Holloway, Judith

Holloway, Judith


Primary publisher
Cengage Australia, Mallinson Rendel
Rights enquiries
[email protected]

In Brief

Judith Holloway writes fiction, non-fiction and reference guides for children. She has worked as a teacher at primary and secondary level, a polytechnic writing tutor, and a scriptwriter, editor and producer for radio and television. As well as books, Holloway has published numerous stories in the School Journal and her stories are available in two audio tape collections from Radio New Zealand. Judith Holloway is available for school visits as part of the Writers in Schools programme.


Holloway, Judith (1935 – ) is a writer of fiction, non-fiction and reference guides for children.

She has worked as a teacher at primary and secondary level, a Polytechnic writing tutor, and a scriptwriter, editor and producer for radio and television.

'My imagination is always full of characters, ideas for plots, interesting landscapes, and important issues I want to explore,' writes Judith Holloway.

'I only wish I had the self-discipline to lasso them all in and shuffle them into books and stories.'

Holloway has published numerous stories in the School Journal and her stories are available in two audio tape collections from Radio New Zealand.

She is presently writing a stage play and a novel for teenagers.

Her book titles are: High Summer on the Heaphy Track (1978); A Good Mother Hen (1988); The Giggling Gertie Writing Dictionary (1986), now available as The 1000 Words Book (2000); Concept Science series (1986); Kupu Tuhituhi: A First Māori Dictionary (2000); Hine's Rainbow (2001), also available in Te Reo Māori version.

Secrets and Spies (No.8 Books, 2007) is Holloway's first novel. It is described as 'a crowded, crazy, fun book with everything in it.'


Holloway is available to talk to up 30 students at a time through the Book Council's Writers in Schools programme. Her preferred age range is 7-12 years old. She will discuss writing for children, reading pleasures, writing a short story and writing picture books. She is prepared to travel out of town for visits.

KAPAI: Kids' Authors Pictures and Information

Where do you live?

I’ve been living in the country town of Levin for the last six years.

What kinds of books do you read?
Novels, History, Essays, Biographies.

Who are your favourite authors?
I have so many: John Updike, Tolstoy, Jane Austen, Owen Marshall, Anne Tyler, Katherine Mansfield, Maurice Gee, Carol Shields, Jane Smiley, Margaret Mahy.

Where do your ideas come from?

Sometimes ideas come into my mind as someone tells me something that has happened to him/her. Then, if I want to turn the idea into a story, I need to plan it out properly and invent the characters that will be in the story, and work out what ‘voice’ will tell the story. Then I write it quickly. Later, I go through the story and refine it.

What is the best thing about being a writer?

I like being able to let my imagination flow and invent people, places and plots.

So how do you write a story?
It’s probably similar to painting pictures or making music. The process uses your imagination, your memory, your humour, your feelings, your skills with words. Writing uses your insights into people’s behaviour and characters and your own ability to shuffle everything into place.

Some questions from Primary School students

Do you have any pets?
A snooty cat— but we don’t like each other much. She’s very private and secretive and I’m very open and hospitable.

Do you have a favourite colour?
Yes: yellow, orange, purple and blue.

What is your favourite thing to eat?
Curries and fish dishes and fruit.

What kinds of movies do you like?
Robert Altman, Woody Allen and Mike Leigh movies. I also like French and Italian movies and good, political documentaries.

Do you play any sports or games?
No, I don’t like games or sports much as I’m totally uncompetitive.

What is the best thing about being a writer?
Being imaginative and creating humane stories that might help readers to understand something or give them the power to overcome anxieties. (Not that I’m thinking about that when I write, but I’m definitely an optimist.)

How do you make a book?
I write the stories. The publisher actually makes the books. However, I like to have a big say in the illustrations.

Where do you like to go on holiday?
I like going to the Far North of NZ, but I’ve been to many places in New Zealand and the United States, Australia, the Pacific Islands and Europe.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I was too scared to be naughty when I was a small girl, but I once blamed my mother for not sending my French assignments to the Correspondence School when I was at secondary school. This was a complete lie as actually, I hadn’t done the assignments. Everyone was horrified that I could be so dishonest. (Sorry, Mum!)

Some questions from Secondary School students

How did you get started as a writer?
The first story I wrote was called ‘The Book of Kings’. It was in a Part 2 Journal in 1968. The first sentence came to me out of the blue, and I wrote the whole story in one night — just in handwriting in an old notebook, dropped it into the School Journal Editor and — lo and behold! — I got a cheque in the mail.

Who inspired you when you first started writing?
That first story, ‘The Book of Kings’, was inspired by my eldest daughter who was very shy and I wanted to write a story about a shy child for her. But I made the main character a boy so that she didn’t think I was getting at her.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Just write! Then look over your work and refine it. Keep everything. One day a good idea you had, but couldn’t handle very well when you were ten years old, might be just the idea you feel like picking up again when you are 20.

Is it hard to make a living as a writer in New Zealand?
I have mostly earned my living from a little teaching resource I devised back in 1986, which earned me enough royalties in America to live on. I also used to write for TV — and that is very good money.

What were you like when you were a teenager?
I was fat, dreamy, ignorant, rather shy (but pretended not to be), full of ideas and ideals. I was lazy, kind to most people I came in contact with, easily squashed, independent, a terrible tease — particularly of my brothers, my cousins and my mother. I was awkward, (but trying to seem sophisticated). What a mess! But luckily, you gradually become confident and honed and able to fit into your own skin —especially when someone falls in love with you!

Can you give us an example of how you write a story?
My story called ‘Hoha’ in a Part 4 Journal No 1 in 1991, is based on a true incident in my life. Instead of stealing chocolates (as Jason does in the story) I stole heaps of apples and would eat them in the toilet as I read a book after school. Not thinking, I would chuck the cores out of the little toilet window. One day Dad was hosing down the house and he found this great heap of apple cores. There was a big inquiry. Like Jason, I owned up to stealing an apple or two, but pretended to be horrified at the thought of anyone eating in a lavatory. Of course, my three brothers (who had actually been stealing apples, too) thought I’d taken the blame so they didn’t own up. But Dad could tell by their wavering eyes and red faces that they weren’t telling the truth. Just as Nanny does in the ‘Hoha’ story, Dad held me out to my brothers as an example of someone ‘who never tells a lie.’ I was allowed to go, and my brothers got whacked. (Everyone in those days got whacked.) Of course, I felt guilty and wished I’d had the guts to say right there and then that actually I had eaten the apples in the toilet. Well, at least I got rid of the guilt by writing the story.


Updated January 2017.