"When I was a child I had a best friend who lived across the road from me. When her mother died unexpectedly it was like losing a member of my own family. I think I am still affected by the memory of that loss." -- Margaret Mahy
Margaret Mahy ONZ (born in Whakatane, New Zealand on 21 March 1936) is a well-known New Zealand author of children's and young adult books. While the plots of many of her books have strong supernatural elements, her writing concentrates on the themes of human relationships and growing up.
Her books The Haunting and A Supernatural Romance both received the Carnegie Medal of the British Library Association. She has written more than 100 picture books, 40 novels and 20 collections of short stories. Among her children's books, A Lion in the Meadow and The Seven Chinese Brothers and The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate are considered national classics. Her novels have been translated into German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish, Finnish, Italian, Japanese, Catalan and Afrikaans. In addition, some stories have been translated into Russian, Chinese and Icelandic.
For her contributions to children's literature she has been made a member of the Order of New Zealand. The Margaret Mahy Medal Award was established by the New Zealand Children's Book Foundation in 1991 to provide recognition of excellence in children's literature, publishing and literacy in New Zealand. In 2006 she was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award (known as the Little Nobel Prize) in recognition of a "lasting contribution to children's literature". In March 2009, Mahy was commemorated as one of the Twelve Local Heroes, and a bronze bust of her was unveiled outside the Christchurch Arts Centre.
In 2010 a television series of her book Kaitangata Twitch aired on Maori Television. Directed by Yvonne Mackay and produced by The Production Shed.TV, the series includes a cameo appearance by Margaret Mahy in a library scene.
Margaret Mahy currently resides on Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, in the South Island of New Zealand.
"Anyone interested in the world generally can't help being interested in young adult culture - in the music, the bands, the books, the fashions, and the way in which the young adult community develops its own language.""At the same time, I think books create a sort of network in the reader's mind, with one book reinforcing another. Some books form relationships. Other books stand in opposition. No two writers or readers have the same pattern of interaction.""At this stage I am not involved with young adults as closely as many other writers. My children are grown up and my grandchildren are still quite young.""Being a librarian certainly helped me with my writing because it made me even more of a reader, and I was always an enthusiastic reader. Writing and reading seem to me to be different aspects of a single imaginative act.""By the time ordinary life asserted itself once more, I would feel I had already lived for a while in some other lifetime, that I had even taken over someone else's life.""Ellis's understanding of himself and the world around him certainly develops because of his adventures, and part of that development comes through recognizing other people for what they are.""Every writer has to find their own way into writing.""I am really chained to my computer these days so I work in my bedroom, which is a room I have worked in for years and years. It is just as much an office as a bedroom, and during the day, my bed is rather like an extension of my desk.""I don't think I prefer writing for one age group above another. I am just as pleased with a story which I feel works well for very small children as I do with a story for young adults.""I had to wait for a long time before I could support myself with writing. However, being a writer is what I have most wanted to be, from the time I was a child.""I hope I am not too repetitive. However, coming to terms with death is part of the general human situation.""I once knew a house rather like The Land of Smiles - an old house occupied by a varied collection of young people, mainly students. However none of these people were true models for the characters in the book, though their way of life may have been.""I think I am too interested in my own ideas to copy anyone else's, but I find that other people's imagery, the flow of language in the outside world, games with words, and ideas about relationships are all most important to me.""I was able to work out all sorts of attitudes to style and event and character, all of which affected the way I came to think about my own writing. I believe that all good writers are original.""I, personally, have found reading a continual support to writing.""I've never actually been a fighter myself - fighting tires me out and I'm not an efficient fighter anyway - but I have certainly seen other people have great complicated goes at one another.""In a way, the characters often do take over.""It can certainly happen that characters in more sophisticated stories can "take over" as they develop and change the author's original ideas. Well, it certainly happens to me at times.""It is a good idea to know which publishers publish which stories. For example, there is no sense in sending a picture book text to a publisher who does not publish picture books.""My theory is that I decided to be a writer when I was about seven, but of course it is not as simple as that. Like most writers, I had to work at other things to earn a living and wrote mainly in the evenings, often very late at night, for many years.""New Zealand is the only country I know well enough to write about. It can sometimes lead to complications.""Of course there are big differences in length and character and vocabulary, but each level has its particular pleasures when it comes to the words one can use and the way one uses them.""The novels take longer to write than the picture book texts, and they do take a different sort of concentration. However, a very short, simple story that works well is just as exciting to me as any longer and more complex book.""There are certainly times when my own everyday life seems to retreat so the life of the story can take me over. That is why a writer often needs space and time, so that he or she can abandon ordinary life and "live" with the characters.""They are imaginary characters. But perhaps not solely the products of my imagination, since there are some aspects of the characters that relate to my own experience of a wide variety of people.""When you are reading, someone has done a lot of work on your behalf, someone has had ideas and has then written and corrected and improved them so that they can be shared.""When you are writing, of course, you have to do all that writing and correcting for yourself. When I was a librarian it was expected that I would know about a wide range of books.""Writing for young children I find I often use particular jokes with words and exaggerated, funny events, but some of these haunt the more complex stories for older children too."
Mahy is the eldest of 5 children. She was raised in her birthplace of Whakatane. Her father was a bridge builder and often told his children adventure stories which later influenced Mahy's writing. Her mother was a teacher. She wrote her first published story when she was 7, called "Harry Is Bad". She showed it to her class to let them know that they could write a story whatever their age.She went to the local high school, where she was acknowledged as a talented swimmer.
Mahy completed her undergraduate BA at Auckland University College (1952—1954) and Canterbury University College, graduating in 1955. In 1956 she trained at the New Zealand Library School, Wellington as a librarian.
She worked as a librarian in Petone, the School Library Service in Christchurch, and in 1976 was appointed Children's Librarian at Canterbury Public Library.
During this time she had many stories published in the New Zealand School Journal, and her first book, "A Lion in the Meadow", in 1969.
She became a fulltime writer in 1980, and has gone on to win numerous awards for her books, and honours for her contribution to New Zealand and children's literature, including an honorary doctorate in the form of a Doctor of Letters from the University of Canterbury.
In 1985 she established the Margaret Mahy Fees Scholarship at University of Canterbury.
On March 19, 2010, Margaret Mahy officially opened the new Christchurch East School Library which was hosted by Charles Francia and Amy Neeson at the Christchurch East School Hall.