Paula Morris (2001)

I made some good friends…I wrote a novel, and completing it made me determined to keep writing.

Paula writes: 'My year in the MA course meant big changes: my husband and I moved from New York City to New Zealand, where I hadn't lived since 1985. In New York I had no time at all for my own work: the novel I'd begun was still in frustrating fragments. Bill offered me a place in the course in November. By January - robbed by our movers and ripped-off by our landlords; we even missed our flight to LA - we were travelling to Wellington, and I had vague ideas about another book.

'Though I'd met Bill briefly in New York, I wasn't sure what to expect of the course. Quickly I discovered that it was very different in tone and personnel from my classes at the Writer's Voice at the 63rd Street Y. Discussions were more thoughtful and reasonable. Nobody appeared to be insane. Bill was a quiet presence, both reassuring and unsettling, insistent on one thing only: that he got to sit looking out at the stunning view.

'Bill assigned deadlines, and my name was first. This meant I had to get to start turning those vague ideas into a novel. Many of my memories of that year involve me sitting - cold, obsessed, endlessly typing - in the dining room of our rented house on Adelaide Road; the other memories involve pouring the coffee in class, and stealing glances at the storms rolling in from the south.

'That year I made some good friends, particularly Rachael King, Jennifer Levasseur, Anna Smaill and Carl Shuker. I wrote a novel, Queen of Beauty, as my portfolio project, and completing it made me determined to keep writing - something I was able to do, thanks to the Schaeffer Fellowship, at the Iowa Writers' Workshop.'

Bio: The manuscript for Queen of Beauty won Paula both the Adam Foundation prize, and the Glenn Schaeffer Fellowship. It was published by Penguin in 2002 and won the NZSA Hubert Church best first book fiction cateogry at the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

After Paula graduated with an MFA from Iowa, she taught creative writing at various universities, including Tulane University in New Orleans and the University of Sheffield in the UK, where whe was appointed Fiction Writer-in-residence in 2013. In 2014 she was awarded the prestigious Bellagio Residency, as well as a month-long residency at Brecht's House, Denmark. In 2015 she returned to New Zealand to convene the Master of Creative Writing course at the University of Auckland, though she continues to travel overseas for residencies, including Latvia in 2015 and Belgium in 2016.

She has published three further novels, Hibiscus Coast (2005);Trendy but Casual (2007); and Rangatira (2011), which won the fiction categories at the 2013 New Zealand post Book Awards and the Nga Kupu Ora Book Awards. In 2012, Rangatira was published in Germany by Walde + Graf.

Paula is the author of a short story collection, Forbidden Cities (2008) and is the editor of The Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories (2009). In 2015 her story 'False River' was shortlisted for the prestigious Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award in the UK.

In 2008, during her time as a Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow, Paula wrote her first YA novel for Scholastic US. She has now published four very successful YA novels with Scholastic, all 'haunted city' mysteries: Ruined (2009); Dark Souls (2011); Unbroken (2013);and The Eternal City (2015). In 2013 she published her first children's book, Hene and the Burning Harbour, and in 2015, with Bridget Williams Books, her first work of creative nonfiction, On Coming Home.

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