‘Reading is breathing in; writing is breathing out’

This month, we have a guest post from Charlotte Gibbs, the editor of Toitoi: A Journal for Young Writers and Artists, a wonderful journal that encourages young people to become lifelong readers and engage with the arts.

Reading a story is one of the most exciting things you can do. It requires a great deal of curiosity and a little bit of courage. As you open a book and turn the first page, you have to take a breath, open your heart and be willing to listen.

The reader and writer communicate through the page. Something magical happens when a reader steps into a writer’s universe. The commingling of ideas, emotions and imaginations means that each and every reading adventure is a unique opportunity to explore what we have in common and what makes us special.

This is something I see in practice every day as editor of Toitoi: A Journal for Young Writers and Artists. Toitoi celebrates the creative spirit of young New Zealanders, ages 5–13. Four times a year, young Kiwi creatives are invited to submit work for publication—writing and art that has an original and authentic voice and that reflects the cultures and experiences of life in New Zealand.

When young people first pick up a Toitoi, they flick through it and peer closely at the pictures. There are always gasps and whoops as our readers study the incredible artwork. They immediately check the credit to see how old the artist is. The art pulls them into the writing – stories, poems, cartoons, plays, songs, and so much more. Each journal is chock-full of creativity. And because Toitoi is for young people and by young people, young readers see themselves on the page and are inspired to become published writers and artists themselves. As American literacy expert, Pam Allyn, says, ‘Reading is breathing in; writing is breathing out’.

For each Toitoi deadline, we receive between 1000 and 1500 extraordinary submissions: creative work that is kind, hilarious, crazy and sad. It is imaginative, empathetic and deep-thinking. It wrestles with complication and tells it like it is. Since our launch in 2015, we have published 17 journals featuring more than 1300 young New Zealand writers and artists. Late last year, we published the Jillion – a beautiful hardback collection of some of the most amazing writing and art from Toitoi Issues 1–12.

Once we have selected the writing we would like to publish in a journal, we pore over the art submissions we have received and match a young artist with a piece of writing. Then, we commission that artist to illustrate a story or poem. This is a vital part of our process. We value writing and art equally and believe that storytelling is infinitely richer when a writer and an artist engage with each other on the page.

When a young person’s work is published in Toitoi, they are given two copies of the journal to enjoy with their family and their school receives two copies for its library. Their achievement inspires their peers to be curious and courageous in turn and we always receive a flood of submissions afterward. There is a kind of mysterious alchemy created by this meeting of writer, artist and reader. It’s magic.





September competition

Toitoi–Gecko Press competition for young writers and artists

Writers and readers go together: not only do writers need readers, they need to be readers!

This month, Gecko Press is running a competition with our friends at Toitoi: A Journal for Young Writers and Artists.

What to do

Create a piece of writing or art inspired by a favourite Gecko Press book or character. All entries go in the draw to win a copy of new release Cornelia and the Jungle Machine
a book that celebrates adventure and imagination (or the adventure of imagination).

Deadline Friday 6 October

All submissions will be considered for the 19th issue of Toitoi – any early birds (received by 27 September) will be considered for Toitoi 18.

You can email your entries to us at office@geckopress.com with ‘September competition’ in the subject line.