Writers in Residence2013

Deborah Shepard

Deborah Shepard

Deborah Shepard has written a blog about her residency at the Michael King Writers' Centre.

Deborah Shepard held the Autumn Residency at the Michael King Writers' Centre. She is working on two books, an exploration of memoir, Writing Your Heart Out: The Art and Craft of Memoir and a Pain Journal.

Deborah is an Auckland-based author, editor, journal writer, mentor and teacher of life writing, whose published work over the last decade has included Her Life’s Work: Conversations with Five New Zealand Women (2009) Between the Lives: Partners in Art (2005) and Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film (2000). 

Deborah studied creative writing at Edinburgh University in the 1980s and Life Writing at the City Literary Institute in London 1992-93 and since 2006 has taught an advancing series of Life Writing courses and summer schools for the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Auckland and the Creative Hub. In 2010 I was author/mentor on the First Chapters writing programme in Manukau and Papakura, South Auckland mentoring 30 new writers. I also edited eleven of their life stories for the publication, Translucence: Life Writing from Manukau and Papakura.

Since 2006 she has been the consultant biographer for the Life Story Service at Mercy Hospice in Auckland and she has written a teaching manual for life story facilitators. She also conducts regular training and further education workshops for new life story facilitators.

She has her own website www.deborahshepardbooks.com where she writes regular updates on memoir and life writing. It includes Your Story, a column that provides a forum for writers to contribute a story and be published online.

Deborah has an MA (First Class Honours) in Art History. Her Masters thesis was a biography of the life and work of film maker Gaylene Preston. In 2000 she graduated with a PhD in Film Television and Media Studies from the University of Auckland. The thesis was a history of women and film in New Zealand and involved seven years of research. She has lectured in The University of Auckland’s Film, TV and Media Studies Department and curated the film section of Wellington City Gallery’s film festival and art exhibition alter/image: feminism and representation in New Zealand art 1973-1993, to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage. She has written various entries on women filmmakers for the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and the Paris Le Dictionnaire Des Creatrices Les Editions Des Femmes.

Earlier in her career she researched and wrote about historic buildings for the Christchurch City Council and worked as a curatorial assistant and an Information Officer for the Robert McDougall Art Gallery.

Her first book Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand Film, published in 2000, was about the history of women’s contribution to film in New Zealand. The book was long-listed in the UK Kraszna-Krausz Moving Image Book Awards.

Between 2000 and 2005 she commissioned and edited a collection of nine essays for Between the Lives: Partners in Art, on the theme of close partnership and its impact on the life and work of nine New Zealand art couples: Colin and Anne McCahon, Toss and Edith Woollaston, Frances Hodgkins and Dorothy Kate Richmond, Kendrick Smithyman and Mary Stanley, Rudall and Ramai Hayward, James K Baxter and Jacquie Sturm, Alistair and Meg Campbell, Gil and Pat Hanly and Sylvia and Peter Siddell.

“In this book I steered away from conventional studies of the male artist and his muse and uncovered a more empowering theme, one that examined working partnerships where both members of the couple were at times anyway - perhaps the best of times in their shared lives - working side by side as artists.”

Her Life’s Work (2009) is a study of the life and work of five outstanding individuals; painter Jacqueline Fahey, educator and translator Merimeri Penfold, anthropologist Anne Salmond, film director Gaylene Preston and author Margaret Mahy.

“In this book I posed the question; despite the significant gains for women during the upsurge of late 20th century feminism how easy is it really for women to engage fully in meaningful and creative work that lasts a lifetime, while raising children, running homes and participating in the community doing all the necessary jobs that keep the wheels of society oiled – and still remain focused on a dream and a passion? The book reflects my position as a feminist researcher who believes passionately that the recording of women’s contribution to history is of ongoing importance and relevance. My research methodology for this book also reflected my study of feminist practice. In all my projects I apply a participatory model working in close collaboration with the people whose stories I represent.”