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Interview: Paula Green talks about Little Tales of Hedgehog and Goat

Paula Green is a popular poet, reviewer and children’s writer. She has written a number of poetry collections and edited several anthologies. She has two popular poetry blogs, NZ Poetry Box for children and NZ Poetry Shelf for adults, and is active in visiting and touring schools to talk about poetry. She was awarded the University of Auckland Literary Fellowship in 2005. Green has been a judge for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, the Ockham Secondary School Poetry Competition, and the inaugural Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2014. In 2017, she was awarded The Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry and admitted to The New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to Poetry. Paula talks to NZ Booklovers.

Congratulations on being shortlisted in the NZ Booklovers Awards 2023. Can you tell us a little about your shortlisted book?

Thank you! I was so delighted to get the news. Writing is a key thing for me because it makes me happy. Writing this particular book, with its central themes of friendship and connection, was a very warming process. I loved how I laughed, pondered, and even felt a little sad, as I wrote.

What inspired you to write this book?

A few years ago we had no power for a couple of weeks. I would walk up the road every day and stop and look at the paddock with the goats. Having no power was like stepping back into my great-grandmother’s boots as everything took so long to do. Writing a children’s story in a notebook with a pencil and dim light became my escape hatch from the endless chores.

What research was involved?

Hmm! I think every book I write, whatever age it is for, and whatever genre, comes out of all the books I have read. Reading is such an important way of growing as a writer and books have nourished me since I was really little. Hedgehog and Goat is also in debt to living and to life.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

The starting point was the goat in the paddock. I decided to use sayings as chapter headings – and then set off into the great unknown. That is the joy of writing for me: writing becomes a way of discovering. I often surprise myself. I really loved it when Horse turned up – and of course Hedgehog.

If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?

I would be open to suggestion, but as I picture it animated, I would want local actors whose voices could embody a range of moods and tones.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?

Getting sentences to sing and characters to shine, and creating little pockets of humour and larger pockets of warmth.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Had an espresso and a chocolate pastry and went for a walk up the road! And then felt new ideas simmering in my head. Oh, and I read some new children’s books and celebrated them on NZ Poetry Box. Children’s books don’t get enough attention in Aotearoa so I am keen to do so whenever I can.

What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?

I have read so many amazing books this year! I have been binging on adult fiction and children’s picture books. There are so many I have loved. I am doing a summer reading series on Poetry Box at the moment. I really loved Kyle Mewburn’s Have You Seen Tomorrow? (Penguin, illustrated by Laura Bee). Kyle is a picture book whizz. I also adored The Cats of Pāia Street by Amiria Stirling and Sarah Illingworth (Huia). The Dangerous Business of Being Trilby Moffat by Kate Temple is an extraordinary, scary, fun, magical, exquisitely-written children’s novel (Hatchette). I have just read Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead (adult) and it is heart shatteringly good. Claire Keegan’s astonishing Foster blew me to smithereens. Every night, I read one poem from At the Height of the Moon: A Book of Bedtime Poetry and Art and it is sublime (Prestel).

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I have about four or five books on the go: two adult books, a poem collection for children, a novel for children that needs a major redraft and is an important book for me, and a story book for younger readers that has a similar mood to Hedgehog and Goat. Strangely I have been writing this last one during our power cuts due to the storm and the cyclone. Today the heavy rain is back and I am rapidly typing this interview in case we lose power and our dodgy country road gets cut off. My blogs are back in action so I look forward to posting poetry challenges for children as well as loads of book reviews. I am very busy with all kinds of writing and reading and yes, that means I’m in my happy place! Glorious!


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