Writer Returns for 2020 Residency

By University Book Shop | Posted: Thursday September 12, 2019

An Otago graduate and UK-based lawyer, John Forde, is returning to Dunedin in January 2020 to take up the University Book Shop Summer Writer in Residence, in association with the Robert Lord Writers Cottage Trust. John’s writing career began in Dunedin, with stints as a writer for both Critic and RadioOne while pursuing a BA Hons in English Literature and an LLB, graduating in 1999. John comments:

“I am thrilled to be the recipient of the UBS Summer Writing Residency, and to be returning to Dunedin, a city I know and love. I spent six happy years as a student at Otago University, where I developed my love of literature and writing. I couldn’t think of a better place than Dunedin to live and work in while I finish my first novel Settlement.”

John, originally from Invercargill, is a solicitor with Trowers & Hamlins LLP in London. Alongside his legal career he’s freelanced variously as a theatre reviewer for National Radio and The New Zealand Herald and the on-set reporter for E! Online during the filming of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ film trilogy. He was a runner-up in North & South magazine's Short Short Story Competition in 2014.

In 2017, John graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck College, University of London in 2017. While a student at Birkbeck, he was the winner of the inaugural Picador/Pan Macmillan Writers’ Bursary for his novel-in-progress, Settlement. During his time in Dunedin, John will take a two month leave of absence from his work in the UK to finalise his novel for publication and work on a new Dunedin-based project.

John says of the residency:

“I am very honoured to win a Residency named for Robert Lord. In 2002, I directed a revival of his comedy China Wars at Wellington’s Bats Theatre, which played to sold-out houses. I felt a kinship with Lord’s acerbic take on small town New Zealand, and his playful injection of freewheeling sexuality into a beige suburban landscape. I share with him the dual consciousness of an exile: living much of my adult life abroad, but with a strong emotional connection to my homeland, which I return to again and again in my writing. I visited Lord's cottage several times when I lived in Dunedin, and am very pleased to walk in his footsteps for six weeks.”

The residency runs from 6 January–14 February 2020, and the recipient becomes an adjunct student thanks Dr Elaine Watson and the University of Otago Summer School. Along with six weeks’ accommodation at the cottage, John receives a stipend from the University Book Shop, an office in the bookshop and administration support.

Phillippa Duffy, General Manager of University Book Shop Otago says that, while the selection panel made the choice on merit, it is fitting that in the 150th year celebrations of the University of Otago the recipient is someone with such strong ties to the university, Dunedin and the Deep South.

Duffy also values the relationship with the cottage, and the Chair, Nonnita Rees comments:

“Our Trust is delighted at the prospect of John's residency in the Writers' Cottage to get his novel Settlement ready for publication. We especially welcome a writer with such a strong interest in Robert's work. Here's to another productive summer in Titan Street and at UBS.”
Nonnita Rees, Chair, Robert Lord Writers Cottage Trust

The residency is a joint initiative between the University Book Shop and the Robert Lord Writers Cottage Trust. It was started in 2016 for the following summer to celebrate Dunedin’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature. John is the fourth recipient with Hannah Bulloch, Maria Samuela,and Michael Steven being the previous residents.

Further comment or to interview John Forde, contact Phillippa Duffy,  phillippad@unibooks.co.nz or phone 03 477 6976.

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