Auckland-born writer James McNeish, author of several acclaimed novels, will spend a year in Berlin from September 2009 as this year's recipient of the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers' Residency.
A Katherine Mansfield Fellow (1973) McNeish is a novelist, playwright, NZ Herald journalist, broadcaster and biographer. He wrote his first book Tavern in the Town in 1957 and has since gone onto write 23 works including As for the Godwits, The Glass Zoo, Ahnungslos in Berlin, Lovelock and The Mask of Sanity.
He will use his time in Berlin to complete an unfinished novel and carry out research for a memoir, Touchstones, which will explore his development as a writer.
James McNeish said that Berlin has always had a special meaning for him.
"I am honoured and delighted to learn of the award for the Berlin Residency. Berlin, even - and especially - when divided by the Wall, was an absorbing place to live in the early 1980s. To be going back now in 2009, in time for the celebration of 20 years after reunification, will be especially exciting. Politics apart, Berlin was the touchstone that prompted my novel Lovelock, as it was Berlin that sparked my interest in the New Zealand/ Rhodes Scholars/Oxbridge phenomenon which led to two biographies, Dance of the Peacocks, and The Sixth Man."
The biennial Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers' Residency is the organisation's largest residency for writers. Established in 2000, it enables a New Zealand writer to focus on a writing project over a sustained period and respond to the life, people and culture of Berlin. It also provides professional development opportunities for the writer to build networks, appear at literary festivals, and give lectures and interviews.
Creative New Zealand Arts Board Chair Alastair Carruthers said the residency is highly regarded by the literary sector and contributes to the development and profile of New Zealand writing.
The Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers' Residency alternates with the biennial Creative New Zealand Berlin Visual Artists' Residency at the Konstlerhaus Bethanien. Funded through the Arts Board, it is worth approximately $60,000. This covers the rental cost of an apartment situated in the heart of Berlin, and provides a $3000 a month stipend and travel allowance to the recipient.
Previous recipients are Sarah Quigley, Tina Shaw, Kapka Kassabova, Philip Temple, Tim Corballis and Lloyd Jones.