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Margaret Mahy Day 2011 Report

What a glorious day! The weather was wonderful. The people were warm. What more could a children’s literature fan want that a day spent with like-minded people. Well, for many authors and illustrators, it was a whole weekend as they attended the Spinning Tales Hui, a joint venture between Storylines and Kiwi Write4Kidz.

The formal parts of the day began with the AGM, described so aptly by Kate De Goldi as ‘controlled but riotous within that, in a quiet way.’

Because of the Spinning Tales Hui, there was a large contingent of authors and illustrators from around New Zealand. Particular welcome was made of the representatives from The Children’s Bookshop and Te Tai Tamariki from Christchurch.

Special thanks was made to Sarah Fordyce, who is stepping down as the Storylines Foundation Membership Secretary. Thank you Sarah for all your hard work and dedication over the years, we are glad that you are staying on the Management Committee.

Mention was made of the huge amount of work Christine Young, the Storylines Executive Officer, and Vicki Cunningham, the Storylines Events Manager, put in. Thank you both!

And, a huge thank you to King's for making their venue available, free of charge, for the day.  

Your Management Committee for the upcoming year is:

Welcome to the new members: Melanie, Helen, Janice and Barbara.

There was one item of general business: Tessa moved a vote of thanks to Storylines Trust Chair, Libby Limbrick. Libby’s response was that it is easy to chair when you have a great team.

The biggest news of the day? Storylines, as the New Zealand section of IBBY, will be hosts of the 2016 IBBY Congress. Once the excitement has died down after the announcement, the hard work will begin.


To the fun part of the day! The presentation of awards.


Tessa Duder presented the 2011 Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award, sharing the background to the award. It was a way to remember Gaelyn, often described as the best New Zealand author who had never won an award.

The 2011 winner is Tangaroa’s Gift by Mere Whaanga.

On accepting the award, Mere mentioned her fond memories of Gaelyn. Mere has made a promise to herself, to return to her real writing work – for children – after being bogged down in academia lately. Tangaroa’s Gift has been in print for 21 years, and she shared the important roles her children played in its creation. Her son dragging her out to see the sunset – ‘it’s what you have to have in the book’ and her daughter pointing out what was missing in one illustration. It was wonderful to have her children and mokopuna there to share her joy, and our thanks to her much-loved work. Mere also expressed her thanks to Penny Scown and Christine Dale, then both at Scholastic, for their roles in the publication of Tangaroa’s Gift.


Margaret Fitzgibbon, the Fitzgibbon family representative, with her sister and niece present, thanked Scholastic and Storylines for their ongoing tribute to their father’s work and life, embodied in the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award.

Kathy_Margaret_and_Kathys_daughter.JPGThe 2011 winner is a contemporary story of relationships. It is a fabulous read, told in an original way with warmth and humour.

The fifteenth person to receive the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award, sponsored by Scholastic, is Kathy Taylor for her manuscript entitled ‘Iris’ Ukulele’.

Kathy’s manuscript came out of her time at Whitireia Polytech, and a vague idea of a girl with a ukulele. From the outset she knew she wanted to write a manuscript to enter the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award. And this aim helped her stay on target throughout the year when she could barely write a shopping list, let alone a novel. From Whitireia, Kathy had special thanks to Mandy Hager and Pat Quinn. Heading up the list of thanks was her special girl for her enthusiasm upon learning the ukulele, and her friends and family who didn’t laugh when she told them she wanted to write a children’s novel. She also thanked Scholastic and Storylines for the award to give her something to aim for.

Penny Scown, Scholastic, handed out certificates to the shortlisted authors. The short list is:

  • Sian Burling-Claridge

  • Vanessa Hatley-Owen

  • Juliet Jacka

  • Ragne Maxwell

  • Kathy Taylor

  • Jean White

Penny_reading_from_Super_Finn.JPGPenny then launched the 2010 Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award winner, Super Finn, by Leonie Agnew. Penny read from the beginning of the book, making us laugh and want more. Finn is a likeable character although, as one reader has said, not necessarily one parents will approve of, which will make him all the more appealing to children.

Leonie thanked her Mum who filled their house with books, whether or not they had the money to do so. And the Scholastic Lucky Book Club, which made the young Leonie know that Scholastic were the best publishers. She also thanked Tom Fitzgibbon and his family, and Storylines,  for making the award possible. She thanked Kiwi Write4Kidz, particularly Maria Gill, and her critique group, especially Dawn Grant and Claire Scott for reading the manuscript. In her ideas journal is a Mark Twain quote: ‘Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.’


Next, Diana Murray from Scholastic, announced the Storylines Joy Cowley Award shortlist.

  • Renee Boyer-Willisson

  • Katherine Clark

  • Marion Day

  • Katie Furze

  • Jennifer Hill

  • Sarah Johnson

  • Melanie Koster

  • Juliette MacIver

  • Sabrina Malcolm

The 2011 winner, in the words of Joy Cowley, is one of those rare stories that will appeal to all cultures and ages. It is a story that shimmers with light. Congratulations Sarah Johnson.

Sarah said that she couldn’t be more pleased. That in the thousands of picture books in their  house, that there were a couple of handfuls of books that were firm favourites – ones that make you smile when you pick them up. These include Joy Cowley’s Fierce Little Woman and the Pirate, Gavin Bishop’s Rats, Kate De Goldi’s Uncle Jack, and Margaret Mahy’s The Man Whose Mother Was a Pirate. Fledgling authors hope that someone else will feel that way about their book. Sarah thanked Joy Cowley and the judges, and her three children for the years of bedtime reading, and the rest of her family for their support.


Next up, Kate Stone from HarperCollins introduced the inaugural Storylines Tessa Duder Award. She expressed HarperCollins’ delight and honour at being associated with this award, one which honours Tessa Duder’s contribution of writing, and her role as mentor. Young adults are at the point where they are trying to figure out where they are, who they are, and their place. This is something Tessa has done so well in her writing.

The shortlist for the 2011 Storylines Tessa Award is:

  • Hugh Brown

  • Matthew Cowens

  • Shirley Eng

  • Andrea Jutson

  • Desmond O’Leary

And it is so fitting that the first winner of this award is a story in which the main character is finding their place – referring to his past, and reflecting on his future. It is a story of relationships, told with humour. The author has a clear understanding of the young adult genre, and a strong grasp of language, farm life, school life and tae kwan do. Congratulations Hugh Brown, for your manuscript ‘Tales from the Quadmire’.

Hugh thanked Storylines, Tessa Duder and HarperCollins for creating the award. And the judges, for awarding it to him. For him, the award provides practical and existential encouragement. He thanked his two main writing mentors, Mandy Hager and Kate De Goldi. Mandy was thoughtful and tactful when she suggested that his planned picture book for 4 or 5 year olds might be better as a novel for teenagers. Hugh attended one of Kate’s writing workshops, and Kate encouraged him to write when he began to forget he was a writer. She also suggested he submit his manuscript to the award.

Tessa spoke of the beginnings of the award. How the Storylines Management Committee still laugh at the fact that she was speechless when it was suggested. The committee agreed that there was a need for a young adult prize, but the fact she was the one chosen gives her great pleasure. She thanked her colleagues on the committee for the honour, and to HarperCollins for coming on board as sponsor. Tessa feels confident that we have started with a very fine book. Hugh has worked hard for the last few years, and these awards are to give someone a kick-start and launch their careers.

As Libby said, it was wonderful serendipity for the first Storylines Tessa Duder Award to go to a protégé of Kate De Goldi’s.


Helen Beckingsale, with the assistance of Libby Limbrick, then announced the Storylines Notable Books Lists 2011, for books published in 2010.


Then morning tea and mixing and mingling – and buying raffle tickets to support Storylines’ membership of IBBY, which is paid in Swiss francs. The wonderful raffle prize - a print from Flamingo Bendalingo, illustrated by Michael Hight, with a copy of the book of poetry by Paula Green and 50 children - was won by Lorraine Orman. Lucky Lorraine.


Libby introduced the day’s main speaker – Kate De Goldi, 2011 Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal recipient. Over the years, the award has gone to people from many different spheres of the children’s literature community. Kate has many characteristics of these all: publisher, broadcaster, award-winning author, advocate of children’s literature, reviewer… She is an Arts Foundation Laureate, holder of the Michael King Fellowship – compiling a record of Susan Price. Libby’s daughter listens to Kate on Kim Hill’s show from London. Kate has been a supporter of Storylines for many years. She is a supreme example of someone who has made enormous contributions to children’s literature in New Zealand and internationally. Libby then handed the floor over to Margaret Mahy to present the medal.


Margaret expressed her pleasure in having the chance to present the medal, and how flattered she was to be asked. ‘On a personal level, it is wonderful as a reader to give an award to the writer. The reader concludes what the writer began, but the writer begins it. Obviously, I’m a great fan of Kate’s books, and it’s wonderful to have a chance to personally present the medal.’


Kate’s speech was entitled 'Legends of the Swamp'. I cannot do justice to the glory that was Kate’s speech. It was truly worthy of the standing ovation. You will have to wait for a year to see it in print in the 2011 Inside Story. However, there are a few highlights (a very few, as I was too caught up to note much down):

Writers are readers.

Readingis a telescope of the undiscovered, complex world around.

The writer must be an ever-alert pilot fish and decidedly in the world.

Writers are propelled by puzzlement and fancies.


Rosemary Tisdall, on thanking Kate, said it all. That we had been engrossed for an hour, and had to be brought out into the real world. As someone in awe of Kate’s use of language, she had brought along her dictionaries to look up the list of words Kate used that were unfamiliar.

Libby Limbrick then closed the Storylines Margaret Mahy Day, and handed over to Maria Gill, from Kiwi Write4Kidz to launch the official beginning of Spinning Tales.

Thank you to the teams from Storylines and Kiwi Write4Kidz to making the day so wonderful. Comments on Facebook show that the hui was also brilliant.

I went away, holding tight to the joy that comes from this day. It is, very nearly, enough to carry me throughout the year.

Personally, it was amazing to find someone who recognised my new tattoo straightaway (the illustration heading for chapter six of The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, illustrated by C. Walter Hodges). And, for Kate to mention The Green Knowe books by L. M. Boston. Oh my. Children’s literature happiness to the nth degree.

~ Annie. 


Storylines Trust Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki and Friends of Storylines Te Pou o Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki together form New Zealand’s only national organisation working year-round to promote New Zealand children’s and young adult literature through activities that include a major national Story Tour to schools, early childhood centres and communities, and awards for writers, illustrators and those who work in the area of New Zealand children’s literature



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