Four cash grants awarded to support local writers

The 2022 Copyright Licensing New Zealand and New Zealand Society of Authors  Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc) Research Grants have been awarded to four writers in Aotearoa.

The $5,000 grants support local writers who wish to undertake research for a fiction or non-fiction writing project. 

The selection panel, Deborah Challinor, David Eggleton and Lana Lopesi, received 61 applications and reported “the quality of the applications this year to be very high. The applicants and their submissions overall demonstrated enthusiasm, talent, skill, and dedication to the art/craft of writing, all of which is extremely encouraging testament to the current vigour of Aotearoa New Zealand’s creative sector.”

The wide range of topics presented in the applications included: local history, geology, family history, sport, death, biography, the impact of colonisation, climate change, Maori history, colonial history, lifestyle, taxidermy, family dysfunction, flora and fauna, Pasifika in Aotearoa New Zealand, and genomics. The task of selecting a mere four grantees .. was decidedly difficult.” 

Join us in congratulating the following CLNZ NZSA Research Grants 2022 recipients!

Maria Samuela – with project novel, Kana. 

Maria Samuela‘s project, Kana, is a novel set in Aotearoa in the 1950s and explores the migration of young Cook Islands women to New Zealand during the 1930s to 1950s. Maria will use her research grant to travel to Rarotonga, where her mother grew up, to conduct research for the book. Earlier in 2022, Maria’s collection of stories, Beats of the Pa‘u, was published by Te Herenga Waka University Press. Maria lives in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and is of Cook Islands descent.

The 2022 selection panel said “.. the story of young Cook Islands women (and men) who migrated to Aotearoa from the 1930s to the 1950s (is) a significant and often overlooked period of Pacific migration to New Zealand. Maria Samuela is a refreshing voice and excellent writer with a proven track record, industry backing, and a nose for stories of national significance.”

Bonnie Etherington – with book project, A Fried Egg in Space. 

Bonnie Etherington‘s book project, A Fried Egg in Space, navigates her brain tumour diagnosis and recovery as she reflects on environmental crisis amid the Covid-19 pandemic. This book is about reckoning with the sometimes toxic and threatening landscape of one’s own body, as collectively we must also reckon with living in and through increasing environmental precarity.

The selection panel said this about Bonnie’s project, “The compelling, subtly-written and astute narrative travels from hospital in Colorado to the SpaceX launch site on Biak Island to the dark sky sanctuaries of Aotearoa New Zealand, and a sky cluttered by ever-increasing numbers of satellites.”

Sylvan Thomson – with book project, The Third Kingdom

Sylvan Thomson is a writer based in Nelson.  His project, The Third Kingdom, is a book about fungi in Aotearoa, focusing on the natural and cultural history of different species. This is not a purely scientific book but rather one bends genre, combining elements of memoir, reportage, and nature writing. His work can be found in A Public Space (USA), the New Zealand Review of Books, and Sport, among others. He is also at work on a novel.

The 2022 selection panel said Sylvan’s work stood out in its exploration of the “traditional use of fungi by Māori, and consider(ation) how fungi feature in modern New Zealand society. He will also explore the concept that there are aspects of mycology (the study of fungi) … reflecting elements of his own life.”

Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) – with project Practical skills for the zombie apocalypse (working title). 

Dr Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) is a junior doctor at Middlemore Hospital, and an award-winning writer and podcast host. Emma’s writing features at The Guardian, Newsroom, Stuff, The Spinoff and in academic and literary journals. She has a background in politics, communications, media and Māori public health. Emma’s project is a collection of essays, working title Practical skills for the zombie apocalypse. The essays broadly relate to the experience of training to become a doctor in Aotearoa.

Also selected under the ‘grant for a writer whose project is on diverse and new topics, and on issues or subjects that are topical in present day Aotearoa New Zealand,’ the selection panel said, “Espiner’s completed project promises to be well-informed, lyrical and nuanced, but also visceral in its depiction of inequalities for Māori within existing health institutions.


CLNZ and NZSA would like to thank the 2022 Selection Panel – Deborah Challinor, David Eggleton and Lana Lopesi.

The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa is proud to be administering the awards in 2022. 

Copyright Licensing New Zealand (CLNZ) provides services that enable New Zealand’s creative people to record and manage their copyright, as well as package copyright in such a way that users of creative work can access the work through a simple licence.

New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (NZSA)  was established in 1934 and is the principal organisation representing writers interests in Aotearoa. A national office oversees 8 branches and hubs, administers prizes and awards, offers contract advice and runs professional development programmes among other activities. 

For further information or to organise an interview, please email Nicole Colmar or Esme Barber 

*Image (left to right by row): Maria Samuela, Bonnie Etherington, Sylvan Thomson, Emma Espiner