Author of the Tūī Street books and young adult novel, In Our Own Back Yard.
"mysterious and a little bit dark, but always great fun and thought-provoking"
The New Zealand Herald
“The kids from Tūī Street make a welcome return as more awe-inspiring adventures await readers looking for a little - a lot - of magic.”
The New Zealand Herald
‘This impressive novel shows the 1981 Springbok Tour was not just a battle against Apartheid but one which exposed deep-seated racism within New Zealand itself. The novel reveals these issues in the interactions between its teenage characters as they navigate their relationships against a backdrop of anti-tour protests. It’s hard not to wince at the day-to-day reality of race-hatred experienced by Maori and Pasifika and their families. . . . We have begun to move in a new direction and this book helps along that path.’
I have always loved writing. When I worked as a secondary school Drama and English teacher, I often wrote plays for my students to perform. I even wrote crazy skits that I performed in comedy shows. One year, I co-wrote a solo show that I performed in schools. I was always keen to write stories though.
In 2014, I did a Masters in Creative Writing at AUT. This was where Tūī Street Tales began to take shape. Later. when I found out Tūī Street Tales had won the 2016 Storylines' Tom Fitzgibbon Award competition, my friend, Tui, also a teacher, was with me in our office. People passing by must have wondered why we were leaping around, screaming and laughing. Actually, Tūī Street Tales is named after Tui, because she often chatted about story ideas with me, so I felt that she was sort of involved.
One thing I've realised is that, even though a writer writes alone, there are a number of people who are involved. Friends and family are always part of the process with their encouragement and support. I had a lecturer, James George, who gave me lots of suggestions. I have a writing group who help me too. Scholastic, Wildling Books and Bateman Books helped me with editing and turning stories into books. Craig Phillips created perfect illustrations for the Tūī Street books, and Keely O'Shannessy worked wonders at making the cover of In Our Own Back Yard look like an anti-tour poster from 1981. It's definitely a team effort, as well as an individual one.
When I write, I have my dog, Logan, lying by my feet. In winter, he lies on top of my feet and keeps them warm. He's much better than a pair of slippers! My husband and grown-up son and daughter often listen to my ideas for stories and give me feedback, which I mostly listen to!
I love visiting schools and doing animated, dramatic readings for students. I run writing workshops for teachers and students too.
Once upon a time some fairy tales came to Tūī Street and visited the people who lived there. There were some problems in the street: Jack's mother had secrets, the creek had dried up and Terri was being cyber-bullied, to name a few.
Following a fairy tale project at school, the children began to notice fairy tale themes to these problems. They had to explore the difference between fact and possibility as they sought answers. Much was at risk: a friend's safety, a morepork's life, the privacy of a Pacific princess. Added to this was the involvement of Aotearoa's landscape, birdlife and folklore.
Luckily, facing challenges led to unexpected achievements, such as coaching a wheelchair soccer team, pacifying a wild creature from Māori folklore and re-thinking stereotypes about giants. Everyone lived happily ever after. Well, as much as can be expected when you have homework and dishes to do.
What happens when you find yourself on a dangerous journey, and you’re expected to be the hero? Who can help when you’re faced with vicious creatures that are meant to be extinct or people who don’t care whether you live or die? The Tūī Street kids are writing Hero’s Journey stories at school, but soon find themselves involved in adventures more difficult than they could ever have imagined.
“The kids from Tūī Street make a welcome return as more awe-inspiring adventures await readers looking for a little - a lot - of magic.” – Dionne Christian, Canvas, NZ Herald.
The Tūī Street kids are studying legends at school. After learning about the Loch Ness monster, an unusual light begins to glow through the hole in the hedge in Ella’s back yard. When they discuss Robin Hood at school, Tim discovers that the walls of a nearby house are covered with bows and arrows. Strangest of all, Harry and Gemma’s stepmother, Lula, begs them to help her find something she has lost. If they do, she promises to disappear from their lives forever. Can they trust her, or could she be leading them into danger?
It’s March 2020 and Liza, her husband and two teenage children are at home in Auckland in level-four lockdown due to Covid-19. Reflections with her family around the dining table inspire Liza to reflect on another challenging time in history ― nearly forty years before ― when the South African rugby team toured New Zealand.
Casting her memory back to 1981, Liza recalls her life as a fifteen-year-old, including her first love, friendships, first-hand experiences of racism, and what it means ― and what it costs ― to find your voice and use it.
In Our Own Backyard is a startling, confronting portrait of a society divided. Anne Kayes has written a masterful YA novel that considers questions of human equality that are as pertinent in the twenty-first century as they were in 1981.
St. Martin's School, Christchurch March 2018, Canterbury Storylines Festival Tour
If you are a reader, I would love to hear from you.
If you are a school or organisation that would like me to visit, I would also love to hear from you.