Sandra Arnold holds a MLitt (High Distinction) and a PhD In Creative Writing from Central Queensland University, Australia.
She is the author of three books: Sing No Sad Songs: Losing a daughter to cancer (Canterbury University Press, 2011); Tomorrow's Empire (Horizon Press, 2000); A Distraction of Opposites (Hazard Press, 1992). Her short fiction has been broadcast on National Radio, published in Landfall, Sport, Takahe, Meniscus and anthologised in The Best New Zealand Fiction 4, Dreadlocks, Other Voices, Antipodes New Writing, Vital Writing 1 and Nuestra Voz. Her essays have appeared in Corpus, Deep South, Social Alternatives, vol 31, Atlas 1,The Spinoff, Connotation Press, Night Garden Journal.
Her academic research on parental bereavement has been published in The Australasian Association of Writing Programmes Conference Proceedings (2010), TEXT 14 (2010), TEXT 14 Special issue 7 (2010), TEXT 13 (2009) and Research into 21st Century Communities (Post Pressed, Australia, 2007).
She won the Louis Johnson New Writers Bursary in 1989 and in the same year co-founded Takahe with David Howard and was its fiction editor from 1989 to 1995. She was the recipient of the 2014 Landfall/Otago University Press/Seresin Writing Residency and the winner of the 2015 New Zealand Heritage Week Short Story Competition. She was short-listed for the 2016 Grimshaw-Sargeson Fellowship and was an honourable contender for the 2016 Bristol Prize. Her story, Favouretta Pratt (Fictive Dream) has been nominated for the 2018 Pushcart Prize. Her flash fiction won second place in the June 2016 Flash 500 competition and the September 2016 Zero Flash competition and has been published or is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review, Flash Frontier, The Linnet's Wings, Flashflood (2016), The Story Shack, Fewer than 500, Fictive Dream, Headland, Zero Fiction, Olentangy Review, We are a Website, North and South, Spontaneity, The Baby Shoes Project, Spelk, The Incubator, Firefly, The Airgonaut, The Flash Fiction Press, Fresh Ink 2017 Anthology, Alluvia, Blue Five Notebook, Lagan Online (NFFD Feature), Connotation Press, Dime Show Review, Peacock Journal, Flashflood (2017), Foxglove, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, 10.1 (2017), New Flash Fiction Review, The Creative Process, With Painted Words, Lost Balloon. She was nominated for The Best Small Fictions 2017 Anthology. Her work has been included in the anthologies Sleep is a Beautiful Colour (UK National Flash Fiction Day, 2017), Fresh Ink (Cloud Ink Press, 2017) and Bonsai: The Big Book of Small Stories (Canterbury University Press, 2018).
She has worked as a teacher, editor, book reviewer, PhD examiner, literary judge, reviewer of academic papers and has been an invited speaker to conferences and literary festivals.
She is a member of the International Advisory Board: Meniscus, Australasian Association of Writing Programmes. She was an Executive member of the Australasian Association of Writing Programmes, 2009 - 2012; Chairperson of the Canterbury Branch of New Zealand Society of Authors, 1993 - 1994; Executive Member of the National Council of NZSA 1987 - 1990.
She lives in rural North Canterbury with her husband, alpacas, hens and dog and is currently working on a new novel and a collection of short stories.
- Adult Fiction
- Adult Non-Fiction
- Short stories
North Canterbury, New Zealand
A Distraction of Opposites
'Her experimental stories are about discovery, they are graceful, rainbow-coloured, often funny. The book explores the force and value of the irrational in art through a rich symbolic layer of literary offspring, creative compost, corruptive spiders, hands, light, fire... credible plot and engrossing theme in scenes that are at once satirical and poignant. How I do honour her gutsy risk-taking' (New Zealand Herald, 25/10/93).
'A Distraction of Opposites is a chilling, cautionary tale. In this most competent first novel Arnold skilfully moves between dream and reality and explores the abuse of power. Her writing is clean and taut, her characters convincing, her denouement satisfying. The book is no comfort or cosy duvet of a novel, rather it disturbs and extends the frontiers of New Zealand writing ' (Daily Telegraph, 3/3/93).
'The connections are strong, like the thread of a spider's web which, with its menacing resident are recurring themes in Sandra Arnold's well-constructed and very impressive first novel. The tension is maintained throughout, the rhythms of speech and narrative are beguiling. This is a remarkably assured piece of work' (Christchurch Press, 5/6/93).
'Surreal, irrational gems... full of inventive leaps of the imagination... not a comforting tale, but one that shocks and challenges throughout' (Christchurch Star, 9/10/93).
'A recognisable slice of New Zealand suburbia...weird and bloody, but strangely compelling' (Southland Times, 4/8/93).
'A Distraction of Opposites is based on mind-fucking, not the other kind...it skilfully explores the abuse of male literary power and should be read by all aspiring writers, especially women' (New Zealand Books, Winter, 1993).
'A controversial first novel by New Zealander, Sandra Arnold... deals with the abuse of male literary power and shows some of the forms it can take... like it or not such people exist and A Distraction of Opposites is an instructive book for all aspiring writers' (Australian Women's Book Review, March, 1993).
'Tomorrow's Empire is an ambitious novel, even for an experienced writer. Its sheer scope and cast of characters could overwhelm a writer of lesser talent but she plunges into them with perception and not inconsiderable courage...Tomorrow's Empire is Arnold's second novel. Set in England, Turkey, New Zealand and the USA it focuses on the lives of feminist and atheist Sarah and Celik, a man with beliefs embedded in Islamic philosophy and law. These two disparate lives and personalities collide, entwine and separate against the old world and the new. Certainty and uncertainty. Cynicism and absolute faith. Four pillars which support the entire book. Arnold wrote and rewrote the book over several years before it met her expectations. It reflects her painstaking refining. The writing in sections achieves an almost diamond-like faceting. In others, the author moves from sparseness to a rare opulence. Her ravishing descriptions of Istanbul chart with consummate ease a culture and society hovering uneasily, as they have done for centuries, between east and west' (Christopher Moore, Christchurch Press, 2000).
"She writes from the point of view of a man and so I think that's an especially credible performance by her to pull it off. He's fascinating and extremely infuriating... Turkey is partly in Europe and partly in Asia and it's so very well portrayed by her I wanted to fly there instantly...There's one description by Sarah in the markets of Istanbul and you could smell it and hear it. It was very well done indeed... I did enjoy it and I especially enjoyed the descriptions of Turkey and the historical and ancient monuments' (Graham Beattie, RNZ, 2000).
'Tomorrow's Empire tells a compelling story. In the central figure of Celik, Sandra Arnold has created an individual and complex character, who, while he both fascinates and infuriates, is at the same time a window into a cultural mindset and set of values invariably misunderstood or even feared in the West' (James Norcliffe, 2000).
'Sandra Arnold does an impressive job of getting inside the head of a character very different from herself' (Ross Lay, Sunday Star Times, 2000).
'A wonderful, wonderful story which combines fact and fiction. I learned heaps from it' (Ruth Todd, Plains FM, 2000).
Sing No Sad Songs: Losing a Daughter to Cancer
'Arnold has fashioned her own devastating experience into this book. She is in my opinion, an heroic individual' (David Cohen, New Zealand Books, 2011).
'This book lets in laughter and delight in a life lived impulsively; it acknowledges moments of bleak failure and despair; it recounts death without recourse to the conventional reassurances of religion; it offers the gentle comfort of horses and lets the cat in to sit on the sick bed. It is a brave and wonderful book about death, pain and love' (Fiona Farrell, 2011).
'Arnold's detailed account of her daughter's illness will be unhappily familiar to those who have had a lot to do with hospitals and a warning for those who haven't. Arnold's observations about how people behave during Rebecca's illness and after her death offer plenty to think about for any bystanders of tragedy... Not only is this a sad story of one family's tragedy, it also explores issues of wider relevance. Illness, dying, death, grief - we all need to consider these things either in our own lives or in the lives of others. This book is a map - a map of one woman's very personal experience that nevertheless provides road signs for us all' (Jane Dunbar, Christchurch Press, 2011).
'The book is lovely. I learned a lot from the details of the journey with cancer. The day to day progressions and fluctuations were fascinating and I'm sure would be very helpful for families living through similar experiences. It was more like a story that you didn't want to put down because you wanted to know what happened next, rather than an educational account. Much more user friendly' (Louise McKenzie, Compassionate Friends, Central Otago, 2011).
'Sandra Arnold holds a 'qualification' no other parent ever hopes to have to earn: in 2002 her daughter, Rebecca died from a rare appendix cancer at twenty three years of age. Sing No Sad Songs is a memoir that covers several years, beginning in 1995, the year Arnold and her family travelled to Brazil, and ending with Arnold reflecting on life without Rebecca, six years later... Immersing yourself in Sing No Sad Songs will provide you with an honest and intimate perspective on one of life's greatest challenges. I recommend that if you have had a similar experience, or wish to understand what it might be like, Sing No Sad Songs is a very good place to start' (Ruth Williams, TEXT, Vol 16, no1, 2012).
'She does it so well... I was weeping buckets in places' (Graham Beattie, Beattie's Book Blog, June 28, 2011).