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James Norcliffe

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James Norcliffe

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I was born in Greymouth and first went to school there at Kaiata School although that school is now no more. Our family moved to Christchurch when I was quite young and apart from periods when I lived in China (late 1980’s) and Borneo (in Brunei Darussalam in the 1990s I have lived in or near Christchurch ever since. Today with my wife Joan Melvyn, I live at Church Bay, Lyttelton Harbour. Our children, Tom and Elizabeth, have grown up and left home.

While I’ve always been a teacher, I’ve had many years as a writer and editor. I’ve published a collection of short stories The Chinese Interpreter, eight collections of poetry, nine novels for young people most recently the The Assassin of Gleam, The Loblolly Boy and its sequel The Loblolly Boy and the Sorcerer, The Enchanted Flute and Felix and the Red Rats. I’ve had a long involvement withTakahe magazine and also with the Christchurch School for Young Writers. I’ve edited anthologies of poetry and, with Alan Bunn and now with Tessa Duder, the annual ReDraft anthologies of writing by young people. I am poetry editor for the Christchurch Press and I’ve recently retired from Lincoln University’s Foundation Studies department.


I’m a daydreamer and a fantasist. I believe both my stories for young people and my poetry spring primarily from the imagination, from rubbing incongruities together and stretching possibility. As a child I loved fantasy – stories of wonder – and I also loved the intricacies of plot. When I began to write, I wanted to write the kind of stories I would have enjoyed when I was young and playful. And I still love to play: playing with words, playing with situation, I guess I’ve never really grown up.


Beyond reading and writing – and family of course – my great love is gardening and the environment. I have a huge passion for trees if not to the point of hugging them then at least to patting them affectionately on the leaves. I’m also an addict of cryptic crosswords.


Selected bibliography of writing for young people:


  • Under the Rotunda (Hazard Press 1992).

  • Penguin Bay (Hazard Press 1993).

  • The Emerald Encyclopedia (Hazard Press 1994).

  • The Carousel Experiment (Hazard Press 1995).

  • The Assassin of Gleam (Hazard Press 2005).

  • The Loblolly Boy (Longacre Press 2009).

  • The Loblolly Boy and the Sorcerer (Longacre Press / Random House 2011).

  • The Enchanted Flute (Longacre Press / Random House 2012).

  • Felix and the Red Rats (Longacre Press / Random House 2013)

  • The Pirates and the Night Maker (forthcoming Longacre Press / Random House 2015)



  • Packing a Bag for Mars (Clerestory Press) 2012

As editor

  • Re-Draft 2 edited with Alan Bunn (Clerestory Press/ School For Young Writers 2002).

  • Re-Draft 3 edited with Alan Bunn (Clerestory Press/ School For Young Writers 2003).

  • The Fun House Mirror with Alan Bunn & Marissa Johnpillai (Clerestory Press 2003).

  • Re-Draft 4 edited with Alan Bunn (Clerestory Press / School for Young Writers 2004).

  • Cupid on a Friday Night - Re-Draft 5 edited with Alan Bunn (Clerestory Press / School for Young Writers 2005).

  • Tennis with Raw Eggs - Re-Draft 6 edited with Alan Bunn (Clerestory Press / School for Young Writers 2006).

  • The Polar Bear Ward - Re-Draft 7 edited with Tessa Duder (Clerestory Press / School for Young Writers 2007).

  • D.I.Y Graffiti - Re-Draft 8 edited with Tessa Duder (Clerestory Press / School for Young Writers 2008).

  • Fishing for Birds– Re-Draft 9 edited with Tessa Duder (Clerestory Press/ School For Young Writers 2009).

  • The Steepest Street in the World - Re-Draft 10 edited with Tessa Duder (ClerestoryPress/ School For Young Writers 2010).

  • The Temptation of Sunlight – Redraft  11 (with Tessa Duder) (Clerestory Press 2011)

  • Walking a Tightrope in Bare Feet – Redraft 12 (with Tessa Duder) (Clerestory Press 2012)

  • Mad Honey – Redraft 13 (with Tessa Duder) (Clerestory Press 2013)


Anthologised Work for young people

  • I Have Seen the Future ed Bernard Gadd (Longman Paul 1986)

  • Zig Zag ed William Taylor (Penguin 1993)

  • Sun Days and Moon Nights ed Rosemary Barnett (Mallinson Rendell 1994)

  • The Body in the Driveway ed Penny Scown (Ashtons 1995, rep 2003)

  • Falling in Love ed Tessa Duder (Penguin 1995)

  • The First Time ed Charles Montpetit (Hodder Headline  1996)

  • Weird and Wonderful ed Barbara Else (Random House NZ  2003]

  • Claws and Jaws ed Barbara Else (Random House NZ  2004]

  • Down to the Sea ed Tessa Duder (Random House NZ  2004]

  • Like Wallpaper ed Barbara Else (Random House NZ 2005]

  • Mischief and Mayhem ed Barbara Else (Random House 2005)

  • Hideous and Hilarious ed Barbara Else (Random House 2006)

  • Jewels in the Water ed Terry Locke (Leaders Press, 2000)

  • Doors ed Terry Locke (Leaders Press,2000)  

  • When the Moon is Swimming Naked: Australasian Poems for the Chinese

            Youngster. (Cerberus Press, 2014) ed Christopher Kelen and Mark Carthew

  •  A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children Edited by Paula Green& illustrated by Jenny

       Cooper (Random House 2015)



  • NZ Children's Writers' Bursary 1990

  • Aim Children’s Book Awards Honour Award forThe Emerald Encyclopedia 1995.

  • Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Major Children's Writing Bursary 1992.

  • Robert Burns Fellowship at the University of Otago 1999.

  • Christchurch Press Literary Liaisons Honour Award 2003.

  • Residency Award, Island of Residencies Program, Tasmanian Writers’ Centre 2005

  • Creative New Zealand Iowa Fellowship, University of Iowa, USA 2006

  • Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2007 Best Novel winner for The Assassin of Gleam.

  • Visiting Artist at Massey University, Turitea Campus 2008.

  • New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards 2010 Junior Fiction Winner for The Loblolly Boy.

  • Storylines Notable Books 2010 Junior Fiction list for The Loblolly Boy.

  • Esther Glen Award 2010 Shortlist for The Loblolly Boy.

  • Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2010  Shortlist for The Loblolly Boy.

  • USBBY Outstanding International Book List 2011 for The Boy Who Could Fly (The Loblolly Boy).

  • Otago University Teachers’ College Children’s Writer’s Fellowship 2012.

  • Storylines Notable Books 2012 Junior Fiction list for The Loblolly Boy and the Sorcerer.

  • New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards 2012 Junior Fiction list for The Loblolly Boy and the Sorcerer.

  • Sir Julius Vogel Awards 2013 Shortlist for The Enchanted Flute

  • New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards 2014 Junior Fiction list for Felix and the Red Rats

  • Storylines Notable Books 2014 Junior Fiction list for Felix and the Red Rats.

  • Esther Glen Award 2014 Shortlist for Felix and the Red Rats.


My website: http://jamesnorcliffe.com