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Interview: Paula Green talks about Roar Squeak Purr

Paula Green talks to NZ Booklovers about Roar Squeak Purr.

Tell us a little about your book.

Roar Squeak Purr is a collection of animal poems by adults and children. You will find animals that live in the air, in the sea and on land. I wanted poems that make us feel warm inside, that make us laugh or feel sad, that challenge us. That are real or imagined. Poems that we want to share. Penguin have put such love into crafting the book and Jenny Cooper’s illustrations underline her status as illustrator extraordinaire.

What inspired you to write this book?

I think poetry is a liberating tool no matter how old we are. Words, like music, are a way of feeling good, of bringing joy and wonder to each ordinary day, even when things are tough. I find children light up with poetry sparks, and even the most reluctant pen gets scratching. Every chance I have to create a book of poem wonder, I leap at it!

What research was involved?

A solar system of reading from my massive collection of children’s poetry books. I also went scavenging in second hand bookshops and libraries. I hunted for poems by children on my blog Poetry Box.

What was your routine or process when writing this book?

My study floor was carpeted with children’s poetry books as I read and read and read every day. I created a huge wall map of poems that stuck with me. I had to make sure I got a wide range of animals, along with a universe of poem styles and voices. There are always the tough moments when you know not everything you love will fit into the book.

What did you enjoy the most about writing this book?

Discovering new poems and revisiting poems that were old friends. Plus I wrote a few of my own to include because writing poetry is such a happy place for me. Having a cup of tea with eighty-year old Shirley Gaiwith in Nelson who was beaming that her poetry had finally been discovered! Creating a an order for the poems that was like making a long song. Most importantly seeing Jenny Cooper’s magnificent illustations. Each page comes alive as her animals dance and snooze and float.

What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?

Bought some new books from NZ bookshops online! Made some cheese scones. Planted daffodils. Started a new writing project!

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

Since I had a bone marrow transplant in June I have read a whole book most days - all ages, all genres, all categories. The majority have been sublime books that I ‘wowed’ on Twitter! It is impossible to pick one! I fell in love with every children’s novel by Kate DiCamillo, so original, so heart hugging. Plus Steph Maketu’s soul boosting picture book The Eight Gifts of Te Wheke (Huia) and her equally rich Falling into Rarohenga (Huia), Eileen Merriman’s gripping and utterly fluent YA novel, Indigo Moon (Penguin) and Gebrielle Zevin’s surprising adult novel that pays homage to books The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (Abacus). Plus the poetic delight of Claire Keegan’s Small Things Like These (FF) and Elizabeth Morton’s sumptuous new poetry collection Naming the Beasts (OUP). Oh and the glorious anthology, A Gift from artists poets and photographers under 13 (Redstone Press) that shows joy is such an key part of reading. It was published in the UK and includes poems from Poetry Box.

What’s next on the agenda for you?

I am working hard to make Poetry Box a hub for children’s books and authors, and for young readers and writers in Aotearoa. It’s so important to boost our writing communities. To create a space for treasured elders, young voices and everyone in between. To set challenges and nourish links.

But I am also on a long slow bumpy recovery road after my bone marrow transplant and I find that words and books help no end. I am on the second draft of a children’s novel, sitting on a wee memoir and deciding whether to send my adult poems to a publisher. Plus there are my own poems for children simmering. Writing and reading are my daily joy. And making cheese scones! And walking by the ocean and down our local country lanes.

Penguin Random House New Zealand


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