Chris Gurney
A Writer's Journey

Reading was by far my favourite form of entertainment as a child. My first memories are of my parents reading to me, and then when I could read independently I constantly had my nose in a book. I remember excitedly going with my mum to join the library. The overwhelming shelves of children's books surrounding me smelled like adventures not yet discovered. My only dilemma was which adventure to choose. I thank my parents for encouraging my love of reading. It is one of the best things a parent can do for their child, as it has a wide chain reaction in so many areas.

Being an avid reader motivated me to write my own little stories. Even as a child, most things I wrote had to rhyme, and I would have an ongoing inner dialogue, rhyming things in my mind (which I still tend to do). My poor kids grew up with a mother who spoke to them in nonsense rhyme a good deal of the time!

I believe the love of writing is to experience the pure pleasure of creativity, and a great sense of satisfaction. Whether it is writing when you are six years old, or sixty-six years old, the pleasure and satisfaction remains the same. So, as I grew up and grew older, the love of writing stayed with me, be it in different ways as life unfolded.

I've scribbled away about many things through the years, in various forms.

Different Ways of Writing

Writing from the Heart

I put writing on the back burner when my sons were little, noisy, messy, and lovably time-consuming. Then our beautiful daughter arrived. However, the joy turned to worry as she suffered from a neurological injury, began having seizures and failed to develop normally. I found an outlet for my grief as I poured out my feelings on paper. My writing journey had started again.

Writing for Fun

I enjoyed writing about silly things as well. It was a tonic to find humour in everyday situations. I must admit I mocked my hubby a LOT... because he was such a good subject, being a man and everything. No-one was really safe - that's part of the fun, observing possible writing subjects.

In the midst of chaos, I could write something funny and lift my mood, plus make others laugh.

Writing of Occasions

A special occasion is the perfect time for a bit of literary silliness. It can encourage laughter and break the ice, so the situation becomes more light-hearted. Especially if you're a wimp when speaking in front of groups of people, like I am.

It is also a tradition in our extended family to collaborate 'talents' and celebrate family events or milestone birthdays with poems or ridiculous songs. My family won't let me put any examples here to embarrass them, sorry.

So those types of formats were generally the nature of my writing, until 2006.

Writing to be Published

I was packaging up some books to send to friends overseas. I commented to my teenage son that I wished there were more kiwi flavoured books out there. He took a look and said ... "Mum, YOU could write a story like this!" I thought I may as well give it a try, I mean, how hard could it be?? So, with fresh enthusiasm I wrote a few kiwified tales and researched publishers. I posted out a bunch of big white envelopes with my stories tucked inside, and went home to await the good news.

Over the next few months the rejections arrived regularly in my letter box, so I gave up on entertaining any uppity idea of being published. Then a year after I'd posted off my story 'Cindy and the Lost Jandal', Scholastic phoned to say they would like to publish it.

This is a defining thing about publishers. I was very lucky that Scholastic showed interest in the type of story I had written, because they were planning to launch their 'Kiwi Corkers' series. I struggled being patient, as another 18 months passed before the book launch of 'Cindy and the Lost Jandal'. My dream of being published had somehow eventuated! Thanks Fairy Godmother.

Once I knew that Scholastic NZ was going to publish more books telling traditional tales with a kiwi twist, I inundated them with manuscripts. I can picture the publishing team sighing as yet another one pinged its way into their email boxes. And I guess my over-zealousness paid off, as I have been fortunate enough to have a further ten books published in the 'Kiwi Corkers' series, plus another four picture books.

The journey isn't over. I'm still writing and hoping. I still have so much to learn. I am still being rejected on a regular basis, and many times I feel I'm a fraud, soon be exposed. But even though it's a thrill having a book published, the pleasure of writing comes from within, even if it is for your own self-satisfaction alone. Therefore, wherever this journey leads me, I'm going to enjoy the view along the way.



Sambo Poem Sambo my Cat poem

Frequently Asked Questions

How did you get started? How old were you?
I was an only child until I was nine. We lived on a farm and had no TV, no close neighbours and none of the technology you all have today. I had to use my imagination and make up things to amuse myself. I wrote my own little stories and poems and kept doing that as I grew up.

Why did you want to be a writer?
Writing has always made me happy. I mostly never know exactly how a story is going to end up, so it’s a nice surprise!

How do you think up ideas?
It’s fun thinking up different ways of telling a traditional story, as in the ‘Kiwi Corker’ books. Most of my other stories are based on experiences I’ve had or things I’ve seen. Then you add masses of imagination and oodles of exaggeration, with a good pinch of wacky, and stir it all together in a big pot. Some stories need to simmer away longer than others before they are ready.

Do you have a special place where you write?
I have my computer set up in our office, which overlooks lovely trees and bush. But if I’m working on a story, I am constantly writing in my head throughout the day and scrawling on whatever scrap of paper is handy. Because I learned ages ago that you always think you are going to remember, but if you don’t write it down, POOF it vanishes into thin air.

What is the best thing about being an author?
Can I have three best things?
1. Finishing a story I really love;
2. Having that story accepted for publication;
3. Holding the newly published book for the first time.

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