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Anahera Gildea

“Small Gifts” Annual 2

I am from Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga, which is around Ōtaki and Levin, but I grew up all over the place. I went to school mostly in Christchurch and now live in Wellington with my partner and son. 

I write poetry, short stories, and sometimes longer stories, and I teach both art and drama. I’ve had lots of poems and stories published in all kinds of journals and anthologies, and I’ve even won a couple of story competitions.

When I grew up, we moved a lot, but all of our houses had thousands and thousands of books, which we took with us in big moving trucks. I wrote my first book when I was ten years old, sitting in bed with a terrible case of the chicken pox. I called it “The Ghost Train”, wrote an exciting blurb on the back, and drew the picture for the cover. Only one copy was ever made, and I gifted it to my family, but it was later lost in a flood in one of our basements.

One of my favourite books when I was a child was called The Land Behind the World by Anne Spencer Parry. It was about a lonely girl who found a secret door to a magical world where the most important things in existence were beauty and the imagination. Other books I loved were The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, The Haunting by Margaret Mahy, The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, and all of the fairy tales by the Brothers Grimm - especially ones that involved girls doing exactly what they were told not to!

Since growing up, I’ve discovered fantastic books that I’ve read to my own child. Ones that stand out are The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Wonder by R. J. Palacio, and The Loblolly Boy by James Norcliffe.

The best job I’ve ever had in the world was as a giant stilt-walking butterfly. I had brightly coloured wings, which I held out either side of me like massive kites, and long, long silken trousers. These went over the stilts and made me look like I was really twelve feet tall. I had to walk the streets of Wellington, and it was so windy I thought I might actually fly.