Storylines Children’s Literature Charitable Trust of New Zealand | Te Whare Waituhi Tamariki o Aotearoa

New Zealand Children’s Writers and Illustrators Hui – history

A  series of biennial hui have been held  since 2009, with Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin taking turns to host the event as resources have allowed.

Each has continued the tradition of a children’s authors’ hui which began with a gathering held at Joy Cowley’s home in the Marlborough Sounds in 1992. Similar hui had been held in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin in rotation with Auckland.


At the first hui  in 1992, 35 published writers and illustrators enjoyed an informal Easter weekend gathering at Joy Cowley’s home in the Marlborough Sounds. Following that first hui, there were two more similar small-scale events in Wellington and Auckland, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the Wellington Children’s Book Association (WCBA) gave the concept a fresh face, with a three-day residential hui Spinning Gold attracting a sold-out house of 80.

Under an informal agreement by the four main centres for a biennial event rotating between cities, no longer residential but to include aspiring as well as published writers and illustrators, Auckland followed in 2011 with Spinning Tales, Christchurch in 2013 with Golden Yarns, and Wellington’s WCBA again in 2015 with Tinderbox.  In 2017, Auckland’s Storylines National Children’s Writers and Illustrators’ Hui attracted some 110 participants and literary agents from USA and Australia.

The six hui held since Wellington’s in 2009 have adhered to Joy Cowley’s original vision: that these hui were not general children’s literature conferences but specialised gatherings where writers and illustrators could freely share professional knowledge and experience, attend panels and workshops and enjoy the rare opportunity to socialise with their peers over three days.

All have been considered by their participants to have been highly successful, professionally valuable and stimulating. The 2011 event in Auckland was notable for being one of the last public appearances of beloved author Margaret Mahy, who died the following year.  

There was no event because of Covid-19  in 2021; Storylines hosts a National Children’s Writers and Illustrators’ Hui in Auckland in 2022.

Wild Imaginings, Dunedin 2019

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Storylines National Children’s Writers’ & Illustrators Hui, Auckland 2017

A  three-day hui in early October 2017 was another invaluable opportunity for creators of children’s and YA material from across the country to exchange ideas, socialise, and learn from others.

Hui’s opening keynote:

In her talk titled ‘The rise and rise of New Zealand children’s publishing’, Tessa Duder opened the hui with an assessment of the children’s genre’s contribution to the country’s literary life since the publication of Maurice Gee’s Under the Mountain in 1979, the classic junior novel she believes triggered a new era in children’s books, a ‘coming-of-age’.

Tessa traced the growth in numbers of children’s writers and illustrators increasingly able to create lively careers as writers and high-profile advocates for books and literacy. She also assesses the impacts of the increasing numbers of awards, the publishing downturn of five years ago, the rise of self-publishing and the options open to today’s Kiwi writers and illustrators for the young.
Read the full text here.

Tinderbox, Wellington 2015

Organised by the Wellington Children’s Book Association

Golden Yarns, Christchurch 2013

The 2013 gathering of published children’s writers and illustrators was held at Medbury School, Ilam at Queen’s Birthday weekend. Extending the theme of the successful Spinning Tales held in Auckland in 2011, Golden Yarns offered something for everyone – a stimulating programme of craft-based sessions, workshops and panel discussions, complemented by exhibitions of illustration art and keynote addresses by Greg O’Brien and Kate De Goldi.
The weekend was organised by Te Tai Tamariki: New Zealand Children’s Literature Preservation Charitable Trust. Based in Christchurch, Te Tai Tamariki’s immediate goals were to preserve and display illustrations from children’s literature, including exhibitions that tour throughout the country. Taking on this year’s writers and illustrators hui was part of their effort to re-establish ourselves after losing their premises in the February 2011 earthquake.

Spinning Tales, Auckland 2011

The 2011 New Zealand Writers’ and Illustrators Hui was organised by Storylines and Kiwi Write4Kids, and held at Kings School from 1st  to 3rd April.

The programme was planned around Storylines’ annual Storylines Margaret Mahy Awards Day, when the Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, along with other Storylines awards, were presented.

Setting the format for future hui, highlights included:

  • industry panels;
  • the opportunity to make pitches to publishers;
  • workshops – beginners / masters/ illustrators;
  • ‘Ask the Expert’ panel;
  • a gathering for published authors and illustrators;
  • an evening Literary Feast with entertainment.

Spinning Gold, Wellington 2009

Organised by Wellington Children’s Book Association.

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