Communication has been my life’s work. As an educator, a heritage interpreter, an entomologist and a writer, communication has been the core of what I do.
Along with two new books, I am launching a new educational programme in 2017, Bugs and Books. Bugs and Books combines a live insect programme with a writing workshop in which students take inspiration from insects to create works of fiction.
All queries, contact Robinne Weiss
Backyard Bugwatcher: Identifying and caring for New Zealand arthropods
Publication date: 29 July 2017
The Dragon Slayer’s Son
Publication date: 15 March 2017
Insects in the Classroom: Insect Activities for years 0-6
Publication date: 9 January 2017
Adult non-fiction–teaching resources
A Glint of Exoskeleton
Publication date: 8 April 2016
Juvenile fiction–action and adventure
See a list of my published work here
(click on thumbnail for downloadable full-size image)
Over the course of my career, I have been pleased to call myself an educator, entomologist, heritage interpreter, and an agroforestry extension agent, among other things. Through it all, I have written stories and poetry for my own pleasure. I published my first writing as a child in the 1970s, and used to confound my science teachers with poetry, scribbled at the end of essay questions. Now, after completing several novels, and having a number of short stories and poems published I’m happy to call myself an author.
My first love was the natural world, and it plays a large part in most of my stories. I have been fortunate to be able to explore the outdoors in much of the eastern United States, Canada, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru, and New Zealand. I currently live near Christchurch, New Zealand with my husband, two children, four goats, three chickens and one evil cat.
5 Fun Facts about Robinne
(Download as a PDF)
• I used to teach with a 2.5-metre long Burmese python wrapped around my body.
• I keep a collection of interesting beach rocks on my desk and use them as touchstones for writing.
• My favourite insects are weevils–a family of beetles with long snouts and cute little elbowed antennae. They play dead when they’re frightened, which I find endearing.
• I make most of my own clothing…everything except socks. I’m terrible at knitting socks.
• I once delivered two goat kids in the middle of a dinner party.
How long have you been writing?
I have been writing ever since I learned how to hold a pencil. My first published work was poetry in kids magazines in the 1970s. I also read my poetry on the children’s television programme Christopher’s Magic Cocoon.
What inspires your writing?
In general, my writing is inspired by the natural world. Even my fantasy stories are based in biology and ecology. Specific ideas come from all over–something I overhear on the street, something I see, a writing contest prompt. My husband is a great source of inspiration. He’ll say, “you should write a book about…” I just wish I had the time to write all of the stories he suggests.
Why did you choose to put dragons in modern-day New Zealand for The Dragon Slayer’s Son?
I love to hike in the mountains, and there are so many weird and wonderful plants and animals in New Zealand that, whenever I’m hiking, I can’t help but wonder what else is out there. There is so much wilderness in the Southern Alps, anything could be hiding there. It doesn’t take much imagination to ask, “What if there were dragons in New Zealand?”
Your stories have been set in many places around the world. Have you been to them all?
Most of my stories are set in places I have lived in or visited. I grew up in the eastern United States, and went to university in the Midwest. I lived in Panama–the setting for my novel A Glint of Exoskeleton–for two and a half years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I’ve also been lucky enough to have opportunities to travel in many countries in Central and South America. Then, twelve years ago, I moved with my husband and two toddlers to New Zealand. All that travelling gives me lots of familiar places to set my stories.
What other jobs have you done?
I have spent most of my working life as a heritage interpreter–teaching kids and adults about the natural world and cultural history. I have a master’s degree in Entomology with a minor in agricultural education, and spent some time teaching fun courses on teaching with insects at the Pennsylvania State University. I also spent two years as an agroforestry extension agent in the Peace Corps, stationed in Panama, where I taught soil conservation and improvement techniques. Odd but memorable jobs have included working a food booth at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, where I was known as the Veggie Queen, candling and packing eggs at an egg farm, and being Director of the Meeman Archive of Environmental Journalism at a time when archiving the news meant cutting out articles from the newspapers and gluing them onto cardboard to be stored in a file cabinet.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do?
If I’m not writing, I can usually be found in the garden. I grow most of the family’s food, and am an obsessive-compulsive weeder. When the weather is poor, I like to sew. I dabble in lots of crafts–weaving, knitting (which I’m terrible at, but keep trying anyway), and various paper crafts. I also enjoy hiking and camping, hanging out on the beach, playing the piano…there’s very little I don’t enjoy doing, except sitting still.
Who are your favourite authors?
There are so many authors whose work I love! Ray Bradbury, Isabel Allende, and Barbara Kingsolver are long-time favourites. Recently I’ve enjoyed books by Patrick Rothfuss, N.K. Jemisin, Kristin Cashore, and Marie Brennan. But that short list hardly does justice to all the wonderful authors I’ve enjoyed over the years!
What are you working on next?
I have several projects underway, including the second book in the Dragon Slayer series, a young-adult fantasy novel, and a new middle-grade book set in modern-day Massachusetts, and involving two kids, a pair of unfortunate goldfish, and a witch.