Colleen Maria Lenihan named as 2023 Emerging Māori Writer in Residence – IIML

Acclaimed short story writer Colleen Maria Lenihan (Te Rarawa, Ngāpuhi) has been appointed as the Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) and Creative New Zealand Emerging Māori Writer in Residence for 2023.

Ms Lenihan’s first book of stories, Kōhine, was published this year and received rave reviews. The stories range in location and topic from Tokyo to Tāmaki Makaurau and rural Aotearoa. Reviewer Anna Rankin wrote that “Kōhine is a stunning taonga by a remarkably accomplished author who has given us a work that further places Te Ao Māori firmly at the forefront of literature in this country”.

Ms Lenihan is a fiction writer, screenwriter, and photographer, and a graduate of Te Papa Tupu and The Creative Hub. Her writing has appeared on Newsroom, and in the New Zealand Herald and The Pantograph Punch. She has been awarded a number of residencies: the Michael King Writers’ Centre Emerging Māori Writer (2019); the Newroom/Surrey Hotel Winner (2019); and the Dan Davin Literary Foundation (2021) residency. After fifteen years in Tokyo and a year in New York City, Ms Lenihan returned to Tāmaki Makaurau in 2016 where she is now based. She has written for Ahikāroa, a drama on Māori TV, and is currently a writer for Shortland Street.

While holding the three-month residency, Ms Lenihan will work on a novel set in Aotearoa in pre-European times. “I’m also interested in Indigenous futurism and potentially exploring what this place would be like if it had never been colonised,” Ms Lenihan says.

Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters Damien Wilkins says, “Colleen is part of a remarkable wave of Wāhine Toa remaking the literature of Aotearoa. Her debut book of stories revealed a writer of great talent and promise. She’s fully set to launch into the next stage of her career and we’re thrilled to be hosting her.”

Commenting on the appointment, Ms Lenihan says, “To be gifted time to write is the dream for writers. Having that space to fully focus, away from day jobs, helped me complete my first book. I’m excited to try my hand at writing a novel, and will seek to apply some of the screenwriting principles I’ve learned to fiction. I hope to create something epic that will make my tūpuna proud.”

Ms Lenihan takes up the residency at the IIML in March 2023.

Photo credit: Jane Ussher

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