NZSA Oral History Project: Funding helps record stories of Otago authors

Thanks to funding from the Otago Community Trust and NZ National Commission for UNESCO, NZSA has been able to record three important oral histories from authors in the Otago region.


At the end of July 2020 New Zealand author and oral historian Naomi Arnold, spent a week meeting and interviewing authors Brian Turner, Barbara Else and Kyle Mewburn. She says:

“I’m extremely grateful for the funding that enables this work. This latest series is a chance to delve deeply into the lives and writing of these three southern authors, and have the time to explore their concerns and talents in more depth than a magazine interview or a festival session can achieve. My interview with poet, essayist and environmental activist Brian Turner helped me see how the influences of his early life drove his work in adulthood, including his abiding attachment to the Central Otago landscape.

My hours with children’s author and former NZSA president Kyle Mewburn were a fascinating insight into the daily practice of a successful children’s book writer, as well as some of the concerns of professionals producing work in that genre. It was also a valuable chance to learn more about her experiences as a trans woman.

With Barbara Else, our discussion was an opportunity to examine her entire career trajectory: short-story writer, playwright, novelist, anthologist, children’s book author, editor, agent, and manuscript assessor, gaining insights not just into her work, but her experience and views on the book industry as a whole.”

Verbal recording of history and story has a rich tradition among the peoples of Aotearoa; audio recording ensures that this knowledge and experience is captured and shared cross-generationally and interculturally. Covid-19 and its effect on older New Zealanders increased the urgency of this work and NZSA hopes to be able to record more authors over the next year.

NZSA will now work to store the transcripts and interviews in libraries which allow students, academics and interested listeners free and easy access to hear, read, and respond to the authors journeys and insights. Once this work is completed NZSA will also begin work to create a new season of our popular NZSA Oral History Podcast using the audio. The podcast is free and available worldwide.

NZSA wish to thank the NZ National Commission for UNESCO and the Otago Community Trust for their support of the project. Without it the project would not have been possible.

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