few writers’ ideas and opinions or how they write etc.



The Interview:

What inspired you to become a writer? I think I was born a writer. I always told my sisters spooky stories in bed, and regularly sent drawings and poems to the Children’s Page of our newspaper by the time I was about 9.

What is your favourite writing strategy? Strategy? It’s harder for me to stop writing than to start writing. So any little thing could trigger a poem. But when I’m writing something longer, I like to go away for a few days to a quiet place, leaving my life behind. That’s a geographical strategy.

What strategies would you recommend? In between bouts of writing, take a break on your own —but not a social break. Go for a walk. Do the dishes. Or read a book. Your mind will carry on working.

What is your favourite poem by you? Favourite poem by me: ‘Before the Fall.’ See the video: https://vimeo.com/81562831

Favourite saying or quote (doesn’t have to be by you.)? Favourite saying or quote: Very very good is good enough.

Any advice for upcoming writers? Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of reading. Lots and lots and lots and lots and lots of writing.

Any sites or people I should visit or read? Visiting websites for writers and reading books about writers is a kind of procrastination. Don’t visit often.

And take it easy—writing is hard, but that’s half the fun: it should be the best fun in the world. It shouldn’t be agony, or why are you doing it?

Best wishes for an exhilarating life as a writer.

Rachel McAlpine

Thanks for a wonderful interview Rachel and Sapphire. I really enjoyed reading this. I really love rachel’s poems for children as they are a great mix of juicy sounds and bounding imagination.




The Treasury Interviews: Some students from Room 8 at Adventure School interview Richard Langston


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The interviewers are all in Room 8 at Adventure School in Porirua and are aged between 8 and 9. They are in the Lions Reading Group.

Thomas Nicholson lives in Whitby, Wellington with two kittens and a little brother. He goes to Adventure School. He likes watching movies, especially How To Train Your Dragon 2.

Connor Miller lives in Wellington, NZ. He is an only child, and goes to Adventure School. He likes playing Star Wars Battlefront, and lying in bed. His favourite food is pasta.

Samuel Straachen lives in a house with two cats, a father, a mother and a sister. He goes to Adventure School and is interested in creative writing. When he grows up he wants to be an architect, or to work for Microsoft Computer Security.

Tiyani Mathur is from NZ. She likes to play on her computer. She loves black, and hates pink. She can be very noisy. In her spare time, Tiyani enjoys playing with her baby mini-lop rabbit, Elia.

Caleb Paynter lives in Whitby with his older brother, dog Teddy, and bunny named Bounce. He enjoys playing with his friends, and is mad about computer games.

Matthias Bentley is a Dr Who fanatic, who has a lot of friends. He loves to play rugby. Matthias was born in England, but now lives in Wellington. When he grows up, he wants to be an All Black.

Gemma Lovewell is world famous in Whitby for her book Our Big Box and short story ‘The Breeze.’ She loves to read, enjoys fantasy, and is completely obsessed with School of Dragons.



RL portrait shot for Waiting Room

Richard Langston

Richard Langston was born sometime ago in a small town and then moved to a big town where there was a newspaper office, a radio station, and a television station. He went to work at all three while magically producing three children and five books of poetry. His daughter who is 14 also writes poems, but does not like to talk about it.


The Interview:

When did you start writing poems?

I started reading poetry when I was in my twenties. I read poetry from New Zealand and then from the USA. I discovered a poem could make something happen in your head, as you read the words they became action in your head. It was as if someone had made a little film. The poem I’m thinking about is called ‘Loss’ by A.R. Ammons, and at the end of this poem you can see and feel flower petals floating off a stem. You might like to Google the poem, and see if you like it. I liked reading poetry so much I thought I would try and write some.


Where did you learn to write poetry?

Whatever I’ve learned has come from the poets I’ve read. I try and read a poem each day. I like to wake up and read one, and I always take a book of poems with me when I’m travelling. You can read poems so quickly – that appeals to me. You can enter a whole different world in a poem. I have had help along the way from some poets, including one of our best, Brian Turner. He showed me I needed to edit my poems, cut words out. I was using too many of them. He told me always to remember a poem is about ‘sound and sense.’


What was your first published poem? Was it inspired by your work as a reporter?

I think my first published poem was called ‘A Dead Dolphin Writes Home.’ I was out walking on a beach and came across the bones of a dolphin, at least I thought it was dolphin. I imagined that dolphin writing home to its mother. It was published in the university student newspaper in Dunedin, ‘Critic.’ A friend told me he thought it was rather strange. So it wasn’t inspired by my work as a reporter, but as an observer.


What were the best and worst things about being a TV reporter?

The best thing is you travel to lots of places and meet lots of people. It can be exciting. I’ve taken many trips in helicopters to report on the news, to plane crashes, to the grounding of the Cook Strait ferry, and even from Wellington to the Christchurch to report on the earthquake. I got to meet the Prince of Tonga and interview him in his palace. I got shot at once in a country called East Timor. That was a bit too exciting! The worst thing is you see people in distress and pain.


You wrote a lot of poems because of the Christchurch Earthquakes. Do you have a “standout” poem from this time?

I did write 13 poems about the earthquake. They are small poems about an enormous event. The one I like the best is ‘The No.3 Bus’ because it was about something so ordinary, yet something that could cost you your life that day. There’s another one about two survivors called ‘Two Voices.’ I interviewed the people in the poem and they told the most amazing story of helping each other survive for 22 hours while trapped in the wreckage of a building.


What famous book do you wish had been written by you?

The Oxford Dictionary – then I would be very well equipped!


If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would go to Greece. I went there once and it was blue and white. Those are my favourite colours. And they had olives.


Do you write more for other people, or for yourself?

I write, hopefully, for both. I write lots of poems that stay in my notebook, so we could say those ones are for me. I keep them as a record of what I was trying to write at the time.


Which of your five published books of poetry is your favourite, or which are you most proud of?

The one I like the best is the second one, Henry, Come See the Blue because it has poems about people and summer, and about where I live, Island Bay, in Wellington. I also like one I wrote about reporters called The Newspaper Poems.


Did you ever learn any different languages? If so, what?

No, but I wish I had. Maori and French would be my choices. I’ve learned a smidgen of Maori working for Maori television, and working with Maori journalists. Maori sounds like tui talking – it makes beautiful sounds.


What inspires you to write?

A moment I want to record, or re-imagine. Writing a poem can be a lot of fun. Occasionally you can surprise yourself with how the poem turns out. Mine often come out of a mixture of memory and imagination. I recently had one published on a writer’s website about something very simple: a memory of my father (who died seven years ago) opening jars. Here it is:



Our mother would say,

‘This blessed thing is stuck,

can you open it?’


He made a particular sound

a particular grimace,

our father opening jars.


He would say, ‘only

a circus strongman or I

could’ve opened it’.


I just said that

after my wife handed me

a jar, I opened it


with a particular sound

a particular grimace.

Out popped our father.


Thank you for asking such good questions, I enjoyed answering them. Richard Langston.

 Note from Paula: Thanks Richard and the Room 8 interviewers. Richard has three poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Two of them are about his daughter Milly and definitely don’t have too many words — just the right mix for sound and sense!