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An interview with Barbara Murison for Around the bookshops 2001
Joanna Orwin on Cultural collisions – writing stories with Maori content
A talk given at the INNZ workshop Christchurch 2012
Joanna Orwin for College of Education University of Otago newsletter 2009
New Zealand writer Joanna Orwin grew up in Nelson. Regular family holidays at nearby Lake Rotoiti instilled the interest in New Zealand’s natural landscapes that feature in all her books, both fiction and non-fiction. She has lived in Christchurch all her adult life.
A BSc (Hons) in botany led to research work as an ecologist with the Forest Research Institute in 1967, followed by taking on the role of in-house editor. Editing in environmental sciences continued to be her paid employment until she left Landcare Research in 1998 to pursue her own writing.
In the 1980s, Joanna began writing novels for children set in New Zealand landscapes. All four novels published between 1982 and 1987 featured Maori elements, directly in the two Ihaka books and through time shift in The Guardian of the Land and Watcher in the Forest. All but her first book were short-listed for the New Zealand Children’s Book Awards, with The Guardian of the Land winning in 1986.
The death of her husband in 1989 compromised Joanna’s commitment to her writing. After Watcher was published in 1987, she did not feature in children’s book lists again until Owl was published in 2001. During her absence from the writing scene, she completed a BA started in 1963 with papers on Maori language and literature, particularly focusing on translating nineteenth century Maori texts. Since 1998, Joanna has focused on her creative writing career, supported by contract work as a consultant researcher, writer, and editor. Her most recent consultancy project was the research and writing for the exhibits in the new Visitors’ Centre for the Christchurch Botanic Gardens, completed in 2013.
Joanna was awarded the 2009 University of Otago College of Education Children’s Writer Residency. Her children’s books have continued to be short-listed for the New Zealand Children’s Book Awards, with Owl winning the Senior Fiction category in 2002. Two of her non-fiction books for adults, Four generations from Maoridom and Kauri: witness to a nation’s history, received Awards in History. Her most recently published book, Riccarton and the Deans family: history and heritage (2015) was short-listed for the NZ Heritage Book Awards 2016. An updated and revised hardback edition of Kauri was published in 2019, and Joanna released her second historical novel for adults, Shifting Currents, in July 2020.
Short-listed Children's Book of the Year - 1984
Winner, Children's Book of the Year - 1986
Short-listed Children’s Book of the Year - 1988
Award in History - 1992
Senior Fiction Winner, NZ Post - 2002
Creative NZ grant - 2000
Award in History - 2003
Young Adult Finalist, NZ Post - 2005
Creative NZ grant - 2007
World Harmony Run NZ - 2008
University of Otago’s College of Education Children’s Writer in Residence - 2009
Short-listed, YA Fiction NZ Post - 2012
Short-listed NZ Heritage Book Awards - 2016