Following the Looping Line 2006 – Margaret Mahy

Following the looping line: a one-day symposium exploring the literary legacy of Margaret Mahy

Sunday 2 July 2006 at Our City O-Tautahi

" ... the looping line the pen made was a world line, like the one left behind by the tide … lines left on beaches and pages everywhere must wind up by going all around the world if one could only follow them."
(from The Tricksters)

In 2006 Margaret Mahy celebrated her 70th birthday and was the recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for Writing, awarded by the Jury of the International Board on Books for Young People to "one of the world’s most original re-inventers of language".

Margaret Mahy’s works are known to children and young adults all over the world. On Sunday 2nd July 2006 Christchurch City Libraries presented a one-day symposium celebrating her life and work in this very important year.

A lively programme of panel discussions, conversations and reader responses deepened understanding and extend discussion of the work of a national treasure. Featuring some of New Zealand’s leading writers for children and most notable commentators on children’s literature, this challenging, celebratory and entertaining programme provided considered information for teachers, librarians, students and readers.

Tessa Duder as keynote speaker opened the Symposium with a stirring talk highlighting the significance of Margaret winning the Hans Christian Andersen Medal for writing. She was followed by a panel discussion featuring academics Anna Smith (University of Canterbury), Claudia Marquis (University of Auckland) and John McKenzie (Christchurch College of Education).

Writers Joanna Orwin, Gavin Bishop and David Hill took part in a conversation looking at Margaret’s influence on other writers, including them, while Kate de Goldi and Margaret conversed one to one. Books by the authors present at the Symposium were available from the Children’s Bookshop who had a sales table running all day.

Interspersed were a number of ‘reader responses’ where individuals spoke about how Margaret’s books had touched their lives.

A literary ‘this is your life’ power point gave a brief overview of many of Margaret’s best known books, including the 1962 School Journal devoted entirely to stories by Margaret.

Two presentations to Margaret concluded the Symposium, a lifetime membership of the Society of Authors presented by society president Coral Atkinson; and a book of tributes that was ‘launched’ at Margaret’s Birthday Gala in Auckland in March and completed in time for a second handover by the chair of Storylines, Rosemary Tisdall — a fitting closure to the ‘looping line’.

The Symposium was a hugely successful event. The following comments were received:

I just wanted to congratulate you all on the wonderfully organised, smooth running and very enjoyable symposium yesterday. The speakers were all very good and the Reader Response sessions, including readers both young and old, were an inspired and particularly enjoyable part of proceedings. Well done and thanks to all of you.
The event yesterday was … superb … and you and your staff can be thoroughly proud of the professionalism in the way the whole event was managed.

Just to say Thanks and Congratulations — yes, with capitals — for a most splendid time yesterday. You’d organised things superbly, and it went very, VERY well. Feel proud of yourselves.

Photographs from the symposium


Read the papers from the Symposium:


9.00 - 9.30 Registration and coffee
9.30 - 9.35 Welcome
9.35 - 10.35 Keynote address by Tessa Duder
10.35 - 10.45 The author and the audience
Reader response
10.45 - 11.15 Morning tea
11.15 - 11.25 The author and the audience
Reader response
11.25 - 12.15 Lines and legacies
Panel discussion: The literary legacy of Margaret Mahy; Claudia Marquis (University of Auckland), Anna Smith (Canterbury University), John McKenzie (Christchurch College of Education), chair Bill Nagelkerke (Children and Young Adult Co-ordinator, Christchurch City Libraries)
12.25 - 1.30 Lunch
1.30 - 2.30 Lines of inspiration
Conversation: Margaret Mahy’s influence on other writers; David Hill, Joanna Orwin, chair Gavin Bishop
2.30 - 2.40 The author and the audience
Reader response
2.40 - 3.15 Life lines: Kate de Goldi in conversation with Margaret Mahy
3.15 - 3.30 Margaret Mahy: a tribute
3.30 Thank you and close
Drinks and refreshments


Christchurch City Libraries acknowledges the support of Creative New Zealand and Harper Collins New Zealand in holding the Margaret Mahy symposium.

Back to Top