July 25, 2013


The Michael King Writers’ Centre is calling for applications for its fifth residential workshop, which is on the subject of writing about the arts.  The workshop will be a high-level, symposium-style seminar featuring leading writers and thinkers, all of whom are experts in their fields. It will be open to 24 participants, providing the opportunity for interactive presentations and discussions.

The workshop will be held over Labour weekend, Saturday 26 to Monday 28 October 2013, at the residential  retreat Vaughan Park in Auckland’s Long Bay.

The workshop will explore multiple facets of writing for and about the arts, particularly writing about literature, performing and the visual arts. Topics will include:

  • reviewing
  • writing catalogues, programmes or explanatory information
  • writing long-form projects such as books or essays about artists or their work
  • researching and interviewing to best effect
  • the needs of different media, including print, broadcasting and new media
  • what’s happening in the media and publishing

The programme is aimed at mid-career writers who have demonstrated some achievement but who wish to expand their horizons and develop their skills through exposure to a range of excellent speakers. There will be a mix of keynote addresses, panel discussions and small group sessions, with an emphasis on interaction and debate between participants and speakers.

There are few opportunities in New Zealand to engage in higher-educational opportunities on aspects of writing about the arts. 


Writing the Arts – Application form (pdf)

Writing the Arts – Application form (.docx)

Writing the Arts – flyer (.docx)

Writing the Arts – media release (.docx)

The residential seminars are one of the highlights of the annual programme offered by the Michael King Writers Centre, proving to be popular and highly-regarded.  In previous years, both speakers and participants alike have revelled in the intellectual and social stimulation of the workshop while enjoying the beautiful coastal environment of Long Bay, Auckland. The venue, Vaughan Park, allows for about 24 participants to stay on site in quality accommodation with meals provided.

Previous workshops have focused on history, biography, memoir, science and writing the Maori world.

The residential workshop programme is available thanks to the support of the ASB Community Trust.


 Dr Peter Simpson, Convenor

The workshop is being convened by Dr Peter Simpson, who is the author of six non-fiction books, including Fantastica:The World of Leo Bensemann  (Auckland University Press, 2011); Patron and Painter: Charles Brasch  (Hocken Collections, 2010); Colin McCahon: The Titirangi Years 1953-1959 (AUP, 2007) and Answering Hark: McCahon/Caselberg: Painter/Poet (Craig Potton, 2001). He has edited, or contributed to, many other titles, including books on Allen Curnow, Kendrick Smithyman, Ronald Hugh Morrieson, Charles Spear and Peter Peryer.

He was awarded the 2012 Creative New Zealand Michael King Writer’s Fellowship for his major new book, with the working title Bloomsbury South,  exploring the rich and fertile artistic scene in Christchurch from 1933 to 1953,

As an academic, writer, and curator,Peter Simpson specialises in New Zealand literature, art and cultural history, modern poetry, and post-colonial literatures. He is Director of The Holloway Press, which publishes limited edition, hand-printed books, and was formerly Associate Professor of English at The University of Auckland.

Peter writes:  In Writing the Arts, we plan to set a net as wide as possible in order to cover writing that concerns itself with literature, visual arts, music, theatre, dance and film. The programme will cover the critical response as well as writing designed to inform, educate or to provoke dialogue with creative practitioners. We will consider the myriad of outlets and forms, ranging from reviews and articles in daily newspapers, magazines and specialist journals to books. We will look at the rapidly expanding role of the Internet.

Dr Joanne Drayton

Joanne Drayton’s is an academic and literary biographer whose books include the highly regarded The Search for Anne Perry (Harper Collins, 2012), about the best-selling United Kingdom crime writer with a dark New Zealand past. Her book Ngaio Marsh: Her Life in Crime (Harper Collins, 2008) was a Christmas pick of the Independent when it was released in the United Kingdom in 2009. Her other biographies include Frances Hodgkins: A Private Viewing (Random House, 2005)Rhona Haszard: An Experimental Expatriate New Zealand Artist (Canterbury University Press, 2002); and Edith Collier: Her Life and Work, 1885–1964 (Canterbury University Press, 1999)

She is currently working on a new biography project and carving a post-colonial chess set in response to the Lewis pieces in the British Museum.  Joanne Drayton is Associate Professor in the Department of Design at UNITEC in Auckland.

Dr Murray Edmond

Murray Edmond is known variously for his work as a poet, playwright, dramaturge, theatre director, and also as an editor and critic. His first collection of poems Entering the Eyewas published in 1973, and several other collections have followed. Many of his poems have been featured in journals and in anthologies. He co-edited the influential anthology Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960–1975 (AUP, 2000), and is the editor of peer-reviewed, online journal of poetics Ka Mate Ka Ora. His essays include The Terror and the Pity of 1984: Mervyn Thompson’s ‘Coaltown Blues’ (Landfall, 2005) and How Gothic is S/he? Three New Zealand Dramas (Australasian Drama Studies, April 2004). He was extensively involved in experimental and alternative theatre, including Theatre Action and the Town and Country Players, later working for Mercury Theatre in Auckland. His extensive theatre work has led to a distinguished career writing for the stage, including a full-length musical, and for more than 25 years he has taught theatre and drama at The University of Auckland, where he is currently Associate Professor of Drama Studies.

Dr Iain Sharp

Iain Sharp began working in libraries in 1978 and is currently one the manuscripts librarians in Sir George Grey Special Collections at Auckland City Library.  He has a PhD in English literature from the University of Auckland. A poet, columnist, reviewer and critic, he became an accomplished poetry performer, touring with Lauris Edmond and David Eggleton. He has written non-fiction as well as poetry, including Sail the Spirit (1994), a history of the Spirit of Adventure Trust, and the chapter on New Zealand for the Oxford Guide to Contemporary Writing (1996).

He has reviewed books (and occasionally films), written articles and interviewed authors for many publications, including Landfall, the ListenerNew OutlookQuote Unquote, the Sunday Star-Times, and New Zealand Books. His poems have been included in numerous anthologies. In 1999, Sharp was named Reviewer of the Year at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards. He wrote the text for Real Gold: Treasures of Auckland City Libraries (Auckland University Press, 2007), about the rare books in the Auckland city collection, which was accompanied by an exhibition in 2007. His 2008 biography of the nineteenth-century artist and explorer Charles Heaphy, also published by Auckland University Press, was a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Finlay Macdonald 

Finlay Macdonald is a widely respected contributor to various newspapers and publications around the country.  He is the former editor of the Listener, commissioning editor for Penguin Books and a former book page editor. He has just been appointed  to run the NZ publishing programmes for HarperCollins. He writes columns, social commentary and has worked in television arts and book programmes.  

Stephen Stratford

Stephen Stratford is a freelance writer, book editor and manuscript assessor. He has been a contributing journalist to many publications including Quote UnquoteMetro and the New Zealand Listener and has published more than a dozen books, mostly non-fiction.

Lynn Freeman

Lynn Freeman is the voice of Radio New Zealand National’s arts programmes, as producer and presenter of Arts on Sunday. She has spent the best part of 30 years working at Radio New Zealand, with a stint in regional television along the way. She was chief reporter of the Dunedin News Room, worked as executive producer for Nine to Noon and was senior producer for Morning Report, before being appointed to her current role, presenter and co-producer of Arts on Sunday. She has also produced award-winning features and documentaries. Outside of Radio New Zealand, Lynn is a theatre critic for Capital Times and a judge of the annual Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards. 

Peter Calder 

Peter Calder is a veteran columnist, film and food reviewer for the NZ Herald. He has written a book Travels with My Mother (Tandem Press, 2003), which explores his childhood, notions of cultural identity and home in an amusing memoir about a journey back to England with his mother.

Josie McNaught 

Award-winning journalist Josie McNaught is a television director, producer and reporter, and writer for leading specialist magazines and national newspapers in New Zealand and internationally, with an emphasis on design, architecture, and the visual arts.  She has produced and directed top-rating consumer shows and is a regular radio broadcaster. She has worked as a reporter, researcher and director for New Zealand television’s leading arts and design television shows  and has written for all the major design publications in New Zealand over the last 20 years:.

Steve Braunias 

Journalist, script-writer and author Steve Braunias is currently a staff writer at Metro magazine.  He is well known for his satirical columns and writings in leading newspapers and magazines.  He he has won numerous national journalism awards as well as writing fellowships to Oxford University and Cambridge University.  He was part of the team who won the best TV comedy award for Eating Media Lunch at the New Zealand Television Awards in 2008. In 2009 he has worked with the same team as a consultant and writer for the TVNZ documentary series Birdland. He has written How to Watch a Bird (Awa Press, 2007). His latest book, Civilisation: Twenty Places at the Edge of the World (Awa Press, 2012)  is an examination of small-town New Zealand and has been described as a “gothic western”.

Jonathan Mane-Wheoki 

Professsor Jonathon Mane-Wheoki has an extensive knowledge of New Zealand art across many genres. Of Ngāpuhi and English descent, Jonathan has held the positions of Dean of Music and Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury; Kaitiaki Māori (Honorary Curator of Māori Art) at the Christchurch Art Gallery; and Director of Art and Collection Services at Te Papa Tongarewa. He has been active in developing exhibitions and presenting lectures and seminars on art, museums, heritage, and cultural topics both nationally and internationally and has served on numerous national and international bodies. He is a governor of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand and deputy chair of the Council for the Humanities. In 2009 he was appointed Professor of Fine Arts and Head of Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland. He received the Pou Aronui Award at Auckland University in 2012 for his outstanding contribution to the development of the humanities in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Anna Hodge 

Auckland University Press Senior Editor Anna Hodge is a highly-regarded book editor. She won a coveted place on the 2012 Frankfurt Fellowship Programme, one of only 16 young publishers chosen from around the world and the only New Zealander.

Mary Egan 

Mary and her husband the late Gerard Reid established Egan-Reid Limited in the early 1990s. Since then Mary has typeset, print-managed, edited and designed more than a thousand books for major publishers here and overseas. Mary has always had a love of books, and started her working life as a librarian and developing a career with a focus on high quality which has earned the respect of the NZ publishing industry. In 2012 she joined the New Zealand Post Book Awards five-person judging panel.

Gordon McLauchlan 

Gordon McLauchlan is a well-known media personality who, in addition to his writing, has fronted television programmes, worked in radio and has edited the New Zealand Herald’s books pages. McLauchlan is best known as a cultural critic and a social historian. He has written a number of best-sellers, including The Passionless People, which launched two one-hour television programmes. McLauchlan spent 10 years as the editor-in-chief of The New Zealand Encyclopedia, and he published A Short History of New Zealand (Penguin) in 2004 (reissued in 2009).

 Further speakers will be announced shortly.

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