Pulford, Elizabeth

Pulford, Elizabeth

In Brief

Elizabeth Pulford is a children’s writer. She has also written fiction for teenagers and adults, and won several writing competitions. Her articles, stories and poetry for both adults and children have been published in newspapers, magazines and journals, and been broadcast on Radio New Zealand. Pulford has published numerous titles for young readers, and has won and been shortlisted for key awards. Elizabeth Pulford is available to talk to primary and intermediate students as part of the Writers in Schools programme.


Pulford, Elizabeth (1943 - ) is a children's writer. Born in Canada, she was raised and educated in Dunedin and now lives in Outram.

Her short stories for adults have won and been placed in some of New Zealand's most prestigious fiction competitions.

Since winning the Timaru Herald / Aoraki Short Story Award in 1990 she has won half a dozen competitions, including the Joan Faulkner Blake Short Story Competition, the Christchurch Star Short Story Competition and the South Island Writers Association Dame Ngaio Marsh Short Story Competition. She has been awarded the Christine Jefferson Award for the most outstanding writing for the year by the NZ Women's Writer Society and has been highly placed in numerous other local and national competitions.

A Junior novel, The Memory Tree (1996) was shortlisted for the 1997 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

Her other titles for children are My Sister is Magic (1994); The Three-legged Race (1995); The Midnight Feast (1996); A Piece of Paper (1997); Nightmare (1997); Fuzz and the Glass Eye (1997); Cottle Street (1997); King Kong and the Flower Fairy (1999); Trailblazers (1999); Angel in the Attic (1999 - published by e-publisher); Jellylegs (2000); Call of the Cruins (2000); Arista and the Wagon (2000); and Pete Paints a Picture (2000). Many of Pulford's stories have also appeared in the School Journal.

Elizabeth Pulford's articles, stories and poems for both adults and children have been published in newspapers, magazines and journals, and been broadcast on National Radio.

Call of the Cruins (2000) was shortlisted in the Junior Fiction category of the 2001 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

The Christmas...hiccup...Play was published in February 2003.

Castello Italiano (Penguin, 2004) describes the meeting of three women, best friends since childhood, who have not seen each other since a dramatic summer in Italy almost forty years ago.

Daisy Doll by Elizabeth Pulford and illustrated by Denise Durkin (Scholastic, 2004). Emily had a doll, called Daisy Doll. She was the sweetest doll in the whole wide world and Emily loved her more than anything. When her little sister, Penelope-Rose gets sick, Emily learns about sharing.

Can't Catch Me! was published in 2005 (Scholastic). When Alice loses her best friend Hannah, her world seems to stop until she goes to stay with her Great Auntie Fran, the wonderful kite-maker.

The Sunflower Tree was published in 2005 by Gilt Edge Publishing.

No Frills on Me, Gum and Disaster were published by Oxford in 2006. Three more books followed including, Mrs Begg's Beautiful Egg (Gilt Edge Publishing); Mr Potty's Plums (Gilt Edge Publishing); and I'm going to the moon (Gilt Edge Publishing).

Shut the Gate was published by Scholastic (2006). Mum, Sam and baby Sara set off for a walk one morning. It's not until they reach the top of the ridge that they realise Sam hasn't been shutting the gates at all!

Mr Potty's New Hedge (Gilt Edge Publishing) was published in 2007 as well as Dr Neal's Squeaky Wheels (Gilt Edge Publishing), Stamp Boy (Gilt Edge Publishing) and Famous was published by Penguin (2007). It is a title in the Kiwi Bites series. She was awarded the 2007 Ohau House Writer’s Retreat residency.

In 2007, Pulford published Sea Dreamer (Random House), a young adult's novel; and Castlecliff and the Fossil Princess (Walker Books Australia NZ), a novel for intermediate readers. Waterworks and Tich were published in 2008 (Wendy Pye).

Blackthorn (2008) was released by Walker Books. Following the death of her father, a great Trahern warrior, Alyana is determined to stay true to her heart and follow in his footsteps. She flees the confines of her uncle's family to make a life for herself in her beloved forest. There, she becomes Blackthorn, the warrior. But life in the forest is tough - it's a struggle just to survive.

The sequel, Blackthorn's Betrayal, was published by Walker books in 2009. In Pulford's follow-up novel, Blackthorn faces higher stakes than ever to become a Trahern warrior. She embarks on a treacherous mission, travelling deep into enemy territory, but the mission takes a sinister twist- putting her dream at risk.

On a Rabbit Hunt (Scholastic, 2009) is a follow up to Shut the Gate, featuring a rogue rabbit on the loose! Castlecliff and the Fossil Princess was re-released in 2009 by Walker Books UK.

Tussock (Walker Books, 2010) was shortlisted for the 2011 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards. When her father goes missing, Kate's life is thrown into chaos. More than ever before, she is drawn to the old tin hut among the tussock grass. There she lights a lamp each night to guide her father home. And there she meets the troubled Troy. Secretive and brooding, Troy seems almost as lost as her father. Kate wonders if her life will ever be the same.

The Quest of the Rotten Egg (Scholastic, 2011) is described in the book blurb as 'Laugh-out-loud fun! Sir Omelet sat on the front steps of Mottle Castle in his underwear. 'It's no good, Peabody,' he said. 'We have to get Eggwena back.' And so begins the hilarious quest to save the Lady Eggwena, as the hapless Sir Omelet, his trust squire Peabody and not-so-noble steed Noodle set off in search of the egg, of the Rotten bird.'

The Littlest Angel - Lily gets her wings was published by Scholastic NZ in 2011. It is Lily's big day her dream of earning her wings to attend Amelia's Angel Academy may just come true. But who has hidden her practice wings? And will Lily be able to find them in time to take the test? The Littlest Angel - Lily has a secret (Scholastic NZ, 2011) is the second book in The Littlest Angel series. The kitten sounded as if it was in pain Lily knew she had to rescue it. Wasn't that what angels did? But the rule said: No animals allowed at the Academy (Only Frumplepuss). Can Lily keep the kitten a secret while trying to earn her silver slippers?

Elizabeth Pulford's novel Broken (Walker Books, 2012) follows the journey of Zara: 'Zara is broken. She's in a coma, trapped in the world of her subconscious. A world of painful memories, distant voices and dark secrets. Secrets she has to unlock. Her life depends on it.'

July 2015 saw the publication of the children's picture book Finding Monkey Moon, written by Pulford and illustrated by Kate Wilkinson. The charming book tells the story of Michael's toy Monkey Moon, whose disappearance one night engenders a search that goes far beyond the toy box. Finding Monkey Moon was named as a Storylines Notable Book for 2016, and 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.

Sanspell, the first in Pulford's "Bloodtree Chronicles" series illustrated by Donovan Bixley was published in 2015. Sanspell is set in the fantastical Silvering Kingdom, to the corners of which Abigail must venture in order to save the source of all stories - the Bloodtree - from being poisoned.

Two further novels in the "Bloodtree Chronicles", Bragonsthyme and Thatchthorpe, were published at the end of 2015. In Bragonsthyme, Abigail and her companion Flint must track down the dark master Treolle's last words for the sake of the Bloodtree; and in Thatchthorpe, Abigail continues her quest, armed with her great-grandfather's time locket.

Pulford released Rasmas in 2016, a picture book illustrated by Jenny Cooper. Relating the touching bond between little Danny and his goat Rasmas, the book is a heartwarming read about the tender role played by animals in children's lives. Rasmas was also published in Maori as Ko Rama.

Seeking an Aurora was published by One Tree House in May 2018 and illustrated by Nelson artist Anne Bannock. In it, a small boy wakes to a cold, midnight adventure with his dad, walking up through the snowy landscape to the top of a hill, to see a wonderful sight - the Aurora Australis. The distant and quiet man becomes a loving and excited dad as he tells his son all about this amazing phenomenon.

Last updated May 2018.


Elizabeth Pulford is available to talk to children aged between 5 and 12 years. She is prepared to talk about being a picture book writer and the writing process. She is able to give an introduction and talk and a reading and Q&A session. She would prefer to speak to classes of 30 students with a maximum of 60. She is prepared to travel out of town for Writers in Schools visits.



Where do you live?
Waikouaiti – a little seaside town about half an hour from Dunedin.

What kinds of books do you like to read?
Mostly autobiographies – I’m nosy so that’s probably why I love books about other people and their lives. And all sorts of children’s books.

Who is your favourite author?
This changes all the time, but my favourite from my childhood was Enid Blyton.

How do you think up your ideas?
Ideas come from all around me. Some ideas come from when I was growing up; sometimes from my own children, but mostly my ideas come from simple everyday things. For example, I might see a lump of purple gum stuck on the footpath and then see a man walking a dog and I think what if the dog stands on that lump of gooey gum? And what if that lump of purple gum is extra sticky, extra stretchy. And what if there’s a boy who needs a pet to take to school the next day until suddenly I’m off writing a story.

What is the best thing about being an author?
There are lots of ‘best things’ about being an author, but three are:
1. Being able to sit and stare out of the window when I feel like it without being told off for staring into space, like what used to happen when I was at school.
2. Seeing my ideas turn into stories and then my stories turned into books.
3. Being able to eat sweets while I work.

Some Questions for Primary School Students
What is your favourite colour?
Electric blue and dusky pink.

What is your favourite food?
Hot, hot steaming chips. Makes my mouth water just thinking about them. Or a hot curry.

Do you have a favourite movie?
West Side Story (you’ve probably never heard of it!)

Do you play any games?
We used to have a game when I was growing up called ‘Kick the can.’ I can’t remember how it went, but I do remember on Friday nights all the kids in the street would join in and we would play until it was dark.

What is the most fun thing about being an author?
Being able to make up stories and get paid for it.

How do you make books?
First I have an idea – it might be about a cat - and then I have another idea – that one might be about someone who wears a glass eye and then maybe a third idea – a boy who is followed home by the cat, except his mother hates cats. Then I mix up all the ideas to see what might happen. After a bit, if a story starts I begin to write it down. This is how I wrote `Fuzz and the Glass Eye.’ Of course, sometimes all the mixed-up ideas won’t work no matter how much you want them to.

Where do you go for your holidays?
I have been to Australia, Sydney and Melbourne and Canada and had lots of holidays in New Zealand, especially Golden Bay and Central Otago in the South Island. I don’t mind where I go, as long as I have some sunshine.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
Once when I was nine I was sent out of the classroom (into a small adjoining room) for acting the fool. I was told to stand by the door. But did I? No, instead I climbed up onto a table and then onto the two boxes which were balanced on the table and started pulling faces at my friends through the narrow and very high window.

My friends were giggling like mad and so was I until the outer door opened and in rushed the headmaster. Luckily he was in too much of a hurry to notice me as he dashed into my classroom. Phew! I decided to get down. And I did. But not the way I wanted. The boxes wobbled and sent me crashing to the ground. Oh boy! My backside ached for ages afterwards. At least I never had to explain to the headmaster what I was doing!

Questions for Secondary School Students
How did you get started?
I had always a secret passion to be a writer for as long as I can remember. But I never thought I was clever enough. Then one day when I was about 40 and my children were both at high school I read about this night class for creative writing. I was scared to go along as 'I might have to write,’ I told my husband. In the end I did go and it was the best decision I ever made for myself.

Who inspired you when you were getting started?
Charles Croot was the teacher of the creative writing class. He had a way of gently extracting the best from the people at the class. He made me realise that I could write and always his advice was sound and encouraging. Gradually I began to gain more confidence. I was always extremely shy of anyone seeing and reading my work and my first two published articles were under a pen name.

What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
Write as much as you can. It doesn’t matter whether it is a poem, a story or an essay. But write. Enter any competitions. This is good for discipline and you might win or get a comment on your story. Get a group together of other `would be’ writers. Read a lot.

Keep a journal of your ideas; you never know when you’ll use one. Write, write, and write. Oh! Did I say that before?

Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?
Yes – I think it is. Although I believe there are some writers who do manage okay.

If I didn’t eat, drive a car, go to the pictures, or buy clothes I might just be able to survive.

What were you like as a teenager?
Picture a slightly overweight girl with brown curly hair who had glasses and giggled a lot. She spent a lot of time cutting out pictures of the film star Elizabeth Taylor in the hopes that one day she would look like her, except that when she was in her second year at high school her mother turned into a strict vegetarian and served up raw onions with every meal. Because of this, the girl spent a lot of Saturday nights lying on her bed reading, and smelling her own stinky breath.

Are there any other things you’d like to tell us about yourself?

I love licking the baking bowl.

Once I asked Santa Claus for a library of my own. It didn’t happen.

I hate the rain running down my neck.

I would love to have a secret tree hut where I could sneak off to sometimes.

I used to be an ice-cream girl in a cinema in London. And a hot-dog girl. And a nuts and sweets girl. If I ate anything I had to pay for it. I ate a lot, so I left because I wasn’t making much money.

I get the giggles at silly things that nobody else thinks is funny.

A long time ago I wore false eyelashes. And once I bashed one to pieces when I thought it was a spider.

I have very poor eyesight and have worn glasses (see number 8 for what can happen when I’m not wearing them) since I was 12, except now I wear contact lenses.

I like swimming underwater where it is lovely and quiet, while above me there is a storm of people.


Updated January 2017.