Tag Archives: interviews

Children and classes interviewing authors in A Treasury of NZ Poetry for Children: I have two more authors if you are keen!

I have two more authors to add to my list. Classes, groups of students and individual children across the country are hard at work thinking up questions for NZ authors in my new book.

Would you like to have a go? Get in touch if you do!  Look below for what to do next:


1. Let me know you would like to do an interview paulajoygreen@gmail.com

2. Tell me your name, age, year and name of school, or class year and name of teacher.

3. I will send you the name of the author and a few clues about them. It is a lucky dip!

4. Write 5 to 7 questions that I will send the author.

5 Do some research on the author if you can and write a two-sentence bio on them (paragraph tops). This will be easy for some and impossible for some (so I can help).

6. Write your own bio. What your like to do and  read and write. Your first name, year and name of school. And so on. If you send permission I can post your photo.

7. Send me your questions and bio paulajoygreen@gmail.com

8. In October I will post the interviews with a photo of the author.

9. I will have a copy of the Treasury for my favourite interview by a child and my favourite interview by a class.

This Week on Poetry Box

This week (unlike other weeks) I have no idea what I will post each day as I have so much on. Tomorrow I am flying to Wellington for the second launch of my book — and with a new book out  I am really lucky to have some interviews to do. It is always fun (and slightly scary) talking about what you have just written. I always hope I find the words to answer the questions because it is not the same as sitting at your computer typing away at your own pace (as I am doing now!) and a delete key at your fingertips. So an exciting week for me.

I have been at the Auckland Writers and Readers festival all weekend and I am full to the brim with new words and ideas and books to read. I got to hear Kate De Goldi read from The ACB of Honora Lee and that was such a highlight. The words make magic on the page and they most definitely make magic in the air.

Check out the interview she did for Poetry Box last week (Wednesday).

SO I am just reminding you ALL to have a go at a story poem ( a poem that has a little story in it about a place or a person or something that happened). You have until Thursday 23rd 6pm to send to me at paulajoygreen@gmail.com.

My second challenge this week is to give you another chance to interview me (it seems fitting in my week of interviews). It can be a class set of questions or an individual set. I have done this once with a class from Roydvale School so see if you can come up with some different questions. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail.com by Friday May 24th. I will post the interview next week.

Bill Manhire talks to Poetry Box about building huts

I don’t think Bill Manhire has ever written a book of poems for children, but he is one of my favourite New Zealand poets. Some poets who only ever really write for adults manage to write poems that readers love no matter how old they are.

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Bill has a knack of writing poems that make music. I love music so when I read a poem that has that musical touch it fills me with a good feeling. Bill’s rhymes are magnificent. Sometimes they are easy (my cat/ fancy that) and sometimes they are tricky (scooter/ euchre or xylophone/knucklebones) and sometimes his rhymes slip and slide all over the lines. However he is not afraid to rhyme at the end of the line either (this can make a poem great, but it can make a poem bad in the wrong hands).

Bill also poured his dreams, hard work and generosity into starting a programme for writers at Victoria University. With the help of a wealthy patron from America his dream turned into The International Institute of Modern Letters where many of our most celebrated writers have studied creative writing. Bill retired at the end of last year so will have lots of time for writing now.

One of the many good things that have come out of this programme is the annual poetry competition and workshops for secondary school students (it has had various names over the years).

Last year Victoria University Press published Bill’s Selected Poems. It contains lots of my favourite poems.

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Bill kindly agreed to answer some questions for Poetry Box:

1. What did you like to write when you were young?

I wrote my first poem when I was 7, and I still know it by heart. I don’t think I’ll quote it, though!  I didn’t write another poem till I was at high school.

At primary school I mostly used to write copies of the books that I really enjoyed reading.  So when I was 10 and 11 I wrote copies of the Tarzan story, and of Biggles. I also wrote a science fiction serial, which involved robbers who travelled through time. The other day I found a home-made book called Tony and the Magic Wishing Glove, which I must have made when I was 5 or 6.  Well, I found the cover ­– all the pages are missing.

2. What else did you like to do in your spare time?

I used to like building huts, but I realise now I would have been a terrible carpenter.  But in some ways putting a poem together is a bit like building a hut. You have to make sure all the bits of timber fit together, and that the hut’s big enough to get into and maybe stay in overnight.

3. Do you have a children’s poetry book you can recommend? Or a favourite children’s poem?

I’m a big fan of the poems of Charles Causley. One of my favourites is “I Saw a Jolly Hunter“, which has a serious point but is full of fun – including fun with words.  And I’ve always loved his “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence and Experience“, which like all the best children’s poems is also for grown-ups. In fact it’s about the fact that we all have to grow up.  It’s written in ballad form. There’s a musical version of it by Natalie Merchant:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=depk09Jqsaw

Charles Causley also put together some great poetry anthologies – one of my favourites is The Puffin Book of Magic Verse.

4. Do you have three top tips for young writers (5 to 12 year olds)?

Well, maybe instead of tips, three writing ideas. You could try them as prose if they don’t work out as poems.

1. Try imagining what it’s like to be something else, and write as if you are that something else. Maybe you could be an elephant that’s sick of being in the circus. Or an iceberg that’s melting. Or an asteroid that’s about to hit the earth. Or maybe you could write a conversation (or a love poem!) between a stalagmite and a stalactite.

2. Write a brand new nursery rhyme, and put your best friend in it.

3. Write a poem where every line begins with the words “I remember”, but every memory is made-up.

5. You are really good at list poems. I love your 1950s poem and love reading it aloud. ‘Hotel Emergencies’ is one of my favourite poems of all time (particularly when I hear you read it). What do you like about writing poems like this?

I think what I especially like about list poems is that you can mix up serious things and silly things, loud things and quiet things, sadness and happiness. You can change tone and direction, but keep coming back to a strong structure which holds everything together.  The “I remember” idea I’ve suggested might be good for producing a wild mixture of things.

Thanks Bill!

Here is the first verse of Bill’s terrific list poem ‘1950s’:

My cricket bat. My football boots.

My fishing rod. My hula hoop.

My cowby chaps. My scooter.

Draughts. Happy families. Euchre.

Ludo. Snap. My Davy Crockett hat.

My bicycle. My bow and arrow.

My puncture kit. My cat.

The straight and narow. Fancy that.

© Bill Manhire from ‘1950s’ in The Victims of Lightning Victoria University Press 2010

Poetry Box Interview: John Parker plus a poem by Libby



If you look on his website you will see that John Parker has had all kinds of jobs (from postie to tv actor to house painter). Most importantly he is a children’s author who has many writing strings to his bow. He can write for all ages (not everyone can do this!). He can write great stories, non-fiction that sparks my interest and lively poetry. He has written over 130 books and lots of his writing has appeared in the School Journals (which is where I first discovered his poems). John was born in Christchurch but now lives in Auckland.

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If you scroll down you will find a poem by John and a poem by Libby D from Prebbleton SchooI, but first I asked John a few questions:

Did you have any favourite poems as a child?

When I was young, AA Milne was one of my favourite poets. I had two of his poetry books. One was When We Were Very Young.   The other was Now We Are Six. I loved the way all his words came together so rhythmically and how they made music for me. I liked so many of his poems, but I’ll just choose two.

The first is “Spring Morning” from When We Were Very Young. It still makes me want to get outside and feel the sun on my face, and listen to the birds and the conversation between the wind and the trees.

And the second is “King John’s Christmas” in Now We Are Six.  It’s a about a lonely man who got the present he wanted at Christmas, and it reminds me that no matter who or what we are, it’s important that we are as happy as we can be.

Do you have a tip for young poets?

I have three tips.

Learn to love words and to explore them. They have different sounds and shapes and weight. Some are long and leisurely. Some are short and snappy. Some are as sharp as a tiger’s teeth. Some are as soft as a feather-down pillow.

If you can, carry some paper and a pen with you to most places. Then you’ll be ready to catch that special thought that suddenly flies into your mind as a result of what you see or hear or experience.

Great poems can be just a few words long. The important thing is to make them the best words you can.

Did you like to write about real things or use your imagination or a bit of both?

Most of my poems or writing start from something that’s real.  I couldn’t write about a talking lion, for example, unless I’d seen a lion and got to know how it moved and ate and behaved. Then I could put my imagination into it. One of my books is about a cat that climbed a rainbow – but first I noticed how my pet cat, Mister, effortlessly climbed up a tree. The real happening seemed to act as a springboard into the imaginative story. That’s how it often works for me.

Do you have any favourite kinds of poems?

I like the ones which discover something new in familiar things and which make you nod your head and say, “That’s so true!”  or “I’d never thought of that before!” And because we live most of our lives in familiar surroundings, such poems are important in keeping us alive to different possibilities and ways of looking at things. When I come across a poem like that, it feels as a window has been opened in my brain and a breath of fresh air has blown in!

Did you like writing as a child?

Well, I certainly liked the look of words on paper, especially when I could use the keys of my dad’s typewriter.  That black print on white paper was mysterious and wonderful and I could sense its potential. I read anything and everything, too. Reading and writing go together like fish-and-chips. It’s a magical combination.

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Thanks John. What I love about John’s writing is that he can make you laugh and he can make you think. His poems show me he loves to play with words — they are acrobatic, flavoursome and often put a smile on my face. I definitely want to include some in the anthology I am editing. John has given me permission to post a poem and I couldn’t decided whether to post Mr Swash which is full of fun, imagination and zany sounds or Finding a Poem which made me think.

I have picked Finding a Poem because it is all about getting ideas for poems and what you want your poems to do. John says he would love his poems to ‘dance like a butterfly‘ or ‘prance like a unicorn‘ or ‘sting like a bee.’ The more we write, the more we discover how many different things our poems can do. I love the way John’s poem has two halves. In the first half the poet is listening out for a poem and in the second half the skinny cat on the fence ends up giving him his starting point.

The photos I have posted from John’s website show he is trying out as many wonderful things outside as he is inside his poems!

Finding A Poem

I feel there’s a poem calling me in a stale room.

I can’t presume,

but if I could get at it,

give it air,

it might dance like a butterfly,

sing like a forest of bellbirds,

prance like a unicorn,

sting like a bee –


but the front door’s locked,

and rattling the knob won’t do it for me.


The back door’s shut, too.


There’s no key under the mat.


As I wonder what to do

I sense a pair of eyes.

I’m being observed by a skinny cat,

sitting on a brown wooden fence.


It watches me try round the house.

Maybe there’s an open window?

A gap to squeeze through?

A point of entry?



So I turn to go –

then the cat rubs hard against my leg, purring.

Its green eyes stare at me, unblinking.

Suddenly a stirring –

is this the poem I’ve been searching for?


© John Parker

Reading John’s poem reminded me of the poem Libby  sent me from Prebbleton School in Christchurch. Libby is in Year 8. I really loved the way Libby has concentrated with her ears and eyes on a moment and made that moment come alive on the page. It took me back to my school days at Horahora Primary when the class was writing. I would feel my pen turn from the solid brick to something buzzing across the page. It was pure joy! Great job Libby — your pen got moving and now we have poetry.

Writer’s Block

It sounds like clicking pens and sighs of boredom.

It looks like flaring nostrils and tired eyes.

It sounds like frustrated hands and brains.

It looks like twitching eyebrows and loud tapping pens.

My pen is a brick, as solid as a brick.

It won’t move.

This week on Poetry Box and a Snail Poem

This week on NZ Poetry Box it is a mix of things. On Monday I will remind you about the small-poem challenge and post my snail poem, on Tuesday I will give you a poetry tip, on Wednesday I will play with poetry, on Thursday I will post an interview with John Parker (he writes terrific poems for children!) and on Friday I will post the winning small poem (or poems!).

The Small Poem Challenge: Write an animal poem using no more than 15 words (you can go slightly over!). Send it to paulajoygreen@gmail.com. Include your name, age, year, name of school and teacher’s name and email address. Think about the tips I have given so far and check out tomorrow’s tip. The winner will receive a copy of Flamingo Bendalingo (courtesy of Auckland University Press).

I am pleased to see schools are promoting The Fabulous Poetry Competition on their websites. With so many entries for this competition I will only accept them at my physical post box.

And now for my poem. There are thousands of poems about snails and I have always been fascinated with the way they carry their home about. Sometimes I have let my imagination take off with this idea. Do they have little couches and tvs to watch? Are they like a mobile home going on a sightseeing tour? When I wrote this poem I wanted to describe the snail and keep it real. I thought of saying the house was like a little acorn but then I liked the sound of hat (and I thought it’s a funny place to keep a hat — on your back!).

When I write a poem I always play with the way the words sit on the line. I could have said slips and slides but I picked slides and slips.

 A Snail Poem

A snail slides and slips

down the path

on her silvery snail trail,

with her little house sitting

on her back like a shiny hat.


Roydvale Primary Interview

Congratulations to Room 11 at Roydvale Primary School in Christchurch. I picked your questions to answer.  A copy of my chapter book The Terrible Night (Random House) will be on its way to you soon.

I had fun answering your questions.

Room 11 is a Year 2 and 3 class taught by Libby Watherston. They like all sorts of things from ‘horses to karate to brownies to judo to fishing to ballet to soccer to music to drawing to pukeko.’ Thank you for telling me a bit about you too!

1.     Do you have any children?

I have two daughters; one goes to university and one is in Year 12. When they were little I used to tell them stories, one of which turned into my picture book Aunt Concertina and her Niece Evalina (Random House).


2.   What type of house do you live in and where do you live?

I live in the country near Te Henga/ Bethells Beach on the West Coast of Auckland. We have lots of bush but our house is in a clearing. It is a little house with big windows so we get big beautiful views of the sky and the tail end of the Waitakere Ranges. There are lots of birds here. I love the tui and the kereru and I have written poems abut them. I love to go for walks on the beach and swim in the sea. We have two dogs and three cats. I have posted a picture of Molly and Nonu (our dogs) and one of our views (the bush and the Waitakere Ranges). The other photo is Te Henga.

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3.   How did you learn to write poems and how long have you been writing them?

I learned to write poems by writing and trying and playing and writing and reading and sharing and teaching and writing and listening and reading and writing and writing. In Year 8 my teacher was a poet so that was pretty marvelous. It was one of my favourite years at school because he encouraged me to go exploring as a writer.

So I have been writing poems since I was at primary school. I went to Petone Central Primary (in Wellington) then Horahora Primary and Whangarei Intermediate (in Whangarei).

4.   What is your favourite food and TV programme?

I love food and I love cooking. I am getting to be a better gardener so I love picking fresh fruit and vegetables. This year I can’t believe we have eggplants and peppers and cucumbers, passion fruit and feijoas growing. I love Italian, Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Spanish, Mexican, French and Pacific food. Oh, and I LOVE chocolate. I posted a photo of my favourite breakfast: juicy mango and sweet strawberries! The other one is of my veggie garden.

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I also like watching TV. I love Australian Masterchef and really liked the Junior one. I also like watching Campbell Live. I am looking forward to watching a new Sherlock Holmes programme called Elementary (definitely for adults). One of my all time favourite adult programmes was called Treme. It was about Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and it was full of the most fabulous music. It also made me think hard about what happens when a disaster hits a place, not so much at the time but in the years to follow. It reminds me of Christchurch. I like programmes that make me think or laugh or cry or just sit back and relax.

5.   How many books have you written?

I have had about eleven books published; some of these I have written and some I have edited. If you look under ‘My Books’ on this blog you will see I have written a bit about my children’s books. I have a new poetry book for adults coming out in May called The Baker’s Thumbprint published by Seraph Press. So I am excited about that.

Picture 6                 Macaroni Moon

James Norcliffe’s Packing a Bag for Mars

Packing a Bag for Mars by James Norcliffe with illustrations by Jenny Cooper. Published by Clerestory Press, Christchurch. clerestory@xtra.co.nz  $27

The School for Young Writers in Christchurch commissioned James Norcliffe to write a book of poems for students. This book isn’t just a collection of poems though. It is like a packed suitcase that you can take on your own poetry adventures to the sea, the moon, the city, foreign countries, the zoo, the park, home or school. I think poets are like explorers and our bags are backed with all the books we have read and all the poetry techniques we have played with. So I think this the perfect title for a poetry book.

James has also included an interview where he answers questions about writing; questions about punctuation, new lines, redrafting, whether poems need to rhyme and much much more.

Each poem comes with a poetry-launch pad. James comes up with an idea for you to get started on your poem. They are so good, instead of writing this review I wanted to be writing a poem about what I might pack if I were to travel the length of the Nile in case strange and wonderful things happened to me.

At the end of the book there are notes on all the poems. James tells you where he got the idea for the poem from, what some of the words mean and reveals some of the poetry techniques he uses. It is like he opens a window for you to peek through and get a wider and more splendid view of his poem. Usually poems are places where we get to go exploring on our own (and this great too!)

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What I love about James as a poet is that he is prepared to test out all kinds of things when he writes. His poems can make you think about things differently and feel things differently. He writes about all kinds of subjects from sports to celebrations to superstitions to dressing for peace.

James has written a book of poems that is full of challenges so it is a book that will inspire many of us to write more and to write in new ways. As a poet I always like to try things I haven’t done before. I like to set myself new and exciting challenges.

I see this book as a real gift for students from Year 5 or 6 right though to Year 13.

PS James has also written the award-winning The Loblolly Boy (I loved the imaginative stretch of this story published by Longacre Press!) and The Loblolly Boy and the Sorcerer (I am looking forward to reading this). The Enchanted Flute was published in 2012. The latter two were published by Random House NZ.

Poetry Box Challenge #1

Ata marie

Welcome to the second week of Poetry Box. Today I am going to post a challenge for you, on Tuesday I will post  a poetry tip, on Wednesday I will post a poem, on Thursday I will tell you all about James Norcliffe’s new book of poetry (it has a great title!) and on Friday I will post the winner of Monday’s challenge!

I had great fun at the weekend emailing all New Zealand primary schools about the blog and the Fabulous NZ Poetry Competition. I decided the names of our schools are like a gigantic poem.

POETRY BOX CHALLENGE #1 Think of 5 questions you would like to ask me about my books, my life as a writer, poetry or whatever interests you. Send to paulajoygreen@gmail by 5pm on Thursday 28th February.

Sometimes when I visit schools a student will ask me a question so surprising I will give them a copy of my book.

I will pick a winner, answer the 5 questions and post the interview on Friday. Please include your name, your age and year at school, the name of your school and the email address of your teacher or parent.

I will send the winner a copy of my chapter book The Terrible Night. I had such fun writing this book! It was published by Random House and illustrated by Chris Grosz.


WELCOME to the very first blog of the New Zealand Poetry Box for children.

The blog will be a meeting place for children, teachers, parents, writers and readers who love reading and writing poetry for children.

For the next two years I will dedicate myself to poetry for children. I will be busy editing an anthology of poems for children, writing poems, visiting schools, organising events, sharing information.

I will post poems by children each week.

I will stage a competition once a month.

I will post poetry tips and poetry challenges each week.

I am happy to post children’s letters about poetry.

I am happy to be interviewed by children.

I will talk about children’s poetry books I love (old and new).

I will post some of my own poems for children.

I will post details of New Zealand poetry events for children.

I will interview authors who write poetry for children.

ps A big THANK YOU to Sarah Laing for designing the gorgeous header and to Random House.