Academy of NZ Literature launched
A new body will work to promote homegrown writing locally and on the world stage.
The Academy of New Zealand Literature, founded with a $130,000 grant from the University of Auckland, aims to support writers of fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry, by helping them promote their work, raise their profiles and make contact with international writing festival directors.
It also aims to place the University of Auckland at the centre of the literary conversation in this country, a position that has arguably long been held by Victoria University's International Institute of Modern Letters.
Victoria was the first New Zealand university to offer a creative writing degree and has produced some of the country's most successful contemporary writers, including Emily Perkins, Eleanor Catton and Tina Makereti.
Perhaps mindful of potential conflict, University of Auckland vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon said the new academy would "promote and celebrate New Zealand writing not just in Auckland but across the country".
The academy was born from conversations Paula Morris, head of Auckland's creative writing programme, had with other writers about how to sustain themselves "creatively, intellectually, psychically", and how to make their work better known and more widely read.
In addition to running master classes, seminars and a writers' residency programme, the academy will maintain a website featuring fresh writing and news. Local writers and their work will be celebrated via lengthy features in the style of The Paris Review.
Initially the academy, which is modelled in part on similar bodies in the United Kingdom and Germany, has 100 invited members and 16 fellows representing the literary and commercial ends of the writing spectrum. Members must have published at least two books, one since 2005.
Morris returned home to Auckland last year after nearly 30 years overseas, writing and teaching at universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.
New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat described her as "a sort of one-woman force of nature".
In establishing the academy, Morris was supported by an advisory group of writers including Fiona Kidman, Vincent O'Sullivan, Rachael King and Charlotte Grimshaw.