PEN NEW ZEALAND Inauguration 1934
This list has been put together from information gleaned from the archive of PEN Gazettes:
1934 Founded by Pat Lawlor OBE – Hon. Secretary
1934 First President – Dr. G. H Scholefield
1937 President – C A Morris
1939 President – Johannes Andersen
1940 President – Alan Mulgan OBE
1942 President – Alan Mulgan OBE
1944 Col C.A.L.Treadwell, OBE
1946 President – Sir James Elliott
1947 President – Sir James Elliott
1948 PEN became an Incorporated Society
1948 First Māori members – Sir Apirana Ngata & Pei Te Hurinui Jones OBE
1948 President – Pat Lawlor OBE
1949 First National NZ Authors Week
1950 President – Stuart Perry
1952 President – Stuart Perry
1954 President – C.R.H. Taylor
1955 President – O.N Gillespie
1957 President – M. H. Holcroft OBE
1958 First National Writers Conference
1959 President – M. H. Holcroft OBE
1960 President – Dennis Glover DSC
1962 President – Dennis Glover DSC
1963 President – John Reece-Cole
1964 President – Ruth Mackay
1964 First woman president
1966 President – Malcolm Mason
1968 President – Arthur Helm
1969 President – Neva Clarke QSM
1970 President – Dr. Clarence Beeby ONZ CMG
1972 President – Ian Cross CMG
1974 President – Ray Grover
1976 President – Alistair Campbell ONZM
1979 President – Michael King OBE
1980 President – Lauris Edmond OBE
1981 President – Fiona Kidman DNZM OBE
1983 President – Tony Simpson
1985 President – Vivienne Joseph
1986 President – Louis Johnson
1987 President – Harvey McQueen
1988 President – Rosemary Wildblood MNZM
1989 President – Maurice Shadbolt CBE
1990 Acting President – Patrick Waddington
1990 President – Kevin Ireland OBE
1992 President – Chris Else
1994 President – Gordon McLauchlan ONZM
1994 PEN NZ became The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ INC)
1996 President – Tessa Duder CNZM OBE
1998 President – Philip Temple ONZM
1998 President – Joan Rosier-Jones
2000 President – Joan Rosier-Jones
2001 President – William Taylor ONZM
2003 President – William Taylor ONZM
2004 President – Chris Else
2006 President – Chris Else
2007 President – Paul Smith
2009 Acting President – Dawn Sanders
2009 President – Tony Simpson
2011 President – Tony Simpson
2013 President – Kyle Mewburn
2015 President – Kyle Mewburn
2017 President – Dr. Siobhan Harvey
2019 President – Mandy Hager
2020 First Māori Board seat: Te Mangai Poari ki te Māori: Kim Harris
2021 President – Mandy Hager
2022 President – Dr. Vanda Symon
2023 Establishment of a 9th branch for Māori writers.
A History of New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc)
The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc) was established in 1934 as PEN NZ by journalist Pat Lawlor who called a meeting in the Turnbull Library in Wellington.
This small group of founders (which included Jane Mander who famously wrote one of the first New Zealand novels, The Story of a New Zealand River) recorded one piece of incoming correspondence – a letter from PEN London that asked New Zealand to form a branch to discuss literary topics and promote fellowship between writers.
In 1936 the committee ran a New Zealand Authors Week. It was noted that “New Zealand books emerged from the back shelves of the booksellers, to become a window display item.” This promotion encouraged new local writers and poets and by 1937 their ranks included A.R.D. Fairburn, John A. Lee MP, R.A.K. Mason, and F.W. Reed.
By May 1940 newsletters were sombre: “Since our last gazette, Europe has once more been plunged into war and many international PEN centres engulfed and over-run. We must use all our influence to plan for the new order, which surely must replace the anarchy in Europe.” In London, the wartime PEN committee included H.G. Wells and Evelyn Waugh.
Throughout the war, meetings were scant due to blackouts and petrol rationing but still, in 1941 even with the paper shortage, a list of books published by members included Frank Sargeson, Ngaio Marsh, Katherine Mansfield, and John Mulgan.
Post-war PEN lobbied for a State Literary Fund for writers’ grants and was awarded the handsome sum of two thousand pounds.
In 1949, a coalition of PEN, the Booksellers’ Association, librarians, media, the Publishers’ Association, and ‘thespians’ held a week-long Book Festival in Wellington which comprised of interviews, talks, and panels. At the time the government ratified the International Copyright Law drafted in Brussels (The Berne Convention). The PEN NZ committee now included Charles Brasch and Allen Curnow.
In 1951, the very first New Zealand Writers Conference was thoughtfully addressed by Mr James K. Baxter, the leader of a young group of New Zealand poets whose “new ideas about poetry were enthusiastically received.” By 1955 new members included Bruce Mason, C.K. Stead, and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell.
In the late 1960’s James K. Baxter oversaw the State Literary Fund, Hone Tuwhare, and Keri Hulme won prizes and the campaign began for a Public Lending Right to compensate authors for the free public access to their work in public libraries. This campaign continued for nearly 40 years until it was successful.
In 1975, Vice President Michael King wrote a regular column in the newspaper and by that year members included William Taylor, James Belich, Ron Bacon, Ruth Dallas, Marilyn Duckworth, Robin Dudding, Lauris Edmond, Riemke Ensing, Maurice Gee, Patricia Grace, Witi Ihimaera, Fiona Kidman, James McNeish, Joy Cowley, Bill Manhire, Janet Frame and Maurice Shadbolt. Sam Hunt hosted the Christmas party.
Throughout this time for PEN NZ, the archives show vigorous and continual advocacy for the benefit of authors, which continues to this day.
One of PEN’s most famous cases involved New Zealand writer Janet Frame. She was in a mental hospital scheduled for a lobotomy (after years of electric shock therapy) when the hospital superintendent received a letter from PEN NZ informing them that she had just won a national literary award for a book of short stories. This stopped the operation and gave us her subsequent body of work. In later years she was awarded the Order of New Zealand, named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and won numerous literary awards in New Zealand and internationally. All due to a letter from PEN.
PEN NZ became The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc) in 1994 and continued its core work for writers: as an information hub, through advocacy and lobbying and contract advice, by providing professional development services and administering prizes and awards.
At every NZSA meeting, we mark the empty chair in support of free speech and acknowledge the difficulties faced by our colleagues around the globe. We remember those who are imprisoned, censored, or silenced for their writing. We are closely connected to sister organisations (PEN International and the Society of Authors) and take sustenance, strength, and comfort from our shared trials and endeavours.
NZSA continues to come up with new ways to provide new services for writers in what has been a disrupted publishing environment and share the stories of our writing and writers with the wider community.
In 2018 NZSA released the first episodes of the NZSA Oral History Podcasts (using the interviews from the NZSA Oral History Project, Series One) that were launched at the National Writers’ Forum 2018. The interviews and series continue with series 5 now in production.
These podcasts provide an enduring resource for all New Zealanders about the life and times of these iconic authors and the challenges of life as a writer. They provide an invaluable primary resource about the personalities and works that have created our unique body of New Zealand literature.
Potted history presented at the National Writers Forum 2018.