About

I am a writer, editor, creative writing tutor and the mother of two sons. My novels, all of which are published by Random House, are Night Swimming, Little Moon, Double Take, Relative Strangers, and Fosterling. My collections of poetry are Sleeve-notes and How to Make a Million (both from Random House) and Spark (from Steele Roberts) and The Truth Garden and Tender Machines (Otago University Press).

The frequency of posts on this blog will be as unpredictable as the hurly burly merry-go-sorry of raising children and freelance editing work. They will mainly be about literary events and/or the small pockets of time in which the writer is allowed out to play, when the worker and mother aren’t needed.

As Ursula Le Guin so wisely says, “Waiting, of course, is a very large part of writing.” (The Wave in the Mind)

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12 Responses to About

  1. Joy Stephens says:

    Hi Emma,
    I’ve been trying to find contact details for your father or your aunt Sue- to no avail. Your late grandfather, Hamish, gave me permission to publish his POW story here- http://www.theprow.org.nz/a-p-o-w-s-journey/ The Nelson Mail is interested in publishing it this Saturday or the following, around ANZAC day, but I want to get permission from somebody in the family. Can you help with this?

  2. Claudia Paterson says:

    Hi Emma,
    I am a 15yr old using your poem, ‘Well’ for my Grade 5 Trinity Speech & Drama exam. I chose ‘Well’ because I loved the beautiful language it uses, but also because it is so intriguing. After what? What does she want her child to say? Is she mentally ill? Why?
    I would be grateful if you could answer any of these questions, which have been bothering me since I started studying it.
    Thank you,
    Claudia

    • ejneale says:

      Hi Claudia – thanks for your message, and I’m really pleased to hear that you thought the poem was suitable for your studies. An element of mystery and of several possibilities is vital to the atmosphere of the poem and I hope it means that people will be able to see various situations in it. ‘Afterwards’ could mean after both a physical storm or emotional crisis of some sort; see the storm-swollen rapids; and the implicit sense that there’s been some impasse, disagreement, declaration, some intense, private conversation between the ‘I’ and the ‘you’ – or even an encounter where the right words weren’t said. You’ll also note that the ‘you’ and the child aren’t the same character in the poem. That might help you to untangle it more. What might one adult wish another would say after a meeting, a disagreement, a confession, or some other ‘peak’ conversation? Part of the point is that whatever it is, is hard to admit to, particularly to a very young child… the son who asks the simple question, ‘What did you wish?’ Is it a simple question? Are our deepest most hidden wishes/desires simple? Another point to make – the mind healing itself might not only be from mental illness but from any powerful emotion/turmoil/psychological strain. The difficulty of discussing very deeply personal matters is part of the poem’s subject, too, I think. Evasion is part of its point: we can’t tell our children everything about ourselves, or about adulthood, until they are emotionally mature enough… I could go on and on, Claudia, but I hope this is enough for you to play with. I’d love to see what you write on the poem some time. Very best – Emma

      • Claudia Paterson says:

        Thank you so much, Emma, for your detailed and very insightful reply. You cleared up a great number of things for me, and I feel now I have a much better grasp on the poem’s meaning and am therefore able to recite it far better too! I’m not writing anything on ‘Well’, as my exam is an oral examination. However, I am now confident that in my discussion with the examiner I will be able to demonstrate my understanding of the piece due sonme insights from the one who knows ‘Well’ better than anyone else!
        Thanks so much again – Claudia

  3. Brieana Booth says:

    Hi Emma,
    I am an 17yr old using your poem, “Spoken For” for my ATCL Diploma Speech & Drama exam. I have my exam in a few days and am still trying to get my head around the meaning.
    Is this poem based around a specific war?
    Is it about someone you know who has experienced this before? A grandmother? Friend?
    What is your feeling about the last stanza, what emotions would they have where he returns home again?
    I would really appreciate if you could answer any of these questions so that I could portray what you are trying to say more effectively.
    Thank you so much. I love your poetry and I’m really excited to perform it in my exam. I hope I do it justice!
    Brieana

    • ejneale says:

      Hi Briena – thanks for your message. The poem was written for my paternal grandparents. My grandfather, a New Zealand GP, was a prisoner of war for 6 years during WWII. My grandmother waited for him the entire time he was away, even when there were long periods of no contact because he was being moved from camp to camp, being used by the Germans to help treat ill POWs. Their first baby after the war was my father. There were doubtless many competing emotions when my grandfather returned – love, fear and anxiety for how the relationship would fare given how they might have grown apart, hope, sadness at all the time lost, the deaths of other friends and colleagues, knowledge of the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, shock at the changes in him (he was emaciated when he came back, according to my grandmother) all the pain witnessed and suffered. ‘Burnt, blue dark’ is meant to convey some of that – the sadness that still lingered given the cost of war – yet also the intimacy of night time between lovers. I hope that helps you a little. Good luck for the exam!

      • Brieana Booth says:

        Thank you so much for your reply. It was really helpful. I appreciate you getting back so promptly.Look forward to getting to know more of your poetry!!

  4. Hi Emma, I saw your poem My Grow Soft World on the London Grip website and just loved it, I had to look you up and I am glad I found your blog. I am a homeschooling mother of two girls living a hectic life and trying to write a bit of poetry myself,

    well I hope to be back soon to read some more of your posts, until then,

    best wishes,
    Louisa

    • ejneale says:

      Dear Louisa – what a lovely message to open this morning. That poem grew out of editing a retired archivist’s novel on New Zealand’s participation in World War Two, and seeing the irony in how easy it was to change the document – wishing for such simplicity in the real world. I was expecting it to be published under a different title, ‘Global’, as the editor initially queried the title it’s appeared under. I’m not quite sure whether he decided the first was best, or whether he forgot, or ….

      I know how much is contained in your phrase ‘hectic life’ – especially if you are home schooling. I don’t think I have the iron constitution for that – my hat is off to you! A lot of my poetry grows out of the constant, dizzy switch of focus parenthood demands… So I wish you the best luck with the juggle between family and your writing.

      • thanks so much Emma, it is great to find out some background details about your poem, I thought the title of it was quite interesting, I couldn’t quite work out where it had come from though, I think Global is more apt, but anyway, either title works, as they don’t actually detract from the poem at all.

        Have you had many poems published in magazines? what would be your advice to getting published apart from just keep on trying 😉 ?

        have a good day and yes, homeschooling is not something to be entered into lightly, but it is one of the best things I have done, but I have some specific reasons to homeschool in France as the curriculum in schools here is very pro academic and poor in creative arts – something I think is a real shame for young children.

  5. ejneale says:

    Hi Louisa – I have had quite a bit of work published in magazines and journals, yes. My advice is to target magazines whose work you know well and like, so that you know they’re a good fit for your own taste. Read the submission guidelines closely; make sure they accept overseas work. Immersive reading of poetry; even getting reviews of poetry published, which both hones your own critical skills and can be added to a short cover letter to the editors of magazines so they get a sense that you live and breathe the form… In general, things that will help your writing and your networking would be to join a writers’ group where you can share drafts of your work, or even enrolling in an online poetry course if finding Anglophone writers in your part of France is difficult. Good luck!

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