You know him as our charismatic storyteller who entertains our younger readers at Storytime, but he's also a top-notch New Zealand journalist. Baz Macdonald chatted about his talent for storytelling, his favourite kids books and his idea of chicken soup for the soul.
What’s your day job?
Journalist at TVNZ platform renews.co.nz
What has been your favourite journalistic piece to work on?
I made a documentary with VICE in 2018 looking at the mega-wealthy buying up property in New Zealand called 'Hunt for the Bunker People'. It was a fascinating project to work on, and has continued to be talked about since - especially in light of the pandemic this year. You can watch it here if you're interested.
You've created pieces across many mediums (print, video etc), what's your favourite to work with?
I love to write long-form articles, but the truth is there isn't as much interest in reading long pieces of journalism as there once was. So, I work primarily in video these days because it allows me to connect issues with a much wider range of people.
What's your connection to Vic Books?
I started working at Vic Books in 2015, when me and my partner first moved to Wellington from Dunedin. I worked at the store for three years while getting my writing career off the ground as a side-hustle. I loved working in the store, discussing books with people, and most of all starting my Saturday story time in 2016. When I did my post-grad studies in 2017, I became the social media manager for a year. When I entered the journalism industry full-time in 2018, I had the difficult decision of whether to stop doing story time. Ultimately, I realised that I get as much from having story time once a week, as I hope the families do. It is rare to have a community as lovely and supportive as the one we have built around story time at Vic Books, and I love having that as part of my week - it is like chicken soup for the soul.
How did you find your talent for story reading?
I have a performance background, having studied theatre at university. When I moved to Wellington and started priortising writing over performance, I didn't have an outlet for that. Story time has been a really rewarding outlet for my desire to perform.
Do you feel a strong connection to the families who come along to storytime each week?
In the over four years since we started story time, I have had the unbelievable pleasure of getting to know some of the most lovely, empathetic and supportive people in Wellington. It is has been such a privilege to get to watch the kids, many who have been coming for years and started as infants, grow into such amazing young people.
Favourite storybook as a child?
As a kid, I loved the books of Babette Cole - Dr. Dog in particular. Looking at her books now, I didn't realise as a kid just how progressive they are, teaching kids important lessons about equality and staying healthy in fun and engaging ways. My favourite children's books now are from the genius Jon Klassen - both me and the kids are obsessed with the hilarious and witty ways he builds stories.
What makes a good children's book?
It really depends what you want out of it - there are so many different kinds of kids books for different experiences and environments. What I can best speak to is what makes a good kids book for story telling. The best books for this are really beautiful with illustrations that aren't too crowded, not too many sentences per page (usually about two or three), and my preference is that they are written in a rhyming scheme. I also love books that are interactive, whether that be the hands on experience of lifting panels or pulling tabs, or creating opportunities for you to have conversations about ideas the book raises.
What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading Ian Mcdonald's Luna series - a trilogy of books looking at the culture and conflict of a moon colonised by five major corporations. Really great books to escape our difficult world with right now. I really like the narrative structure of George R.R Martin's A song of Fire and Ice series, with the book jumping between characters frequently. However, I am not a big fan of fantasy and adore science fiction, so I am loving reading the Luna series which uses a similar structure, but with a story I am much more interested in.
Which literary character do you most identify?
For a long time, I have performed the short stories of Andy Griffiths from his Just series. I don't know if have too much in common with the cheeky, mischievous Andy of these stories - but I certainly feel a kinship with him because of these performances.
Hardback or Paperback?
Best thing about working from home?
Hanging out with my partner Rosie and dog Honey.
Black or white coffee?
Black - all the way.