Te Ake Ake, Annie Rae

Te Ake Ake, Annie Rae


Bay of Plenty

In Brief

Annie Rae Te Ake Ake is an author, storyteller, dramatist, singer, motivational speaker and a teacher who brings Māori myths and legends vividly to life in writing, on video, in teaching resources and as a visitor to schools. After resigning from teaching, Te Ake Ake and her family formed a business which produces books, tapes, teacher’s manuals, and calendars. In 2000 her Myths and Legends of Aotearoa was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.


Te Ake Ake, Annie Rae (1942 - ) is an author, storyteller, dramatist, singer, motivational speaker and a teacher who brings Maori myths and legends vividly to life in writing, on video, in teaching resources and as a visitor to schools.

Born in Tauranga, the third child in a family of seven, she has worked as a primary school teacher and Creative Director.

Te Ake Ake took up her first teaching position at Matapihi, and throughout twenty seven years of teaching taught in Haast, Taupo, Wairakei, Mount View, Hilltop, Oropi and Arataki Schools.

She resigned from teaching in 1992 and, with her family, she has produced two videos, Waiata Tamariki Ma and Waiata Rangatahi and Myths and Legends of Aotearoa Workbook, a resource for teachers. Te Ake Ake and her family have now formed a business called I AM Products which produce books, tapes, teachers manuals and calendars.

She is the author of Myths and Legends of Aotearoa (1999) which was shortlisted for the 2000 New Zealand Post Childrens Book Awards.


KAPAI : Kids' Authors' Pictures and Information

Questions from Primary School Students

Where do you live?
I live in the hills of Oropi, a small rural community south of Tauranga. We have a small block of land and we have hens, sheep, cows and a cat called Mudgee.

Do you have any pets?
I have a cat called Mudgee. He is a big cat and is very striking looking with grey and white markings. He gets a bit crotchety sometimes and has been known to bite and scratch. He is very bossy and likes to get his own way. When he wants more cat biscuits, he rushes at us throwing himself at our legs. This can throw you off balance if you’re not prepared for his sudden weight! He has his own chair in the lounge and gets annoyed if a visitor inadvertently sits on it. If they don’t response to this, he leaps into their lap, puts his paws on their chest and stares into their face. This intimidates many people!

Over the years I have had many pets. When I was a child I had Sylvester, a pet chook. She hatched out apparently by herself. One day she came walking out from under the house. We all had theories of how this could be… my Dad said a hen must have laid her egg under the house by the chimney and the heat from the fire hatched her out.

She was a beautiful chicken and I claimed her as mine. I used to sneak her into my bedroom. I put her in a box with hay in it and hid her under my bed. She got to claim my bedroom as her own and when she grew up she would fly in the window and perch on my headboard. This annoyed my parents greatly and Sylvester could often be seen flying out the door and over the veranda; my Dad chasing her out with a broom!

As a chick she would sit on my shoulder under my long hair. When she grew up she was too big to fit on my shoulder, so she got to sitting on my foot and would ride along, until I tipped her off.

Other great pets we have had were Venus Di Mila and Tarzan, my daughter Tania, and son Dean’s, pet lambs. These pets loved chocolate biscuits. One morning, when we were still in bed, we heard an unusual sound, click, click, click, coming from the kitchen. I got up to investigate and found Tarzan with his front legs pawing the biscuit drawer! Dean had been out to give him his bottle and had forgotten to shut the gate… and the kitchen door! Dean’s Father was very suspicious as to how Tarzan knew where to find the biscuits!

What kinds of books do you like to read?
I like reading a wide variety of books. Fairy stories, myths and legends from all countries, poetry, books about ancient histories and books about science. At present I am reading Hunt for Point Zero by Nick Cook – it’s about quantum physics and is fascinating!

Do you have a favourite author?
I have many favourite authors. Among them are: JRR Tolkien, the Brothers Grimm, Roald Dahl, Laurence Gardiner, Daniel Blair Stewart, Elizabeth Haich, Morgan Llyweln, Michael Talbot and William Shakespeare.

How do you think up your ideas?

My ideas are an accumulation of thoughts and perceptions from all my life’s experiences including my adventures in the realm of books. Ideas come to me at different times, for instance, when I am sitting quietly, or listening to music, or rowing down a river. A time when my creative thoughts flow freely is early in the morning, just before the break of day.

What is the best thing about being an author?

I think the best thing about an author is that I enjoy writing. It is also great to see my writing being enjoyed by others.

Do you have a favourite colour?
I love green! Like the many shades of green in our New Zealand bush, a hillside paddock of green with white sheep dotted around, the green of the ocean, the green of a great oak tree waking up in spring, the green of pebbles washed by a mountain stream, dancing green eyes and the green of moss clinging to fallen trees in the forgotten wet lands.

Do you have a favourite food?

I love cheese! Cheese on toast, cheese with pasta, thick hunks of cheese on fresh bread, cheese and apple, cheese with pickles, cheese and bacon sandwiches, grated cheese on mashed potatoes, baked cheese sauce on cauliflower and home-made lemon cheese cake. I think cheese is yummy!

Do you have a favourite movie?
I have several. My favourite is The Lord of the Rings (parts one and two). I am eagerly waiting to see part three! Other favourites include Braveheart and Brother Sun and Sister Moon (a movie about St Francis of Assisi).

What is the most fun thing about being an author?
Having people read my work and enjoying it. I also like the freedom of being the captain of my own ship and sailing to uncharted lands with my ideas. Writing is fun and I have learned to let the creative flow come without judging it at all!

How do I make a book?

This is a process

Stage One Creative Process
1. Write a story; let it flow without any judgements (judgements can kill creativity)
2. proof read the story
3. edit the story
4. add to the story and rearrange it if necessary
5. repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 several times, until I am satisfied.

Stage Two Mock-up Book and Illustrations Stage
1. Break the story into pages. Decide which words/idea will go on each page (a mock-up book is made at this stage)
2. decide on which ideas to be illustrated
3. discuss ideas for illustrations with artist.

Stage Three Publishing stage
1. The art work is scanned on to a disc at a shop in town
2. the art work needs to be in this form so that it can be manipulated on a computer
3. the story and the art work then taken to out the publishing room at I AM Products and type-set and laid out page by page, to make the pages attractive
4. the copyright page, title page, cover, acknowledgement pages are written and included at this stage
5. the proof reading/lay-out check is done again.

Stage Four Printing Stage
1. Completed publishing disc is taken to the printers along with an up-to-date mock-up of the book
2. we discuss the materials to be used - paper weight, price, expected completion date
3. the book is loaded on to the printer’s computer
4. we do a final proof reading/and lay-out check
5. the book is loaded on to plates and is printed
6. the book is bound.

Stage Five Distribution
1. Marketing (letting your customers know that the book is available)
2. receiving the orders, processing, and packaging, addressing and posting the books out.

Where do you like to go for your holidays?
I like to go to natural uninhabited places, like rivers, mountains or lakes.
One favourite holiday that I have had was a canoe trip down the Wanganui River. We camped on the banks of the river each night and sat around a campfire, listening to the sounds of the night and telling tall tales.

Another great holiday was spent on the Olympic Peninsula in the state of Washington, in the USA. Five of us hired a car and drove around this beautiful, wild peninsula. We stayed in cabins and motels at night. I remember one night sitting on the porch in the evening and looking at the stars (in northern hemisphere sky), and singing well into the night, with a group of travellers that were also staying there. We had a guitar, drums, percussion instruments, and a mouth organ.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?
For most of the time I was a goody-goody and obeyed the rules and was very polite.

But there was one time when I was very naughty. I was in the fifth form at College. I didn’t like doing Phys Ed, for a myriad of reasons, including that fact that we had to have the correct PE clothes, and if we didn’t have them we got a loud berating from the PE teacher and a lunch time detention to boot. On this day I didn’t have the correct PE gear and so was faced with a balling out from the ferocious teacher who had a voice like a fog-horn. I decided not to go.
As I passed our form room I noticed it was empty, so I went in to bide my time. While I was there I did my English homework and made a good start on my science homework as well. When the bell rang I left quietly and went to the next period. Nobody knew any difference! So next PE day I had a look in our form room and discovered that the room was empty once again. For many weeks I went to our form room instead of PE, which has the two-fold benefit of allowing me to miss out on PE and I got a lot of my homework done at the same time! One day, I had just settled down to my homework when, three girls from my form came into our form room on their way to PE. These particular girls were loud and laughed a lot. ‘What are you doing here Ack?’ they asked. I mumbled something, hoping they would go away, but I had caught their attention. When they discovered I didn’t have permission to be there doing homework they decided to stay and miss Phys Ed too. They carried on laughing and talking, and we were soon discovered and hauled up before the Phys Ed teacher. Our class was in the school hall. The three girls and I were told to line up on the stage and one by one we were asked to relate out reasons for not coming to PE. The PE teacher had a cold glint in her eye as she waited with folded arms. I remember thinking, 'This is really bad, I am in real trouble now…much worse than coming to school without the correct Phys Ed gear!’

This time the teacher didn’t even raise her voice! We were all given the same punishment. For three weeks we were on lunch time detention. And that was that!

Some Questions from Secondary School Students

How did you get started as a writer?
Scholastics (a publisher) heard my stories on tape and saw the transcript I had made of the words that I had spoken. They asked me to re-write the legends with a reading audience in mind, rather than a listening audience. Before this happened I was a storyteller, not a writer.

Who inspired me when I was getting started?
My sister Gay who said ‘You’ve always been a good storyteller, and being a writer is the same thing!’ Gay was my earliest audience.

What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Write and write and write! Send your stories to publishers and if your work is sent back to you, just view it as an experience and don’t get caught up in the emotion – the feelings of ‘I didn’t succeed so I must be a “failure”’. Remember that J R R Rowling was turned down many times before a publisher agreed to publish her book. Publishers are all different and have their own view of what the public want. Send it on to another publisher. Never give up!

Is it difficult to make a living as a writer in New Zealand?

Once you’ve been published, I suggest you recognise the successful formula, and keep writing. One New Zealand author I was talking to said that he lived off the royalties that he collected from his many books.

What were you like as a child?
I was a storyteller. I made up stories for my younger sisters and brothers. I loved to swim in the rivers, ride horses and play in the bush. Where we lived we were quite isolated and seldom had visitors. I was quite shy. We would all run for the bush if we saw strangers approaching. Dad said that ‘the strangers might well have been “frightened” of us if they got a glimpse of our dirty faces and unruly hair!’

Back then, I had an emotional block about writing. My Dad, who liked us to be ‘proper and correct’, had torn up a letter I had carefully written to my mother who was in the hospital. He threw the letter into the fire saying that only nincompoop would write a letter like that. The letter had been designed to cheer my mother up, to make her laugh and to help her get well. I chose to believe what my Dad had said about writing, and after that I was unable to write! Every time that I wrote a sentence I would judge it to see if it was foolish or if it made the grade – and of course it never did. So I would screw it up and start again.

It was only ten years ago, after telling sixteen legends on audio tape and then listening and writing down each word that I had said, and then typing them up as a transcript, that my writer’s block finally disappeared and the words began to flow – I could write again. Now I always advise aspiring writers to write, write, write and never judge what they have written. When you’ve finished I them, there is always plenty of time for them to edit their work.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us about?

This is a story from my childhood; it’s called 'The Wolf Doctor'.

My Grandma was a good storyteller. She told may stories of bad wolves that were always looking for something to eat.
These great wicked wolves had long sharp teeth, with saliva dripping from their tongues, and bright eyes that glowed in the dark. Their ears were sharp and pointed, and their long bushy tails would wickedly wag from side to side as they prowled about the shadows.

There was the story of a wolf that had tried to eat three little pigs…He had huffed and puffed until their house fell down…
One where a wolf had greedily devoured six little goats while their mother was out shopping. (The baby goat had hidden in the grandfather clock and so was saved.)

And there was another wolf that had climbed into Grandma’s bed and waited there for Little Red Riding Hood to arrive.
‘Oh Grandma what big eyes you have.’
‘All the better to see you with my dear. ‘

One dark night Mum took me to the doctor. Our anxious neighbour, who sat in the front seat, kept turning around and asking me 'are you alright?'

I had pains in my puku, and my Mum thought that I might have appendicitis.

Our usual doctor was not on duty that night and I was taken to see another doctor, a stranger. He sat behind a huge dark desk and was wearing big black framed glasses, his face was long and narrow and he had very white teeth! He spoke in a low voice and he wore a black suit. ‘Hullo, and what can I do for you?’ he purred.

We lived at the top of Oropi by the bush and it was very isolated in those days and we did not get to see many people.

This was the first time I had encountered someone wearing glasses! These were a new item to me as nobody in my family wore them.

I instantly distrusted this stranger, who was flashing his white teeth at my mother and me! I tried hiding behind my Mother’s skirt, but this didn’t work and I was firmly lifted up and put on the ‘doctor’s’ table. This ‘doctor’ lifted up my nightie and began staring intently at my puku. As he prodded me with his
fingers, he made low sounds like ‘hmmm’ and ‘ahhh’. His eyes were very serious.

I felt a huge gear gripping me! I was sure he looked just like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, and was only dressed up in ‘doctor’s’ clothes to trick my Mum.

My mother was sitting in a chair and seemed quite unaware and relaxed, while I was trapped on the table with this wolf-stranger who appeared to be getting ready for a grand feast!

‘Oh Grandma what big eyes you have.’
‘All the better to see you with my dear.’
and he certainly was having a good look.

I sprang up and leapt off the table launching into a scream that echoed around the walls of that room and spilled out into the still black night…

‘Mum! He’s a wolf doctor! He’s really a wolf.’

I was shocked to think that she didn’t recognise him! And I headed for the door! As I dashed out I nearly bowled over our anxious neighbour, who was rushing in to assist us.

That was the end of my visit to the ‘doctor’ that night, and I was bundled into the car by my very embarrassed Mother. Mum kept apologising to the doctor for my behaviour! Then that cunning ‘wolf’ told my mother that there was nothing wrong with me that a good smack wouldn’t fix!

You see…he was a nasty wolf as well…if he couldn’t eat me then he hoped my Mum would give me a beating!

My poor Mother, who prided herself on having such well behaved and polite children, never took me to a ‘different’ doctor again!

Updated January 2017.