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Melinda Szymanik

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Last updated by Anne Kenneally 

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Melinda Szymanik is a New Zealand writer of picture books, short stories and novels for children and young adults.  She also very occasionally writes poetry. Her picture book The Were-Nana won the NZ Post 2009 Children’s Choice Award, was a 2009 CLF Storylines Notable Book and was shortlisted for the 2010 Sakura Medal. Her most recent novel, A Winter’s Day in 1939, is a 2014 CLF Storylines Notable Book, as well as being a finalist for the 2014 NZ Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and the 2014 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards.

Recent books include While You Are Sleeping (also a 2014 CFL Storylines Notable Book), and The Song of Kauri (published 2014 and also in Maori – translated by Ngaere Roberts). Melinda was the University of Otago, College of Education, Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence for 2014.

When she is not writing Melinda likes reading, baking and keeping up to date with new developments in chocolate, going to the movies, and travelling to fun places with her family. She has three children, a dog, a cat and a husband and lives in Mt Eden with a view of the mountain from her study.   

Melinda teaches creative writing workshops for adults and children, blogs regularly on writing and is one of 9 New Zealand writers who participate in an innovative online writing competition for primary and intermediate school aged children (www.fabostory.wordpress.com).

Tips for teaching creative writing

1. What characters do and say is more important then what they wear or the colour of the hair or eyes. Knowing what they are like on the inside makes them more interesting.

2. To help writers edit their stories, have them read their story out loud to themselves. Professional writers do it all the time. It is a good way to find out if your sentences are too long, or if you're missing commas and full stops, and if there are any mistakes. 

3. Make sure you say who is speaking if you have dialogue. And the best dialogue tag to use is 'said'. It might seem weird to have 'said' every time (and using something different occasionally is alright) but it really works best for readers.

4. The best way to learn about great writing is to read good books. They are full of the best sentences with good descriptions and correct grammar. The more children read, the greater their chances of writing well.

5. The ending of a story should resolve whatever problem the beginning of the story set up for your character. Make sure the problem at the beginning is something that can be resolved.

Bibliography:

  • Clever Moo illustrated by Malcolm Evans (Scholastic NZ 2006). OOP
  • The Were-Nana: Not a Bedtime Story illustrated by Sarah Nelisiwe Anderson (Scholastic NZ 2008).
  • Jack the Viking (Scholastic NZ 2008).
  • The House that Went to Sea illustrated by Gabriella Klepatski (Duck Creek Press 2011).
  • The Half Life of Ryan Davis (Pear Jam Books 2011).
  • Made With Love (Duck Creek Press 2012).
  • Sally Bangle: Unexpected Detective (Tale-Spin Media, 2012) e-book only.
  • A Winter’s Day in 1939 (Scholastic 2013).
  • While You Are Sleeping (Duck Creek Press 2013).
  • The Song of Kauri (Scholastic 2014).

Melinda also has stories in:

  • Dare and Double Dare (Random House 2007).
  • Short (Black Dog Books 2008).
  • Pick 'n' Mix: Volume One (Scholastic 2010).
  • Pick 'n' Mix: Volume Two (Scholastic 2011).
  • Great Mates (Random House 2011).
  • and several School Journals