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Interviews & Articles

Around the bookshops Interview

An interview with Barbara Murison for Around the bookshops 2001

Cultural Collisions

Joanna Orwin on Cultural collisions – writing stories with Maori content
A talk given at the INNZ workshop Christchurch 2012

My winter in Dunedin

Joanna Orwin for College of Education University of Otago newsletter 2009

Diane Hebley article for Magpies 2002

Long-awaited and Compelling: The Return of Joanna Orwin

Canterbury Earthquakes

Joanna Orwin on the Canterbury earthquakes, for Landfall 222, spring 2011 - Living Heart

About Joanna

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.

Useful links:


Ihaka and the Prophecy

Short-listed Children's Book of the Year - 1984

The Guardian of the Land

Winner, Children's Book of the Year - 1986

Watcher in the Forest

Short-listed Children’s Book of the Year - 1988

Four Generations from Maoridom

Award in History - 1992


Senior Fiction Winner, NZ Post - 2002

Out of Tune

Creative NZ grant - 2000

Kauri: Witness to a Nation's History

Award in History - 2003

Out of Tune

Young Adult Finalist, NZ Post - 2005


Creative NZ grant - 2007

Torch Bearer Award

World Harmony Run NZ - 2008

Writer in Residence

University of Otago’s College of Education Children’s Writer in Residence - 2009


Short-listed, YA Fiction NZ Post - 2012

Riccarton and the Deans Family

Short-listed NZ Heritage Book Awards - 2016