Creative Writing

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Explore short fiction, non-fiction, script-writing and poetry by studying Creative Writing at Whitireia. Diploma, degree and graduate diploma options available.

  • Diploma in Creative Writing [delivered on-campus]

    If you're serious about writing, this programme will help you develop your skills in various kinds of writing, including short fiction, non-fiction, scriptwriting, poetry and writing for children. LEVEL 5

  • Diploma in Creative Writing [delivered online]

    Pursue your passion for writing from home. Extend the range of your skills through writing fiction, poetry, scriptwriting, non-fiction and writing for children. Develop the versatility of the freelance writer. Available part-time or full-time. LEVEL 5

  • Diploma in Creative Writing (Advanced)

    Undertake specialised study and practice in the craft of writing a novel, screenplay, short fiction, poetry or non-fiction work. You will have tutor and mentoring support to produce a first draft manuscript. LEVEL 6

  • Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing

    Experienced writers are supported towards developing a book or manuscript through individual mentoring from well-known professionals. Your work may be script, poetry, fiction or non-fiction. LEVEL 7

  • Bachelor of Applied Arts (Creative Writing)

    If you're serious about writing, this programme will help you develop your skills in various kinds of writing; including short fiction, non-fiction, script-writing and poetry. LEVEL 7

where writing can take you

Graduates from the Whitireia Writing Programme appear in almost every aspect of New Zealand writing life. Graduates have published and produced over 223 books and scripts.​

They are active as performers, events organisers, participants in the Writers in Schools programme, and as organisers of writers' groups. A number of graduates have gone onto MA programmes in Creative Writing.

Graduates include writers as diverse as

Marketable skill

Excellent writing is a very marketable skill, and graduates are employed in a range of writing work including communications, journalism and editing.

More news about current and former students can be found on the news tab and in the Student News column under quick links.

Writing by current and former students can be found online at the 4th Floor Literary Journal.


All tutors are experienced practising writers. Students work with a range of writers who all have their own style and approach. This is a strength of the programme. A number of other practising writers contribute to the programme as guest speakers and mentors.

March 2017

Graduate Season # 1 : Angel Pohio-Domingos

Scriptwriter Angel Pohio-Domingos couldn’t make it to graduation last week—she was in the middle of producing a short film! Read what’s surprised her as she takes her words from page to screen. 

Your short film is now in production! How did that come about?
I applied for the Fresh Shorts funding through the NZ Film Commission and didn’t get it. I decided I’d find another way to do it and that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I’ve changed the script completely and am much happier with it. I’ve learned to be really resourceful with funding. I have family members and friends on board helping me out and they have skills that suit certain areas of production that I don’t have. It’s working well.

What are you learning? Are there surprises?
There have been a tonne of surprises! Like having to change a scene because the budget wouldn’t allow for certain props or because a location wasn’t available. Also realizing what I’ve written doesn’t always look good visually once it goes to storyboard stage. That was a big eye-opener. It’s made me look at my scriptwriting in a different way which I think is a good thing. 

Can you tell me about the script and how you developed the project? 
The script is a short, developed from a full length feature I wrote last year as part of my major project at Whitireia. It’s about a woman who saved children during WW2 from the Warsaw Ghetto. It’s based on a true story. 

I had an opportunity to sit down and chat to a film industry professional and he told me to develop a short film as a calling card to my feature. I had to think about what to take from the main script and how to use it in the short while still telling a complete story. 

What attracts you to scriptwriting, as opposed to other genres?
 I’ve always loved both film and writing and when I write a story, I see it running through my head like a movie. I love scriptwriting because it challenges me to really think about character. Unlike in a book you can’t know what’s in their head, so you have to find ways to convey that visually or carefully through dialogue. I also like having to choose my words carefully because scriptwriting doesn’t allow for long descriptions.

You graduated recently with a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing at Whitireia. What are the key things you learnt on the course?
 1. Write—just get something out of your head and onto paper. It doesn’t matter if you think it’s bad, that’s what rewrites are for. 
 2. Scenes have layers to them, so think about what’s happening around the characters and their environment—sound, lighting and whether it’s night or day. Looking at it from all perspectives will bring a scene to life. 
 3. Get feedback from outside your family and friends. We did a lot of that in class. It was daunting at first but proved to be really constructive. Don’t be too precious with your work but be prepared to defend something if you feel it’s an absolute must. 

What are your plans for future writing?
I’ve started a new script. It’s a Kiwi story so really different to the other project. It stemmed from an exercise we did in class last year and has developed into another full length feature idea. I’m looking forward to getting more time to develop it. There are also a number of other screenplay ideas (for features and shorts) tucked away in a box on top of my filing cabinet that I plan to develop and write. Could take a while.

Graduate and scriptwriter Angel Pohio-Domingos​

Graduate Season # 2 : Erin Donohue

Twenty-one year old Erin Donohue graduated this month with her degree in creative writing. But it’s not the only achievement she’s celebrating. Her first novel (written as her major project on the course) will be published later this year. She talks candidly about the writing process, her new study commitments and how her challenging teenage experiences have shaped her novel.

Your book will be published this year—congratulations! What does that mean for you?
Thank you! Having my book accepted for publication by Escalator Press was incredible and something I’m really proud of. In high school I read The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton which was published when the author was only 18. I thought, ‘I want to do that’. I didn’t quite get there by 18 but I don’t think 21 is too bad.

Can you tell me about the plot for your novel and how you came to write it?
Throughout high school, and even throughout my degree, I struggled with mental illness that disabled my ability to do all the classes and school activities I wanted to do. I took a lot of time off and I had to switch from the on-campus creative writing course to the online one during my first year. By the time I got to second year where we had to write a full manuscript, there was no doubt in my mind it would be about mental illness. I had a lot I wanted to say, but while the story has connections to mine, the more I wrote, the more the story became its own.

What is the most challenging aspect of completing a book length project?
All of it! Starting it can be really hard-- if you don’t start then it can’t go wrong! It’s great when you have the idea, the research, the characters and the plan, but putting pencil to paper or typing the first word can feel quite daunting. And of course endings are such delicate things. I’ve learnt that it can take the simplest thing to make or break the ending of a novel and leaving the reader on the emotion you want them to feel can be a real challenge. When you’re right in the thick of it, it can be hard too. With this novel manuscript I got about eight chapters in and decided it wasn’t working. I rewrote the last five chapters I’d written which put me behind schedule.

What has kept you writing/what do you enjoy about writing?
I’ve always got something I want to say but I need to spend time thinking about how to say it. Writing is the perfect medium for that. Whenever I read a piece of writing I find striking and well-crafted I’m inspired to make readers of my work feel that same thing. There’s so much good writing out there and so much to be inspired by.

What are the key things you’ve learnt about the writing process over the last few years? And what impact does being a student on a writing programme have?
I’ve learnt a fresh set of eyes is invaluable. A writer can get so close to their work that they can’t see what needs fixing. That’s why I loved the creative writing programme so much. Not only did I learn an endless amount about craft and get exposed to some incredible writing but I had readers in my classes who always picked up on things, both big and small, that I never noticed. The degree programme was the absolute best thing I could’ve done to improve my writing.

It seems like lots of significant things are happening for you this year—graduation, book publication and another career opening up with being a student on the publishing course. How do they all fit together?
 In a way they all fit together quite nicely. I’ve finished a degree in creative writing which led into book publication which will be worked on by my classmates on the publishing course. The writing and publishing communities in Wellington, and New Zealand in general, are so tight knit and many writers also work in publishing. It seems like the best way to mix my love of writing and books. It’s going to be a busy year but I’m excited about everything I get to do in 2017.

Do you have writing hopes and dreams for the future?
To keep writing. I want to get the second novel manuscript I wrote published one day. And after working intensely with prose during my degree I’d like to do more work on poetry with the hope of completing the masters programme at the IIML one day.

Graduation day! Erin Donohue (BAppA), Anna Taylor (tutor) and Rodney Strong (Advanced Dip CW). 

Graduate Season # 3 : Linda Bennett

Linda Bennett is a graduate of the novel writing course and a winner of the 2017 NZSA/Hachette mentorship awards. Her novel, 'A Hole in the World', can be described as both ‘women’s fiction’ and ‘climate change fiction’. She reveals more about the story, the writing challenges it poses and how she got to this stage.

Congratulations on your NZSA/Hachette mentorship! What prompted you to apply for it and what does it mean for you to get it?
Winning one of the two mentorships was a terrific boost and encouragement for me as an unpublished writer. Applying for it was a no-brainer—who wouldn’t want to have editorial support going into a second draft of a novel? 
Can you tell us about your novel and the particular challenges for writing it? 
The protagonist is a woman in her mid-twenties and the novel focuses on relationship and family issues, set against the backdrop of NZ in the throes of extreme climate change. It deals with grief, loss, guilt, shame and love—all the usual suspects!  One of the challenges I faced related to it being set decades in the future and deciding what things might look like at that time in terms of society, technology, communications, transport etc. 

What stage is the mentorship at?
I sent the manuscript off to the editor at Hachette early in February and have recently had an email back looking at general structural and narrative issues. I’m now doing the thinking work around that. 

What do you see as the benefits of doing a writing course (I think you’re also a graduate of the IIML’s Master’s programme)?
The greatest benefit of doing a writing course is building relationships and friendships with other writers. You get to spend hours hanging out with people who think that reading and writing are fun and necessary things to do. Yes, I earned an MA through Victoria in 2013—that was another wonderful year spent reading, writing and workshopping fiction projects with other writers. 

What are the key things you learnt on the Whitireia course?
Mandy’s course contributed an enormous amount to my technical writing skills. I also learnt to let go and ‘just write’ in the interests of getting a full first draft out by mid-September. As a procrastinator and a perfectionist, this meant accepting getting the first draft of the story on the page was more important than having it all perfect from the get-go, which is of course an impossibility. 

Are you involved in other writing projects? 
Yes. I have another novel in development and I’ll be working on that in between working on the novel with Hachette. 

What are your hopes for writing in the future? 
I hope to build up a body of work that not only entertains, but also addresses some of the issues of our times. Climate change is a biggie but there are also other issues that are important to me. I’m not a card-carrying activist but I can write, so that’s my way of contributing to the greater good!

Graduate Linda Bennett who won an
NZSA Hachette Mentorship Award

May/June 2016

MAKING POETRY AND MUSIC: an international collaboration

This year Whitireia poetry students will not only create a portfolio of poems, but also have some of their poems set to music—by students at a Wisconsin University.

It’s thanks to a chance conversation between Creative Writing Programme Leader Mary-Jane Duffy and another tutor when they met at the 7th International Conference of Visual and Performing Arts in Athens earlier this year.

‘Mary Ellen Haupert runs a composition course at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. We struck up a conversation and came up with this fantastic way for our classes to collaborate.’

Each of the Whitireia poetry students and Mary-Jane will send a short bio and photo, and indicate two or three poems they’d like to have put to music. Mary Ellen’s students will read the bios and choose the poems they’ll compose for.

‘Our students were up for it,’ says Mary-Jane. ‘Poetry’s meant to have its own internal music and good surprising poems could create a really interesting mix.’

May/June 2016

Taking word choirs around the world

Many Whitireia creative writing students over the last several years will have experienced the playful word activity called a word choir. Participants come up with words or very short phrases around a theme. Then they stand in formation like a choir and are conducted to create a soundscape. 

Participation in art is a big thing at the moment,’ says Mary-Jane Duffy, who has just returned from presenting papers on word choirs at three international conferences. 

ach paper took a slightly different angle. One looked at working with audiences a lá Miranda July, and another used Theodore Zeldon’s ideas about the difficulties of connecting in contemporary societies and then explored how a word choir provides an opportunity to engage with others through language.  The third paper looked at relational ethics—how artworks model ways of living. The word choir demonstrates working together to create something on the spot. It involves cooperation, listening, leading, communication, negotiation and developing group dynamics.’ 

In Barcelona, at the end of my presentation, people were keen to try it out. We did two separate choirs: one on otherness and the other on belonging. Repetition, silence and sound all working together.’

Mary-Jane’s keen to know if similar activities are happening around the world. ‘There was a man from Malaysia at the Istanbul conference. In Malaysia you perform text theatrically—you don’t just stand up and recite a poem. Other conference participants liked the idea as an exercise across creative mediums.

Word choirs are a seemingly simple activity, but presenting these papers has highlighted how potent the idea is,’ she says. 

June, 2016

Feeling like an Oscar contender

Novel writing course graduate, Anne Harré is one of two winners of this year’s Hatchette and NZ Society of Authors’ mentorship programme. She was thrilled just to be among the six shortlisted: ‘I felt like an Oscar contender!’ 

When you found out you were also one of the two winners, what was it like? 

To start with, the reality was terrifying. All of a sudden I was being taken seriously. I freaked out, had a brilliant chat with Mandy [Hager] and she made me realize it was all going to be ok.

The reality is more time in front of a screen, writing, re-writing, re-working. As Mandy said to me, this is the start of a dialogue between you (the writer) and the editor. They want to know you’re open to discussion and you’re not so precious that you won’t listen to them.​

Anne Harre.jpg
Anne Harre (Photo by Jordyn O'Keeffe) 

I believe good editors are trying to get the best out of you and your work. Ultimately, they also want the reader to have the best reading experience possible. You have to trust your editor understands this. In my case, I think she knows the genre, the market and the publishing possibilities of the work.

e worked a bit in the book trade (publishing, editing, retail) and understand it’s an incredibly long process. You don’t get your hand held; you just have to get on with it.

’ve imposed my own deadlines, but that’s to keep myself moving.

What are you hoping will come from it?
Well, obviously publication!! But they have categorically said they cannot guarantee that. At the very least, I will end up with a manuscript in a better state than it was at the beginning of the process.

ou did Mandy's course last year-what were the key things you gained from that?
A completed, full-length, first draft manuscript.

Meeting some great people. Fellow students who were honest, vulnerable, and generous with their critiquing.

Understanding more about the process. Mandy’s teaching was fantastic. She’s a very clear thinker, and very clear in her expectations. I would say to anyone that if they want to learn about process, and actually accomplish something, take Mandy’s course. 

How does the mentorship fit with your hopes for writing in the future?
If things work, in that I get this thing published, the mentorship is potentially an extraordinary springboard. The mere fact Hachette has seen my name is a bonus in my opinion. 

As far as my writing future is concerned, I’d like to keep doing what I’m doing, and if I’m published then that’s fantastic.

at riches and wealth?? Yeah right !! No one makes any money. 

April 2016

The value of abandoned books and re-writing

Wellington writer and finalist in the national book awards, David Coventry, says it took him a long time to figure out how to write, even though he traces his love of words back to his teenage years.

Seen here
 recently talking to Anna Taylor’s mixed genre class he says, ‘As a teenager I loved how two words on the page talked to each other but it wasn’t until I turned 40 that I began to dedicate time to the craft.’ 

​​smaller David Coventry Annas class.jpg

That love of words is evident in his debut novel, praised for its poetic beauty and now a finalist in this year’s national Ockham book awards.

The Invisible Mile centres round the joint Australian and New Zealand team in the 1928 Tour de France. ‘I wanted to write about memory and how memory is affected and functions after something like the First World War. It’s also about the interplay between sport and religion—that really interests me.’

David says it was humbling to have his debut novel as a finalist in the book awards and picked up by Picador in the UK.

But this isn’t his first book. For his MA thesis at Victoria University he wrote a novel and then spent two years afterwards re-writing it. 

‘I’m a prolific writer but I’ve learnt that I have to spend more time editing than writing. I read and re-write passages maybe 30 times. Although I abandoned that first novel to begin writing The Invisible Mile I can’t emphasize how important that first book was. I learned, from within its walls, how to write the next book. It was like writing my own training manual.

‘It’s hard work—I wish it was simple. You have to let go of some of your best prose if it doesn’t fit the story—but that’s good. You’ve got to write to please yourself as a reader, not you as a writer.’

April 2016

Writing students become publishing interns
for a year

It’s early days but already writing students Missy Buchanan and Andy Southall have learnt a lot about the publishing process through their roles as interns with Escalator Press.

Escalator Press is the imprint set up in 2013 to publish work from people with a Whitireia connection. It’s published six books so far–one was in The Listener’s most memorable books of 2013 list, one made the NZ best seller list, one sold to Radio NZ for serialisation, and two have attracted enquiries from film companies.

In their roles as interns Missy and Andy get to shadow the publishing process for this year’s crop—a young adult novel, a memoir and a poetry collection—as well as having specific roles within the Press. 

Andy’s taking over administration and development of the Escalator website and will also be involved in other activities such as promotion of dump bins (those cardboard displays you see as you enter bookshops) and EBook marketing. 

Andy Southall EP intern.jpg

​Intern Andy Southall works on the Escalator Press website. ​

‘Already I can see ways writers contribute to the success of their own book and that’ll help my own writing in the long term,’ he says.

Missy, who comes from a publishing background, says, ‘I’m familiar with the end product—ie a published book—but now I’m getting to see what goes on behind the scenes with promotion.’ Her role involves social media for Escalator Press (Facebook and twitter), liaison person for festivals and publicity and keeping a record of stock and sales.’

Missy Buchanan EP Inern and Adrienne.jpg

​Intern Missy Buchanan and tutor Adrienne Jansen discuss the Facebook page.​
Both Andy and Missy are clear however that their main goal this year is to finish their own novels and their internships have to fit with that. 

Andy says, ‘Considering how much time and effort all the tutors, assessors etc devote to encouraging and supporting their students being an intern is good a way of giving something back.’ 

November 2015

Fellowship takes writer to Norway

Creative writing online student Carolyn Gillum has won a Winston Churchill McNeish Writer's fellowship to travel to Norway next year, where she’ll research and write her novel—a crime story set in Scandinavia. 

‘I’ll be investigating the Alta Dam conflict, which forms the background to the novel's plot,’ she says. ‘This conflict, which reached a climax in 1980, played out between the Norwegian state and the indigenous Sami people. Plans to dam the Alta River in order to build a hydro power plant were fiercely resisted by the Sami, whose villages and reindeer herding lands were to be flooded. 

‘The opportunity to research and write while immersed in the cultural, social and natural world of Norway is fantastic. Hearing first hand about people’s experiences will help me depict the characters and events in my novel with conviction and authenticity.’

Carolyn, who lives on Waiheke Island, was selected from over 60 applicants. This is only the second Winston Churchill McNeish Writer’s Fellowship to be awarded, with a total of 17 Churchill Fellowships awarded this year.

September 2015

Je Suis Heloise: The Research Journey

There are many ways to measure research—15kg of books, 14,500 kilometres travelled, a truckload of annotated notes.

The numbers represent a small insight into Mandy Hager’s time in France as the Menton Fellow last year where she was researching her latest book—this time an adult novel that finds its roots in two 12th century individuals, Abelard and Heloise.

At her presentation at the City Gallery in Wellington recently she said Abelard and Heloise’s story has fascinated writers and readers for centuries.

‘Their fame comes from the letters they wrote to each other. Letters discovered three centuries after their death. They were viewed as a real life Romeo and Juliet—which perhaps puts a gloss on it.’

Mandy’s task was to dig down beneath that. She started by working her way through the 15kg of research books, making notes and marking bits that would make good scenes.

‘I also needed to build up a picture of the times—the politics, everyday events. I visited places of significance to the story, soaking up the atmosphere—the smells, sounds of footsteps in the cloisters….all the things you can’t experience from New Zealand.’

‘Because Heloise loved Ovid’s Heroides I’ve been upskilling myself in classical literature. What she read would have been influencing her and I want to be able to reference that on many levels.’

And of course it’s about being able to tell a story that will captivate readers today. Mandy, who’s been the Waikato University’s writer in residence this year, has been head down with writing during every spare moment. When she spoke last month she had five chapters to go.

To finish her presentation Mandy gave the audience a tantalising sneak preview of Je Suis Heloise, which is told in the first person during the last year of Heloise’s life. As one member of the audience said afterwards:  I want to go out and buy the book right now.

Menton report edited2.jpg
Mandy talks about the places she visited for research. Photo: Reuben Drew

August 2015

John Summers on writing The Mermaid Boy

Anna Taylor (tutor) with John Summers talking to creative writing students.
There’s nothing like hearing an author read from their work and John Summers kept students captivated as he read to them from his book The Mermaid Boy recently.
His visit to second and third year students in Anna Taylor’s class also gave students the chance to hear how an author works with ‘real life’.
‘I started out with fiction writing but found it was always versions of the non-fiction stories I wanted to tell. That’s how I started writing stories in The Mermaid Boy. I like the essay form but writing in that style doesn’t come naturally to me. I wanted to use the techniques of fiction to tell the stories,’ he said.
‘I think one benefit of sticking to real life is that it adds constraint and limits choices, which can be helpful to writing. But also, I think memory works in stories, and so, with time you sometimes find that events or times in your life present themselves as stories.
‘The story the book takes the title from, The Mermaid Boy, started out from my memory of the boy and the awkwardness, but when I laid out all the pieces I saw my own story next to it.’
His book came about when Hue & Cry Press who’d published shorter pieces from him asked if he’d like to do a book. ‘It pushed me to write more. I began working with Lawrence Patchett as an editor. We talked about where the gaps were and I did some more writing to fill them.’
In working out how to shape the manuscript he says he was determined not to place the stories chronologically. ‘Partly because it’s “lumpy”. While there are quite a few childhood stories there are none from teenage years and then there’s some in the recent past.
I laid all the stories out and wrote notes about them—ones that I wanted early on in the book, ones that are about milestones.’

As well as The Mermaid Boy John’s had travel writing published in several places including the Listener, and he co-founded Up Country, an online magazine. ‘I’d written for existing wilderness magazines but they covered more technical stuff and not much on the romance of the outdoors.’

Student Mikoyan Vukula says John and the other two speakers they’ve had this year [Fleur Beale and Anna Smaill] inspired him. ‘What they say actually authenticates what we’re learning in class.’

June 2015

Students learn about marketing e-books

Elizabeth Heritage, a former publishing student who has set up a book consultancy, talked to Creative Writing programme students recently about marketing e-books.

E-books have become an important part of the publishing spectrum but require different skills and knowledge to market them well.

‘The one thing I took away from the morning’s session,’ says Jan Jessep, ‘was the need for exposure—there's no point in being a great writer or writing a great book if no one's heard of you or has no interest in reading your book.’

Hannah Parrott says, ‘As writers, what we write may no longer be suitable to be made into a print book, and may be more successful as an e-book.’ Both Jan and Hannah said it made them aware of the need to be active on social media and blogging platforms if they were going to be able to target their potential audience.

‘It was incredibly useful to be hit with the realities of just how hard it is to get your voice heard and to promote a book. It certainly made me start thinking about using the dreaded social media and how exactly I would think of using it to promote my work,’ says Jan.

Elizabeth has also been developing a marketing strategy for e-books for Escalator Press, the imprint set up by the Creative Writing Programme.

‘We require all Escalator Press authors to have their books available as e-books but we haven’t been good at marketing them, so it’s been important to develop our skills in this area,’ says Adrienne. ‘There are enormous numbers of e-books so you have to find ways to make them stand out.’

Elizabeth spoke to first year students as part of their professional studies module which focusses on the business end of book publishing.

May 2015

High pressure film-making weekend

Forty-eight hours, twenty-four cans of V, six creative students and one film—it was one heck of a weekend for a group of creative writing students and their friends this month.

Student Arielle Crozier says, ‘Oprah asked if anyone in class was interested in doing the 48 Hour Film Festival and after checking out the website I thought it looked like fun.’

Oprah Oyugi is no stranger to film having previously studied it in Auckland. She says, ‘The fun part was the brainstorming session. Random ideas and twenty-four cans of V go well together. The most challenging bit (for me) was staying creative and piecing up something good after only six hours of sleep within sixty hours.’

‘My other classmates had never had any film experience (unless you count watching films of course) except for James who had participated in the competition in college, and Makuei, our main actor who is a third year acting student at Whitireia Performing Arts.’

During the first year of the creative writing programme at Whitireia students such as Oprah and Arielle look at several writing genres however they are only just now beginning their scriptwriting module with Donna Banicevich Gera.

Arielle says, ‘I think considering the time we had and the level of experience, we did pretty well. Another time I would probably think things through a little more carefully like continuity and how ideas translate onto the screen. I've enjoyed thinking about stories more visually and not having to write dialogue. I'd love to give making short films another go, especially with a little more time on our hands.’

And the movie itself? Socker Punch is about a young man who seeks revenge on the office cookie thief. ‘Anything more would be giving it away,’ says Oprah. Watch it instead!

Socker Punch

Aug 2014

Easy Bites From Whitireia Creative Writing Programme


Easy Bites - launched this week -  is the result of a biennial competition run by Whitireia Creative Writing students around Wellington cafes. It’s a book that fits neatly into one hand while your coffee cup is in the other.

Contestants were invited to‘write something to read with coffee’ and the entries poured in. This year’s competition was judged by acclaimed Wellington poet James Brown. He chose Tiger Hat, a story by Rene Le Bas, former Whitireia student, as the winner.

He said about the story: ‘There are a lot of stories and poems about relationships, but to capture the euphoria of a first meeting as well as the shock of a (possible) break up in such a short space is quite an achievement.’

Whitireia Creative Writing Programme manager Mary-Jane Duffy said running the competition and making a book were excellent experiences for emerging writers. ‘In making Easy Bites they have worked with writers and their colleagues from the Whitireia Publishing Programme who have organised the production side of things.’

Copies of Easy Bites are still available for $15 + pp. Email: eatyourwords2014 at

​The winning entry: Tiger Hat by Rene Le Bas
It was the kind of cold that made it okay to talk about the weather. We bonded over our mutual freezingness. Then she wanted to know how we’d met. She had a tiger hat on and spoke with a British accent. ‘We need a backstory,’ she insisted.
I went through a number of places we could’ve met. The farmer’s market, playing Ultimate Frisbee, the zoo… she didn’t like any of them. ‘How about at a cupcake decorating class?’ She laughed at that.
‘And… ACTION!’ A shout from inside made me swing the door open. We went inside, enjoyed the party, and repeated the action nine times, getting to know each other and inventing a more elaborate story of our romance each time. It was a Groundhog Day that I didn’t want to end.
On the walk home, we stayed in character. ‘I think we should break up,’ she said.
March 2014

Collected Stories of the Odd and Marvellous

webeditedcoverCurioseum.jpg The Curioseum is a unique collaboration between the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme and Te Papa Press. Over twenty writers began with an object in the museum’s collections and then took an imaginative leap, resulting in a quirky mix of tales and poems from some of New Zealand’s best, including Whitireia novel writing tutor and 2014 Menton Fellow, Mandy Hager. ​
The anthology of stories for children is edited by creative writing tutor Adrienne Jansen, who has led the Whitireia part of the partnership. The book has had great reviews, which Adrienne says is always a relief when you’re trying out an entirely new concept.

The Curioseum is also available in audio. You can hear Jo Randerson, Barbara Else, Dave Armstrong, Bill Manhire, James Brown, Kyle Mewburn, Frances Samuel and Paora Tibble read their amazing stories and poems and talk about the objects that inspired them. You can also hear Adrienne Jansen and Jo Randerson talk about the book with Kathryn Ryan on Nine-to-Noon on National Radio.

Listen and Watch
National Radio

March, 2014

Dublin Novel Fair Great Experience


Evan Cody, novel writing student in 2013, was one of only 11 writers (from an international pool of over 300) to be invited to the Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair in Dublin early this year. The fair introduces up-and-coming writers to top publishers and literary agents. Selection involves submitting a novel synopsis and the first few chapters.

‘It was very nerve-wracking and scary in the lead-up,’ Evan says, ‘but once I was there it was a great experience.’

Judge Anthony Glavin described the 2014 Novel Fair as, ‘A rich cornucopia of hugely promising premises, plots, characters, insights and outcomes for a dozen novels across all genres, all underpinned by original, engaging, well-executed writing. Not to be missed!’

Irish Writers’ Centre Novel Fair Competition

February, 2014

escalator press women get creative at festival








Before students had even arrived on campus for the beginning of the academic year, tutors were out and about at the Waitangi Day Festival of the Elements in Porirua.

Billed as ‘Escalator Press Women’, Mary-Jane Duffy, Mandy Hager, Adrienne Jansen and Janet Colson shared a great selection of poetry, novels and fresh new work.

But it didn't stop there. They turned the imaginative baton over to the audience, challenging them to come up with a final scene from a ‘mash-up’ of the excerpts. And they did! Genre: western. Vital elements:  pianos on trucks, wet fish and a naked lady. Now there's a story.

Clockwise from top left: Adrienne Jansen, Mary-Jane Duffy, Janet Colson and Mandy Hager.

Escalator Press

November, 2013

Menton Fellowship goes to Mandy Hager

Young-adult fiction writer and Writing a Novel tutor at Whitireia, Mandy Hager, has won the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship.
“This generous residency is every New Zealand writer’s dream, not only for the opportunity to travel to Menton and walk in the footsteps of many of our greatest writers, but also because it provides the gift of time and freedom from usual work commitments,’’ says Mandy. 


Children’s Bookshop owner John McIntyre says this decision "has been fantastic validation of our great Young Adult writers who generally fly under the radar when it comes to public profile."

The fellowship includes $75,000 NZ to cover travel, accommodation and living costs for several months in Menton, France during 2014.

Although most well known for her YA Fiction, Mandy has written across genres and will spend the year researching a novel with a general readership in mind  -  about the life of nun, scholar and writer Héloïse d’Argenteuil, known for her doomed love affair with 12th Century religious philosopher Pierre Abélard.

"To be able to walk through the actual medieval locations, and steep myself in the culture and history surrounding Héloïse’s story, is a priceless gift: one I am sure I will treasure forever," she says.

Richard Cathie, Chair of the Fellowship Trust, said he was pleased to see the 2014 Fellowship awarded to a writer of such compelling young adult fiction: "[Mandy’s novel idea] is a hugely imaginative and exciting concept and Menton will offer every opportunity for her to realise this goal."

During 2014 Renee will tutor the Writing a Novel course at Whitireia.

October, 2013

Travelling in the right direction with scriptwriting

Online scriptwriting tutor, Ness Simons, has just received funding from the New Zealand Film Commission and the Emerging Artist’s Trust in a year that’s seen her make a concerted effort to spend more time writing.

Ness and her team were funded under the NZFC’s Fresh Shorts programme to produce Actually Alex, a short script she wrote and will direct. She hopes it will be the first of many collaborative ventures with Producer Bonnie Low and Co-Producer Jules Lovelock.

“Receiving the Fresh Shorts funding was one of the goals on my list, so it's great to feel like I'm travelling in the right direction,” she says.

That direction has seen her take on many other projects including writing and directing a YouTube music video called Peach Teats by The Polly Johnson Set and attending a feature film workshop where she’s written a new full length script over the past four months. “The isolation of writing is one of the parts I struggle with the most so being in an environment of sharing and critique really helps keep that at bay.

“Now I'm looking forward to the challenge of taking my short film script and working with the team to transfer what started in my head onto the screen,” she says.

You can hear an interview with Ness on the PrideNZ website about film-making from a queer perspective.

September, 2013

New Press launched to celebrate 20 years of creative writing

Escalator Press is a bold new move by Whitireia NZ’s Creative Writing Programme.

Launched this week, the imprint will provide an exciting platform for some of New Zealand’s most gifted writers.  
trial Escalator-C-RGB.png
"A wave of change is sweeping through the publishing industry and Escalator Press gives us an exciting opportunity to be part of the future of publishing," says Creative Writing Programme leader, Mary-Jane Duffy.

The launch of the imprint also marks 20 years of the Creative Writing Programme at Whitireia. During those years the programme has become a major contributor to New Zealand writing, with more than 60 publications from graduates as diverse as Alison Wong, Tusiata Avia and Mandy Hager.

With production and marketing by the Whitireia Publishing Programme – New Zealand’s highly regarded training course for the publishing industry – Escalator Press is built on traditional publishing values while developing its own distinctive model.

The press will publish work by new and established writers associated with Whitireia NZ. Its first book The Score, by Adrienne Jansen, is about a group of inner-city dwellers who set about the unlikely task of repairing a grand piano that’s been dropped from a crane.

Adrienne Jansen’s previous novel was described as "a page-turner with real class, falling squarely between the arthouse and the blockbuster" (Dominion Post). The Score continues her distinctive combination of compelling story, compassionate insight and fine writing.
Well known writer, performance poet and alumni of the Creative Writing Programme, Tusiata Avia, talks about the writing life. 
Former Race Relations Conciliator, Joris de Bres, launches The Score, the first book published by Escalator Press.

August, 2013

Tutor and mentor honoured with Kingi Ihaka Award

Long-time creative writing tutor, Renee, has been awarded one of five Kingi Ihaka Awards for her contribution to literature, theatre, teaching and mentoring in a highly deserved acknowledgement of a lifetime’s work.
web-edited-Renee-Kingi-Ihaka-Award.jpg​(photo courtesy of Creative NZ) “I was thrilled to receive this award and absolutely delighted that it included teaching and mentoring in the citation. They're skills I'm very proud of and which I think should be valued,” she says.
Renee taught on the Creative Writing Programme at Whitireia for many years. She retired from tutoring last year but still mentors individual students. She is a prolific writer across several genres – all of which involve story-telling.

“Stories inspire, teach and entertain us,” she says. “They provide escape, they show what happens when you let one of the big three, Greed, Desire, Revenge, dictate your actions and they show how all of us at some stage or another are overcome by these drivers. It’s how we learn to deal with them that makes the story.”
Renee was present at the first meeting of Maori Arts and Artists in Wairoa in 1986.  “It took a bit of gumption to go – I hadn’t had a lot published and what I had was in magazines and newspapers, all ephemeral sort of stuff – not real writing I thought then. But I lived in Wairoa and I figured that if I didn’t like it I could always hop in the car and come home. I sat in the background and watched and listened and didn’t say a word. Probably a first, I hear you say.”


June, 2013

Dear Vincent book launch

Mandy Hager has kept up her cracking pace having just published her sixth novel in seven years. And again she’s chosen to explore current issues – this time suicide – in a story that’s not afraid to go to the dark places but is ultimately uplifting.
Dear Vincent was launched by Mal Peet, award-winning UK author, who has been running a master class for children and young adult writers at Victoria University, Wellington. He paid tribute to Mandy’s writing and acknowledged the way she puts her characters into emotionally demanding situations, which they then have to find a way out of. “It’s a tough gig being a protagonist in one of Mandy’s novels!” he said.
Dear Vincent was launched on June 20 when the strongest storm since the Wahine lashed the Capital. Mandy said "I’m always overwhelmed by the generosity of John and Ruth McIntyre from The Wellington Children’s Bookshop in holding launches for local writers, and greatly appreciate everyone who turned up on such a terrible stormy night!"

May, 2013 

Poems, prose and scripts online for 20th celebration

The 4th Floor literary online journal started out as a place for Whitireia writers to share their work. This year however as part of the Creative Writing Programme's 20th celebration, the journal is throwing its doors wide open, encouraging all writers – whether they have a connection with the Programme or not – to submit work.
Editor, well known poet and musician Hinemoana Baker, says "A 20th anniversary is a very special occasion.
"We're very grateful to and proud of those wonderful authors who support the journal
from year to year, and we look forward to welcoming some newcomers for this celebration edition.”​
Submissions close on 31 May, and the 2013 edition of 4th Floor will be published in November.

April, 2013



Three out of the five authors shortlisted in the Young Adult section of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards are former students of the Creative Writing Programme. Shortlisted author Mandy Hager is also in the interesting position of competing alongside two of her former students!

Mandy was a student on the programme in 1998, and has now been tutoring on the writing the novel course for several years. The winners from each category will be announced in June.

The shortlisted books are:
The Nature of Ash by Mandy Hager
Reach by Hugh Brown
Snakes and Ladders by Mary-anne Scott.

In what is turning into a bonanza month, Mandy’s novel was also named as a ‘Notable Book’ by the Storylines Literature Trust, as was another book, Iris’s Ukulele, by former student Kathy Taylor.

March, 2013



 Fred Sao and Richard Anderson holding the Creative Writing Programme placard. Photo courtesy of Sandi Sartorelli
Among the 500 Whitireia graduating students in March were several Creative Writing students celebrating creativity, craft and a whole lot of hard work.
Richard Anderson, graduating with an Advanced Diploma in Creative Writing says “I felt I’d really accomplished something I was proud of.”

He’s also celebrating a second accomplishment after being awarded a Whitireia Foundation Scholarship which will enable him to complete a Graduate Diploma in Creative Writing during 2013.
“I had my doubts about whether I would be eligible but thought I'm going to apply for funding in the future, so now's a good time to practise. Plus I thought what the hell! To actually get one is a huge thing and a great confidence boost,” he says.
Fred Sao, who also graduated this year, was featured in Wellington’s daily paper, the DomPost, celebrating his movement from being illiterate to  graduating with a Bachelor of Applied Arts in Creative Writing.
Congratulations to all students!

February, 2013


Fringe festival play by scriptwriting graduates

Scriptwriting graduates Becca Barnes and Alwyn Dale have surfaced in this year’s Wellington Fringe Festival, with a play they say “You'll be particularly interested in if you like mermaids, physical comedy, and of course, puns”.
They have co-written and co-directed Put it in my blowhole, one of experienced theatre critic Uther Dean’s top picks. He describes it as "a pun-y comedy about mermaid sex that is also a really well-made play".
And the plot line? Well, Vee and Hamish didn't expect to fall for each other. But she loves his hairy man legs. And he loves her slippery mermaid fins. They just couldn't help themselves. Now their forbidden union has defied nature and spawned an egg. Banished from the ocean for their sins, Vee and Hamish are cast into the deep end of parenthood.

Is Wellington ready for this unnatural family?



August, 2012


Cafe Poetry - books and winners

A poem about Cuba Street’s bucket fountain, and a coffee receipt stuck on a lapel, has won writer Briar Davies writer first place in the Eat Your Words Wellington café poetry competition for 2012.
Wellington poet Hinemoana Baker judged the competition, and was faced with the daunting task of picking the winners from 360 entries. 

She said of the winning poem, Downpour, that it captures, "with few words and no fuss, that beautiful moment that all Wellingtonians must know so well: you step out through the door of your favourite haunt, and in a heartbeat you're thoroughly drenched!"
WEBeditedevancody.jpg  Writers and assorted poetry lovers crowded into Meow to hear the winners, and admire the book of café poems launched on the night. Dame Kate Harcourt spoke about working in one of the first Wellington cafes, the Monde Marie. Wellington Central MP Grant Robertson was also there to support, encourage and read one of his favourite poems. ​
​Local poet and coordinator of the New Zealand Poetry Society, Laurice Gilbert, says “'Keeping it local' not only epitomises the 'writing what you know' ethos, but also takes poetry to a wider audience than might otherwise be achieved. I hope it long remains a regular element of Wellington on a Plate.” WEBeditedlauricegilbert.jpg

Top left: Evan Cody, 2nd year Creative Writing student and one of the organisers of the competition. Above right: Laurice Gilbert reads her poem from the book.

Read poems by the first three place getters and buy a copy of the Eat Your Words cafe poetry book ($15).

July, 2012 


What price can you put on a poem? On National Poetry Day pedestrians in Cuba Mall, Wellington,  discovered art does in fact pay – and the currency is cookies.

Friday lunchtime in the middle of winter was a winner with over a hundred poems  created by passers-by who spotted the “Cookie for a Poem” stall, staffed by students and a tutor on the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme. All poems were then entered in the Eat Your Words poetry competition.

This unique event fitted perfectly with the aim of National Poetry Day. “National Poetry Day isn’t just for established poets; it’s also for people who simply want to give poetry a go”, said National events organiser and published poet, Siobhan Harvey.
WEBbanner.jpg  WEBwriting-at-table.jpg 
June, 2012


Prolific novel writing tutor, Mandy Hager, has just published her 7th novel, and former novel writing student, Mary-anne Scott, has published her first YA novel, Snakes and Ladders.


Mandy’s novel The Nature of Ash, is a gripping Wellington thriller, with lead character Ashley McCarthy juggling death and subterfuge in a disintegrating society.

Graham Beattie on Beattie’s Book Blog says “It’s not often you would describe a YA novel as a blockbuster but in this case it is totally appropriate….Action-packed, fast paced …. I read it [in] two long sittings. Watch out for it in next year's book awards.”

Mandy’s website contains two thought-provoking pieces on writing about violence ( June 10, 2012 posting) and writing about parent/child relationships (September 15, 2012 posting).
Mary-anne Scott’s book is a gritty and realistic novel based on the life of a New Zealand student called Finn Fletcher. “The book deals with serious, topical issues, but I wanted it to have humour in it too,” says Mary-anne.  “I love the way teenagers, particularly boys, play things down and manage to laugh even when the chips are stacked against them.”
Even though Mary-anne’s book was accepted for publication before she applied to do the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme, she knew she still had a lot to learn about writing.
“It was only once I'd begun the year at Whitireia that I realized just how much I needed to learn and every month, at the end of the weekend in Wellington, I went home feeling exhausted, informed and motivated.”


June, 2012

If there’s a poet lurking inside you, take a trip to your local café and get writing. Send the results to the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme’s  Eat Your Words poetry competition and you could be in to win.

The second Eat Your Words café poetry competition is now open, thanks to a small team of Bachelor of Applied Arts (Creative Writing) students, plus tutor Adrienne Jansen. They’ve canvassed cafes, dreamt up poster designs, and distributed promotional material around the greater Wellington region.

The competition also doubles as a practical assignment for second year students who are undertaking a paper called “Creative Enterprise”.

Student Lucy McCahon, says the paper has plenty of practical application. “A lot of writers become involved in organising literary competitions,” she says. “I’ve learnt a lot already – things like how important it is to keep updating master lists and to keep everyone in the loop.”

This year a small book of poems will be published from the top entries, courtesy of Whitireia Publishing students.

For now though it’s all up to you – get that coffee and get writing!

See for more information

May, 2012



Scriptwriting tutor, Steve Barr, says, “The Freudian concepts of id, ego, and superego can help scriptwriters understand each character's internal conflicts, as well as creating dramatic group dynamics.”

Steve Barr, Scriptwriting tutor 
The scriptwriting class, which meets one day a week, involves students completing a full-length script by the end of the year. Students also get to hear from those involved in the industry. Lisa Chatfield and Sam Burt from the NZ Film Commission spoke to them recently about the Fresh Shorts programme, and Donna Banicevich Gera (Scriptwriting tutor on the first year of the Creative Writing Programme) spoke about writing documentaries.

April, 2012


Former Scriptwriting tutor, the late Graeme Tetley, left a generous gift to current and future writing students on the Whitireia Creative Writing Programme, when he bequeathed his library of over 1,000 books.
The collection covers an extensive range of topics, including many New Zealand books and some quite personal selections, says Mary-Jane Duffy, Creative Writing Programme Coordinator.
Now, thanks to former student Liz Elson, the library is being installed in the Dixon St campus. “It’s a wonderful collection. I’ve had to discipline myself to focus on the job and not sit down for a good read!” she says.
 Liz Elson sets up Graeme Tetley's library

Graeme’s favourite authors include James K. Baxter and American poet and essayist, Adrienne Rich. There are also many books on story, including the stories of religion and Joseph Campbell’s approach to story.

“We’re honoured and grateful to the Tetley family for the gift,” says Mary-Jane.  “It’ll be a great resource for students on the Creative Writing Programme.”


March, 2012

Creative Writers Graduate in Style 


Graduation Day 2012 created a buzz as 700 graduates gathered at Te Rauparaha Arena in Porirua to celebrate successfully completing their studies.

In amongst the throng were 34 Creative Writing students graduating with a mixture of diplomas, advanced diplomas, graduate diplomas and degrees.

Diploma in Creative Writing graduate Amanda Rangi-Nunn says it was a special moment going up on stage in front of friends and family.
Creative Writing Graduates: (L-R) Adele Chapman, Amanda Rangi-Nunn, David Watkins.

“It was great to hear everyone clap and commend the hard work I’d put in throughout the year.  The recognition from everyone at Whitireia, as well as the special guest speakers, made it that much more special,” she says.

At the end guests and graduates were treated to one of 1,600 cupcakes made to mark the graduation, and to celebrate Whitireia being in the number one position for qualification completion (student success).  This top ranking was achieved ahead of 19 other Institutes of Technology or Polytechnics in New Zealand and highlighted in the Performance of Tertiary Education Organisations Report released by the Tertiary Education Commission.

February, 2012

Staff and Students perform at mobile literary festival


Staff and students from Wellington’s three creative writing programme’s shared poetry, prose and script excerpts at the capital’s first ‘mobile literary festival’ event.

tutor, Donna Banicevich Gera   tutor, Mandy Hager 
The Nature of Ash, which is due out from Random House in June. “The scene I read from is where Ashley, the main character, takes his Down Syndrome brother Mikey to view their father at the hospital morgue after he’s been blown up in a terrorist attack.”

Scriptwriting tutor, Donna Banicevich Gera (left) read a monologue from her one woman show, My Name is Ruhi, a play set in a small New Zealand rural community in the early 20th century.

Photos courtesy of the Goethe-Institut New Zealand


February, 2012

Award winning Creative Writing Tutor


Creative Writing Tutor, Anna Taylor, received a writer’s dream when she was awarded one of two Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowships recently. Thanks to the Fellowship she'll be able to hide away from distractions at the Sargeson Centre in central Auckland for five months in the second half of the year.

   Anna tutors on the online short fiction and non-fiction courses on the Creative Writing Programme. “I feel incredibly privileged to be given this opportunity. Time and money are the two major obstacles when it comes to fitting writing into my life.

"This fellowship eases the financial pressure [it comes with a $20,000 grant], as well as providing space and solitude to get words down on paper,” she says.

Anna will spend her time writing the second draft of a collection of three linked novellas.


January, 2012

Becoming a graphic novelist

Some people write. Some people draw. Others bring both together in the genre now called the ‘graphic novel’.

Tim Gibson and Sarah Hunn relished the opportunity to learn more about this creative form when they attended a short course by Graphic Novelist Dylan Horrocks’, run through the Creative Writing Programme over the summer.

character from The Reservoir 

Before attending, Tim had already received support from Creative New Zealand to create an online graphic novel called 'Moth City'.

“The timing of the course was perfect for me. I was able to talk to Dylan about specific challenges I'm facing, and ways to look at and solve problems. And also talk about the general reality of being a professional 'comic books guy'.”

graphic from Sarah Hunn's book   Sarah Hunn, a first year student on the full-time creative writing course this year, says with her new-found knowledge she plans to self-publish at least two 8-page illustrated poetry books. “If I continue to grow in the comic style I may even translate some of my short stories into comics,” she says.

November, 2011

Screen Gems

The work of New Zealand’s most prolific screenplay writer, the late Graeme Tetley, can be seen through the fresh stories of his students in the recently launched book, First Act.

Students at First Act launch 

Screenwriting students (L-R) James Henley, Ness Simons, Gaylene Preston (launching the book), Rebecca Barnes and Alwyn Dale.

Ness Simons, one of the writers featured, says she felt lucky to be part of a book that honours Graeme’s contribution. “It’s also about Whitireia supporting us to go and be writers. I feel the biggest tribute I can give Graeme is to stay dedicated to my story, to keep writing and rewriting, to one day have my film on the screen.”

Copies of First Act are available from the Creative Writing Programme at Whitireia New Zealand for $25.

October, 2011

Fantail’s Quilt

It’s a classic New Zealand story – a fantail, a rat, a morepork and the bush – strikingly illustrated and told in a deceptively simple way. And Fantail’s Quilt is already receiving great reviews from children’s authors and leading booksellers. 
 Fantail's Quilt cover

Gay Hay, the book’s author and also a former teacher,  wrote the story as a student on the online Writing for Children course at Whitireia. 

“When I was teaching I saw that little children wanted to know facts, but most books are too wordy."

 Cover illustration from Margaret Tolland's paintings

"I saw the reaction of children to a photo of a rat taking eggs from a fantail’s nest, and that’s where the idea came from.”  

Gay’s family, and tutor Julia Wall, encouraged her to see the story through. Now, thanks to a collaboration with Porirua-based artist and educator, Margaret Tolland, readers are treated to a detailed look at a favourite native bird and its habitat, complemented by a story that uses the bare minimum of words to build tension and interest.

Fantail’s Quilt is also a Whitireia story – written by a former student, illustrated by a former student (and tutor) and project managed by students on the Whitiriea Publishing Course.

September, 2011

Scripts come to life

Thanks to a great match-up of budding writers with budding actors, students from two programmes now have a greater insight into their craft.

Having a script read aloud is invaluable for any writer, says scriptwriting tutor Donna Banicevich Gera, but it’s especially useful when you’re a student learning about scriptwriting.
Stage and Screen students doing a read-through of Lucy McCahon's script 
 Stage and Screen students doing a read-through of Writing Course student, Lucy McCahon's script.

"A ‘read-through’ means a writer can pick up on lots of detail - things like does the script use too many words, are the characters’ actions congruent with their dialogue, does the character’s motivation come through? This gives students lots of information to help make their scripts even better,” she says.

For Stage and Screen tutor Richard Finn the exercise gave his students great practice in reading plays out loud.  “There’s real skill in that, plus a shared energy that comes from students learning together,” he says. “Besides which you never know when you might be rubbing shoulders with the next Peter Jackson or Fran Walsh!”

August, 2011 

Recognizing The Power of Poetry

Tree of a thousand voices cover 

Anne Powell’s latest book of poetry, Tree of a Thousand Voices, was recently placed runner-up in the 2011 Ashton Wylie Charitable Trust Literature Awards.

The Awards offer one of the country’s largest monetary prizes for literature and are for both budding and published writers whose work embodies the mind, body, spirit genre.

This year they received a remarkable number of written works, with 31 entries in the published book category, and 57 entries in the unpublished manuscript category. 

 This is the first year a book of poetry has been placed.  

“I was delighted that the power of poetry was recognized,” says Anne. “I’m also really grateful for the grounding I was given on the poetry module at Whitireia several years ago. It gave me a focus for what I wanted to do and the fact that other people thought my writing was worthwhile really encouraged me to do more with it - more than just fill up notebooks!”

August, 2011

Celebrating words in all their diversity

Music and poetry combined for a class act at Te Papa recently when current and former Writing Programme students performed an eclectic mix of poems, ably accompanied by tutors from the Whitireia Music Programme.
 Holly Ewens, performer at Word-Up  Fred Sao, Writing Programme student in full flight
 Holly Ewens, former Writing Programme student and performer at Word Up  Fred Sao, Writing Programme student in full flight

“It was a wonderful opportunity to hear stunning work,” said Kaye Jujnovich, Faculty of Arts Dean, after the hour long performance of Word Up: New Generation Writing.

July 2011

Award-winning author began at whitireia 

Seven years ago Lynn Jenner had written very little and was just beginning as a student on the first year of the Whitireia Writing Programme.

Now she is undertaking her PhD in Creative Writing and celebrating the success of her book Dear Sweet Harry which has just won the 2011 NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry. That success builds on her MA year where Dear Sweet Harry (then in manuscript form) won the Adams Foundation Prize for Creative Writing.

“Without Whitireia, in particular year one of the Writing Programme, I wouldn’t have got started. I can remember the first day of the course when we were given a writing exercise and told to ‘write something in this moment’.

“Those words were like a flash of lightning – I knew this was going to be a really different style of teaching than I’d experienced years ago when I did a degree in English. We weren’t going to be talking about writing, we were going to be doing it.

“The course was really inclusive with students coming from lots of different backgrounds. It was great because it felt like it was okay to be a beginner. It was useful to be able to sample writing in different genres and we learned journaling too, which I continue to use all the time.”

In the second year of the Writing Programme Lynn concentrated on  poetry and was connected up with a mentor. More

July 2011

Flexible learning for poets and children's writers

Now is your chance to enrol in the next round of online courses on the Whitireia Writing Programme – in particular Writing for Children and Poetry. The deadline for applications is July 15th, and the term begins on July 18th.

The Poetry module is written by James Brown and is tutored by well known poet Hinemoana Baker. Writing for Children is written by Adrienne Jansen and Joy Cowley, and tutored by experienced children’s writer Julia Wall.

Rachel Sawaya who graduated with a Diploma in Creative Writing (online) this year, says:

“The online Diploma at Whitireia really increased the depth of my writing. Because the course was distance-learning, I could work at my own pace. The tutors were really supportive and I got to know them and the other online students well - it was a brilliant course."

Rachel says it was great being able to communicate with tutors who also have that real ‘industry’ experience. Rachel is now completing her MA in creative writing at Victoria University.

To apply for either of the modules you will also need to send in a sample of your writing, a brief statement about why you want to do the course and your CV.

June 2011


Poetry students on the first year programme at Whitireia discovered a whole new side to short lyrical phrases when they met up with musician and Whitireia Music Tutor, Dan Adams recently.

“I thought song writing was easy, but Dan explained how you use lots of different art forms to create lyrics for a really good song – you need to have hook lines that lure the listener in, and also create ‘bridges’ and an effective chorus,” says Lance Uluilelata.

Lucy McCahon says, "We learnt that lyrics have to work with a whole lot of other things that are happening in the music. Even though it’s different from writing poetry, it fits well with what we’re learning on the poetry module at the moment – looking closely at words, especially syllable counts.”

Each student had to write lyrics for an existing song, and the day ended with Dan singing those lyrics back to the students. 

“Even though the day was brief, it was amazing to learn so much,” says Lance.

June 2011


There is nothing like public recognition when you’re doing the hard work of writing fiction, and several Whitireia Writing students (current and former) got to savour that sweet taste when they were shortlisted for the Pikihuia Awards recently.
Creative Writing students Olivia Giles and Helen Waaka 

Helen Waaka (right) and Olivia Giles (left)  are currently students on the Writing a Novel course at Whitireia.


“Being short-listed in the Pikihuia Awards and having my stories published in Huia’s short story collection has been a dream of mine since I wrote my first story four years ago,” says Helen.

“It felt like the words used in that story had been stored in my head for years, much like water is stored in a dam. Being at Whitireia allows that ‘story water’ as I call it, to flow and find its way out. ”

For Olivia, the encouragement and feedback offered by her writing group, were vital in her entering the competition.

“We writers are very internal creatures.  We need our work to be looked at in a safe way before it goes out. If it wasn’t for the women in my writing group, their encouragement, feedback also the fact they workshopped the piece before I sent it in, this wouldn’t have happened.”

As well as Helen and Olivia, five former students on the Writing Programme were shortlisted - Raschel Miette, KT Harrison, Anahera Gildea, Ann French, and Mark Sweet.

The Award ceremony will be held in August.

May, 2011

New location for Whitireia Writing

The Writing Programme has moved into the Whitireia Wellington City Campus, located at level 1, 107 Cuba St, in the buzzing Cuba Mall.

The programme is now part of the Whitireia NZ Media Training Centre which was launched by the Minister of Tertiary Education, Steven Joyce on May the 12th. It will sit alongside the publishing, journalism and radio training programmes also offered in the building.

As part of the launch, Mary-Jane Duffy, Writing Programme Course Coordinator read out a poem by Tusiata Avia.  Tusiata, a highly acclaimed Samoan/New Zealand performance poet and children’s writer, is a former student from the programme and her poem Ode to life was well received.

Mary-Jane Duffy reads a poem at the launch 



May, 2011


Ness Simons, online scriptwriting tutor, is on a roll with exciting possibilities opening up in several areas. As well as tutoring at Whitireia, Ness is a student at the NZ Film and Television School and recently won their Robin Laing Scholarship. The $2000 prize is awarded by WIFT (Women in Film and Television) in association with the School and aims to support an emerging female film maker who will make a significant contribution to the industry.

"It’s great to have the acknowledgement and support of WIFT. It affirms my decision that this is the industry I want to work in,” says Ness. “I plan to use the money to purchase software essential to the role I want to take in the industry, either that or put it towards the budget for a short film project I plan to shoot in the next twelve months."

Receiving the award follows closely on the heels of being put forward as the American Embassy's New Zealand nominee for the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop. The ten week workshop was established in 1936 and caters to writers working in a range of genres such as poetry, novel and scriptwriting. There is tough competition from around the world with over a hundred applications received for each place on the course and Ness has her fingers crossed she will be chosen to attend the course in August. Whitireia online poetry tutor, Hinemoana Baker, was the successful New Zealand nominee in 2011.

And to cap that off Ness has also ‘won’ the opportunity (as part of the 1st Writers Initiative) to work with highly regarded film producer Philippa Campbell (producer of Via Satellite, and No. 2, plus internationally acclaimed coming of age tale Rain and comedy horror Black Sheep).

"A couple of years ago I decided to pursue writing more seriously and while it has been a pretty big change in terms of career it's exciting to have the opportunities that have come my way as a result of these awards. For me it's a case of getting stuck into the projects I'm working on and continue to develop the craft of writing," she says.

May, 2011


Don’t miss out on your chance to enroll in the Writing Programme’s second semester range of courses.

If you have a passion for writing, want to extend your work, or develop your versatility as a freelance writer, there’s plenty on offer - 

Short Fiction I is an intensive, practical writing course, balancing imagination and craft.  

Short Fiction II is for the fiction writer who wants to be challenged in technical skill and imagination.

Scriptwriting provides an introduction to the craft of visual writing, and the requirements of a screenplay.

The core teaching material for Writing for Children comes from internationally renowned children's author Joy Cowley.

By the end of the Poetry module you will have a portfolio of work and a good understanding of critiquing poetry.

And Non-fiction gives you the chance to learn the skills to write a feature article for a magazine, a proposal for a non-fiction book, write a portion of your memoirs, and write for the web.

Don’t miss out - enrolments can be done online and involve supplying samples of your writing.  They need to be in during June.

April, 2011

Success for Whitireia Children’s Writers

Awards and writing success have been flavour of the month for Whitireia children’s writers. Kathy Taylor won the sought after Tom Fitzgibbon Award for fiction writing aimed at 7-13 year olds. “It’s hugely exciting,” she says, "and it means my novel Iris's Ukulele will be published next year by Scholastic."



“I couldn’t have done it without the Whitireia course. The technical knowledge I gained around structuring a longer work was invaluable, as was the support from tutors, mentors and other students.”

 Kathy Taylor

Two other former students are also celebrating writing achievements this month. Ragne Maxwell was shortlisted for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award and is now using the judges’ comments to work on her manuscript. Ragne says she originally wanted to write for younger children but after sampling different genres on the Writing for Children course, realized it was novels for children she wanted to write. “The course helped me discover where my talents really lay,” she says.

For Hugh Brown, who won the inaugural Tessa Duder Award for a Young Adults manuscript from a previously unpublished writer, the mentoring support he received from Mandy Hagar on the Whitireia Writing a Novel course was invaluable. Now he’s looking forward to having his book, Tales from the Quadmire, published.  “Winning the award is a great affirmation of being a writer” he says “and the guarantee of publication of my book is a huge boost to continue

April, 2011



At the ‘best ever’ Whitireia graduation last week, 38 creative writing students received diplomas and degrees, celebrating their success on a brilliantly sunny day in Porirua. 

For Allison Wakelin, who graduated with a Bachelor in Applied Arts (Creative Writing), the next step is the United States.



 Graduation Parade

She's pursuing her writing dreams at the University of Alabama, where she'll be doing a BA in Broadcast Journalism with a minor in radio and television.

 Olivia Giles (Graduand) and her brother Hone McGregor

Olivia Giles with her brother Hone McGregor

 For Olivia Giles, who graduated with a Diploma in Creative Writing (Advanced), it’s come at the same time as writing success in another area. She’s just been awarded a place in Huia Publisher’s mentoring scheme, giving her the opportunity to work on the draft of her novel and get it to publishable standard.  Olivia is also completing the third year of a Bachelor of Applied Arts (Creative Writing).
 March 18, 2011


 Graeme Tetley

Staff and students on the Writing Programme were saddened to hear of the recent death of Graeme Tetley, Lecturer in Scriptwriting at Whitireia.

Graeme was one of New Zealand's leading scriptwriters, with credits including Out of the Blue, Bread and Roses, Ruby and Rata, Vigil and the 2008 telemovie After-Shock.

Graeme taught a short course in the early years of the Whitireia Writing Programme and returned in 2008 to teach a full year's course on feature film writing for 2nd and 3rd year degree students.

“We always felt privileged to have Graeme contributing to our courses,” says Programme Manager, Pip Byrne. “He had a gift for teaching and would impart wonderful insights on the craft of writing.”

Students remember those abilities well:

Mike Benson says, “It hits us all hard that he's gone. Two years was not long enough, but I'm grateful for the time I had with him. He gave so much and has been such an important support for me, and my work, which I now have no excuse not to finish!”

Mar 11, 2011


Aspiring novelists, poets, screenwriters, children’s authors and short story writers have enrolled in high numbers on the Creative Writing Programme for 2011.

Seventy seven students are enrolled across the programme’s full and part-time classes, offered both in the classroom and online.

As that new “batch” of students settle in, five students who graduated last year are gearing up to do their Masters in Creative Writing at Victoria University, and they have no doubts about the benefits of their time at Whitireia. 

Journalist Kate Simpkins says stumbling across Mandy Hager, lecturer in Writing the Novel at Whitireia, was “like hitting creative writing workshop gold”.

“Mandy Hager is a terrific teacher: she understands the craft of fiction writing very well and is incredibly generous with her knowledge. I’d been prevaricating about working on my novel and the course meant it was an infinitely better story at the end than it had been at the beginning.”

Another former Whitireia student who is about to begin her Masters at Victoria, Natasha Dennerstein, says “Whitireia is a terrific course. In the first year you get the chance to explore different genres.  Each one teaches you about different aspects of writing – for example scriptwriting helps with dialogue. The other thing I loved about the course was the diversity of the people on it – diverse in terms of ethnicity and life experience.”

Creative Writing Programme Course Coordinator, Mary-Jane Duffy, says flexibility is another key component of the programme. “Students can begin part-time and see how they find the study and time commitment. Some continue part-time and others change to full-time. With online options, people can study from home and this year one person is even studying from Kenya.

“Our enrolment numbers tell us that would-be writers understand the value of studying the craft of writing at Whitireia. Tutors offer students practical ways to hone their skill with words, stretch their imagination, and understand the business of writing. Put that together with a supportive writing environment and you’ve got a great mix,” she says.

Jan/Feb 2011

Sam Hunt loves Creative Writing @ Whitireia

It’s not every day you get a well known poet singing your praises, but that’s what happened late last year when Sam Hunt was having a yarn on KiwiFM.

Former Whitireia Creative Writing student, Lynn Jenner, had sent Sam her book of poems, and In the middle of talking about the poems and Lynn’s time on the Creative Writing Programme, Sam handed out his accolade telling listeners “Whitireia in Porirua has great vitality and does great stuff”.

And rumour has it that Sam’s on a bit of a Whitireia Writing roll. When he performed at Wellington’s Summer City in the Botanical Gardens a couple of weeks ago, he told the crowd he doesn’t generally like writing courses, but the Creative Writing Programme at Whitireia has something unique. Cheers for that Sam – we think so too!

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