Eleanor Catton, winner of the 2013 Man Booker Prize for Literature, held the 2012 University of Auckland Residency at the Michael King Writers’ Centre. She worked on the final draft of her winning novel The Luminaries during her residency.
This is what she wrote about her experience at the centre:
“An idea can be either sedimentary or igneous, but a work of art is always metamorphic–in other words, the product of intense heat, intense pressure, and a good deal of time. Uninterrupted solitude is a state of pure focus and intensity: it provides heat and pressure in a way that is sometimes alarming, sometimes revealing, and always transformative. It is only in solitude that a writer can apply the necessary force to transform ideas and sketches into works of art. As Virginia Woolf insisted, a writer needs only two things to be able to write: money, and a room of her own.
“As the recipient of the 2012 University of Auckland Michael King Writer’s Residency I have surprised myself by working many weeks of twelve- and sometimes fourteen-hour days– something I simply would not have been able to do in my home environment. I have read many books that ordinarily I might have passed over in favour of those that are thinner or that seem easier. It is as a consequence of this residence that I have been able to read more widely, write more, read better, write better.
“The University of Auckland Michael King Writer’s Residency provides the lucky resident with two spaces to work: a gorgeous office on the hill above Devonport, with views across to the Auckland skyline, and an additional space in the University of Auckland English Department, near to the fantastic University Library and Auckland’s equally fantastic central library. The MKWC itself– the first institution of its kind in New Zealand– is a lovely and peaceful place to live. It is fun getting to know the familiar faces in the nearby Devonport Village, and the short ferry ride to the city is a real pleasure too. The staff at the MKWC are wonderful, offering both company and solitude; likewise the staff at the University of Auckland English Department are warm, welcoming, and supportive, making every effort to make the resident writer feel at home in Auckland’s wider literary community.
This really is a wonderful residency; I will be very sorry to leave. I urge all my colleagues in New Zealand to apply.”
Eleanor Catton, September 2012