A former Oamaru woman has been given the opportunity to dedicate more time to something she enjoys most – writing.
Karen Healey, an author and secondary school teacher who was raised in Oamaru and attended Waitaki Girls’ High School, was recently named as one of two University of Canterbury Ursula Bethell Writers in Residence for 2017.
Established in 1979, the residency in creative writing is jointly funded by the university and Creative New Zealand and was created to provide support for New Zealand writers.
Miss Healey said she was delighted her application for the residency was accepted.
“It really is exciting. I’ve written sort of vaguely fulltime but I was also studying at the same time .. so everything else I’ve done has been while working and it can get really disheartening to come home and then go to the computer and go, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do 500 words’.
“I’m really looking froward to having dedicated time where my main focus is on the writing and I don’t have to worry too much about what other stuff do I have to do.”
Miss Healey, an English teacher at Burnside High School in Christchurch, was granted unpaid leave to work on her project, which was outlined when she applied for the residency.
“When you apply, you apply with a project you’re intending to do. I write young adult fantasy and science-fiction and I applied with what’s called second-world fantasy, so a fantasy that doesn’t take place in our world.”
She didn’t give too much about the book away, but said it would be in a similar vein to her previous work.
“Doubtless, it will shift as I write it, but it’s actually a project I’ve wanted to write for a really long time, but I needed access to a university library and time to do the research properly, so this is the perfect project for a residency and I’m really thrilled.”
Miss Healey has written several books and short stories, including Guardian of the Dead, The Shattering, While We Runand When We Wake, which was recently adapted as a Radio New Zealand dramatic reading.
She said she was more interested in writing about other worlds, one of the reasons she had never incorporated aspects of Oamaru into her writing.
After she left Oamaru, Miss Healey studied at the university and holds degrees in both English (with honours) and classical studies, and a masters degree in both English and cultural studies.
She will be a guest speaker at the Waitaki Girls’ prizegiving this year.
Ursula Bethell, who died in 1945, was a Christchurch poet and artist.
Previous recipients include Owen Marshall (1981), Margaret Mahy (1984), Keri Hulme (1985) and Eleanor Catton (2011).
Wellington-based author John Newton is the other author selected for this year’s residency.