Writers to take up residence at Canterbury Uni

Ursula Mary Bethell. Photo: Canterbury University
Ursula Mary Bethell. Photo: Canterbury University
Two Christchurch writers will share Canterbury University's annual writer’s residency.

Author Amy Head and playwright Nathan Joe will each take up residence at the university for six months as part of the Ursula Bethell Writer’s Residency. 

The residency 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.

Since 1979, UC has hosted writers, including Keri Hulme, Kevin Ireland, David Eggleton, Eleanor Catton, Owen Marshall, Fiona Farrell, Tusiata Avia, and Victor Rodger.

Amy Head. Photo: Supplied
Amy Head. Photo: Supplied
Head is a UC alumna whose short story collection, Tough (VUP, 2014), was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors’ Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction.

Her novel Rotoroa (VUP 2018) was described as "an impressive first novel" and "a finely drawn picture of a society on the cusp of change".

She has extensive experience as an editor and publications advisor, and has a Bachelor of Arts from UC and a Master of Arts with Distinction in Creative Writing from Victoria University, Wellington.

Head’s proposed residency project is a collection of short stories set in present-day Christchurch, which will consider shifting identities and competing perspectives, with an emphasis on the ebbs and flows of attraction, loss and renewal.

"I’m grateful to UC for offering me such a valuable opportunity. I’ll be writing linked stories about characters who are living in present-day Christchurch, negotiating their lives and their identities in a disrupted, transforming city."

She will be joining the English department in the College of Arts for six months from February 2020.

Nathan Joe. Photo: RNZ
Nathan Joe. Photo: RNZ
Joe is a Chinese-Kiwi playwright whose work deals with issues of racial or sexual identity through a postmodern lens.

He says he is "incredibly grateful to be given the opportunity of the Ursula Bethell residency, which will allow me the rare privilege of investigating and exploring a particular project over an uninterrupted period of time".

"Christchurch as a city is going through some exciting changes, but it’s also a city that has been stuck in an elongated period of transition and recovery. A place haunted by its own liminality."

Joe’s plays have been staged and won awards throughout New Zealand.

His work has also been selected for the Asian Ink development programme three times. Joe is also a respected theatre critic, and has been writer in residence of the Dunedin Young Writers Festival.

His proposed residency projects include a radical reworking of Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder, which will act as a vehicle to explore the state of arts in contemporary New Zealand, and a series of scenes about physical and psychological ruptures, with themes of homecoming and returning, set in Christchurch.

"Despite being my hometown, I have spent my most formative adult years away. The play I will be working on is an attempt to untangle my fraught history and ongoing relationship with the city's complicated landscape. Call it a theatrical love letter, warts and all," Joe says.

He will join UC’s English department for six months from August 2020.