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 Children’s 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 children’s novel 2012; an international IBBY Award and a White Raven Award for The Travelling Restaurant; the Ignition Award for children’s 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 Barbara’s 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 didn’t feel I’d 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. We’re at an exciting time with our writing and need NZSA more than ever.”