Mansfield residency early Christmas present for Academic

Award-winning University of Auckland novelist, essayist and academic Paula Morris (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Whātua) will follow in the footsteps of New Zealand’s most acclaimed literary names as the 2018 Katherine Mansfield Fellow.

Dr Morris will spend at least four months in the first semester of 2019 in Menton, South of France where she will have access to the writing room below Villa Isola Bella, where Mansfield created some of her most important work.

An associate professor in the Faculty of Arts, Dr Morris teaches creative writing at undergraduate level and is the convenor of the Master of Creative Writing one-year programme. She is a devoted “Mansfield fan” and always recommends her stories to her writing students.

“She’s a writer who's made a big impact on me since I first read her stories at Rutherford High School (West Auckland),” she says. “One of my most recent short stories, Isn't It, is a response to The Garden Party set in contemporary Mt Wellington.” This story appears in her most recent collection False River (Penguin, 2017).

Dr Morris has a number of projects planned for her time in Menton, many of which she’s been trying to find “the space and courage to tackle for some years”.

“I want to write some journal articles based on my work for the Creative Research Initiative; a play set in France in 1925 drawing on the true story of the writer Jean Rhys working as a 'ghost' for Rudolph Valentino's mother-in-law; and research towards a major non-fiction project I'm starting, about islands, ports and exiles.”

Aside from her lecturing, a large proportion of her work is devoted to literature-sector initiatives and trusts, particularly the Academy of New Zealand Literature, which she founded with Vice-Chancellor’s Strategic Development Fund support two and a half years ago.

“We've achieved a lot in that time, including a content-rich website that's a platform for contemporary New Zealand literature, and a number of e-books that go to festival directors, media and publishers overseas, resulting in numerous international invitations and connections for Kiwi writers. But now I need a break to focus on my own work.”

Editor’s notes Dr Morris serves as a trustee on many boards including the Māori Literature Trust and Ockham NZ Book Awards Trust.

She writes fiction for adults and supernatural mysteries for younger readers. Her short stories are widely published in journals, magazines and anthologies, and a number have been adapted for radio in both New Zealand and the US.

A frequent book reviewer, interviewer and festival chair, she holds a D.Phil from the University of York and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

She has been awarded numerous residencies and fellowships, including Bellagio (the Rockefeller Foundation) in Italy, Brecht’s House in Denmark, Passa Porta in Belgium, and the International Writers and Translators’ House in Ventspils, Latvia.

The Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship has been available to selected New Zealand writers since 1970. Its Fellows have included such distinguished names as Janet Frame and former University of Auckland Professor Witi Ihimaera and Emeritus Professor C.K. Stead.