BIOGRAPHY



                         




I was born in March 1949 in Southern New Zealand, the first of four children. My parents valued reading, so I was surrounded by books from an early age. As a child I enjoyed telling stories about actual events, invariably embellishing them. I also wrote fictional fragments in notebooks, blissfully unaware that I was embarking on a writer’s life.

Throughout my teenage years I belonged to three libraries and regularly borrowed an eclectic mix, ranging from the classics through to obscure non-fiction texts. Later, as a young mother, I read at night to my three children, a ritual we all enjoyed. An avid reader myself during these years, I would feel uneasy if there were fewer than three new books on my bedside table.

In my late twenties I enrolled in an undergraduate degree at Massey University, where I took two English papers. My reading list expanded and my ability to critique literary works improved. After completing this degree at the University of Otago, followed by a tertiary teaching qualification, I embarked on a Master of Arts, also at Otago. In my thesis, ‘Telling Our Professional Stories’, I explored the role of reflective storytelling and journalling in professional development contexts, a topic which informed my staff development role at Otago Polytechnic where I worked after teaching for several years at Southland Polytechnic, now known as the Southern Institute of Technology. Working on my MA thesis enabled me to enhance my writing skills and develop the confidence to take the next step towards becoming a writer of fiction.

At the age of 46 I attended an Otago University Summer School in Creative Writing. That same year, a story I had written during the course was accepted for publication in a literary magazine and broadcast on National Radio. Of course rejection slips followed, but so did small successes. I won national and international short story competitions and had work accepted for Penguin, Random House and Reed anthologies. Once I could add ‘author’ to ‘lecturer’ and ‘researcher’, my focus shifted to writing books.

I co-authored Learning through Storytelling in Higher Education, which was published in 2002 by Dunmore Press, NZ, and in 2003 by Kogan Page, UK, and later the same year by RoutledgeFalmer, UK and USA. I also wrote single and co-authored scholarly articles which were published in a range of journals and magazines. However, it wasn’t until 2005 that my first fiction book, Live News and Other Stories, was published by Steele Roberts, NZ. The following year Penguin Books, NZ, offered me a two-book contract for my first novel, Ribbons of Grace, 2007, and a second, Lives We Leave Behind, 2012.

My writing life continues to flourish and evolve. I belong to the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) and was Vice-president of the NZSA National Council from May 2003 to May 2006. I represented the society’s local branch on the Otago University Burns Literary Fellowship Selection Panel during the same period. In 2006 I participated as a fiction writer at the inaugural Leeds Metropolitan University Literary Festival, Leeds, UK. In subsequent years I have been a panelist at the Auckland Writers and Readers and the Christchurch Writers Festivals, NZ, and in 2009 I gave talks in Mandurah as part of the Writers in Library programme in Western Australia.

Due to a chance conversation at one of these festivals, between 2009 and 2012 I studied for a PhD in Creative Writing at the International Institute in Modern letters, Victoria University of Wellington. My thesis comprised of the novel, Lives We Leave Behind, a reflective essay called ‘Connections’ and a thesis entitled ‘Memoirs of First World War Nurses: Making Meaning of Traumatic Experiences’.

To make the most of this PhD opportunity I cut back on my academic responsibilities at Otago Polytechnic where I had worked fulltime for almost twenty years, interspersed with teaching engagements at various universities in the United Kingdom. Shortly afterwards I was awarded a National Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary Teaching, a highlight of my academic career.

I have recently further reduced my academic roles to devote more time to writing. While I continue to teach one academic course a year and to mentor a small group of colleagues in reflective portfolio writing and other scholarly practices, I now have the flexibility, and the energy, to take on new writing projects and accept speaking invitations from book clubs, organisations and institutions. Achieving this balance has been immensely rewarding because a day without writing, reading or storytelling feels to me as though it has not been well lived.

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