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Prolific six months for resident children’s writer

Friday, 12 July 2013 8:05am

Leonie Agnew image
University of Otago College of Education/Creative NZ Children’s writer in residence for 2013 Leonie Agnew. Photo: Sharron Bennett.

In less than six months, Auckland writer Leonie Agnew has finished the manuscripts of three books and conducted major rewrites on another three – an output that, to her, embodies the immense value of being a University of Otago of College Education/Creative NZ Children’s Writer In Residence.

Ms Agnew has previously published the award winning junior fiction novel Super Finn, and last Thursday saw the launch of her picture book, The Importance of Green, illustrated by Trevor Pye.

She says one unexpected result of coming to Dunedin for the residency is the amount of local exposure it has given her.

“I’m just a primary school teacher, but quite suddenly, having job title like this one means I’m being taken seriously as an author.

“I’ve had local radio and TV interviews, taken part in events at the Public Library, I’m doing a talk at the University Book Shop with [children’s author] David Elliott and it’s happening because I am the Children’s Writer In Residence. I know it won’t be the same when I go back to Auckland; not saying I should have that attention – it’s just different. I’m used to flying under the radar.”

"Some people bring back souvenirs from a trip away, I want to bring back a book."

Ms Agnew says the residency gave her the opportunity to finish work she wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.

“I had a lot of unfinished projects because of the time factor – just writing in the weekends and my holidays. Writing is a bit like a marathon, you need time and endurance to finish.

“Another of the residency’s advantages is that you can stay inside the story when you are writing it, you don’t get pulled away to do one hundred and one things. It helps with the flow and structure of your story, it’s much cleaner.”

Ms Agnew finds working on more than one project at a time keeps her fresh, but admits she had too many on the go at once when she arrived in February.

The manuscripts she has worked on this year include junior fiction, a teen novel and a picture book. One is a brand new project begun during her residency.

“I hope it goes well because it is set in Dunedin’s Botanic Garden. Some people bring back souvenirs from a trip away, I want to bring back a book.”

Ms Agnew’s residency ends next month, which will see her return to Auckland to take up relief teaching and, hopefully, a permanent position next year.

“I have really enjoyed Dunedin. It has real atmosphere, with the University in the centre, the hills and Town Belt – the city’s got a forest growing right through the middle of it! I wasn’t prepared for just how cool it was. It belongs in a book.”