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Writers welcome return to Canterbury for residency

15 December 2023

Acclaimed author Nic Low (Ngāi Tahu) returns to the University of Canterbury to take up one of two Ursula Bethell Writers in Residence placements.


Image caption: Authors Pip Adam and Nic Low are both recipients of the Ursula Bethell residency at the University of Canterbury next year and are planning to work on exciting new novels. 

The 2024 residency will be a step back into familiar territory for Low, who was an undergraduate in the English Department at Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) 20 years ago.

He says it will be a privilege to return to the department early next year and start writing his fourth book. “I took some good steps towards becoming a writer when I was at UC. I learned to love the craft of words, and while studying post-colonial writing I started to understand how the exercise of power is tied up with the stories we tell.

“I'll be working on a novel about a group of Māori soldiers who, heading home through London after World War 1, decide to rob the British Museum. The idea is to write a literary heist novel that explores how we think about taonga as living ancestors, and the legacy of colonial museums. I guess I’m interested in who gets to keep what they stole, and why,” Low says.

Ōtautahi’s reputation for live comedy and theatre was a key attraction for award-winning author Pip Adam, who will take up the Ursula Bethell residency in the second half of the year.  

Born and raised in Christchurch, Adam now lives in Wellington but is excited to be returning to Christchurch for her tenure.

“I have loved coming to the Word Christchurch Festival the last few years and getting a glimpse of the thriving writing and arts communities there. I've been looking a lot at humour and theatre recently, so one thing that particularly attracted me to Ōtautahi was the live comedy and theatre happening in the city, which looks amazing,” she says. 

“I think being a bit 'lost' in a new city and having to relearn things that I take for granted is always good for my writing. It makes my brain work in different ways which helps me think differently about my work.” 

During her residency, Adam will work on a new novel that explores the ways humour is weaponised. 

“It's kind of fuelled by all the times I've been told I need to 'lighten up' or that it's 'just a joke'. I have written a bit toward the novel but I'm really looking forward to challenging what I've written and being open to the possibility of starting over.” 

About the Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing
Ursula Mary Bethell (1874–1945) was a Christchurch poet and artist. The Ursula Bethell Residency in Creative Writing was established by the University of Canterbury in 1979 to support New Zealand writers and foster New Zealand writing. The Residency, jointly funded by the University of Canterbury Faculty of Arts and Creative New Zealand, allows authors of proven merit in all areas of literary and creative activity an opportunity to work on an approved project within an academic environment. Previous recipients include Owen Marshall (1981), Margaret Mahy (1984), Keri Hulme (1985) and Eleanor Catton (2011).

Artist biographies:

Nic Low
Nic Low is a Ngāi Tahu writer, editor, arts organiser, te reo student and dad. His whakapapa is to Ōraka-Aparima at the bottom of the South Island. Now Christchurch-based, he has spent most of the last 20 years living between Melbourne and Castlemaine. He is contributing editor at New Zealand Geographic with a focus on Māori perspectives, the former Programme Director of the WORD Christchurch Festival and the author of three acclaimed books: Arms Race (2014), Uprising (2021), and Little Doomsdays (2023).

Pip Adam
Pip is the author of four novels: Audition (2023), Nothing to See (2020), which was shortlisted for the Acorn Prize for Fiction, The New Animals (2017), which won the Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction, and I'm Working on a Building (2013); and the short story collection Everything We Hoped For (2010), which won the NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction in 2011. Her work has appeared in literary journals and anthologies in New Zealand and overseas. She makes the podcast 'Better off Read'.

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