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Source: University of Canterbury

08 December 2021

Two award-winning New Zealand writers are embracing the opportunity to develop favourite “simmering projects” during their time as Ursula Bethell Writers in Residence at the University of Canterbury in 2022.

  • David Coventry is a PhD student and writer whose novel The Invisible Mile (2015) won the Hubert Church Award for Best First Book at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Both currently based in Wellington, the writers are also looking forward to reconnecting with friends and family in Christchurch and the city itself.

Tina Makereti writes novels, essays and short stories. Her book The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke (2018) was long-listed for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and an International Dublin Literary Award, and her story Black Milk (2016) won the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, Pacific region.

Author David Coventry has been working on a PhD project exploring the complexities of living a creative life with ME (a systemic inflammatory disease that affects the brain and body in equal measures). His novel The Invisible Mile (2015), set in the 1928 Tour de France, won the Hubert Church Award for Best First Book at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Both writers are looking forward to using their time in Residence next year to focus on projects that are simmering as ideas or partially under way.

“The hardest thing about being a writer is finding time to write, so it means a great deal to have this residency,” says Makereti.

“The novel I am writing is about three families, Pākehā, Māori and former refugees, and how the casual racism I grew up with can develop into something much worse. It’s set where I live now, on the Kāpiti Coast, but I can probably learn a lot from Christchurch. In saying that, it’s important to me to contribute to the community as well.”

For Coventry his next project, South of Everywhere, which is set between New Zealand and Goa, India, in the 1990s, will be a book about privilege, and feature characters of little means living in positions of unconscious power they refuse to recognise.

“It’s a book about cultural appropriation, about the thievery that goes into the construction of self after the self has been devastated by the small and great, by empire and the forces of capitalist intent and forced democracy,” he says.

UC Arts Senior Lecturer Dr Erin Harrington says the university’s English department is thrilled to be able to host the two writers next year.

“Both Tina and David are highly accomplished and well-respected writers, and the projects they’ll undertake while here are compelling. It’s a privilege to be able to help support the development of their new work.”

About the Ursula Bethell Writers Residency

Ursula Mary Bethell (1874–1945) was a Christchurch poet and artist. The Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing was established by the University of Canterbury in 1979 to support New Zealand writers and foster New Zealand writing. The Residency, jointly funded by the University of Canterbury Faculty of Arts and Creative New Zealand, allows authors of proven merit in all areas of literary and creative activity an opportunity to work on an approved project within an academic environment. Previous recipients include Owen Marshall (1981), Margaret Mahy (1984), Keri Hulme (1985) and Eleanor Catton (2011).

Artist biographies:

Tina Makereti

Tina Makereti is author of The Imaginary Lives of James Pōneke (2018) and co-editor of Black Marks on the White Page (2017), an anthology that celebrates Māori and Pasifika writing. In 2016, her story Black Milk won the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, Pacific region. Her other books are Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (2014) and Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa (2010). She won two Ngā Kupu Ora Māori Fiction Awards, was nominated twice for the Dublin Literary Award, and has been the recipient of Te Apārangi Royal Society Manhire Prize for Creative Science Writing and the Pikihuia Award for Best Short Story in English. She teaches creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington. Her collection of personal essays, This Compulsion in Us, is forthcoming.

David Coventry

David Coventry is an award-winning novelist, born in Wellington, New Zealand, where he resides on a hill with his wife, Laura Southgate, and cat. A former sound engineer and film archivist, David is the author of The Invisible Mile (2015) and Dance Prone (2020). He has a Master’s with Distinction in Creative Writing from Te Herenga Waka Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (2010). In 2001, he completed an Honours degree in English Literature (VUW). His first novel, The Invisible Mile (2015) was published in over 15 countries and translated into Dutch, Hebrew, Spanish, Danish and German. The novel was awarded the Hubert Church Award for Best First Book at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

His second novel, Dance Prone, examines the effects of trauma and its resulting language on memory and self through the eyes and deeds of post-hardcore punk group, Neues Bauen. The novel received high praise on release with reviews announcing, ‘Coventry’s work is some of the finest in recent New Zealand literature’.

Coventry was the 2015 recipient of the Todd New Writers Bursary administered by Creative New Zealand.

  • Tina Makereti is a novelist, essayist and short story writer whose story Black Milk (2016) won the Commonwealth Writers Short Story Prize, Pacific region.