President of Honour 2024 – Barbara Else MNZM

The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa is delighted to announce that Barbara Else is the NZSA 2024 President of Honour.  This prestigious honour is bestowed on a senior writer and long-serving NZSA member in recognition of their contribution to writing, writers and the literary arts sector in Aotearoa.

Our new President of Honour, Barbara Else MNZM, is a writer of fiction and non-fiction, playwright, literary agent, editor, and fiction consultant known for her consistent support of the writing sector and her sharp wit.Barbara was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in 2005. Her accomplishments include: being the University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Childrens Writing Fellow in 2016, and Writing Fellow at Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka in 1999. She won the Esther Glen Award for best childrens novel 2012; an international IBBY Award and a White Raven Award for The Travelling Restaurant; the Ignition Award for childrens writing in 2019, and the Creative NZ Scholarship in Letters to write Wild Latitudes (2007).

As well as publishing her own work, Barbara Else has edited several collections of writing for children, and was awarded the Margaret Mahy Medal in recognition of her services to children’s literature in 2016. Barbara has been a member of the New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc) since 1982 and has served as both Wellington Branch Secretary and Chairperson. She has been a valued assessor and mentor for our NZSA Programmes over many years and has taken part in multiple judging panels.

Barbara has published extensively including: (for children) the Fontania Quartet (the first in the series being the Travelling Restaurant; (fiction for adults) The Warrior Queen which broke boundaries with its satire, humour and observation of social mores; (non-fiction) Go Girl: a storybook of epic NZ Women, which broke local sales records. Recently her memoir Laughing at the Dark was published to excellent reviews. Like some of her adult novels, the memoir unpicks NZ domestic life and deals with the navigation of second wave feminism, then moves to Barbaras experiences in local publishing and her writing life from the 1980s to the present day.

Barbara has been a partner in TFS Literary Advice and Assessment Service since 1988, working as a freelance writer, mentor and manuscript assessor with husband Chris Else (former NZSA President and President of Honour).

On accepting the role Barbara Else said, Being asked to take this role was an unexpected and uplifting moment. I didnt feel Id done enough on the political level for NZSA, having been very much in the back room. Yet my peers were saying they thought I had reached this level, had achieved enough. It was a while before it fully sank in.

This unique honour made me think about the significance of the back room in NZ writing. NZSA is always actively working on behalf of all our writers, new and experienced, for fair copyright laws, the Authors Fund, Public Lending Right, and many other areas. It is also constantly hard at work in the often-unseen back room, in its mentoring and assessment programmes. In all its endeavours, seen and unseen, NZSA works to maintain and raise standards, and increase accessibility so we who live in this country, whatever our background and whatever genre we write in, can keep telling our stories. Were at an exciting time with our writing and need NZSA more than ever.

NZSA President Dr Vanda Symon says We are delighted to have Barbara Else as our 2024 President of Honour. Barbara has contributed so much to New Zealand literature and to our writing community. Her works have been enjoyed across many genres, by readers young and old and been recognised with numerous awards. She has also supported New Zealand writers and writing through her editing of anthologies of our stories, working with writers as an agent, editor and mentor, and with her involvement in the NZSA. We feel honoured to have her in this role”.
NZSA CE Jenny Nagle “Barbara Else, like many of our senior and esteemed writers, has fashioned a distinguished career writing across many genres; mentoring and assessing and developing others skills and craft; she has been an agent, editor and advocate; and, as a colleague, has been part of the army of volunteers across NZSA that foster camaraderie by creating a place for writers to learn, meet and support each other through her governance work in several of our branches. Barbara is valued and appreciated for her many decades of service to NZSA, as well as for the significant literary work she has created for adults and children in Aotearoa.”

The NZSA President of Honour delivers the prestigious annual NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Lecture – an event that comments on the literary sector. NZSA will announce details of this event in 2024. Barbara Else’s impressive body of work can be viewed here.

President of Honour 2022/23 – Witi Tame Ihimaera-Smiler DCNZM QSM

The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa is delighted to announce that Witi Ihimaera is the NZSA 2022-2023 President of Honour.  This prestigious honour is bestowed on a senior writer and long-serving NZSA member in recognition of their contribution to writing and writers and the literary arts sector in Aotearoa.

Witi Ihimaera celebrates 50 years since his first book was published, Pounamu, Pounamu (1972), and next year 2023, is his 50th Anniversary as New Zealand’s first Māori novelist. He has sustained a hardworking literary career, mainly part-time while working in post office journalism, a 16-year stint in diplomacy, and a similar period as a university teacher and professor.

His other key works are Tangi (1973), The Matriarch (1984), and Bulibasha (1994), all winners of the Wattie/Montana Book of the Year award, and Māori Boy (2015), winner of the Ockham non-fiction category. His work as a New Zealand Māori and indigenous writer has been recognised with international awards including an honour as Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters awarded by France in 2017. Other works include Dream Swimmer, Nights in the Gardens of Spain, Native Son and Whale Rider.

Ihimaera has been a board member of a range of boards including Creative New Zealand, the Māori Writers and Artists Society, Learning Media, and the New Zealand Film Commission, and has been patron of others including the 100 Books in Te Reo/Kotahi Rau Pukapuka Trust.

His most recently published book is Navigating the Stars: Māori Creation Myths (2020) and he will launch his children’s picture book, The Astromancer, next week. Five of his books are available in both English and te reo and the latest, Puripāha/ Bulibasha, featured last week in the Nielsen Bookscan Top 10 bookseller list, a significant indicator of the developing bilingual reading public in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Witi has recently turned himself into an executive producer of three feature film/television projects including Sleeps Standing/Moetū. Based on his novella published in 2017, Sleeps Standing concerns a young boy, Moetū, who fights at the Battle of Ōrākau, 1864, and meets a young woman Kararaina during the whawhai. They are given the responsibility of leading 80 women and children to safety.

Ihimaera has been a member of the NZSA Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc) for over 50 years and has also supported PEN internationally. His book, The Whale Rider, will feature in the upcoming auction in July at Christie’s, London, to benefit English PEN. The Whale Rider (an internationally successful film)  is New Zealand’s most translated book and became a set text in Kenya.  He affiliates to Te Whānau a Kai with a close connection to all East Coast tribes and maintains an active career in Māori tribal politics and arts. 

Three-time winner of the Wattie/Montana Book of the Year award, a Katherine Mansfield fellow, and the first Māori writer to be published in Aotearoa, Witi Ihimaera is our most groundbreaking and accomplished writer. 

On accepting the role Witi Ihimaera said“The NZSA is committed to ensuring liberal democracy within the writing profession in our part of the world, and I am proud to belong to the organisation. As a Maori writer, I have a particular kaupapa to ensure Waitangi principles are sustained within this context. Nor can I forget that whenever a reader goes into a bookshop and buys a New Zealand book with their hard-earned income that they are upholding literacy goals in their own households. Māori say ‘Ka ora pea i a koe, ka ora koe ka au,’ Perhaps you exist because of me, I certainly exist because of you. I look forward to the year.”

NZSA President Dr Vanda Symon says “ We are honoured and delighted that Witi Ihimaera will be the President of Honour for 2022-23. Witi is esteemed as one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s greatest writers, and it is incredibly poignant that he has accepted this role on the 50th anniversary of the publication of Pounamu Pounamu, which was the first collection of short stories to be published by a Māori writer. Witi has been at the forefront of Māori arts and New Zealand’s cultural history, challenging how we see ourselves and our society, and paving the way for the wonderful richness of Māori writers and writing that we all enjoy today.”

NZSA CEO Jenny Nagle says, “NZSA is honoured to recognise Witi Ihimaera’s significant contribution to the cultural legacy of Aotearoa. That 2022 marks 50 years since the publication of Witi’s first book, the first Māori writer to be published in Aotearoa, makes this a culturally significant commemoration. We look forward to hearing Witi’s Janet Frame Memorial Lecture next year.

The NZSA President of Honour delivers the prestigious annual NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Lecture – an event that comments on the literary sector. NZSA will announce details of this event in 2023.  Witi Ihimaera’s impressive body of work can be viewed here.


Roll Call of Presidents of Honour from 1970 to present


Janet Frame Memorial Lecture

The President of Honour delivers the Janet Frame Memorial Lecture. The aim of the lecture is to deliver a ‘state of the nation’ address for literature and writing in New Zealand. More