Getting to Know Pania & Bryony at Huia

What is your day job?

[BW] I am publishing editor at HUIA Publishers. I work on children's books, iwi histories, New Zealand biographies, young adult novels, fiction, graphic novels and academic titles. It’s a huge range, so every day is really varied.

[PTH] I am the publishing manager at HUIA. I work mainly on our education publications. We have a big focus on producing materials in te reo Māori to support Māori language immersion schools.


What is your connection to Vic Books?

[BW] I've got a great fondness for Vic Books. I particularly remember going there when I was a student and Vic Books was in an old house on Mount St. I used to love browsing and getting my new books for the year. I still pop in to the 'new' store and browse the titles.

[PTH] I too studied at Vic. Vic Books had a fantastic range of titles that focused on Māori language and Māori culture and I would often spend any spare dollars I had to purchase titles there. Some of the books I have on my bookshelf that I bought from there years ago, you can't buy any more. They are treasures.


What are you working on at the moment?

[BW] The Survival of Māori as a People by Whatarangi Winiata and Daphne Luke, which brings together four decades of Dr Winiata’s thinking and papers about Māori self-determination. The Pōrangi Boy by Shilo Kino, which is a young adult novel about a boy standing up to protect his community that Shilo worked on in Te Papa Tupu mentoring programme.

[PTH] I'm excited to be working on a children's picture book I've written about kapa haka. It's currently in production and due to be released in February to coincide with Te Matatini 2021, the national kapa haka festival. This one is close to my heart because I'm a self-confessed haka junkie.


How did the idea for Santa's Worst Christmas come about?

[BW & PTH] We wanted to write a Christmas story from a uniquely Aotearoa New Zealand perspective with summer heat, hāngi, steamed pudding, swimming at the beach, jandals and barbecue. We also wanted to create a tale where the kids were the heroes and saved Santa with a bit of Kiwi ingenuity.


What was it like writing Santa's Worst Christmas? Was it a consistently collaborative process?

[BW & PTH] It was a lot of fun! It was a really collaborative process. We planned it out, talked it through and wrote the story as we went. We even came up with the ideas for the illustrations together, and we each put our editors' eyes over it. There were times we had to close the door because we didn't want to disrupt the rest of the office with our raucous laughter. Lots of the ideas we came up with didn't end up in the book, but we had great fun writing it.


What kind of books do you usually work on? Is this your first foray into children's literature? How does it compare to other parts of your job?

[BW] It's definitely my first foray into writing children's literature. But working at HUIA, I've been really fortunate over the years to edit and work on the development of children's picture books and junior fiction and be involved in the process of making the images work with the text to tell the story. I really love the creativity of the whole process.

[PTH] Like Bryony, this is the first children's book for which I've been a co-author, but I've done lots of writing over the years for different publications. My husband Turi and I have raised our kids as Māori language speakers, so storytelling was a requisite skill I had to develop because finding Māori language picture books when they were young was quite hard. That's why I love the work we do at HUIA, because producing works in Māori language is a key part of what we do.


What are some of your favourite parts of working for a book publisher? Especially one like HUIA, with a commitment to Māori and Pacific perspectives?

[BW] It's always exciting and satisfying to work on manuscripts and see them turn into beautiful books. HUIA has a focus on nurturing Māori writers, and it's great to see the number of Māori writers, and body of Māori literature, growing.

[PTH] I love the fact that the work is so varied. In one day I could be reviewing illustrations for a picture book, editing a graphic novel, or working with an iwi to help them shape a story of theirs into a publication for children. HUIA is changing our literary landscape by ensuring Māori voices, stories, realities and aspirations are an integral part of it.


Share some reading recommendations with us!

Mataatua Wharenui: Te Whare i Hoki Mai by Hirini Mead, Layne Harvey, Pouroto Ngaropo and Te Onehou Phillis.

Colonising Myths – Māori Realities, He Rukuruku Whakaaro by Ani Mikaere.

Matariki - Te Whetū Tapu o te Tau by Rangi Matamua.


What are you reading at the moment? What do you like about it?

[BW] I'm reading The Body by Bill Bryson. Next up, it's going to be The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr. I've enjoyed all the fascinating information about how the body works and things we're yet to understand. The stories about people and their discoveries and how they changed lives have also been amazing.

[PTH] I've just finished The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia. Next on my list is Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado Perez. I really enjoyed the pace of the storytelling in The Murmur of Bees. The version I read was a translation of the original work which was written in Spanish. So there was a noticeable difference in the speed at which the story unfolds. It was unexpected and unpredictable and I loved that.


Which literary character do you most identify with? Why?

[BW] I think perhaps Elinor Dashwood. She's quiet and has an inner strength and although there are setbacks, things turn out well for her.

[PTH] Anne of Green Gables. Because she’s passionate, gumptious, funny, smart, and fiesty – everything I want to be! I adore her.


Hardback or paperback?

[Both] Both!


Favourite coffee?

[BW] Tea, definitely, especially Earl Grey.

[PTH] Make that tea for two!