Joan de Hamel was a children's writer whose popular stories had a timeless appeal. Her first book, X Marks the Spot, was reprinted for the fifth time in 1996, more than twenty years after its publication. She twice won national awards. In 1979 she won the Esther Glen Medal and in 1985 she won the AW Reed Memorial Award. In addition to writing and teaching, Joan de Hamel had for many years been a breeder of goats and donkeys.
de Hamel, Joan (1924 - 2011) was a children's writer whose popular stories had a timeless appeal. Her first book, X Marks the Spot (1973) was reprinted for the fifth time in 1996, more than twenty years after it was first published.
She twice won national awards. In 1979 she won the Esther Glen Award for Take the Long Path (1978), and in 1985 she won the A.W. Reed Memorial Award for Hemi's Pet (1985). Her other titles are The Third Eye (1987); Hideaway (1992); and Hemi and the Shortie Pyjamas (1996).
She had large family and a background as a teacher, which meant de Hamel was comfortable with young people. She was an active participant in the Book Council's Writers in Schools programme. 'I am very impressed by some of the young writers,' she said. 'I jot down their names calculating that if I live long enough, I'll read their published work some day.'
In addition to writing and teaching, Joan de Hamel has for many years been a breeder of goats and donkeys.
writers in schools information
Please note that Joan de Hamel is no longer available to visit as part of the Writers in Schools programme. The below information remains for research purposes only.
KAPAI: Kids Authors Pictures and Information
Where do you live?
The Otago Peninsula
What sort of books do you like to read?
Books for all ages, rather fast, usually two at once, one fiction and one non-fiction.
Where do you get your ideas?
Stir up the compost heap of memories in my head, then I re-mix or re-match the ideas that surface.
What is the best thing about being an author?
The words, especially the similes that sometimes appear, as if by magic, on the paper.
Some Questions from Primary School Students
What sort of pets do you have?
We have a herd of Angora goats. I know them all individually by name and number —and their mothers and grandmothers.
Do you have a favourite colour?
Do you have a favourite food?
Do you have a favourite movie?
Do you play any games?
What is the most fun about being an author?
Meeting children who have enjoyed my books. Getting to know young writers — some of these will be important New Zealand authors in a few years time.
How do you make a book?
I make one with much time and trouble, and, sometimes, joy. I especially enjoyed writing or illustrating short ‘real life’ books for my own children, who stitched them up and made the covers.
Where do you like to go for your holidays?
We used to travel to remote places. We’ve been to Tibet and the Antarctic. Now we are more likely to have visitors come to us than to travel overseas.
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
Boarding school was a big country house in England. One moonlit night, a friend and I climbed out of an attic window on to the gables of the roof. We perched ourselves between the chimney pots and howled at the moon, like dogs or wolves. Then we staged a catfight with much miaowing and spitting.
Some Questions from Secondary School Students
How did you get started?
I used to drone out stories, but by the age of four had progressed to drawing pictures. Then someone taught me the alphabet and I wrote phonetically (wnzvwz - once there was). I’ve carried on ever since, but my spelling has improved over the years.
Who inspired you when you were getting started?
No one. I kept my work PRIVIT. I read The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford and reckoned I could do better than that.
What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
There’s a Romany proverb ‘Shoon, dick and rig in zi’, which means ‘Hear, see and bear in mind.’ A good start becomes a good habit.
Is it difficult to make a living as a writer in New Zealand?
What were you like as a teenager?
Fairly run-of-the-mill and not particularly outrageous. I had excellent parents who encouraged my interests in many directions. They gave me great freedom and trusted me, so sometimes, with regret, I avoided doing things that would let them down. I was a teenager in England during World War Two and life was fairly serious, with air raids and rationing. I could escape into my imagination and I used to write as much as possible.
Is there anything else you would like us to tell us about yourself?
I take a long time over my books because I feel the need to experience everything first hand before I can adapt it into fiction. For example, I have been lost in New Zealand Fiordland bush while searching for Kakapo. I’ve explored unmapped limestone caves. I once spent three summers on an in-depth study of Yellow-eyed Penguins. I have judged several pet shows and run a herd of Angoras for about twenty years. I’ve taught children of all ages and I’ve brought up my own five children and now have 10 grandchildren.