Our Christmas event at Baradene College was a lot of fun and it was so wonderful to see so many of our Auckland colleagues join us there. We were honoured to have author, Melinda Szymanik as our guest speaker on the night and she delighted us with gems of wisdom and encouragement for all we do in creating environments where NZ authors can be celebrated, and where enthusiastic young ones can find like-minded lovers of books and reading.
We were so impressed with Melinda’s presentation we asked her if we could share the speech with you all. So, Melinda turned her speech into an open ‘Love letter to Libraries’. She has recently shared this on her blog, and below I share a few quotes from the speech, which you can read in full here - http://melindaszymanik.blogspot.com/2023/01/my-love-letter-to-libraries.html
But we (Children’s book authors) really, really love what we do. And we keep doing it despite the difficulties. And the most soul restoring thing is that you seem to love what we do too. If I get invited to a school, 9 times out of ten it is the school librarian who has made this happen. You see us and you want the students at your school to see us too. You understand the impact a visit can have. Research backs you up but you are the ones who know and who act upon this knowledge and go to great lengths sometimes to do so. I recently visited an Auckland school and after the visit the librarian kindly emailed me to say there had been a run on my books in the library. One in particular was in very hot demand and had a waiting list. All the research is true! Author visits inspire children to read more. And write too.
So just know, your actions, your efforts to organise author visits are changing the lives of the children at your school. And you’re helping the writers and illustrators as well and we see it and we love you for it.
It shouldn’t be about luck. It should be about school libraries and the passionate folk who manage them. Because you are the ones who step up when luck isn’t happening.
From where I stand, school libraries today seem to be facing several challenges. You know all this but I hope it helps that I know it too. First there’s the general assault on your existence (the fact you seem to be an endangered species when you definitely shouldn’t be), and second there’s the expectation that you will continue to find novel and crafty ways to convert every child into a reader for pleasure, on less funding and resources then you had before. I have been repeatedly bowled over by the innovative ideas school librarians come up with to do just this
I think I’ll finish by reading My Elephant is Blue. I wrote this after receiving some bad news which pushed me into a bit of a depression. But writing the story pulled me out of it again. Because that’s what story can do. Being read to is good for all of us and I think after a very trying year it’s nice to hear a quietly hopeful message.
Thanks Melinda for your words, wisdom and writing.
Melinda also shared her poetry recommendations with us - see details below.
Poetry Recommendations – Melinda Szymanik
NZ Poetry Shelf – run by Paula Green
NZ Poetry Box – poetry for and by children with writing challenges etc… run by Paula Green
The Friday Poem (on the Spinoff) – selected by Chris Tse
Online issue No. 105 - https://www.takahe.org.nz/t105/ - (this issue includes one of mine)
NZ Poetry Yearbook
This is a fairly lengthy collection each year so a good way to get a feel for who you might like reading.
Some of my personal favourites include:
Collection Anthem Ockhams Poetry finalist 2021
2 collections, winner Best First Book: Poetry with Poukahangatus in 2021. Also Ockhams Poetry finalist with Rangikura 2022.
Her collection Savage Coloniser won the Poetry Award at the 2021 Ockhams
Our current Poet Laureate and winner of the Ockhams Best First Book: Poetry Award in 2016, and curates the Spinoff’s Friday Poem series
And if you are interested in writing poetry yourself, The NZSA has some excellent webworkshops and other online resources.
Christmas Party 2022
Tamaki Makaurau -