The Mahy Questionnaire: Sandra Morris

You know it, you love it – it’s the Mahy Questionnaire! This month we are featuring award-winning author and illustrator Sandra Morris. Read on to find out her takes on 6 a.m. river walks, dancing with flora and fauna, and crunchy peanut butter dinners. And when you’re done, be sure to check out her stunning new release North & South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres!

Sandra Morris, and a photo of her new release ‘North & South: A Tale of Two Hemispheres’ (Walker Books Australia).

1. Describe yourself in three words

Energetic, enthusiastic, positive.

2. During the height of adolescence, was it good changeover?

Not at all—took me a long time to understand how hard I was on my mother!!

3. Are you haunted by a particular memory?

Too many to admit to!!

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The Haunting by Margaret Mahy (J.M. Dent, 1982)

4. MM: ‘Imagination is the creative use of reality.’ Is this true for you?

Most of my books are NF so based on reality—I wish I could be more imaginative!!

5. Have you ever owned a rattlebang car?

Actually no surprisingly, but I didn’t own a car for many years. Not until I had been working for a good while…

6. Which witch? Identify a favourite one from literature.

Like Ruth Paul, Cruella De Vil was my favourite childhood witch too—so stylish and those gorgeous dalmations!

7. ‘Come dance all around the world. And see all the beauty that surrounds us.’ Words for a romantic or just being mindful?

The world as we know it is a very complex and beautiful place with lots of amazing flora and fauna and we should all be dancing along with it, not destroying it!!

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The Lion in the Meadow by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Jenny Williams (F. Watts, 1989)

8. A lion in the broom cupboard or a lion in the meadow?

Definitely a lion in the meadow!! Much prefer meadows to cupboards as do lions!

9. When have you been at your most discombobulated?

When I had to make a decision on putting an offer on my first and only home!! I was confused and terrified and totally discombobulated—totally out of my depth—but I made it!!

10. What is your most favourite thing to do on a summery Saturday morning?

Go for a really early 6am walk along the river nearby my home to catch all the early birds out foraging and singing.

11. In what way might you be a trickster?

Hmmm, not sure! Perhaps fooling kids up to 10 years that I am clever. After that they see through me so I am a very limited trickster!

The Tricksters by Margaret Mahy (J.M. Dent, 1986)

12. Have you ever been rewarded when looking down the back of the chair?

Oh yes, this was a favourite activity of mine as a child—found lots of coins that I thought would make me rich!!

13. A pirate for a mother or a jester for a father?

Nope—my parents were very sensible straight up people. What you saw was what you got. But I had a favourite uncle who was a definite jester. We all adored him!

14. Would you babysit someone else’s shadow?

Sounds very tricky.

The Boy With Two Shadows by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Jenny Williams (J.M. Dent, 1971)

15. ‘Horrakapotchkin,’ said the cat. ‘I want to write a poem.’ Is that how it works for you?

Gosh, if only it was that easy!

16. What I like for dinner when I am on my own is…

Toast and Pic’s crunchy peanut butter!!

17. If you find yourself nose to nose with a shark, the only thing to do is to…

Apparently you should stay calm and maintain eye contact. If it attacks then punch it in the nose or in the eyes or stick your hand in its gills (these are all sensitive parts) and it will release. That sounds easy!!! Show it you are not a victim!!

The Great White Man-Eating Shark by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Jonathan Allen (J.M. Dent, 1982)

18. MM: ‘If things were fair, all stories would be anonymous…set free from the faults that go with its author’s name.’ Would you set your stories free in the name of anonymity?

No I slave too hard over them to have them anonymous.

19. You’re at a party and someone finds out what you do. What is the question they invariably ask?

Would you take a look at my story?

20. Who do you go to be entertained by linguistic pyrotechnics? Or entertained by sonsense nongs?

Definitely Spike Milligan for songsense nongs!!

21. Which way does your heart lie: between the stars or anchored to the trapeze?

Sounds like if its between the stars I am reaching for great heights. If its anchored to the trapeze it sounds like I swing back and forth too much?? Hmmm, I think I do reach for the stars. But not sure my heart has got there yet.

The Wind Between the Stars by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Brian Froud (J.M. Dent, 1976)

22. Would you rather be followed home by hippos or giraffes?

I do love giraffes—they have such elegant necks and wonderful legs!!

23. Never mind a baby in the bubble. Would you rather – rice bubbles, bubble gum, bubble ‘o’ bill ice cream or Michael Bublé?

Don’t like any of the above sorry!! But I do love “Baby in the Bubble” or “Bubble Trouble” and every time I heard Margaret recite it she changed it a little each time! I was fascinated that she remembered it all well enough to do that so successfully!

Sandra Morris

Sandra Morris is the Whanganui based author and illustrator of award-winning children’s natural history books as well as a botanical artist and a keen nature ‘journaller’. She gained her MFA at Elam School of Fine Arts in 1990 and a post graduate diploma in Plant and Wildlife Illustration from the University of Newcastle in Australia. After many years working in educational publishing and tutoring at Massey School of Design in Albany, Sandra now directs the Sandra Morris Illustration Agency. She is a keen supporter of community education, having taught for many years at Auckland University Continuing Education and currently at Selwyn Community Education in Auckland and Community education Whanganui. Sandra is a member of the Botanical Art Society of NZ and the Botanical Art Society of America.

instagram: @sandramorrisart