The Writing Life

Twelve New Zealand Authors

Deborah Shepard

book cover for The Writing Life
Title Info Sheet Sample Pages

Soft cover


Candid conversations with 12 writers who helped shape New Zealand literature

A unique, candid and intimate survey of the life and work of 12 of our most acclaimed writers: Patricia Grace, Tessa Duder, Owen Marshall, Philip Temple, David Hill, Joy Cowley, Vincent O’Sullivan, Albert Wendt, Marilyn Duckworth, Chris Else, Fiona Kidman and Witi Ihimaera.

Constructed as Q&As with experienced oral historian Deborah Shepard, they offer a marvellous insight into their careers. As a group they are now the ‘elders’ of New Zealand literature; they forged the path for the current generation. Together the authors trace their publishing and literary history from 1959 to 2018, through what might now be viewed as a golden era of publishing into the more unsettled climate of today. They address universal themes: the death of parents and loved ones, the good things that come with ageing, the components of a satisfying life, and much more. And they give advice on writing.

The book has an historical continuity, showing fruitful and fascinating links between individuals who have negotiated the same literary terrain for more than sixty years. To further honour them are magnificent photo portraits by distinguished photographer John McDermott, commissioned by the publisher for this project.

To read the introduction, click here.

Deborah, the greatest compliment I can pay you is this: if I was a young writer starting out now, I’d be eagerly devouring this book, enormously grateful to you for the wisdom, the useful information, and the stories of heartache and triumph that go to make up The Writing Life.’ Tessa Duder

If you love the work of the authors, if you’re interested in the writing process or as a kind of collected biography of New Zealand society . . . it works on all of those levels.’ — Louise O’Brien, RNZ Nine to Noon

‘I love this book. I love the way it returns me to writing I am familiar  with and lives that I am not. It reminds me that the writing process is addictive, sustaining and for many a necessary joy. It is not a criticism because I found the interviews I have read immensely satisfying but at the end of each one I wanted to enter the room and carry on the conversation myself.’ — Paula Green, NZ Poetry Shelf

‘There are so many things to like about this book ... It has a heft which promises a feast of good things and it doesn’t disappoint. The twelve authors are men and women who have written in various genres throughout the years 1959 to 2018, on topics addressing such themes as death and loss, the joy they have found in writing and much more. For aspiring authors there is also advice on writing itself, which, given the depth of talent and length of time these ones have been engaged in their craft, is an invaluable treasure.’ — Lesley Vlietstra, Booksellers NZ blog

‘Deborah Shepard’s The Writing Life is a warm and approachable resource about a time and place in New Zealand writing that exemplifies the beginning of literary diversity and inclusion here. We are shown how a literary art is born both because of and despite adversity, and fed by passion and determination.’ — Tasha Haines, Landfall

  • CATEGORY: Biography and memoir, Literature
  • ISBN: 9780995109537
  • PUBLISHER: Massey University Press
  • IMPRINT: Massey University Press
  • PUBLISHED: 12/11/2018
  • PAGE EXTENT: 464
  • FORMAT: Soft cover
Profile image for Deborah Shepard

Deborah Shepard is an author, teacher of memoir, oral historian and film and art historian.