Tag Archives: A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children

The Treasury Interviews: Annie interviews Paula Green

Annie Robinson

My name is Annie Robinson, I am 11 years old and I live in Tauranga with my mum, dad, older brother and younger sister, our 2 guinea pigs and our cat Purdy. My hobbies include playing guitar, singing, video games, loom bands and writing!


Paula with Nonu on a very windy day at Bethell’s.

Paula Green

Paula Green lives on Auckland’s West Coast with her partner, artist Michael Hight, their two daughters, three cats and two Springer Spaniels. She has published nine poetry collections including several for children. Her first children’s book, Flamingo Bendalingo: Poems from the Zoo, was published in 2006 and was listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book. Paula was awarded the University of Auckland Literary Fellowship in 2005. She was the 2008 judge of the New Zealand Post Secondary School Poetry Competition. NZ Listener writer Gerry Webb has written about Paula and has described her style of writing as ‘musical, sensuous, tender, quick-witted’. Paula writes for both adults and children and her most recent book of poems is The Letterbox Cat (Scholastic). She edited A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children that came out in October (Random House). Paula also hosts a blog site call Poetry Box (this blog!) which has lots of competitions, examples of great children’s poetry as well as tips and tricks on how to become a better writer.


The Interview:

What inspired you to start the poetry box blog?

I love working with children and writing for children so it seemed like a fun and challenging thing to do. I get to visit schools a lot in Auckland and sometimes in other main centres but I hardly ever get to visit schools off the beaten track. The internet can easily travel off the beaten track. I called it Poetry Box because it is full of surprises for me. I never know what I am going to pull out next. What else can Poetry Box do? How can it connect with NZ children?


Do you play any musical instruments?

I learnt to play the recorder, piano, the guitar, the clarinet and the saxophone. I was never very good at any of them, but I loved playing them all. I think I wanted to be Joni Mitchell at one stage with my long hair and acoustic guitar. I grew up in a house with lots of music (especially classical and jazz) so music is important to me. As soon as I was old enough, I loved going to concerts and music festivals. Last year I went to WOMAD which was very cool. I am really drawn to poems that sound good and when write a poem I often think it is like making a little piece of music. I love listening to music when I cook dinner, but when I am writing I mostly like the sound of the wind in the trees.


What is you’re most memorable experience?

That is a good question and a hard question because I have had lots of memorable experiences.

Being a mother … having two wonderful daughters that are such good company.

Walking the Abel Tasman Track and riding the Central Otago Rail Trail with my family.

Spending ten days in New York with my family.

Meeting Margaret Mahy and discovering my secret mentor was also a remarkable woman in how she paid attention to others and was so humble and generous.

Going skiing at The Remarkables.

Boogie boarding at Sandy Bay on the Tutukaka Coast.

Reading Dante’s poem The Divine Comedy in Italian (it is unbelievably long!).


What are some of your main inspirations for writing poetry?

The way the world catches me by surprise. Like when a cat instead of the teacher walks into the classroom. Or you turn a corner and there is the sun glinting on the ocean and you can hardly see.

Things people say.


The way real things fly the blue kite of imagination and the yellow balloon of feeling.


The way words are like little musical notes.


What is your favourite piece of writing? ( by yourself and by others)

‘Hotel Emergencies’ by Bill Manhire  You can hear him read it here. Astonishing. No other word for it.

Wonder by AJ Palacio   A novel that brings you back to everything that matters about being human.

Hill & Hole by Kyle Mewburn  A picture-book that is so simple and so beautifully written it is poetry.

Poems by Shel Silverstein, Margaret Mahy and Elena de Roo.

The ACB with Honora Lee by Kate De Goldi  Wise, tender, funny, poetic, beautifully written story

My writing?  Aunt Concertina and Her Niece Evalina is very special to me because it is a small part of the bedtime story I told my girls when they were little. I was too tired to write it down so I didn’t do that until they were older. Michael did the illustrations (very beautiful oil paintings that took him ages!). So it is a family book. And the book doesn’t fit a book formula. The language is as rich as the paintings. I don’t think anyone would publish it nowadays. So I am so grateful to Jenny Hellen and Random House for that. I am rather poroiud of my teo new poetry books too. I love what Scholastic did with The Letterbox Cat and what Random House did with A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. Thank you!!!!!!!!


What do you love most about writing?

It makes me feel good. As simple as that. I just love doing it. It is a way of making music. It is a way of doing anything. Taking risks. Being someone else. Being yourself. Exploring the world. Time travelling. Showing heart. Raising questions. Standing up for what you believe in. Questioning what you believe in. Listening to what others have written. Sharing.

The Treasury Interviews: Rm 24 at Royal Oak Primary interviews Jenny Bornholdt

Room 24 Sept 2014 003

Room 24 at Royal Oak Primary School

In our class there are thirty Year 5 and 6 children who represent many different cultures from around the world. We are responsible and empowered leaders in the school and believe in encouraging and co-operating with others. As we have become more involved in environmental science projects, we have developed a keen interest in the environment and conservation. We are hard workers who believe in persisting to achieve our goals. This year our whole class goal is to improve the imagery in our writing.

Jenny Bornholdt

Biography of Jenny Bornholdt

Jenny was born in Lower Hutt New Zealand. She studied at Victoria University in Wellington and received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a Diploma in Journalism. Jenny began writing seriously in 1984 and has since published many books of poetry. She has won several awards including the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1997 and was named New Zealand Poet Laureate in 2005. (Paula: She has written one of my all time favourite children’s books, A Book is a Book, published by Gecko Press)


The Interview

We read the article about you in the school journal and wonder why it took so long for you to share your writing with others?

I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer, so I was quite surprised when I found myself writing poems.

When I started writing I felt quite shy about it and didn’t think my poems good enough to show to people. When I did the writing course at Victoria University we had to read and show our work to each other and because everyone felt nervous, it somehow made it easier. Also, once you’ve done this a few times, you feel more relaxed about it.

What inspired you to write your first poem?

One of the first poems I remember writing is the first poem in my first book, This Big Face. The poem also has that title, and it’s about a haircut my friend gave me on the front lawn of her house. I had long hair and asked her to cut it very short. So she did.

What is your favourite poem that you have written for children?

I didn’t write this poem for children, but it’s one that teachers often read to students (Paula: it is in the Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and it is fabulous and slightly spooky):

‘How to get ahead of yourself while the light still shines.’

It’s about riding my bike down a hill at night and being scared by my own shadow.

We noticed you used rhyming in some parts of the poem ‘Storm Birds.’ Do you ever write poems that rhyme all the way through?

Not usually. I do like rhyme, but I usually write poems that have half rhymes in them, or have some kind of rhyme going on, but it’s not regular. When you’re writing poems you need to pay a lot of attention to how the words sound and how they sound alongside other words, but this doesn’t mean that they have to rhyme.

What kind of books did you read when you were our age? – 10-12 years

Mostly novels. I did read the Voices poetry anthologies – I don’t know if they’re still around.

I still read a lot of novels, as well as poetry. I think reading is really important if you want to write. You can learn a lot from reading.

When we are writing we are encouraged to paint a picture with words. Do you visualise images when you are writing?

No I don’t, but I do often write poems about something I’ve seen, or, more often, something I’ve heard.

Painting a picture with words – that would make you think hard about the words you use and what you’re saying, and those are good things to think about when you’re writing.

Do you ever visit schools to inspire kids to write poetry?

Yes I do and I always really enjoy it. I like it when kids ask lots of questions – often I get asked about things I haven’t thought about before and that’s really interesting. I also like hearing what kids think about poems.

I love knowing that kids are writing poetry. I think it’s a great thing to do.

Thanks very much for your questions – I’ve really enjoyed answering them.

Best wishes,



What a marvelous interview, thanks Jenny and Room 24.

viewimage   viewimage   viewimage

The Treasury Interviews: Grace interviews Feana Tu’akoi

Feana Tu’akoi

Do you really know what a fish is? Or a mammal? A reptile?

Before you answer, why don’t you look over Feana Tu ‘akoi’s prized books, following fascinating facts about most unusual creatures! But if you are sure you know all their is to know about amphibians and birds or have read her books till all the pages are dog-eared and the spines have frayed, then you may want to check out her other book Lest We Forget, which is about war and reveling over commemorating the ones who sacrificed themselves for the good of their country.

Feana lives in Hamilton with her Tongan husband and children. To her the world is an open book and if she has the ability to write anything, you could too.

Do you really know what a fish is? Or a mammal? A reptile?

Before you answer, why don’t you look over Ms Tu’ akoi prized books, following fascinating facts about most unusual creatures! But if you are sure you know all their is to know about amphibians and birds or have read her books till all the pages are dog-eared and the spines have frayed, then you may want to check out her other book Lest We Forget, which is about war and reveling over commemorating the ones who sacrificed themselves for the good of their country.

The Interview:

Lest we forget must have taken months of writing and editing to reach its exceptional standard. This book was very different to your short “What is a…” books and must have taken a lot to carry out the story. What did you do to keep yourself motivated?

I wrote Lest We Forget  very quickly – in one sitting, in fact – although I did spend a lot of time editing and re-editing, until I was happy with it. I didn’t need to do any research, as it was a mixture of all the thoughts I’d ever had about ANZAC Day parades. The understanding that Tyson comes to during afternoon tea is the understanding I came to, after studying NZ history at university.

When I was a kid, war horrified me. I didn’t want any part of it and I definitely didn’t want to celebrate it. But after talking to people who were involved in World War II, I realised that things weren’t as black and white as I’d thought.

And when I finally went to another Dawn Parade, I was shocked. Nobody talked about how glorious war was, or even that it was the right thing to do. They just talked about how important it was for us to remember, so that we could all continue to live in peace.

That was when I realised. We weren’t there to celebrate war. We were there to remember, so that we wouldn’t have to go through that again. Lest We Forget is just me putting those ideas and feelings on paper.

What was going through your head when you decided to write the “What is a…” series of children fact books?

The What Is A…? books on the other hand, took months of research, writing and rewriting. Scientific knowledge is always changing, as new discoveries are made. I had to check that all my information was up-to-date at the time of writing. I even read scientific papers! Every time you see the word ‘most’ in one of those books, you know that I found an exception to whatever statement I was making. Then it took many, many redrafts to make the books appear simple and straightforward, so that even young children could understand them.

And all of this started because I read somewhere that every animal with feathers was a bird. It seems obvious, but I’d never really thought about it before. And it got me wondering if I could come up with the same sort of classification statement for the other vertebrate animal groups.

Did you have a collection of random objects, a picture or spin wheel of genres for inspiration for a story? What gave you that juicy idea that sparked inspiration? 

I don’t tend to use random objects, pictures or spin wheels to spark ideas. I just write about stuff that interests me. If I’m interested, chances are that other people will be interested, too.

Do you have a routine or method? (I am a writer myself who finds it difficult to stick to one story).

As for routine or method – I am very disciplined and I just sit down and stay there until I’m done. I procrastinate before I start, but once I’m writing, I keep slogging away. And I’m happy to rewrite as many times as it takes for me to be happy with it. I would never send something out unless it was the best I could make it.

When I think a piece is finished, I always read it out loud. I have this theory that if it sounds wrong, it is. So, anything that sounds clunky or forced is taken out.

What do you like about writing poems?

I love to write poems. I like reworking the words until I find the essence of what I want to say. My two favourite ingredients are humour and visual images – although I don’t always put both in at once. I especially like poems that make people think, so that’s what I try to do with mine. I love it when my poems make someone smile, or make them see something a little bit differently.

Do you have future plan for the rest of your career? What do you have in store for us next? 

As for the rest of my career. I just want to keep writing about things that interest me. And if I can keep being paid for it, even better!

Thanks for a fascinating interview Gracie and Feana. You can see Gracie’s poem-bio below. Feana has three poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. You can see she likes striking images and good sound.


Gracie Scragg has written her bio in the form of a poem.

I am 13
And I live on the cusp of 4-D’s last breath
I live in a word where watching infomercials is a sport.

I live in a place where we learn about
Body image and careers in the Botox division
Where authors
Believe in the writer’s block but it
Doesn’t really exist

Where all movies are classified NA and so are you.
I live in a world where dancing is prohibited
And dirt is the only words we sing
Where people die but come breathing because
You know there’s a second book.
Where being fat is an excuse
And your face determines your shoe size.

Where the seven thinking hats measure our beings
Where cancer is common and so are 10-inch heels
Where being yourself
Makes you a despicable, deceitful outlaw.

In this world spots are in and stripes are out
But I want to wear zebra design and write my own songs

I want to believe there is no such thing as writing block
I want to live with the invention of the words
Lament and Expository

Where we can write as dark and gruesome as we want
Without life peering over our shoulders.
Where king’s thrones can be occupied by any ordinary
Where judgment is kept is kept under the hat
And we can attend our own funerals
With dignity.

The Treasury Interviews: Kaitlyn interviews Jenny Powell

Kaitlyn is in Y5 and goes to the Remarkables School in Queenstown. She said she sometimes needs ideas for writing and gets stuck sometime.

Jenny Powell


Jenny Powell is a poet, performance poet and creative-writing tutor. She takes part in the ‘Writers in Schools’ programme with the New Zealand Book Council. She has written a number of poetry collections and has poems for children in The School Journals. She lives in Dunedin.


The Interview

* Why did you want to start being an author?

I didn’t really make a decision to be an author. I started seriously writing poems when I was 12. This was when I began to have things I wanted to say, and the only way I could think of to do it was through poetry. Many years later my first book was published. I couldn’t stop writing by then.

* How do you get some more leads for writing?

I get them from things that happen to me or I think of a topic and pull ideas out of my imagination. Sometimes I give myself a technique to use and work that way. I’m always writing things down in my notebook that I see or hear or think.

* How many books or poems did you publish?

I’ve published five collections of poems and my sixth is due out in a few weeks. I’ve also worked with other poets on two more experimental collections of poems.

* What made you want to be a writer?

I didn’t think of myself as a writer for a long time. I do now. I have all of these ideas in my head to put into poems or kinds of plays. I couldn’t not write them. It’s what I do.

* Did you go in competitions?

I have entered competitions. The first one was when I was 9 or 10. I wrote a story for the Sunday newspaper and won a watch. In the last few years I’ve entered poetry competitions in the UK and have been short listed or a finalist. Maybe I was proving myself.

* Do you go to any schools and share your work?

I do go to schools. I enjoy it. I am a teacher so I think that helps.

Jenny Powell


Thanks for a great interview Kaitlyn and Jenny. Jenny has two poems in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. One has a beautiful image and one has a drop of blood or two!

The Treasury Interviews: Lily interviews Melinda Szymanik


Melinda Szymanik is a writer for children and young adults, and has a Master of Science in Zoology. She has published a number of short stories, picture books and novels.

Her picture book, The Were-Nana won the Children’s Choice Award in the 2009 NZ Post Book Awards for Children and was listed as a Storylines Notable Children’s Book. Her novel A Winter’s Day in 1939 was a Junior Fiction Finalist in the NZ Post Book Awards.


The photo was taken at the WORD Festival (where they got to hear Melinda and loved it!) – Lily is the one sitting next to her teacher, Mrs Visser.

Lily Renwick is a Year 8 student at Russley School in Christchurch. Lily attended the WORD Festival’s Read Aloud Programme and heard Melinda Szymanik speak about writing. Lily had recently read A Winter’s Day in 1939 and really enjoyed listening to Melinda read from the novel and talk about her father’s experience in Poland, which inspired the book.


The Interview

Hi Lily – thanks for the terrific questions. I hope you enjoy the answers.

  1. Have you always been interested in reading and writing or did you develop your interest later on in life?

Definitely early! I fell in love with books in primary school. They were endless fun and an exciting escape from every day life. I quickly became an avid reader. And after reading some amazing books like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Little Town on the Prairie, The Dark is Rising and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, (and many, many more) I started to dream about writing my own books. I first started working on my own stories when I was 9 or 10. I’m glad I started early too, it gave me the chance to do a lot of practice.

  1. Szymanik is difficult to pronounce; did your Polish surname ever cause you problems at school?

It sure did. I got mispronunciations like Zimanik, Zymanik and Shizmanic all the time (and still do). I got all sorts of weird variations – Sizematic, Shizzmatic and many more. Yet even though I got married and could have taken my husband’s name (which is very easy to spell and pronounce) I decided to stick with my own very tricky name. It’s my family name and I’m very proud of it J (and it’s pronounced Shi-manic).

  1. What age were you when your father told you about his childhood?

I remember hearing the stories way back when I was in primary school (maybe when I was around 9 or 10) so I think he always told us when we asked. But he never went into great detail about how awful it all was back then, just focusing instead on the journey his family took.

  1. What was your favourite book to write, and why?

Oh, that’s a very difficult question. For each book there have been fun moments, and satisfying moments, but also incredibly frustrating and difficult moments too. And I think I’ve learnt something different about writing from each book. Perhaps it’s not so much a particular book that has been my favourite to write, but rather the favourite moment of satisfaction on every book when I’ve finally managed to tie up all the loose ends, got everything just how I want it, and written The End.

  1. Do you have a favourite animal, and does it appear in your writing in any way?

I like animals in general, and find all of them fascinating (I studied Zoology at University). All sorts of different animals make appearances in my stories. I do like cats and dogs especially (I have one of each in real life) and have included them in my picture books and short stories. In fact I wrote one picture book about the relationship between an old cat and a Chihuahua called Tatty and Tremble, which I hope will be published in the next year or two. And the dog in my short story The Man with the Dog Eye (in Pick ‘n’ Mix: Volume One) is based on our own little Westie, Robbie.

Thanks Lily and Melinda for a terrific interview. Melinda has a poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children called ‘Fancy.’ It has a delicious similes which leave delicious images in your mind. I am big fan of Melinda’s writing and especially love, A Winter’s Day. I also love The Song of Kauri.

A+Winter%27s+Day+in+1939+cover Were+Nana+NZ+cover+low+res+CROP Housethatwenttosea_front2 otago076197

The Treasury Interviews: The Russley Writers’ Club interviews Sarah Aileen

Photo - me

Sarah Aileen is a budding writer from outer Christchurch with her husband and two naughty cats! Her background is cooking, as a qualified chef of eleven years. She is a novice in the writing world, but is continually inspired by the great writers around her, and draws from her surroundings to soothe her soul from the daily grind of nine til five.

 RWC team 4 RWC team 3


The Russley Writers’ Club is a group of students at Russley School (Christchurch), from Year 5 to Year 8. We meet three afternoons a week to hone our craft, writing everything from poetry to short stories. For many of our writers, English is a second language. We enjoy a tradition of writing success, with many of our students winning writing competitions, and some have had their work published online and in print.


The Interview

Mera: What are your favourite words that rhyme?

Sarah: I use a lot of foodie words, colours, anything visual … and especially alliteration eg. the petulant pea pod passed by the pickled pompous pepper. Rhyming wise I like slime and lime!

Hazel: How many poems have you written?

Sarah: Too many to count, approximately 150 plus, although some end up at the back of my notebook or in the bin!

Grace: Do you ever meet your editor or illustrator?

Sarah: Haven’t yet no J

Darcy: What is your favourite book of poetry?

Sarah: Kerrin Sharpe’s collection, and also Bernadette Hall’s The Lustre Jug are among my top poetry reads, as well as Roald Dahl.

Anthony: If you had the chance to go back in time and study to be something else, what would you do?

Sarah: Well, I am a qualified Chef by trade also, but I attempted to be a Vet when I was at school and wished I had the stomach for it. The one time I trained to be a vet I fainted face first and broke my chin and front tooth out … so needless to say I didn’t follow up on that subject.

Pierre: What was life like for you as a child? Did you have the internet to help you think of or find ideas for your writing?

Sarah: Life as a child for me was fine, I came from a split family so we moved about every two weeks to Dad’s. Mum worked full time, so us three kids kept the house in order and kept entertained together. We had internet at high school, the computer was coming in when I was at primary school. My ideas for writing never come from the internet, I find my ideas around me, from experiences, feelings, situations, watching people and from things I see in the news. Sometimes I research a word, or topic on the internet but I never seem to get ideas there, it’s not creative enough for me.

Brayden: What do you think is the best poem you’ve written?

Sarah: I wrote one for my father on Father’s Day which I was quite happy with but my favourite piece was one I wrote about one of my ancestors wedding dress that was in the Otago Museum who wore a black dress as did I. It was nice finding out I was not the only rebel in my family.

Mirette: What books did you read when you were a kid?

Sarah: A lot of Roald Dahl, Hairy Maclary, Charlotte’s Web was a favourite, The Hungry Caterpillar, The Breakfast Club collection & Famous Five collection (when I was a bit older). I also loved comic books! I was obsessed with Archie and a few others. I forget their names.

Kara: What was the first poem you ever wrote?

Sarah: It was rubbish! I don’t quite remember which came first but it was one I wrote at CHCH Polytechnic with Frankie McMillan & Kerrin Sharpe tutoring me, they smiled and said it had ‘potential’ I knew it was rubbish! So I started again!

Holly: Have you ever judged a poetry competition?

Sarah: No, not yet J

Quinton: What was your most embarrassing moment?

Sarah: As a child, I was with my little brother standing at the Butcher’s with Mum, and she was calling us to the car, so I kept calling my little brother who would’ve been about 3 and I was 5yrs old, he wasn’t listening so that made me mad, so I grabbed his curly hair and pulled on him to come to the car. But the kid started crying, and turned out it wasn’t my little brother standing in front of me anymore… the poor kid!

Thanks Russley Writing Club and Aileen for a great interview!

The Treasury Interviews: Jamie interviews Helen Jacobs


About me

My name is Jamie O’Keefe. I go to Roydvale School (an awesome school).

I am 8 years old and I love rugby, sushi and swimming.

My favourite type of writing is to write about something really frightening which then turns out to be a dream or nightmare. I like to surprise whoever is reading it.

My favourite place to read is high up in my spectacular climbing tree.

My favourite books to read are Beast Quest, Hank Zipster, Willard Price adventure stories and the 13 Story Tree House series.


photo poetry reading

About Helen Jacobs (this is her pen name)

Helen Jacobs was born in Patea 1929. She came to live in Lowry Bay in 1954 and lived there and in Eastbourne for 36 years. Since 1984 six collections of her poetry have been published, the most recent being Dried Figs in 2012.  Her work has been published in many magazines and anthologies including Yellow Pencils (1988), Oxford Anthology of Love Poems (2000), Essential NZ Poems (2001), Essential New Zealand Poems (2014), My Garden, My Paradise (2003), This Earth’s Deep Breathing (2007), Our Own Kind (2009), Eastbourne An Anthology (2013) and in numerous Canterbury anthologies.

Following involvement in community activities and environmental issues she was elected Mayor of Eastbourne in 1980 and appointed to the Planning Tribunal in 1986. She retired to Christchurch in 1994 where she has been active in croquet, voluntary activities, the poetry community and the Canterbury Poets Collective.



The Interview

1   How old when you wrote your first poem?

That is a bit difficult to remember, Jamie. I am 85 so it is a long time ago. I remember making up bits of rhymes at primary school but nothing was written down.   I wrote poems in my last two years at secondary school for the school magazine but haven’t copies of them. I seem to remember they were a bit gloomy. I really started to write when I was in middle age and have been writing ever since. I don’t publish everything. One of my first poems published was in Landfall 124, 1977 and was called ‘A Garden Place’.

2   How many poems have you written?

Hundreds. About seven hundred I think.

3   What is your longest poem?

Most of my poems don’t go beyond a page but of the few that do, probably ‘Burnt Hills’ is one of the longest. This was in my first collection and also in the recent anthology Eastbourne: An Anthology 2013.

4   Your favourite subject?

The subjects of my poems are quite varied so I can’t say I write about any one topic for preference although I do seem to write a lot about gardens and the environment.

5   How do you  get ideas?

From what is happening around me.  From issues that I am interested in.   I use poems sometimes to think through matters. I often write poems for friends and to record enjoyable times and I have written some poems in memory of friends. Sometimes I write for fun.

6   Your smallest poem?

This one that I wrote for my twin grandsons when they two years of age.   My friend Keith was accident prone and my grandsons thought this was hilarious.

Chip chop loppity-dee

Keith fell out of the willow tree.

Swish swash flippity-flop

Keith fell off the chimney pot.


  1. Your favourite style?

That is another difficult question. It depends on what the subject matter is what arrangement and choice of words says best what you mean.   But I don’t like poems that are obscure.

I like both rhyming and non-rhyming poems.   In non-rhyming poems there is always an underlying rhythm that is not obvious.

I am glad you like reading in a tree, Jamie.   In our garden when my children were young there was an oak tree which my daughter liked to climb into with her book.   We called it the reading tree.

Best wishes for your writing.

Elaine Jakobsson

Elaine has a terrific poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children called ‘Monsters.’ She wrote it for her grandchildren.

The Treasury Interviews: Lucy interviews Rachel Bush


Photo credit: Martin de Ruyter

Rachel Bush was born in 1941. She has published 7 collections of poetry, her first was called The Hungry Woman and was published in 1997. She currently lives in Nelson.

The Interviewer: My name is Lucy and I am 11 years old. I like to write poems and LOVE to read. I go to Mahana school and I am in Year 7.

 The Interview:

Have you always loved to write and from what age?

I have always enjoyed writing, but I don’t know that I have always ‘loved’ it. When I was a bit younger than you, I was a very keen reader of Enid Blyton books and I wrote two rather pallid imitations of her books. In both of them there were four central characters called George, Kath, Alice and Anne – which names are very like those of some of the characters in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books. I was starting to grow my hair at this time and all four characters had long plaits.

At first I wrote more stories than poems. Poems seemed to be what i wanted to write as I got older. I still write stories occasionally.

I kept a diary from when I was thirteen. I don’t exactly keep a diary any more, though sometimes I will write about particular things that have just happened but I do always have at least one notebook on the go and I write something in it most days.

What advice would you give to a writer wanting to publish a book?

I’d encourage anyone who wants to do this to go ahead. There are more opportunities now for publishing than there were when I was a young writer.

I sometimes think publishing is a gradation. At one end is someone whose poems/novels/short stories are hidden away deep in a computer file. When I was younger the equivalent was having them hidden in a bottom drawer, and at the other end is a big fat book like The Luminaries with lots of publicity for the author. A first step to publication might be sharing your writing with another person. Probably the first time I had a poem published was when I had a poem in the school magazine when I was in Year 12.

Computer software make it possible to publish your own work and have it looking very smart and stylish. A poet whose a friend of mine sends out a stylish looking card on his birthday. It’s folded in three and on five sides there’s at least one poem. On the sixth side there’s a little note about it being his birthday. (He also has a book published and has work published in magazines.) Or you can go online and publish your work there.

If you want to have a book published, I suppose you try to get some sort of publishing record first of all – maybe sending things to magazines for instance. This involves a bit of research because you need to be familiar with what sort of thing that particular magazine publishes. What sort of length are the pieces they publish? Are they prose and/or poetry?

If I had a book ready to go I would look hard at different publishing firms and what sorts of things they like to publish. I’d be trying to decide whether my book would fit in with the sort of thing they seem to want to publish.

I’d want to make a manuscript look good with no typos, a good clear plain font, double spaced with wide margin space. It would be easy to find information about this sort of thing online. Some publishers don’t want a hard copy, but prefer to be sent a computer file. Again you need to do some research. So this aspect of writing is more like being your own Personal Assistant and being business-like about trying to get work published.

What is your favourite genre to read?

I don’t have a favourite genre. I try to ready widely.

There’s almost always a book of poems that I’m reading and I keep it by my bed or in my handbag if the book is skinny enough. At present I am still reading Essential New Zealand Poems and I am also reading Horse with Hat by Marty Smith. I’ve also read some of Milton’s poetry, particular a verse drama called Samson Agonistes that for some reason I never got round to reading when I studied Milton as a university student. (Paula — these books aren’t children’s books in case you think they are.

I’m reading a novel too – it’s called Concluding by Henry Green. It first came out when I was 6 years old but of course I didn’t know anything about him then. He was talked about a bit when I was at university but was never in any of the English papers I did.

I love Victorian novels. I read and reread Dickens, Trollope and George Eliot’s books for instance.

I’m enjoying biographies more as I get older.

I’ve read several books from the Old Testament this year.

I like reading good short stories and this year I discovered an excellent writer, Lydia Davis. I also found out that nearly everyone except me had known of her work for years!

So it seems that I can’t really answer this question about my favourite genre but have just meandered around it

If you want to write in a particular genre it’s likely you’ll read that genre. At the same time I sometimes find that the books that really get me writing are a surprise. It’s not necessarily books of modern poetry that make me want to write poems.

Where does your inspiration come from?

I don’t often feel inspired. I try to keep writing and sometimes something unexpected happens and I find I’m writing more easily and confidently than usual. It’s wonderful when that happens.

Things that make me want to write vary.

What I read is often helpful. Sometimes first lines of very good writers make me want to write my own poem almost as a response to theirs. Janet Frame and Anne Carson have done that for me.

Sometimes being under a particular pressure makes me write easily. Which seems strange. Pressure might be a time constraint, like to write something in 20 minutes. Or it might be a set of ‘rules’, like ‘Write a poem that consists entirely of untrue statements’. I think the hardest thing to do is probably to be told to take as long as you need to write the best poem you possibly can about whatever you think is important. If there are constraints you can always blame them if your poem isn’t as terrific as you would have liked it to be.

Walking helps me to write. I’m pretty sure Fiona Farrell has written about how how walking helps her to write.

Glenn Colquhoun says something somewhere (I’m sorry I can’t be more precise), about writing being best when you write about those things you see out of the corner of your eyes. I like that idea. Sometimes it helps to sit with and discover what I’m really preoccupied with and use that in my writing, rather than write what I think I ought to write about.

Do you ever take a break from writing a poem and come back to it?

Yes, I almost always do this.

I mentioned earlier that I always have a notebook. Usually this is where I draft poems and then maybe weeks later I read back over this notebook. Some things I’ve written look a bit feeble but often there’s something I can use and develop further.

After a gap of time, I can often look at a poem a bit more objectively and see what needs doing to it. I would hardly ever send a poem I’ve just written away to a literary magazine because I am so likely to see things I want to change if I look at it after a few weeks.

Do you ever get writers block, if you do how can you get rid of it?

Yes, I suppose sometimes I do feel the opposite from inspired and can’t think how to begin or continue anything.

Sometimes I find that to think of it as being like having a bit of a headache is useful. Okay, it’s there, and I can either retire to bed feeling sorry for myself or just go on doing what I do as best I can. But if I decide I am suffering from Writer’s Block and stop writing then there is no chance of my writing well.

Michael Harlow once said at a workshop that if you write a word another flies to it. That’s mostly true for me. So if I can find a word or a phrase from anywhere and write it down then there is a chance some writing will happen. It may not be very good, but at least its writing.

If I was feeling flat about my writing, I used to return to a book called Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and it helped me to forgive myself for often writing rubbishy, dull stuff. (And it also has some really good suggestions, about daily writing practice that I found useful.)

What is the hardest thing about writing?

I don’t think I can answer this very well. There’s no single thing that is particularly hard for me.

I have learned to accept that alternating between thinking I have just written a Truly Terrific Poem and thinking that I am an Embarrassing Disaster of a Writer who will never manage an even halfway decent poem doesn’t help me at all. I’m gradually realising that nothing I write will change the world and knock its little cotton socks off, but also I’ve come to realise that there’s no need to be ashamed of what I write.

Just keeping going, I guess, is hard. There are lots of other wonderful things to do. How do you balance these different aspects of your life? I’m busy, as most people are busy. I don’t write as much as I would like to write. I also need to work on regularly finishing poems and sending them away to literary magazines.

Sometimes writing can seem a bit lonely. But having a group of people you trust and with whom you can share your writing helps.

Nobody has to be a writer. But when it’s going well it’s good fun and satisfying.

Thanks for a wonderful interview Lucy and Rachel. Rachel has given us all kinds of tips about writing and has shown us the wide range of books she reads as an adult. To be a good writer you do need to keep reading and trying out things as you write — no matter what age you are! Rachel has a lovely poem in A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children called ‘Early.’

The Treasury Interviews: The Lions from Adventure School interview Robert Sullivan

The Interviewers:



The Lions Reading Group is in Year 4 at Adventure School in Porirua

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.


Robert Sullivan (Ngāpuhi)



Robert Sullivan, is an author, poet, anthologist and teacher. He is Head of the Creative Writing Programme at Manukau Institute of Technology. He has written a number of collections of poetry and has mostly recently edited an anthology of Māori poetry with Reina Whaiti (Puna Wai Kōrero). He has also written an award winning collection of Māori legends for children.


The Interview

What makes a poem a poem?

That’s a really good question. I think if the poet says it’s a poem then that’s a good start. Some poets write a poem as if it’s a concrete mixer churning away, and others write like they’re rap stars or hip hop artists, and others stick poems on fridges. Poems are everywhere you want them to be, and everything you want them to be.

Do you have other people who help you to write?

When I started to write I used to show my poems to friends. We started up a writing group, and then we started to publish our own journal which was really cool.

Do you use your Irish heritage in your writing, as well as Maori?

I do a little bit, mainly because I like to read some of the Irish poets and so their ideas pop up sometimes in my writing.

Do you write for a particular age group?

I mainly write for adults, and also for my family which range in age from my nieces and nephews who are quite a bit younger than me right up to my grandparents.

What setting do you need to come up with poems? Do you do your writing or thinking in any unusual places?

The best place for me to write is in my mother’s village in the Bay of Islands—I can feel close to my ancestors up there. Otherwise, I write at home in Auckland, but imagine I’m writing in the village at my grandfather’s place.

Did you ever do a job that didn’t involve writing?

I used to be a librarian—I loved that job. I also used to sell vacuum cleaners which was my very first job.

Did you always like poetry?

Pretty much!

When you started writing poetry at 18 years old, did you have any favourite poems to inspire you?

There was a poem I admired written by Nissim Ezekiel called ‘Night of the Scorpion’—I was 12, and read it out loud in a speech contest at school. That was my first understanding of the power of a poem, especially when it is read out loud.

Did you continue writing poems when you worked in Hawaii?

Yes. My book Voice Carried My Family was finished in Hawaii, plus a few other books.

What are your hobbies?

Astronomy. I have a new telescope so I’ve seen the rings of Saturn. I like playing badminton and tennis too.

What would you choose to write about, if you only got to write one poem?

The meaning of life so it would be a very long poem.

What does your writing format look like when you begin – do you plan your work? If so, how?

My poetry is organic. I get a line, or an image, and start from there—it either grows and grows, or it stays close to that first line or image. I wrote a very long poem called ‘Captain Cook in the Underworld’ and that one was planned out in three acts like a play as it was also sung like a short opera with singers and an orchestra.

What is the best thing about teaching creative writing?

The students!

Thanks Robert and The Lions for a terrific interview. Great questions and great answers.

1411441130757 1400029186996 books

The Treasury Interviews: Daniel interviews Claire Gummer

The Interviewer:


Bio about Daniel Lovewell: Daniel Lovewell is 5 years old and lives in Porirua with his whole family. His favourite things in the world are books and cats and books about cats. He started reading when he was two years old and started writing poems when he was four. He also loves music and is going to be very famous one day.

 Claire Gummer

037 Parnell1_Maureen

Claire Gummer lives in Auckland with her partner, some chickens and a small dog. She has worked on newspapers, for publishing houses, in a bookshop and in libraries. She enjoys words, west coast beaches, bush, the back yard and blogging.

(www.EggVenturous.blogspot.com, http://www.LibraryLatitude.blogspot.com)



The Interview

How do you get your ideas?

I go for a walk and I look very hard all around me, especially at the small things.

Where do you do your work? Do you write at a desk?

I like to think I can work anywhere, and take my work with me. Sometimes I run away to a library where I know nobody. But more often I am at home in my very messy room, sitting at my desk where I can look out the window.

What was your favourite hobby when you were a child?

Having adventures on the beach and in the bush. Being an explorer.

My favourite poem right now is ‘Cat Naps’ by Paula Green. Can you remember your favourite poem from when you were a child? What is your favourite now?

I had favourite books of poems. One of them was ‘Oh, What Nonsense!’ It had a bright orange cover, very shiny, and the poem I most remember from it was about an old lady who tidied the beach: she swept it with a broom. Another favourite book was The Golden Treasury of Poetry, a bit like the new Treasury of NZ Poems for Children only less colourful. Plus it had no New Zealand poems in it!

My favourite poem now – well, I’ve found several new favourites in the Treasury of NZ Poems for Children. ‘The Sapling Tree’ by Richard Langston is one I really like: it’s long and thin just like a new young tree. And all of Sue Wootton’s poems that are in the book, especially ‘The Second-hand Tent’. Most of hers were published first in The School Journal, which is a more wonderful magazine than I ever realised.

How long does it take to turn a story into a published book?

I haven’t written a whole book, but I know a bit about getting one published because I’ve been an editor and a bookseller. It can take months or years. People think it’s all finished once the story is written, but then there is a lot of care and attention from a whole team of people, so that the story or the collection of poems looks the best it can and has as many readers as possible. Sometimes the people working on the book have arguments about it! But usually they get there in the end.

If you could do anything in the world, what would it be?

I would live in a lighthouse. Ever since I was little I’ve wanted to live in the old Bean Rock Lighthouse, which is way out at sea in the Waitemata Harbour of Auckland. It still warns ships about the reef that it stands on, though nobody has lived there for ages: the light comes on automatically these days. But I like to think of living up there above the wild waves, with the smell of the sea. I’d take a boat to town to get what I needed now and then.

I would be an elephant. Partly because it would be very useful to have a trunk, but also because all that elephant poo must be really good for the garden. And it’s hard to argue with an elephant.



What a wonderful interview Claire and Daniel. I really loved reading this. You might be interested to know Claire helped edit A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children and she has two poems in the book that are rather lovely.