Interviews
July 12, 2018 posted by Unity Wellington

Emily Writes

Emily Writes

Emily Writes and friends will be at Unity Books, 6-7:30pm Thursday 26th July, launching their new book, Is It Bedtime Yet? (Penguin Random House). Somehow between parenting and writing Emily does find time to read. We agree that Daniel Mallory Ortberg, Clementine Ford and Roxane Gay would make excellent dinner companions.


Emily is a young mother of two small boys. Her first blog post in March 2015 went viral, reaching more than one million people in a few days. Emily has been the parenting columnist for the New Zealand Herald and the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly and has also written for Metro magazine. She is currently editor of The Spinoff Parents. Emily founded and runs a not-for-profit/volunteer-run charity called Ballet is for Everyone, which provides free ballet lessons for children from low-income homes and children with disabilities and high health needs. She is a Plunket and Mother’s Network volunteer and an advocate for children’s and women’s rights. She also runs The Lighthouse events for mothers, and has a popular podcast called Dear Mamas. She lives in Wellington.

Is It Bedtime Yet? Parenting … the Hilarious, the Hair-raising, the Heart-breaking

A collection of writings on being a parent in Aotearoa – from hilarious to heart-breaking.

I’m currently reading Hollie McNish’s book, Nobody Told Me. I had seen her spoken word on Facebook ages ago and I loved it. It just took me forever to actually buy her book. It’s a gorgeous book. Raw and beautiful.

WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE WRITERS AND WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT THEM?

I wish I was Daniel Mallory Ortberg – everything they write from their advice columns to their Toast features (which I miss so much) are just the best. My favourite things they write are their Children’s Stories Made Horrific series that they turned into The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror. They’re just the funniest writer but then they punch you in the gut with something so profound. Reading them feels like such a roller coaster ride – you never know what’s coming next.

I really admire Helen Garner – she writes with such empathy and determination and she covers issues that nobody wants to face. Reading her is such a challenge in such a good way. When she writes about being in court I feel like I’m in court with her and it’s the most gut-wrenching feeling. Joe Cinque’s Consolation has stayed with me for such a long time, I didn’t think she could write anything more powerful, then I read This House of Grief – and that is just burned into my heart forever.

Ashleigh Young is my favourite. I read Can You Tolerate This? all the time. It really speaks to me.

I love Roxane Gay – Difficult Women and An Untamed State are incredible. They’re physically painful to read in terms of the trauma and the violence and it’s so strange to read something so agonising when it’s written in such a stunning way. I just love the way she writes. She makes me cry and rage and yet she makes you feel hopeful when you’ve almost given up.

WHAT BOOKS ARE ON YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE?

I only really have reference books on my bedside table.

I’m halfway through Mind That Child by Dr Simon Rowley. Dr Rowley is a paediatrician working at (I think) Starship Hospital or the neonatal unit. It’s a lovely half-memoir/half-reference book with a lot of heart. I’m enjoying it so far. We need more books that have advice based on like actual science.

I’ve got Māori at Home by Scotty Morrison on my desk. It’s such a great book and it’s so accessible. It’s helping us with our te reo Māori at home. My boys are Māori and they’re way ahead of me so I’m always catching up.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-FILM ADAPTATION?

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Obviously I read that book and watched that movie before kids. I’d be too scared to watch it now – but I thought it was breathtaking. I loved that book so much and I couldn’t figure out how they’d make it a film, it has so little dialogue and who would play Eva? She was one of my most favourite characters. I’d love her then hate her and be furious at her and want to hug her. The film got that all. Tilda Swinton is a goddess. It’s such a shame Lionel Shriver turned into such a massive dickhead.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU RE-READ THE MOST AND WHY?

The Little Yellow Digger by Betty Gilderdale – it was the only story my eldest son ever wanted me to read. I can recite it by heart. My youngest adores being read to and has more of a wide-range of books he likes – but they’re both obsessed with The Little Yellow Digger. We now have The Little Yellow Digger Goes to School, The Little Yellow Digger and the Bones, and The Little Yellow Digger Saves a Whale – but they always want the OG. It’s a pretty darling book really, fun to read. Also recall when my son was three and I asked him “they were stuck down deep and all of them were…” and he said “fucked”. Which also works?

In terms of adult books – I wish I could say something smart but it’s Book Four of the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris because I am just a thirsty wine mum at heart. I can’t remember the name of the book, just that Eric and Sookie bang in the shower.

WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY CHARACTER?

Can I have two? I love Mr and Mrs Castle from Margaret Mahy’s Jam. They’re such a great team. I love how they just support each other’s weirdness.

WHAT BOOK HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN MEANING TO READ BUT STILL HAVEN’T GOTTEN AROUND TO?

The Handmaid’s Tale. I just know it’s going to be bleak so I feel like I need to prepare for it.

WHICH THREE WRITERS WOULD YOU HAVE OVER FOR DINNER?

Roxane Gay, Clementine Ford, Daniel Mallory Ortberg.

WHAT WOULD YOU COOK THEM?

Nothing – I’m a terrible cook so I would make my husband go down to the Indian takeaway down the road, they do really good vege korma.

HOW ARE YOUR BOOKS SHELVED AND ORGANISED AT HOME?

Terribly in bookshelves all over the house.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE LITERARY QUOTE?

“So, just as I’m not sure why I decided that I had to breathe quietly, I am now not sure why I have decided that I don’t have to.” – Ashleigh Young, Can You Tolerate This?

A QUESTION FROM PREVIOUS AUTHOR INTERVIEWEE, ISA PEARL RITCHIE

“What do you do to look after yourself when you are feeling awful about your writing?”

My lovely husband encouraged me to print out the nice emails I get and put them with the nice letters I get. And when I’m feeling like I’m the worst writer in the world I get out the little shoebox they’re in and read them all again.

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