Friday, 20 June 2014

An interview with the super-author and super-illustrator of Super Saffron, Victoria M. Azaro

One of the good bits about being a writer is all the talented creative book people that you get to meet. Writers, illustrator, book designers and producers: New Zealand has lots of them, even though we’re only small.
Victoria M. Azaro is one of these, and I consider her super-talented even by talented people’s standards. And the good news is she’s just produced a new book.
Super Saffron hit the shelves a couple of months ago and is a compilation of Victoria’s previous three Saffron books  Saffron (Mallinson Rendell, 2009), Saffron: I have everything under control (Mallinson Rendell, 2010), Saffron: So quite excellent (Penguin, 2012) – but with loads of added extras.

For those of you who don’t yet know Saffron, she’s phenomenal. She’s spunky, funny and ‘so quite excellent’ at getting herself, and little sisters Sage and Star Anise, into tricky situations (while Dad talks on his cell phone, and Mum practises yoga poses and dispenses calming essential oils).

Victoria is from Argentina, and worked as an international fashion designer and artist before she turned to writing and illustrating books, about 10 years ago. As a result, her stories are crammed full of overseas adventures, and gorgeous illustrations (with lots of fabulous frocks).

Victoria says, “I would like to think that my writing is FUN, and that it exposes children in New Zealand to a wide range of cultures and ways of thinking.”

I can vouch for the fact that her writing has fun, as all three of my older boys have loved the original Saffron books, and we have reread them many times as bedtime favourites. So we’re all super-pleased that Super Saffron is now out (complete with 22 extra pages of fun activities), and that Victoria is working on a series about Saffron’s little sister Sage, to be launched later this year.

Victoria kindly agreed to answer some questions about her writing; her answers are below. But if you’d like to find out more about her work, what Saffron’s been up to lately, or how to buy her books, go to: and

Victoria’s websites are as gorgeous as her books: one look and you’ll be hooked.   


Me:  When did you start making books and why?
Victoria: I started writing and illustrating (both at the same time) 10 years ago when my first son was one. It took me by surprise because I found it exciting, fun and a break from the adult world. It wasn't until my second son was born, three years later, that I decided to quit my job as an Art Lecturer and concentrate my time in a serious career in the publishing world.     

Me: How would you describe your work?

Victoria: I would like to think that it is FUN and exposes children in New Zealand to a wide range of cultures and ways of thinking. My favourite part is character development and that includes searching for my character's voice and also drawing it, I love the drawing part!

Me: Tell us about Super Saffron: how did the book come about?

Victoria: Super Saffron is a compilation of the three books in the Saffron series, but it also has an extra 20 pages of new materials. After my many visits to schools and bookshops I wanted to add some non-fiction aspect to the stories and I was able to do this in Super Saffron. This includes maps, a Spanish glossary, book club notes, a cake recipe from Mexico and some general knowledge games that focus on food, dress and customs.

Me: What’s next on your project list?

Victoria: Sage – Saffron's little sister – will have her own book, which will be released in September or October this year. It’s aimed at 6 to 8 year olds.

Me: And where can we get your books? 

Victoria: Super Saffron was launched in April 2014 and is available in all bookshops and online stores. For more info about my books or me, please visit my sites: or I’ll also be the June Star Author for Christchurch Libraries, so I will be blogging every week there.

Thank you Victoria (and Saffron and Sage) – we think you’re super!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Thank you Puketaha for the cheese

A big thank you to all the wonderful kids at Puketaha School who made my author visit such fun this week. I really enjoyed our time together, talking about the ins and outs of writing and book production.

And a specially big thank you to the clever young man who said, "A story is like cheese: the longer you leave it the sharper the flavour".

Isn't that fabulous! A reminder that all work benefits from being given time to rest and mature.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Hip Hop down to the granny beat

Talented Judi Billcliff is launching her second book of 'fun poems for kids young and old' his coming Sunday 8 June at 1pm at St Columba's School in Frankton, Hamilton.

Judi's poems are a treat for poetry lovers everywhere. Fun, funky and off the wall: if you're lucky enough to see them performed by Judi (which I assume we will this weekend), they're pocket-sized drama treats.

Judi is a drama teacher by trade and was a runner up in the 2013 National Poetry Competition. Granny Goes to Hip Hop is her second book, and like Judi herself, promises to be full of high-energy entertainment.

I interviewed Judi recently as part of the Between the Lines exhibition (she was one of the exhibitors). You can read the full interview to find out more about her inspirations and work, or visit the Rainbow Poetry website (and Judi's blog) for more about the launch and what else she's up to. See you there.