Fifi Colston has a richly varied career as a writer, illustrator, poet, Wearable Art designer, film costumer, television presenter and occasional columnist. She has illustrated numerous books for trade and education and for many years she has presented arts and crafts programming, first on the children’s television show What Now, and later on TVNZ's Good Morning show. Her second novel Janie Olive: a recipe for disaster! was a CLFNZ Junior Fiction Notable Book for 2006, as was her third, Glory, which was also an Esther Glen Award finalist in the 2010 LIANZA Book Awards. Colston's latest two costuming books for children, Wearable Wonders and Ghoulish Getups, were finalists in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, with Wearable Wonders winning the 2014 Elsie Locke Medal for Non-Fiction. Colston previously served as a New Zealand Post Book Awards judge, convener of the Wellington Children’s Book Association, and Wellington committee member for the Storylines Festival.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Colston, Fifi (1960 –) is a writer, illustrator, Wellington veteran of Wearable Arts, and a television and workshop presenter.
Colston was born in Yorkshire, U.K. and emigrated to New Zealand in 1968. She returned to England for two years in 2001, but is now settled in Wellington.
In the first phase of her richly varied writing career, Colston worked as a columnist for Next Magazine and About Kids. In 1998, she had a one-year stint as a weekly radio poet appearing regularly on Wayne Mowatt’s National Radio programme. For seven years she presented arts and crafts on the children’s television programme What Now. She was a regular weekly arts and crafts presenter on the Good Morning Show, on TV1, from 2006-2011.
She graduated in 2004 with an MA Scriptwriting at the IIML at Victoria University of Wellington.
Colston’s poetry has been published in Next Magazine and collected in Fifi Verses The World (1999), the latter of which also included her illustrations. Verity’s Truth (2003) was her first junior fiction novel.
Colston has illustrated over 33 books, and her illustrations can be seen in the NZ School Journal as well as in trade books for Scholastic, Gecko Press, Reed and other small publishing houses . She also served as the President of the New Zealand Illustrators' Guild from 1998 until 2000.
Colston’s illustrated books include: The Old Man and The Cat (1984); Mr Magee Comes Home for his Tea (1984); Rain (1984); The Oldest Garden in China (1985); Not Without Randolph (1993); Fifi’s Crafty Arts: Book One (1995); Fifi’s Crafty Arts: Book Two (1995); Midnight Feast (1996); Get Real Paddy Manson (1996); This Tail (1996); It’s My Bread (1997); Dear Tom (1997); Fifi Verses The World (2000); Mystery Valley (2000); The Great Egg Problem (2000); Going Places (2000); Brother Trouble (2001); The Great New Zealand Activity Book (2000); Toroa (The Albatross) (2001); Panui Pangarau (2003); Nga Taonga O Te Kaitiora (2002); Te Takaro Tirama (2003); Te Ao Ahuahanga (2003); My Brother (2003); Tyler's Tower (2004); My Name is Laloifi (2005); Waka Wairua (2005); Finding Tibs (2006); Papas Island (2006); Itiiti's Gift (2006); The Red Poppy (2012), Far Far from Home (2012), The Little Yellow Digger Saves Christmas (2020), and Marvellous Marvin (2020).
Colston briefly worked as a scriptwriter on Jane and the Dragon for Weta Workhop in 2003, and was employed by Weta Workshop on the assignment of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2004, then again as a costume illustrator for The Hobbit in 2010.
Janie Olive: a recipe for disaster! (Scholastic, 2005) was a CLFNZ Notable Book in the Junior Fiction category in 2006. Colston's third junior fiction book, Glory, (Scholastic, 2009) was a CLFNZ Notable Book in the Junior Fiction category in 2010. Glory was also a finalist for the LIANZA Esther Glen Award in the same year.
In 2007, Itiiti’s Gift (Reed, 2006), also in collaboration with writer Melanie Drewery, was a Storylines CLFNZ Notable Books Picture Book. Itiiti's Gift was read simultaneously all around New Zealand at 10.30am on Wednesday 12 August 2009, in celebration of 'New Zealand's Biggest Storytime' (during Library Week, 2009).
In 2008, Colston was a judge in the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. Colston was the convener of the Wellington Children’s Book Association and a Wellington committee member for the Storylines Festival. She was the co-convenor of the 'Spinning Gold 09' Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference.
In addition to her writing and illustration work, Colston is a Wellington veteran of Wearable Arts. She has been a finalist and winner at numerous intervals over more than two decades. Her book Wearable Wonders (Scholastic, 2013) draws on this costuming experience to provide an invaluable guide to making Wearable Art for ages eight-years and above. Wearable Wonders was a finalist in the Non-Fiction category of the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and winner of the LIANZA Elsie Locke non-fiction award.
Her subsequent book Ghoulish Getups (Scholastic 2014) was also shortlisted for the New Zealand Children and Young Adults Book Awards. Both Wearable Wonders and Ghoulish Getups received Storylines Notable Book Awards.
Colston recently developed her IIML (International Institute of Modern Letters) Masters Thesis into a manuscript titled Wild Cards. The young adult novel was shortlisted for the 2016 Storylines Tessa Duder Award.
Colston was the 2019 University of Otago College of Education/Creative NZ Children’s Writer in Residence. This residency is offered in association with the Robert Lord Trust.
In 2020, Colston's illustrated diary of thoughts and observations she had during the Covid-19 lockdown, Lockdown Sketch Mind was published by The Cuba Press.
In 2022, Colston's junior fiction novel Masher was published by Penguin. In a review for Kids Books NZ, Maria Gill writes "Masher has a very likeable main character who you will to solve the mystery. Plus wonderfully unique secondary characters, and a scary but loveable dog puppet. But it's the last character who will melt your heart... this hilarious mystery story [is] for 8-12 year old readers. Your kids will laugh out loud and it'll brighten your day, too."
Colston lives in Wellington and is a popular participant in Storylines National Tours and the Writers in Schools programme.
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Fifi Colston’s website
- Fifi's blog, Twitter and Facebook pages
- Fifi Colston and Adele Jackson's illustration assessment agency: Portmanteau
- KidsBooksNZ interview with Fifi about Masher (2022)
Updated June 2022.