Master of Creative Writing
Not many award-winning novels start life as a postgraduate assignment, but that was certainly the case for creative writing alumna Thalia Henry and her debut novel Beneath Pale Water.
“For my master’s project I wrote about a twisted triangle of three damaged individuals, set in Otago. The structure is divided into four parts, following the seasons and includes flashbacks. I set the storyline in the Otago high country, an area where I learned to glide with my late father and that I can recall vividly. In the story, the landscape and the shifts of the weather help to shape the storyline by influencing the moods of the characters.
“After I finished my master’s degree in 2015, I continued to draft the manuscript, and it was published in late 2017 as Beneath Pale Water. The novel was recently awarded an IPPY gold medal award in the category Best Regional Fiction, Australia and New Zealand.”
Thalia says she was drawn to AUT’s Master of Creative Writing by the opportunity to be mentored by an experienced author while writing a full-length work.
“It’s hard to fit writing around everyday life, so embarking on a period of intensive study carves a space for that, and also provides a time to learn and improve your skills. I was interested in what the AUT Master of Creative Writing had on offer – a mixture of master’s classes on different topics and one to one critique sessions.”
She enjoyed working with well-known authors like novelist and short story writer James George, Thalia says.
“James was a brilliant mentor. He was able to balance his critique on how to hone strengths, and offered suggestions to strengthen the areas that needed revision. I also enjoyed the range of perspectives from the other lecturers, including Siobhan Harvey and Mike Johnson, at the master’s classes.”
Sharing her voice as a writer
Since graduating from AUT in 2015, Thalia has been busy writing as well as helping other authors get their work published.
“I’ve been closely involved with helping to set up Cloud Ink Press, an indie publishing company formed by a group of AUT Master of Creative Writing alumni to give new authors a voice in the industry.”
Thalia's recent work includes poetry and prose soon to be published in fresh ink – a COVID-19 themed collection by Cloud Ink Press, and More than a roof, an anthology collated by Landing Press, an eclectic and varied story about ‘home’. She is working to finalise her second novel manuscript, Sorry Rocks, set in Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and the Northern Territory.
She enjoys sharing her experiences as a writer with others, Thalia says.
“I’ve had excellent public speaking opportunities including a session about publishing in the new age, hosted at the Auckland Art Gallery, and I read a piece of flash fiction at the Auckland Writers’ Festival. Together with another AUT alumna, Anne Kayes, I’ve also had the opportunity to teach community education creative writing classes on behalf of the New Zealand Society of Authors.”