Gemma Bowker-Wright (Writing for the Page, 2011)

You go into the course with the potential to become a writer. The course gives the tools and confidence to realise this. What you do with it then is up to you.

Gemma writes: 'I still remember the thoughts going through my head as I walked down the narrow stairs at the IIML for the first time – was my place in the course an administrative error? What would my classmates be like? Was I going to trip?

'The answers: no, utterly fantastic, and yes (twice during the year – be careful of the stairs).

'The next nine months was a bit like a rollercoaster; some days I felt on top of the world and others I despaired. My preconceived ideas of what it was to be a writer (I had pictured a sun-drenched desk, a manuscript that wrote itself, a spell check that knew the words I was trying to write) were shattered. What I did learn was this: to give and receive feedback; to hear tone and point of view; to read widely and intelligently; to have persistence and courage. I also learnt to watch where I put my feet.

'One of the highlights of the MA for me was the people. A more diverse, wise and clever group would be hard to come by. Ranging in age from twenty-five to seventy, our class included journalists, academics, architects, teachers and the CE of a major NGO. The discussions and workshops held over the nine months were a product of this breadth of life experience and the friendships developed are long-lasting. Together we experienced something special.

'Another highlight was Damien's expert guidance. His facilitation, prompting and insights led us to question our work and what we were reading – why does this passage work? How would this sound in a different tense or from another character’s point of view? He taught us to see things critically and to read, read, read.

'I went into the course imagining that it would teach me to be a writer. I now realise this was incorrect. You go into the course, I believe, with the potential to become a writer. The course gives the tools and confidence to realise this. What you do with it then is up to you.'

Bio: Gemma Bowker-Wright was brought up in the Hawke's Bay and currently lives in Wellington. She has a BSc and MSc from Victoria University of Wellington and has worked at the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Ministry for Primary Industries.

She was the winner of the 2010 Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition and the 2011 BNZ Katherine Mansfield Competition for short fiction and her work has been published in Metro, Sport and Hue & Cry.
In 2014 her first book – The Red Queen – was published by Te Herenga Waka University Press. Reviews have described it as 'a collection of great achievement and promise'. In 2014 she was awarded the Todd New Writers Bursary to work on a new novel.

Since then Gemma has drafted two novels and had two energetic boys who take up most of her creative energy. She writes regularly for Stuff and the Spinoff, mostly on the topic of parenthood.

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