The University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence

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.

Go to more information about the Robert Lord Cottage residency.

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A list of all the previous Fellowship recipients since the fellowship was established

Heather McQuillan image

Heather McQuillan

University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children's Writer in Residence 2021

Children’s writer Heather McQuillan is the University of Otago College of Education Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence Fellow for 2021.

McQuillan has received numerous awards, including Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2005, and Storylines Notable Book Awards in 2007, 2012 and 2020. Her work was also shortlisted for the Tessa Duder Award for her novel manuscript 2018.

McQuillan says selection for the Fellowship is “an incredible boost.”

“It means that I will have the time, the encouragement and the infrastructure all around me to support the act of writing. At the moment my writing comes in fits and bursts in between all of my other commitments. I look forward to being able to spend extended and concentrated time on both writing and research, and to get to know the writing community in Dunedin.

“I am very grateful to the University of Otago and the Robert Lord Trust for this personal opportunity and for the gravity the Fellowship and Residency give to writing for children.”

Her experiences teaching 10 to 13-year-olds has provided the motivation to cover issues relevant to the age group, and her proposed Fellowship work is a story about “growing up, tricky friendships, ethical dilemmas, and confusing love.”

“At that age, young people are transforming physically, cognitively and ethically. They start to see well beyond themselves and their families and begin the search for where and how they will fit in this, now, much wider world. Self and social identity become key drivers in the choices they make. I've always found this age group particularly fascinating with their fresh perspectives and challenging questions. I also remember my intermediate school years with greater clarity than the years on either side.”

While describing these challenging dilemmas around friendship and ethics, she hopes to strike a balance between humour and emotional content.

A prolific writer, McQuillan has published in New Zealand with Scholastic NZ, The Cuba Press, Canterbury University Press, NZ Poetry Society, and Otago University Press, in the US with Raven Chronicles Press and Best Small Fictions (Sonder Press and Braddock Books) , and the UK with Reflex Press. Her work in 2019/2020, Avis and the call of the Kraken is currently under manuscript review.

McQuillan lives in Christchurch, where she is the director at Write On School for Young Writers, and will take up the residency in the Robert Lord Cottage in North Dunedin.

Otago Fellows University of Otago