Auckland novelist, cartoonist and graphic designer Sarah Laing has been awarded the prestigious Michael King Writers’ Centre University of Auckland Residency for 2013.
A partnership between The University of Auckland’s Department of English (Faculty of Arts), Creative New Zealand, and the Michael King Writers’ Centre, the residency aims to foster New Zealand writing by providing an opportunity for an author to work full-time for six months on a major project. Sarah will have use of the writer’s studio at the Michael King Writers’ Centre (including accommodation), an office in the University’s English Department, and a $30,000 stipend.
“We are very much looking forward to Sarah Laing’s presence in the English Department next year,” says Head of Department Associate Professor Joanne Wilkes. “There will be great opportunities for our staff and students to interact with her, and to hear about her intriguing project.”
A firm Katherine Mansfield fan since childhood, Sarah’s residency project is a graphic novel about this seminal author: part-biography, part-memoir and part-fiction.
The planned novel will focus on Katherine Mansfield’s life, and be interspersed with a personal account of Sarah’s own fascination with Mansfield. Sarah’s love of the graphic memoir genre has guided her approach, and will call heavily on her skills as a novelist, cartoonist and graphic designer. While she notes there are many Mansfield biographies, novels and films, she is sure that hers will reveal a very different experience.
“I envisage this as a lushly-coloured book, painted in inks and watercolours, filled with sensory detail. I would like to evoke her stories: ‘the apples stained with strawberry pink’, the ‘pear tree in fullest, richest bloom . . . . against the jade green sky’ – written almost as if she intended them to be painted,” says Sarah Laing.
“It will appeal to young and old readers, and push Mansfield out of the literary world into a wider audience.”
Sarah starts her residency in July 2013, and is looking forward to indulging in a lot of reading during the six months; delving into Mansfield’s letters and journals, and engaging with experts at the University.
“I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity. With three children under 10, everything has to be cleared away from the dining room table daily at 2.30pm. I’m really looking forward to the uninterrupted time to draw and explore, and to fully immerse myself in Mansfield’s work,” she says.
Following two books published by Vintage: Coming Up Roses – an anthology of short stories – and her first novel, Dead People’s Music, Sarah’s third book, and second novel, The Fall of Light, will be published in 2013. Her writings have appeared in anthologies and journals, and she has been writer-in-residence at the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Centre, with a short residency held at the Michael King Writers’ Centre in 2008. She has also appeared at international and local literary festivals and is an award-winning graphic designer, most recently winning the best cover design at the 2010 PANZ Book Design Awards.