With Wish Upon a Southern Star soon to be launched in September, it is my pleasure to introduce you in advance to each of the contributing authors and to give you a taste of their work.
Today, meet Philippa Werry and find out about her story,
"Snow from the South."
Philippa Werry began her career writing for the NZ School Journal. Her non-fiction, stories, plays and poems have been widely published and several titles (including Enemy at the Gate and Anzac Day: the New Zealand Story) have been shortlisted for awards or named as Storylines Notable Books.
Philippa lives in Wellington; she is an online writing tutor, maintains several blogs and visits schools around the country as part of the Writers in Schools programme. In December 2012, she went to Scott Base with Antarctica NZ’s writers, artists and media programme. For further info, see
A Conversation with Philippa
1) Philippa, why do you write?
I like making up characters and their worlds (that's for my fiction writing), but I also like the excitement of finding things out, and the challenge of passing on that knowledge and information in an interesting way (and that's the non-fiction!)
2) Why do you think fairy tales remain relevant today?
It's a bit of a mystery, but there is something about fairy tales that speaks to us deep inside - even if we don’t exactly know what that is when we are reading them.
3) What was your favourite fairy tale as a child? Why did you like it so much then and is it still a favourite or has it been replaced and why?
I still have my childhood copy of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy stories, illustrated by Shirley Hughes, and I read those stories over and over. They are beautifully told, some funny, some quirky, some very sad! I also read my way through all of Andrew Lang's colour fairy tale books, borrowing them from the library. When I look at them now, the print is very small and they are very solid reading - so I doubt they are as popular today, but I loved them all. (In fact I just looked them up and they were published between 1889 and 1913, so even older than I thought!)
4) What is your favourite fairy tale retelling by another author? Why is it a favourite?
I really like The girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine - it's such a clever retelling of The twelve dancing princesses (set in the New York of Prohibition and the Charleston) that gets you totally on Jo's side and desperately wanting things to turn out well for her and for her 11 sisters. At first I wondered how the author was going to juggle those 12 characters, but she manages it so well that their different personalities all come alive - and the heady sense of the freedom that dancing gives never wanes. If you think about their ages, most of the sisters must be in their 20s for most of the book, but their ages aren't often mentioned and I think this could easily be enjoyed as a YA book. We also made our first visit to New York last year, so anything set there is a bit of a favourite at the moment.
5) Can you tell us a little about your retold fairy tale?
The retelling of my fairy tale was inspired by my recent visit to Scott Base in Antarctica. I was lucky enough to get a trip there in December with the Antarctica NZ community engagement programme (formerly Artists and Writers to Antarctica). It is an amazing place and has been in my head ever since. To walk into some of the early explorers' huts just gives you goose bumps. And Scott Base is a fascinating community on its own, full of such interesting people who all have a story about how they got there - so putting everything together, it seemed like the perfect setting for a southern interpretation of The snow queen.
A taste of Philippa's story...
I had never worked a season at Antarctica before and I knew I was lucky to get this one. Plenty of people would break a leg to get down there, although then, of course, they wouldn't be able to go, which was exactly what happened to the person I was replacing.
At the interview – I was lucky even to get that – they said they didn’t usually take people my age. The woman in charge of the interview panel, who introduced herself as Head of Human Resources, was particularly emphatic about this. She looked cross that I was even there; wasting our time I could see flashing through her mind as she scrawled a sentence on her interview pad and underlined it three times.
“Our staff need a lot of emotional maturity to cope with the unusual working conditions in Antarctica,” she said, staring at me as if she was using some kind of mental formula to calculate emotional-maturity level. (Later, I realised she probably meant emotional maturity to cope with some of the staff, rather than any other conditions).
The two other panel members, a man and a woman, seemed more sympathetic. They both scribbled away as I talked, glancing nervously every now and then at the HR woman, who had put her pen down and wasn’t taking any more notes.
“Oh, but I think you can tell from Grace’s application…” said the woman hesitantly.
“Certainly an interesting upbringing,” said the man, smiling at me encouragingly. “Tell us a bit more about it, Grace…?”
Want to find out what happens next?
Read the full story in
Wish Upon a Southern Star
(release date 2 September 2017)
Pre-order an e-copy from Amazon
(or wait for the release date to order your paperback copy from Amazon)
Attend the launch
Saturday 2nd September, 2pm
at the South Library, Christchurch
For Christchurch residents and launch attendees,
preorder a paperback direct from the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org
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