(Milky Way Bar, Bill Manhire)
My Writing Story
The most important thing I’ve learned about writing is that my writing needs a world where I can learn from heaps of reading and from a few trusted readers. That is the fuel for the part where I open the computer and write. Another really important thing I’ve learned is that writing is like a muscle. You can help it to work better by working at it often, and that process never ends.
I started writing when I was fifty. Before that I was always trying to talk to people about books, until one day a friend invited me to a poetry writing group. That was the start of a new life. After that I did a beginner’s course at Whitireia Polytech in Porirua then an M.A. at The Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington.
My first book Dear Sweet Harry started as the thesis I wrote in the M.A. class, where it won the Adam Prize for Creative Writing in 2008. Later Dear Sweet Harry won the New Zealand Society of Authors Best First Book of Poetry prize in 2011.
I loved the opportunity to study writing in a group during the M.A. course and I found the IIML a really stimulating environment to learn in, so in 2010 I decided to enrol for a PhD at IIML. Again I had wonderful supervision, this time from Bill Manhire and Chris Price, and my thesis from the PhD was published by Auckland University Press in 2015 as Lost and Gone Away. Lost and Gone Away was a non-fiction finalist in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2016.
My most recent book, Peat, was published in July 2019 by Otago University Press. Peat is a collection of essays and poems and glossaries in which I simultaneously examine the construction of the Mackays to Peka Peka Expressway which passes through and over Raumati and the ideas and work of Charles Brasch, a noted New Zealand poet, editor and cultural philanthropist.
The other side of writing for me is helping other writers. I love seeing how people’s writing develops over time, and with some support. I have taught poetry and memoir, supervised and mentored undergraduate and post-graduate writing students and beginning writers not associated with any institution. I have examined creative writing Masters projects, written reader’s reports for publishers, advised writers on manuscript assembly and published research about how the teaching of creative writing works.
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I am a writer, teacher, and researcher. I write poetry, creative non-fiction, essays and memoir and I have a particular interest in writing which crosses genre boundaries. I have taught writing papers in tertiary situations and I teach short courses for community groups. I also offer mentoring and manuscript assessment services for individual writers. I have a background in Education and Evaluation, which means I am interested in how exactly people learn the complex art of writing.