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The University of Otago is the only tertiary institute in New Zealand which offers a residency for a children's writer. Begun by the Dunedin College of Education in 1992, it allows writers to work full time in a compatible environment among colleagues who are concerned with the teaching of reading and literature to children. Remuneration of $28,000 is jointly funded by the University and Creative New Zealand.

The residency is open to established children's writers who are normally resident in New Zealand. The annual residency is for a six month period between February and August and includes an office within the College.

The residency is offered in association with the Robert Lord Trust which provides rent-free accommodation to writers in the historic Titan Street cottage bequeathed by the late playwright Robert Lord.

See the list of all previous University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children's Writers in Residence

Feana Tu'akoi is the University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence Fellow 2024

Feana Tu'akoi imageFeana Tu'akoi

Feana Tu’akoi is a Kirikiriroa Hamilton-based writer, with a long career in the field of children’s writing.

“When our four children were pre-schoolers, nearly all children’s fiction was Pālangi-centric. I couldn’t find any books that included Tongan characters, Tongan ideas, Tongan situations or even Tongan legends,” she says.

“As far as books were concerned, kids like ours didn’t exist. Our fānau needed to see themselves represented in print, to access stories about people and situations that made sense to them and to understand that these stories matter. So, in 1997, I started writing them.”

During her Fellowship, Tu’akoi intends to write her first mystery adventure; potentially book one of a series.

“I’d like to write the type of story I loved most as a child, but situate it firmly in a fāmili like ours, weaving through some of the ideas that continue to impact us.”

This Fellowship will be somewhat of a homecoming for Tu’akoi, who grew up in Te Wai Pounamu, and there’s a chance Ōtepoti Dunedin will be the setting for her next book.

“I’m especially looking forward to being back on the mainland, as I grew up in Temuka and had lots of holidays in Ōtepoti Dunedin. I’m excited to reintroduce myself to the city and to explore local tourist spots – all in the name of research, of course.”

Tu’akoi has a strong background in educational writing. She writes regularly for the NZ School Journals, the Ready to Read series, the New South Wales School Magazine and Wendy Pye's Sunshine series and has done so for more than 20 years. She has more than 230 titles to her name, including stories, poems, picture books, junior fiction novels, school readers, plays and radio stories.

She is also an award-winning trade writer. Eight of her ten commercially released books have been recognised in various awards. Most recently, she won the 2022 Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award for her recently released mid-grade novel, Lopini the Legend.

This Fellowship is also generously supported every year by the Robert Lord Writers Cottage Trust, which makes the Titan St cottage available to the Fellow for the term of their residency.

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