Janet Frame Memorial Lectures

This programme will be broadcast at 6:06 pm on Monday 27 October 2014.

2014 Janet Frame Memorial Lecture

Gavin Bishop with Teddy One-Eye

Gavin Bishop with the childhood toy which inspired his latest book, Teddy One-Eye Photo: Supplied


If you set out to write a story with a message, forget it, it’s a killer.

When creating his award-winning books for children, Gavin Bishop does so without any overriding sense of responsibility to the children or adults who will read them.

You wouldn’t write anything if you did. You’ve got to set out to write something that you feel excited about, that you want to share with other people, you’ve got something you want to say. A real story to tell. But I think that if you set out with a sense of responsibility to improve the world, to produce something of great moment, you’re going to fail.

According to Bishop

You’ve got to set out and think ‘I’m going to write the very best story I’ve ever written, with my very best pictures. And I feel really excited about it.’ And it’s with you all the time. You can’t get rid of it. You dream of it, it’s the first thing you think of when you wake up.

He has no tolerance for literature which seeks to improve its reader:

If you set out to write a story with a message, forget it, it’s a killer. Let the message creep in naturally. It’ll be there. But if you set out to write a book about helping Mum to stop smoking, or trying to get Dad to eat more salads – forget it, it’s boring. Boring before you even start. Forget about it. It’s just a big yawn.

In the 2014 Janet Frame Memorial Lecture, Gavin Bishop explores memories from his own childhood, and talks about the business of writing and drawing for children.

Recorded at the New Zealand Festival’s Writers and Readers Week in March 2014, in association with the New Zealand Society of Authors.

Piano Rock and The House that Jack Built book covers.

Piano Rock and The House that Jack Built by Gavin Bishop Photo: Supplied

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