Born in Brisbane, Kyle Mewburn travelled in Europe and the Middle East before settling in New Zealand in 1990. She has been a full-time writer since 1997, and has since written numerous children’s picture-books and chapter-books. Mewburn won the Joy Cowley Award in 2005 (presented by Storylines Children's Literature Foundation of New Zealand in recognition of the development of a picture book text), and has won in both the Picture Book Category and the Children's Choice Category at the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mewburn, Kyle (1963 –) is one of New Zealand’s preeminent children’s book writers. Born in Brisbane, Australia, she completed a Bachelor of Business Degree at the Queensland Institute of Technology before travelling across Europe and the Middle East. She settled in New Zealand in 1990.
Prior to becoming a full-time writer in 1997, Mewburn forayed into a variety of vocations, working as a journalist, EFL teacher, Environment Centre manager, dishwasher, interviewer, traffic surveyor, apple-picker, machine operator and Kibbutznik.
In 2004, The Hoppleplop was published by Scholastic. The Bear in the Room Next Door was released in 2006, as was Mewburn’s book Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck!, which in 2005 had won the third Joy Cowley Award as a manuscript. Kiss! Kiss! Yuck! Yuck! (illustrated by Ali Teo and John O'Reilly) went on to win Best Picture Book and the Children's Choice Award at the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and was also listed as a 2007 Storylines Notable Picture Book. In 2010, Mewburn’s book won the USA-based Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award.
Mewburn’s No Room for a Mouse (Scholastic, 2007), illustrated by Freya Blackwood, relates the story of Christopher, who lives in a house with more rooms than he can count. When Christopher starts inviting people home, the house soon begins to feel small. No Room for a Mouse was a Storylines Notable Picture Book in both Australia and New Zealand.
In 2008, Mewburn again collaborated with illustrators Ali Teo and John O'Reilly to produce Duck's Stuck! (Scholastic). The jaunty story about a greedy duck was nominated in the Picture Book category of the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
In 2009 Mewburn’s books Funny Little Dog and Scruffy Old Cat (HarperCollins NZ) were published as part of Little Hare Books’ ‘Perfect Pets’ series. Within them, Pop Hooper's Pet Express arrives in a time of crisis to help the kids in each story decide what their dream pet really is.
Mewburn is also the author of Old Hu-hu (Scholastic, 2009), illustrated by Rachel Driscoll. Old Hu-hu was listed as a 2010 Storylines Notable Book, and the work – along with its Te Reo translation, Hu-hu Koroheke – won the supreme award at the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.
The third in the 'Perfect Pets' series - released in March 2010 - was titled Slowcoach Turtle (HarperCollins NZ, 2010), and was closely tailed by the fourth instalment, Stubborn Little Pony (HarperCollins NZ, 2010).
In 2011, Kyle Mewburn took up the position of University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence.
In 2011, Mewburn began – in cooperation with illustrator Donovan Bixley - a new junior fiction series called Dinosaur Rescue, of which there have been eight published so far: T-Wreck-asaurus; Stego-snottysaurus; Velocitchy-raptor; Diplo-Dizzy-Docus; Spino-Rottysaurus; Dako-Snappysaurus; Kuto-Stickysaurus; and Salto-Scaredypuss. They are all told from the point of view of Arg, the only evolved boy in a Neanderthal world, and his friend Skeet, a talking T-Rex, who together face fiendish foes and save the prehistoric world.
Mewburn’s other chapter books for young children are the stand-alone works Muddletopia (2007), A Crack in the Sky (2010), and Do Not Push (2011).
Also in 2011, Mewburn published several picture books, including: Three Cheers for No-ears, illustrated by Deborah Hinde (Scholastic NZ); The Grumblebee, illustrated by Ingrid Berzins (Scholastic NZ); Moon Cow, illustrated by Dierdre Copeland (Penguin NZ); and Hester & Lester (Random House NZ).
Mewburn also added to her educational publishing oeuvre with four new titles for Oxford University Press: Going Underground, Weird and Wonderful Sporting Traditions, Green Power, and Gold Seekers, all illustrated by Cameron Macintosh. (Oxford University Press, 2011)
Melu, written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly, was published by Scholastic in 2012. Melu was a finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards in the Picture Book category and won the Children's Choice award in the same year. The Te Reo edition, Ko Meru, was awarded the Te Kura Pounamu Award for a distinguished contribution to literature written in Te Reo Māori at the 2013 LIANZA Children's Book Awards.
Chick’s Sick, written by Kyle Mewburn and illustrated by Ali Teo and John O’Reilly, was published by Scholastic NZ in 2013, and in the same year Tumble Ted, illustrated by Mathew Russell, was released. A Perfect Chirpy Christmas (Random House NZ) was another 2013 offering from Mewburn, and incorporated the illustrations of Patrick McDonald.
In 2015, the first two episodes of Mewburn’s new 'Dragon Knight' chapter-book series were released under the respective titles of Dragon Knight: Fire! and Dragon Knight: Rats!. Four more episodes were released in 2016 - Dragon Knight: Witch! Dragon Knight: Dragons! Dragon Knight: Joust! and Dragon Knight: Barbarians! The story follows the adventures of Merek, a shape-shifting dragon who attends Knight School with the aim of becoming a famous knight.
Mewburn's The House on the Hill (Scholastic, 2016) illustrated by Sarah Davis, is a more sophisticated picture book for children, with a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. The House on the Hill was a finalist for the Picture Book Award and the Russell Clark Illustration Award in the 2016 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and won Best Picture Book in the Children's Choice section of the Awards.
Between 2012 and 2016, Mewburn was President of the New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN Inc).
In 2017 Mewburn's Dinosaur Trouble series was released. The series, a prequel series to his popular Dinosaur Rescue series, is aimed at early independent readers. Like Dinosaur Rescue, Dinosaur Trouble recounts the adventures of evolved cave boy Arg.
In 2021 her memoir, Faking It: My life in transition, was published by Penguin. In the same year, her writing life was the subject of a New Zealand Society of Authors oral history podcast.
Kyle Mewburn lives in Central Otago.
WRITERS IN SCHOOLS INFORMATION
Kyle Mewburn is able to speak to students about being a picture book writer and junior fiction writer as part of the Writers in Schools programme. She is comfortable talking to students of all ages, and can take 20-30 students at a time for workshops, and an unlimited number for a reading/talk. Mewburn is prepared to travel outside of her region, and she is also proficient in German. Please continue down the page to see answers to a list of questions provided by school students.
Kapai: Kids Authors’ Pictures and Information
Where do you live?
I live in a grass-roofed house I built by myself in Millers Flat, Central Otago.
What books do you read?
I used to read a lot of science fiction and crime stories, but now I basically read anything that's well-written and relatively interesting. I especially like books with an original concept/idea. I also read sci-fi short stories.
Who is your favourite author?
Possibly my favourite authors are Peter Carey and Graham Greene, mainly because he wrote both serious literary works and 'entertaining' novels. I also love the short stories of Fredric Brown and Theodore Sturgeon. But there are lots of books I think are fantastic and read again whenever I can't find anything new that sounds interesting.
How do you think up your ideas?
They normally think themselves up, really. My job is to turn them into something that actually works when it's written down.
What is the best thing about being an author?
Being able to work to your own routine. It doesn't matter when the work gets done, as long as it gets done.
Questions from Primary School Students
What sort of pets do you have?
I don't have any pets.
What is your favourite colour/food/movie/game?
I don't have any real favourite anythings. I used to think blue was my favourite colour, but now I'm not so sure because I like green as well. I like German food a lot, though this might have something to do with the fact my wife is German. I watch a lot of French movies, but I really enjoyed both Toy Story 1 & 2, and Shrek 1 & 2. I like most sports except car racing.
What is the most fun thing about being an author?
Letting your imagination go wild but nobody thinks you're being strange.
How do you make books?
Come up with an idea then write and rewrite and rewrite and keep rewriting until it's as good as you think it can be. Then put it away for a few days and rewrite it again.
Where do you go for holidays?
I normally go to Brisbane, or to Germany. Mostly it's to see friends and visit relatives.
What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
I was never very naughty at school…. at least I didn't think I was. In primary school, I was often sent to the headmaster's office for fighting. Which meant three strikes of the cane across the fingertips. I'd mostly stopped fighting by the time I got to High School, but nevertheless, I was often kicked out of the classroom for talking or mucking around. Again I had to go see the headmaster. Which was OK because I discovered if I stood in a certain place outside his office, I was hidden from view every time anyone entered or left the office. So while I spent quite a bit of time standing outside the headmaster's office, I didn't get to see the headmaster very often.
Questions from Secondary School Students
How did you get started?
I've always loved writing. It was my best subject at school…. if my teacher could actually read my writing! I always knew I wanted to make some sort of living from writing (it was the only thing I was really interested in doing) but never really considered being an 'author' as such, mainly because nobody suggested such a thing was even possible. So I looked for a career involving the most writing and eventually went to university and completed a degree in advertising and journalism.
I worked a while as a journalist but realised I was only happy writing fiction. So I gave it up and went travelling for a few years, and started writing poetry along the way. Eventually, I moved on to short stories. But in 1997 I decided if I wanted to get anywhere as a writer I had to focus on it. And I've been writing full-time ever since.
Who inspired you when you were getting started?
Nobody in particular. I was more inspired by reading about the lives of famous writers. But the greatest inspiration came from the writing itself.
What advice would you give an aspiring writer?
Read a lot and, more importantly, read widely. Don't limit yourself to any one genre or style, because literary influences can come from anywhere. Also, read about other writers. It provides both inspiration and a reality check - because its seldom easy for anyone.
It's also important to know what's being published at any given time, and future trends. So read about the industry. Treat it like a profession and keep track of who's who, who's doing what and how much they're getting paid for it!
Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?
It's difficult anywhere. In NZ, writers are the lowest-paid artists. In England, 80% of writers earn less than waiters. So you have to start out with a realistic view. And there's always going to be friction between writing and earning a living. You often have to compromise one for the sake of the other.
What were you like as a teenager?
Vaguely nondescript, really. I was never hugely popular, but also never had any major difficulties. In a way, I always saw school as something to be gotten through before a more interesting life started. So I kept my head down, studied reasonably hard and read whenever I wasn't playing sport.
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
- Kyle Mewburn's website (new and improved in 2011)
- Kyle Mewburn's Star Author blog for Christchurch City Libraries
- NZSA podcast: Kyle Mewburn talks to Naomi Arnold, part 1 and part 2
Updated June 2022.