Writing courses available in New Zealand

Careers in writing can take many forms, but a writing course in New Zealand can be a solid foundation for your future writing career, whatever the genre.

New Zealand is the home of many world famous writers. Sir Peter Jackson, scriptwriter and director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, lives and works in the capital city, Wellington. Witi Ihimaera, author of the novel on which the movie Whale Rider was based, lives in the largest city, Auckland. A career as a writer can take many forms: writing for children, journalism, travel writing, biography, memoir, script writing, fiction, poetry, social commentary, reviewing and more. Many writers work in more than one genre. New Zealanders have won the Booker Prize and the Commonwealth Prize, amongst many others, which is significant considering the population numbers only four million. Some people insist that such writers are born, and not made. You cannot, they say, teach people how to write. However, the number of writing courses available in New Zealand and the success stories coming out of them would suggest otherwise.

All New Zealand’s major universities have writing courses at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Otago University in the southern city of Dunedin offers undergraduate papers in academic, professional and creative writing. Victoria University in Wellington has a particularly successful Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, designed for those who wish to gain an internationally-recognised formal qualification in the field. The University of Auckland, situated in arguably New Zealand’s most beautiful city, also offers a master’s degree in creative writing, as does Auckland’s University of Technology. Graduates with these degrees are looked on most favourably in the publishing industry.

Canterbury University in Christchurch and the Auckland University of Technology both offer journalism courses, and their graduates fill some of the most prominent positions in the New Zealand media and elsewhere. Courses can be full- or part-time and are often taken in conjunction with other English-based degrees.

Other, less formal part-time courses offer the chance of learning to write while studying in other disciplines. Most of these are tutored by New Zealand’s leading writers and teachers of writing. Auckland University’s Centre for Continuing Education (CCE) has a range of writing courses, including travel, fiction and scriptwriting. Attendees include many professional people, although there is no entry prerequisite. Professionals such as these combine their professional knowledge and writing skills to contribute to specialist periodicals. In many cases they use creative writing as an artistic outlet. Other smaller institutions offer diploma courses in writing both on-campus and online.

Studying writing in whatever genre can lead to a rewarding and varied career. Acclaimed poet Kapka Kassabova also writes novels and books on travel. Architect Lindsay Wood writes novels for young teens. Other children’s authors such as Joy Cowley, Margaret Mahy, William Taylor and Gavin Bishop all have considerable international reputations. When novelist Janet Frame wrote her memoir, it was adapted into a bestselling movie. Success rarely happens overnight. A great deal of success in a writing career comes from the determination of the writer and is usually the result of long solitary hours at the computer. This determination can be encouraged, although not taught, but it is possible to master the craft of writing itself by enrolling in an appropriate course.

For a comprehensive list of courses go to Writers Resources

Joan Rosier-Jones
Novelist, creative writing tutor
Delegate to the National Council of the New Zealand Society of Authors