NZSA Mentorship Recipients of 2016

Nathan Bennett

Nathan Bennett_optFrom a young age Nathan Bennett has shown a great regard for the creative arts especially literature and film. After years of trying different mediums he found writing most suited his introverted nature and studied for two years at the Hagley Writers’ Institute, graduating in 2010. Since then he has landed short stories in Landfall, Takahe, JAAM and was shortlisted in the 2015 Carve magazine (US) short story competition. With the aid of his mentor he aims to break down and gently knead back into shape the rather unruly creation that is his New Zealand-set historical novel, hopefully crafting a work of greater wit and poignancy.




Jeni Curtis

Jeni Curtis_optJeni Curtis is a teacher and writer from Christchurch, New Zealand. She attended the Hagley Writers Institute in 2011 and 2012. She has published in various publications including the Christchurch Press, Takeh?, JAAM, NZPS anthology 2014, and 2015, The London Grip, 4th Floor, the 2015 Poetry NZ Yearbook and Beyond the Red Zone. With a keen interest in Victorian literature and history, she is a member of the Christchurch branch of the International Dickens Fellowship, and editor of their magazine, Dickens Down Under. She is also secretary of the Canterbury Poets Collective.



Marilyn Garson

Marilyn Garson_optI am Marilyn Garson, a Canadian-born Kiwi who took off my backpack in Hokianga in 1987.  I have spent most of the last eighteen years establishing social enterprises, creating jobs in war-affected communities.  I imagined writing a book about the talent to be found in the world’s too-hard baskets, among Cambodian child soldiers and homebound Afghan women.  I moved to Gaza, in 2011, and lived there four years.  Gaza changed the story.  It challenged everything I thought I knew about conflict and our indivisible human roots.  With many thanks to the NZ Society of Authors for this opportunity, the story of Gaza will be my first book-length project.



Sarah Harpur

Sarah Harpur_optSarah Harpur is an award winning comedian from Wellington. Since 2009, she has written and toured many solo comedy shows and performed at local and international fringe and comedy festivals, including the Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe.

She has a Graduate Diploma in creative writing from Whitireia and studied creative writing at Victoria University, where she won the Maurice Gee Prize for Children’s Writing. Her writing style is imaginative, offbeat and funny. She loves to take elements from mythology and turn them upside down.
Sarah also works as a scriptwriter and writes for television and advertising. She is delighted to be a part of the NZSA Mentor Programme and will be working on her second novel for children.


Ara Kang

Ara KangAra is a university student majoring in Primary Education, as well as a part-time barista who loves making people tasty coffees. She has always had a passion for drawing cartoons and reading comics and graphic novels. From a very young age, she loved to spend her free time drawing and making her own comics as well as writing short stories with pictures, and dreamed of publishing her work one day. She hopes that this mentorship will help her to finally achieve her childhood dream. She thinks that drawing comics is a great way for an artist to express himself/herself and explore his/her creativity, and looks forward to this wonderful opportunity.



Sam Keenan

Sam KeenanSam Keenan lives in Wellington with her husband and an assortment of four-legged companions. She was a student in James Brown’s undergraduate poetry class at the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) in 2014 and was awarded the Story Inc. Prize for the best folio. She then completed a Master of Arts in Creative Writing (with distinction) at the IIML. So far, she’s been rather shy about sharing her creative work outside the workshop setting. However, there is a poem by Sam on the Story Inc. website. She will be using the NZSA mentorship to work on a collection of poems and her courage.




Lynne Kohen_opt (1)Lynne Kohen

Lynne Kohen lives in Ruby Bay, Nelson.  She began writing poetry in 2005 after taking a Creative Writing class with poet Cliff Fell at NMIT.  Her poetry awards include second and third placements in the New Zealand Poetry Society’s international poetry competition, and first equal in the Page and Blackmore annual poetry contest.  In addition to completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at Massey University, Lynne works as a fundraiser for Magenta, a charitable trust which provides mentally ill artists access to free art materials and tutoring.  She plans to use the Mentorship Programme to write a collection of poems and short stories with the working title “My Little Madness – Curious Things People Do in Private”.



Olly Te Hata Ohlson

olly Ohlson_optMaori language was my first language and I found reading difficult throughout my school years. However, I was raised with a host of story tellers in our large family and so it was natural that I became one too. At age 26 I knew I could read anything and so I revisited books that I couldn’t read when I was at school and I fell in love with reading and research. I wrote and presented my own scripts for the TVNZ children’s series After School in the 80’s. I wrote a children’s book, ‘Wiki and the Upids” – a phonetic introduction to te reo Maori. I ran workshops and classes in Mauri Hauora – an Indigenous Narrative Therapeutic program to help people take better charge of their lives – something I’ve dedicated my life to. I used the program in my Counselling Practice, Family Court work and in prisons. Every Year I make a point of doing something different. This year that something is to write a fiction adventure thriller bringing Maori history and Maori philosophy into the 21st century. I am hopeful that the NZSA Mentoring programme will help me to successfully complete the novel that has been running around inside my head.


Callum Robertson

Callum mugshot_optCallum Robertson is an illustrator and comic artist, who has recently returned to Wellington after 18 months living in London. There he self-published his own comics, selling them in comic stores and to an online fanbase. He was a regular volunteer at the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing studio for school-aged children, and played football for the reigning gay world champions, Stonewall FC. Callum has an Honours degree in Fine Arts from Massey University, Wellington. He hopes this programme will help him find his voice, and that the resulting work may inspire others to find theirs.




Dave Robertson

dave robertson 2_optDave has been writing poetry and haiku for several decades and has been published in a variety of literary journals, newspapers, magazines, and anthologies. Some success in writing prose poetry led to a hankering to try his pen at fiction writing and over the last two years has been juggling writing a novel with work and family commitments. Dave lives on a life sentence block in the Bay of Plenty with his wife and three children and works as a Clinical Psychologist. He is hugely excited and appreciative of the opportunity provided by the NZSA Mentorship scheme and looks forward to focusing on his goal of getting his first novel published.


Julian Slade

Julian Slade_optJulian Slade (pictured right) is a writer making his first foray into fiction with his work-in-progress A Child Named Regret and Other Stories. He is a former journalist who has worked as a community newspaper editor, Parliamentary Press Secretary and boxing columnist. He is half Samoan and lives in Auckland. His fiction writing draws on his experiences as an alcoholic, a boxer and a bouncer. Slade has contested four boxing bouts in three weight divisions.




Ryan Smith

Ryan Smith_optRyan Smith is a composer, sound designer, scriptwriter and aspiring writer of fiction. He lives in a bushy part of Wellington with his partner and a couple of naughty cats. One of his favourite projects so far has been the award-winning theatre show Traces: Ghosts From The Archives (based on 19th century ghost stories from New Zealand) where he was both dramaturg and composer. Most of the writing he has done up until now has been for radio, and as a freelance contributor has written 11 radio features for RNZ. These include a 4-part series on composers who have pulled music out of their dreams; a programme about Debussy’s association with the mysterious and otherworldly Symbolist painters; and a feature on Moondog, the blind street musician who always dressed as a Viking. Ryan loves finding the unusual stories in people’s lives and plans to use all he has learned from researching and writing biographical scripts to turn his hand to fictional stories.


Robyn White

Robyn White_optAfter completing a Bachelor of Arts in Geography at Auckland University, Robyn White became a deckhand on trawlers and yachts before meandering through Indonesia and Thailand with her boogie board strapped to her back.  During these travels her writing journal was always within reach, recording her tranquil search for beauty and belonging.  When she returned to New Zealand, she worked for Greenpeace and wrote on environmental campaigns then sailed on Greenpeace vessels for several years.  As with her previous nautical experiences her journal always accompanied her.   She likes the challenge of  changing the reader’s perception and to enliven their dreams.  She is stirred by the questions Who are we?  What are we doing here?  Whats going on?   She maps continents, islands and oceans, silencing us with words that come from a deep sense of serenity and belief.  For twenty years she has been raising her three children in Auckland whilst continuing to write. She recognises the time has come to take her writing out to the world.  She would like to complete a body of work and absorb the reader in a profound and amusing way with particular reference to life at sea.


Lisa Williams

Lisa Williams_opt (1)Biographical summary: By day I am a research fellow in the School of Nursing at the University of Auckland.  My research focus is palliative and end of life care for older people. By night, I write novels. In 2003 the US publisher Bella Books published my first novel, Drifting at the Bottom of the World, which drew upon some of my experiences of working in Antarctica for several years. A self-published e-book mystery, Death on a Long Winter’s Night, followed in 2010, also set in Antarctica. In 2011, I completed a PhD in Art & Design at AUT, which included the creation of No Such Luck, a novel in seven pieces. Born in Florida, I first came to New Zealand in 1990 and have lived here fulltime since 2002.

Mentor goals: My primary goal is to finish a rewrite of my manuscript, Cotilla Godzilla. By April I will have completed the first draft, which I would like the mentor to review and comment on. In the following months, I envisage that the mentor will offer advice on how best to pull the story apart and put it back together in ways that I could not have discovered on my own.