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Emily Perkins

Emily Perkins’s Biography

Last Updated:
17/05/2019, 1:10 pm
Arts Foundation Laureate 2011
Emily Perkins first collection of stories, ‘Not her Real Name’, established her as an important writer at the age of 26. She has since written award winning novels and short fiction.

Emily Perkins' first collection of stories, Not Her Real Name, was published when she was 26. She has since written award winning novels and short fiction.

Emily left school to work as an actor on a TV drama series, then trained at the NZ Drama School in Wellington. The years of waitressing and unemployment that followed provided material for her darkly funny debut collection, the title story of which was written during Bill Manhire's creative writing course at Victoria University of Wellington.

Emily moved to London, where she completed the stories that would make up Not Her Real Name. The collection was awarded the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in the UK and the Montana First Book of Fiction Award in NZ.

As well as writing prose fiction, Emily worked on long-running columns for the Sunday Star-Times and the UK's Independent on Sunday, and book reviews and essays for The Guardian, The Observer, the TLS, The Independent and other publications. Picador published her first novel, Leave Before You Go, a more extended study of the shiftless generation featured in her short stories.

In 1999 Emily edited The Picnic Virgin, an anthology of stories by emerging New Zealand writers, for Victoria University Press, and wrote a 40-part fiction serial for London's Evening Standard. New short stories, as well as selected pieces from Not Her Real Name, were anthologized widely.

The New Girl, her second novel, was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize in the UK. The lives of young women are still the main focus of this novel, as an uneasy relationship between a sophisticated newcomer and three small-town girls develops over a summer.

Emily is married to the NZ artist Karl Maughan, and they have three children. In 2005 they returned to NZ and settled in Auckland. She was the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow in 2006 and during the Fellowship finished her fourth book, Novel About My Wife. Praised for its tension, humour, acute dissection of middle-class dread, and the characterisation of its unreliable male narrator, this book details the unraveling of a marriage and a woman's sanity. It ‘squarely confronts', the NPR review stated, ‘how we live now'. Novel About My Wife was awarded the Believer Book Award in the US and the Medal for Fiction at the Montana NZ Book Awards.

Emily has been an ambassador for New Zealand Book Month, supporting their programme to promote books across the country, a judge on The Long and The Short of It Fiction Prize and the NZ Post Book Awards, and will be a judge on the next Commonwealth Fiction Prize. She has been the host of TVNZ 7's books programme The Good Word, and is a lecturer at The University of Auckland, where her research interests include creative prose writing and contemporary NZ literature. Her novel, The Forrests, published by Bloomsbury in 2012 was a finalist in the Women's Prize for Fiction 2013.

Emily lives in Wellington and is working on a new novel. She is Senior Lecturer at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University