NZSA Mentor Programme recipients of 2024


Olivia Bing

Olivia Bing is a student and writer based in Auckland, currently studying Law and Arts.

Her writing has stayed contained to Google Docs and sticky notes, but she hopes this mentorship will improve her confidence.

She is passionate about telling great stories, and strives to incorporate humour into everything she does. Being a fourth-generation Chinese New Zealander is part of her core identity, and she reflects this in her writing through the interlinkage of New Zealand and Chinese cultural elements. She is working on a horror middle-grade novel, and her goal is to make it as great as it can be, and to one day (hopefully) get it published. And of course, she hopes to write many more.

Olivia is immensely grateful for this mentorship, and can’t wait to develop her writing skills to the best of her ability.

Claire Hiria Dunning

Hiria Dunning (Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Raukawa) is a non-binary multimedia writer, forging fictions to stoke the fires of hope in a time of cynicism running rife. They have had short stories published in Headland and AntipodeanSF, and have won awards in narrative game design and playwriting. Hiria is grateful and honoured to receive a 2024 mentorship, in which they will continue to work on their young adult novel, Corangelus, a work of queer hope and fantasy.


Philippa Grantham

Philippa Grantham grew up in Auckland before living in Australia, Canada, and the USA, returning in 2012. She has raced a yacht from Australia to Japan, worked on the ski fields in Canada, and was living in America during 9/11. She is also the proud mum of two adult children.

A prolific reader, her love of the English language found expression in short stories and acting in short films and theatre. It wasn’t until recently that she was encouraged to write and discover her voice. She is very grateful and excited to be part of the NZSA mentorship programme as she works on her debut novel.

Susan Jacobs

For much of her life Susan Jacobs has combined a love of writing, teaching, and travel. She studied and tutored at the University of Auckland, completing a PhD in Italian literature while bringing up four daughters. She continued working in tertiary and secondary education as well as taking on a stint as a book reviewer. She is the author of two non-fiction books, Fighting with the Enemy: New Zealand POWS and the Italian Resistance (Penguin, 2003) and In Love and War: Kiwi Soldiers’ Romantic Encounters in Wartime Italy (Penguin, 2012). Her poems have been published in Takahe, the NZ Poetry Year Book, and various anthologies.

In 2023 Susan took leave from her part-time job teaching adult ESOL and, with her partner, travelled for six months by train, bus and boat meandering through Central Asia and the Caucasus countries across Turkey to Europe. Spending time again in Italy, where she lived for ten years during the ‘70s and ‘80s, has helped fuel her current project, a political mystery novel set in Italy and New Zealand. She is excited about the opportunity to develop her completed first draft with the support of an NZSA mentorship.

Mel Johnston

Mel is a Wellington-based writer who has written for theatre, television, radio and the page. She was active in the Wellington fringe theatre scene in the late ‘90s and in 2000 took Harry Ricketts’ short fiction course at Victoria University. In 2022 she developed a collection of short stories as part of the MA programme at Te Herenga Waka’s IIML. She will use this mentorship to develop these stories further. Mel works as a business analyst and is the mother of two boys.

James Littlewood

James Littlewood is a freelance writer and producer. He recently spent four years as Director of the much loved Going West literary festival, three of which were during the pandemic. Over this time, in addition to live events, he produced a dozen short poetry films and fifty podcast episodes, which are all freely available at Going West online. He also produced Going West’s much loved slam, restructuring the format to ensure more poets were paid to perform. James taught creative writing at Manukau Institute of Technology in 2017, and following that was the editor of The Big Idea. His poetry focuses on two main themes: the power of human relationships to both collapse and reinforce social conventions; and his place in Aotearoa society as a Pākehā man, a role informed by concepts of tauiwi and manuhiri as sources of pride and mana. He lives high in the hills of Titirangi and dreams of a tiny apartment with no garden. Photo credit Garth Maxwell

Lisa McKenzie

A lover of stories, Lisa teaches senior English and performs in Nelson community theatre productions. She also writes poetry and won the 2023 NZIPP National Poetry Day competition with her poem Salt Damage. Lisa’s poem Paris is hollow underneath was published in the Poetry NZ Yearbook in 2021 and reflects her fascination with hidden truths. She is a graduate of the Hagley Writers Institute and has dabbled in short fiction, but her current project is a novel in the fantasy genre. From a young age, Lisa has found speculative fiction worlds rich and mesmerising and she wishes to spread the wonder and excitement that the genre can bring to readers.

Han Nguyen

Han Nguyen holds a BA in English and Communications from the University of Auckland. Her poetic works have found homes in notable publications such as A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand (AUP 2021) and the upcoming anthology He Moana o Reo | Ocean of Languages (The Cuba Press 2024). During the day, she is a Digital Marketer, and when she’s not working, she is writing her debut YA fantasy novel. She is interested in all things genre fiction, particular stories with suspenseful, exciting plots, and diverse characters possessing rich, emotional depth.

Tracey Sharp

Tracey Sharp is a writer and researcher of Pākehā/Fijian descent based in Tāmaki Makaurau. She holds dual Master’s degrees from the University of Auckland in Sociology (2017) and Creative Writing (2021/2022), and her sociological bent sneaks into her fiction writing every time she is not looking. As a trustee of the Going West Trust, she currently spearheads the Shadbolt House project to establish an exciting new writers’ residency in Titirangi: Fringe of heaven.

Tracey also conducts creative writing workshops at a Mt Albert community hub and is involved with Closing the Gap, an advocacy organisation for greater income equality in Aotearoa. A passionate waka ama enthusiast, she can be found paddling the waters of the Tāmaki Estuary and the wider Hauraki Gulf all year round. Tracey has previously written short stories and dabbled in theatre. During this mentorship, she will work towards completing the novel she began in her MCW year.


Jillian Starr

Jillian Starr’s hands have worked tirelessly on computer keyboards, slamming out documents at 65wpm to assist administrators throughout the world. She’s used those same hands to write articles for a parenting magazine, clean hotel rooms, direct an animated short about a giraffe astronaut, trim sheep hooves and write for live comedy shows. She enjoys imitating cicadas and watching fat kererū land on tiny branches. She does not enjoy collecting trash off Wellington beaches, but it has inspired her to write a speculative fiction novel about a polluted afterlife. She hopes to someday publish her novel and see an octopus in the wild, not necessarily in that order.  Jillian completed an MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University | Te Herenga Waka and is a grateful 2024 NZSA Mentor Programme Recipient.

Nicola Thorstensen

Nicola is based in Ōtepoti, and recently submitted a Master’s thesis in Creative Writing through Te Kunenga Ki Pūrehuroa Massey University. She wrote a poetry manuscript during her studies, which she plans to develop into a full-length poetry collection during the mentorship. The work comprises a series of elegiac lyric poetry sequences, which examine childhood trauma through a political lens. Her work has previously appeared in Aotearoa publications including Landfall, Takahē, political poetry anthology Manifesto Aotearoa, and most recently a liminal gathering, the grief almanac from Elixir and Star Press. Nicola belongs to two writers’ groups, who provide invaluable feedback on draft poems. She is a member of the Octagon poetry collective, which organises monthly poetry readings with an ethos of inclusion. For the last three years, she has served as Treasurer of the Otago Southland branch of NZSA. Nicola is delighted and thankful to receive this mentorship opportunity.

Raphael van Workum

Raphael is a creative who is passionate about empowering others to be themselves. Counsellor by day, dance teacher by afternoon, poet and writer by night. She has self-published two well-being development books and been featured for short stories and poems throughout Aotearoa.

Raphael is now focussing on writing fiction with strong moral theory, combining psychological and developmental milestones into her work.

When it comes to reading my work, if you aren’t moved in some way to think differently, act differently, be differently, then you haven’t read the final version. 

Raphael resides by a lake in Aotearoa enjoying cold water dips, harvesting from her garden and hosting mindfulness/wellbeing gatherings.

Roisin Warner

Roisin Warner is a writer of novels and Teacher of English. Originally from the UK, she did her Masters in English Literature at the University of Cambridge. Since emigrating to New Zealand, she has completed her third novel, Wanderlust as part of a Graduate Diploma with Mandy Hager at Whitireia Polytechnic. In 2022, she completed her Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Victoria University, where she wrote the first draft of her current novel, the Ancestor Tree, for which she received a Distinction. Set in Mohua (where she has lived for the last six years), the novel explores identity and emigration, loss and healing, magic and mystery. An extract from this novel was published in Turbine Literary Journal in 2022 (Victoria University Press). 

Roisin is honoured to receive this mentorship which she hopes will help her to refine this novel into its final iteration. She is also looking forward to her imminent move to Dunedin, where she will be working with the talented young writers and teachers at Logan Park High School as the Head of English. She aspires to integrate into this vibrant city’s literary community, as well as to write good books that delight and astonish.