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Paula Morris’s Biography

Last Updated:
31/01/2023, 9:20 am
Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship 2018
Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Whātua
"Her work slips effortlessly and naturally across time zones and hemispheres, criss-crossing themes of race and culture with a cool, knowing style and claiming an ethnic territory that’s all her own." - Kirsty Gunn

Paula Morris (Ngāti Wai, Ngāti Whātua) is an award-winning novelist, short story writer and essayist from New Zealand. Her creative work explores issues of contemporary Māori identity, the disguises and reinventions of emigres, and the dissonant points of view and experiences within multicultural cities.

She is the author of the story collection Forbidden Cities (2008); the long-form essay On Coming Home (2015); and eight novels, including Rangatira (2011), winner of best work of fiction at both the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards and Ngā Kupu Ora Māori Book Awards. Her most recent book is False River (2017), an acclaimed collection of stories and essays around the subject of secret histories.

Paula edited the Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories (2008), and her own short stories are widely published in journals, magazines and anthologies around the world, as well as adapted for radio. In 2015 her story ‘False River’ was a finalist for the world's most high-profile short-fiction prize, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award in the UK. Radio New Zealand has broadcast adaptations of Rangatira, On Coming Home and her children’s book Hene and the Burning Harbour.

She has been awarded numerous residencies and fellowships, including Bellagio (the Rockefeller Foundation) in Italy, Brecht’s House in Denmark, Passa Porta in Belgium, and the International Writers and Translators’ House in Ventspils, Latvia. She has appeared at literary festivals in Europe, North America, China, South Africa, India, the UK and New Zealand, and at indigenous writers’ symposia in Taiwan and Canada.

Paula holds degrees from universities in New Zealand, the U.K. and the US, including a D.Phil from the University of York and an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. For ten years, she worked in London and New York, first as a publicist and marketing executive in the record business, and later as a branding consultant and advertising copywriter. Since 2003 she’s taught creative writing at universities, including Tulane University in New Orleans, and the University of Sheffield in England. She returned to New Zealand in 2015, after almost thirty years living overseas, to convene the Master in Creative Writing programme at the University of Auckland.

Well-known as a reviewer, interviewer, cultural commentator and festival chair, Paula is active in New Zealand’s literature sector and has served as a judge for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. She sits on the Māori Literature Trust, the New Zealand Book Awards Trust and the Mātātuhi Foundation; was a trustee of the Michael King Writers Centre for three years; and mentors other writers through community projects, the Te Papa Tupu Māori Writers Incubator, and the New Zealand Society of Authors.

In 2016 Paula founded the Academy of New Zealand Literature (www.anzliterature.com), a unique platform for our contemporary literature, promoting the work of almost 130 mid-career and senior creative writers to national and international audiences. The ANZL creates e-books featuring and translating the work of New Zealand writers and sent to festival directors, media and publishers around the world, as well as a website with in-depth features, interviews, conversations and essays.

In 2018, Paula was made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the 2019 New Years Honours, she also received the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship from the Arts Foundation.