I live in Palmerston North and can work anywhere within a couple of hours’ travel.
My arts or creative practice (including details about my specific focus within that art form/practice and my strengths)
My creative life is divided between music and writing – I love both. I play flute and saxophone in combinations of varying sizes and styles across the region. Writing allows me to invent pigs with cafes in downtown Wellington, and London financiers who find themselves saddled with a potty-mouthed cat. Writing also takes me into schools, where I can share with young students the satisfaction of creating characters who do weird and wonderful things. I see characters as being the ‘engine’ of the story – the power hub that will twist a plot and shape events. Connecting all the elements in a story through the traits that define a character is a practice I’ve developed for workshopping in schools.
My track record of experience and success - or the track record of experience and success of the creative or artist that I will partner with
I have a series of five picture books in rhythm and rhyme that have been published (Scholastic NZ) with an illustrator, plus several educational readers with McMillan Education. The first title of my series has been published in the UK and is still in print here in New Zealand after 11 years. Two of the series were finalists in the NZ Book Awards and the first was selected for the Read Aloud Book Over NZ. Since 2008 I have done many school visits as a writer in schools, engaging with children to help them invent characters and compelling storylines. I enjoy the concept of taking a blank piece of paper and creating something believable – and I enjoy sharing that process with children. I am currently writing fiction for the 7-12 age group.
Describe the experience you have had working with children or young people, teaching or facilitating creative processes
Since one of my series has been published, I’ve enjoyed doing school visits, festivals, workshops, shows – all have involved working with children and writing. Sewing has always been a passion. I made costumes for all the characters in my books, taking them to schools and festivals where children (and sometimes adults!) enjoyed acting out the stories in character. My book launches have been dress-up events using costumes I’ve made, with the stories acted out by children. I've done plenty of writing workshops with children, as well as several longer projects. Last year I worked in two rural schools through Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (formerly NZ Book Council), where the students ended up with a published version of their work. It was a real thrill to see their excitement at having their finished creations in print. I love working with children through the challenges of creating something from nothing, and helping them work out strategies to build a network of characters and situations. As a music teacher I have coached chamber music, taught flute to children and adults and organised and presented concerts. Alongside other parents I created a 'parents kindergarten band' where we would play and compose songs for the children.
Why I want to be part of the Creatives in Schools programme and how my involvement will link to my creative practice
It’s an opportunity to do more of what I love – working with children to develop their own characters and storylines and adding to their toolbox of writing and imagination skills. Being amongst the readers of children’s literature gives me a first-hand opportunity to see what sparks their interest in the vast array of books for their age. I always ask students for names of favourite authors and characters and engage in discussing why those particular ones have become favourites. I’m a firm believer that if you read good material you are more likely to write good material, and a two-way discussion on good writers is a must in a workshop. Feedback from children comes in the most unlikely and engaging forms, such as one teacher, who told me in a recent school visit that I had “good eye contact”!