A small confession: I didn’t read Annuals when I was young. I got all my books from the Greymouth public library, which was my favourite place but very serious. Possibly too serious for Annuals. The only noise was the squeaky lino. My other favourite place was the cemetery (also quiet, no Annuals). I’d cruise round on my bike, reading the gravestones like blurbs, making the rest up myself.

Another happy thing was reading in a tent. Each year my family camped at the same place, and each year I took the same books: a big stack of Laura Ingalls Wilder, borrowed from the Takaka public library. They smelt crazy good … musty and forgotten, only they weren’t because I had come back for them! I’d pile the books on the floor by my stretcher, in order, and get to work. That was me for two weeks. My sister made friends with people who had speedboats.

With this kind of behaviour, you’d think I might have turned out a writer. I’m the next best thing – an editor. We’re kind of like hitchhikers, riding along with writers for free and talking too much in the back. (That’s only half true. Sometimes we’re helpful. We know how to change spark plugs.) Alongside Annual, I also edit the School Journal – a more serious business because the Journal is made for the classroom. It has to keep a lot of people happy: the Ministry of Education, teachers, parents, students. Annual only needs to keep one person happy. The reader. This means we can do anything. Consequently, I think about making Annuals a lot. I suspect Kate does too. So don’t worry… we’re on it …

Kate de goldi / EDITOR

When I was young I worried occasionally about what I would do when I grew up. Would I get a job? How? What would it be? What was I good at? Not much, I usually concluded. I was kind of idle. Apart from singing the thing I liked best in the world was reading. That was what I was good at. But as far as I knew there were no reading jobs.

I read anything. We went every week to the library where I always borrowed fiction. I collected Bobbsey Twin books (an endless series about double twin siblings). Our parents bought a lot of books, too – for themselves and us. Every Friday night my mother gave me a pile of Puffin books (more fiction) to read over the weekend; our father bought us encyclopedias, science and history books. If you ran out of children’s books you could look at the curious goings on in the Time Life books about the body, or outer space, or the Amazon, or insects. Or you could try the grownups’ novels and learn surprising, sometimes disturbing, things about adult behaviour. The Encylopedias were excellent for dipping into - my all-time favourite was NOP in the Junior Britannica: there was a huge section about Party Games; one of them was called Dumb Crambo, which I still find a very funny name. (It means re-stewed cabbage). 

For comics I had to go to other people’s houses. My cousin, Christine, had ‘Pinky and Perky’ (they were pigs) and ‘Princess Tina’ (mostly girls). Other cousins and friends had war comics – square jawed American and British men fighting Germans – which I found especially alluring. Cousins and friends all seemed to have annuals, too - compendiums of comics, stories, games and puzzles, published for Christmas: Girls’ Crystal. Princess Tina. Rupert. Dandy. The Beano, to name just some. Annuals for boys, annuals for girls, I couldn’t get enough of them. And they seemed never to end. Or, when you thought you’d finished with one, you’d come back later and find stuff you hadn’t noticed before. Bottomless treasure. One Christmas, out of the blue, my sister Clare got Bunty Annual in her pillowcase – the only annual ever in our house. She was eight. I was eleven and speechless with envy. I got my mitts on it as soon as possible. ‘Funny thing,’ Clare told me recently, ‘I was still reading that Bunty when I was eighteen. I always seemed to find something new in it.’

Eventually, I became a writer, the next best thing to reading for a job. I’ve written picture books, novels and short stories. Sometimes essays, speeches, articles, book reviews. I enjoy writing very much. But I really like working on projects with other people, too. Editing Annual with Susan has been the best yet. As good as reading Junior Britannica, NOP. Surprising and hilarious. Bottomless treasure.