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Szymanik, Melinda
Writer's File

Melinda Szymanik

Auckland - Tāmaki Makaurau
Szymanik, Melinda
In brief
Melinda Szymanik is a writer for children and young adults, drawing inspiration from television, magazines, books, world events, history, children, and the complex process of ‘growing-up’. Szymanik wrote her first junior novel Jack the Viking when she was in the NZSA’s mentoring programme from 2005-06. She won Children's Choice with her picture book The Were-Nana at the 2009 NZ Post Children's Book Awards, and Librarians Choice for her novel A Winter's Day in 1939 at the 2014 LIANZAs. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and educational publications such as the New Zealand School Journal. She is available to visit schools as part of the Writers in Schools programme, and can lead Professional Development sessions for teachers on any aspect of creative writing.


Szymanik, Melinda (1963 - ) is an author.

Melinda Szymanik grew up in Auckland. She gained a Master of Science in Zoology at The University of Auckland and then later completed a Diploma in Business Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in English at Massey University and a Diploma in Children's Literature at the University of Canterbury. Szymanik has worked in administrative positions in the business and health sectors, and currently co-directs a communications and marketing business with her husband.

Since 2003, Szymanik has had short stories published in the Australian School Magazine and the New Zealand School Journal. Szymanik’s first published book was Clever Moo (Scholastic NZ, 2006), illustrated by Malcolm Evans.

Her picture book The Were-Nana: Not A Bedtime Story, illustrated by Sarah N. Anderson, was published by Scholastic New Zealand in 2008. Szymanik wrote the junior novel Jack the Viking (Scholastic New Zealand, 2008) when she was in the New Zealand Society of Author’s mentoring programme from 2005-2006. The Were-Nana won the Children's Choice Award in the 2009 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. The work also was listed as a 2009 Storylines Notable Picture Book.

She was shortlisted for the Joy Cowley Award in 2003 and 2006.

Her stories have appeared alongside other popular New Zealand authors in the Pick ‘n’ Mix: assorted Kiwi stories, Volume One (Scholastic, 2010) and Volume Two (Scholastic, 2011).

Melinda Szymanik's picture book, The House That Went to Sea, was published by Duck Creek Press in 2011, and Made With Love, in 2012.

Her novel for young adults, The Half-Life of Ryan Davis, was published by Pear Jam Books in 2011.

Melinda Szymanik was the 2014 University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence.

Her novel A Winter’s Day in 1939 (Scholastic, 2013) was a Junior fiction finalist in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, is a 2014 Storylines Notable Book, and won Librarian's Choice at the 2014 LIANZAs.

Her picture book While You Are Sleeping (Duck Creek Press, 2013) was listed as a 2014 Storylines Notable Book.

Children’s picture book The Song of Kauri (published in Maori as Te Waiata o Kauri) was published in July 2014. The Song of Kauri was listed as a 2015 Storylines Notable Book.

Her latest work, a children’s book titled Fuzzy Doodle (illustrated by Donovan Bixley), was published in April 2016.

Szymanik was a judge for the 2016 New Zealand Children's and Young Adults Book Awards.

Melinda Szymanik lives in Auckland.

Last updated September 2016.


Melinda Szymanik is available to visit schools as part of the Writers in Schools programme, and can lead Professional Development sessions for teachers on any aspect of creative writing.

Writers in Schools information

KAPAI Children’s questions for writers


Where do you live?
In a big old house in Mt Eden, Auckland

What books do you read?
Picture Books, Children’s fiction, YA fiction, Adult fiction and Poetry. I mostly like crime stories, action and fantasy but I read lots of other things as well.

Who is your favourite writer and why?
Jane Austen, Lauren Child and Margaret Mahy because they do extremely clever things with words.

How do you think up your ideas?
Ideas come to me from all over the place when I least expect them: talking to friends, watching tv, at the movies, reading the paper…The list is endless.

What is the best thing about being a writer?
Making a reader happy.

Primary School Students

What sort of pets do you have?
A small white dog called Robbie.

What is your favourite colour?
Today my favourite colours are Black and White and Red.

What is your favourite food- why?
Chocolate, because my taste buds said so.

What is your favourite movie?

What is your favourite game?
Trivial pursuit

How do you make books?
Once I have an idea, and I’ve thought about it awhile and its developed a body and legs I write an outline of how I think the story will go. Then I write the story down which may take up to a year or more to make it the best it can be, then it gets sent to a publisher and if they like it they will transform it into a book. If it’s a picture book the publisher sends my story to an illustrator to draw the pictures to go with the words for each page.

Where do you go for your holidays?
Somewhere warm with a beach.

What was the naughtiest thing you ever did at school?

In primary school I painted a rock that looked just like chocolate crackle a brown colour and put it on the teacher’s plate for morning tea.

Secondary School Students

How did you get started?
I have always written stories but after I had my children I did a creative writing for children paper at Massey University and wrote some short stories for the course which were accepted for publication in 2002 by Learning Mediawho publish the School Journal.

Who inspired you when you were getting started?
Diana Noonan who was an editor at Learning Media when I first sent my stories in said some nice things about my writing which made me feel like I could really be a writer.

What advice would you give an aspiring young writer?
Read a lot of books, keep writing and don’t be afraid.

Is it difficult to make a living writing in New Zealand?
Yes! Most writers have other jobs as well.

What were you like as a teenager? Tell us a story!
I was prone to dressing up and being slightly mad and I liked to dance. I liked school, got on well with my teachers, did well at my exams and had lots of friends. I played hockey in 7th form and was so bad at it I prayed for rain every weekend so my games would be cancelled. Then on the weekends I dressed up like a mod from the 1960’s and hung out with a band who played Beatles songs.