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Born and raised in Auckland, Brigid Lowry is a young adults' author, poet and short story writer. Lowry has won many literary prizes including the 2006 NZ Children’s Post Book Awards and the Young Adult section of the 2008 Victoria Premier’s Awards. Her poems and short stories have been published widely, and in 2006 Lowry was awarded a residency at Ledig House in upstate New York. In 2008 she became the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow. She teaches creative writing and has long been involved with arts projects.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
LOWRY, Brigid (1953 - ) is a children's and young adult writer as well as a poet and short story writer. She teaches creative writing and has long been involved with arts projects.
Brigid Lowry was born and raised in Auckland. She completed her Diploma of Teaching at Auckland Teachers College in 1973 and set out for Australia. While living in Australia, Lowry completed a Bachelor's in English at Curtin University, a Post-Graduate Diploma of English Literature, and an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Western Australia.
Lowry's career includes work as a waitress, a software tutor, a librarian and a primary school teacher as well as being a wife and mother. Since 1985, Lowry has worked as a professional writer and creative writing teacher.
Lowry’s first book for young adults, Fizz, Max & Me (1993) was followed by Guitar Highway Rose (1996) and Follow the Blue (2001). Next came Spacecamp in 2002 which was co-authored by her son, Sam Field. In 2005, With Lots of Love from Georgia was published and went on to win Best in Young Adult Fiction at the 2006 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, in addition to making the 2006 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Book list. Tomorrow All Will be Beautiful was published in 2007 and Juicy Writing was released in March 2008.
As a poet and short story writer, Lowry’s work has appeared in Western Word, Far & Wide, Southern Review, Imago, Western Word Magazine, Mind Moon Circle, Fremantle Arts Review, Speculum Magazine, Naked Eye, Westerly Magazine and Australian Book Review. Her short stories have been anthologised in Summer Shorts, The Wild Fictions Anthology, The Summer Shorts Anthology (Fremantle Arts Centre Press), and In Perspective (Society of Women Writers). Much of this work has been broadcast on Radio National in Australia.
Lowry’s literary prizes include the Hoffman Readers’ Choice Award, Books & Writing Radio National Short Story Competition, the Imago Short Story Competition, the Jolly Good Fiction Award (Curtin University) and the Canning Literary Award.
Brigid Lowry participated in the 2004 Book Council WOW (Words on Wheels) tour of the deep South. In the same year, she was the Children's Writer in Residence at the University of Otago College of Education.
Guitar Highway Rose was re-issued by Allen & Unwin in 2004.
In 2006, she was awarded a residency at Ledig House in upstate New York. For three weeks in September, Lowry took part in the Ledig House International Writers Residency with writers from all over the world.
In 2008, she spent five months in Auckland as the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow. She was nominated for the 2008 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, for Tomorrow All Will be Beautiful (Allen & Unwin, 2007). It also won the Young Adult category of the prestigious Victoria Premier’s Awards in 2008.
Juicy Writing: Inspiration and Techniques for Young Writers (Allen & Unwin, 2008) speaks directly to young people and inspires them to have courage, be themselves and explore their creativity. The work was listed as a 2009 Storylines Notable Non-Fiction Book.
In 2011 she published Triple, Ripple: A Fabulous Fairytale (Allen & Unwin).
WRITERS IN SCHOOLS INFORMATION
Lowry is available to talk to high school students. Topics she is prepared to discuss are writing, her books, creativity, writing for young adults, journal writing and memoir/life writing. She would prefer to talk to 20 or fewer and is able to run workshops by prior arrangement. Lowry is able to travel outside her region.
Interview with Barbara Murison in Marigold Enterprises Goes Around the Bookshops (ed. Barbara Murison)
Q. You have been running creative writing courses for the past 13 years. What do you tell students, particularly in secondary schools who want to have a writing life? In your opinion can anyone be 'taught to write'? If not, what is the essential buzz that needs to be there first?
A. My advice to aspiring writers, young and old. You need lots of the above mentioned 'bum glue' (quoted from Bryce Courtenay). Creativity, imagination and wonderful ideas are the starting point, but you also need a huge amount of perseverance and discipline to turn the juicy beginnings into polished brilliance. You need to believe in yourself, and you need to live a full life so you have stories to tell. Travel is important, small and large journeys expand the mind and the horizons. Reading a lot is also incredibly beneficial. Read widely. Use your library, explore poetry, art books, writing from other countries. I also believe in engaging with a wide variety of art forms, in order to inspire and nourish the well of creativity. Listen to music, go to galleries, wander around graveyards. Do whatever makes you feel relaxed and creative. Carry a notebook. Don't let dreamy ideas slip away, write them down. Make a place where you can write, a desk in a quiet corner or a whole room, if you are lucky. Decorate it with wonderful things, bring in a flower from the garden. Then put in the necessary hours. Good luck!
As for the second part of the question. There are some people who will never be great writers. These people can study writing and learn things that will help them improve their skills but they will never become stars. One can only teach these people the basics, which they can enjoy and practice at their own level, perhaps as a joyous hobby or with minor publication success. There are others who have an extra something, the innate talent. These lucky people can benefit from studying writing. There is a final component, discipline, which cant be taught, it can only be encouraged. Some of the best writers I taught at university now work in pubs or video stores.
Q.I read you began to write Guitar Highway Rose with nothing more than an idea which involved a girl who wanted to wear a ring in her nose. This is such a spirited and popular book I am interested to know how you developed the original idea.
A.When I wrote Guitar Highway Rose I was incredibly lucky. I had the initial vague idea, and substantial Arts Council funding. I sat in my study every day and the book just came to me, gently and happily. I followed my nose and made it up as I went along, writing a little each day, and magically a good book just unfolded. Not all books are this easy. Follow the Blue was much harder, and needed stern editorial help to get it in good shape. Space Camp was another story. My son, Sam Field, wrote the first draft and I did the polishing, which was a neat process. Each book has its own way of appearing, it seems. I would love the book I am writing now to come to me as readily and be as good as Guitar Highway Rose. All I can do is follow the energy and hope for the best.
Q. The characters in your books (Rose; Bec in Follow the Blue and all the kids in Space Camp) are all believable, recognisable 'today' characters. Do you have a young family to observe? Listen to kids talking on buses? Read teenage magazines? Does it come from memory? How do you do it?
A. Having a teenage son was a great help when I was writing Guitar Highway Rose, in particular. Sam was fourteen then, the target age of my audience and having him around gave me the perfect opportunity to observe bedrooms, clothes, language. Now he is older, I have to improvise. Knowing people of the age you are writing for is very helpful. One of my young fans has become an email buddy and I adore hearing about what she is doing and what preoccupies her in her vibrant fifteen year old world. I am also an avid observer of young people. I will go so far as to approach unknown teenagers at the swimming pool and ask them what their favourite band is. I do sometimes read teenage magazines, or go into skate shops, or other haunts of the young, although it makes me feel very ancient. Finally, although I am over fifty, there is a part of me that is still a sulky teenage girl who worries about her hair and her weight and indulges in a vivid fantasy life, so I try to tap into her world when I write and let her loves and sorrows inform my work.
Q. You say in one of the interviews on the internet that your family, very early on, taught you a love of books. Do you remember any of these titles now? Were you a library user from an early age?
A. As a child I remember loving a book titled Drover's Road, by Joyce West. It was about children named Gay and Joy and Merry, as I recall, who had rollicking good adventures on horseback on a South Island sheep farm. I also have vague but happy memories of a book called Bunchy, which I have since looked for in second hand bookshops but never managed to find. The girl, Bunchy, was visiting her grandmother, and each of the things in her Nana's glass-fronted case, like the pack of cards, or the snow dome, came to life and provided a chapter of the book. I also loved the classics, like Tolkein, and the trashy, like The Famous Five. I was an avid reader who would go to the library on the first day of the school holidays and lug home seventeen books. I also read whatever was lying around our house, some of which was most unsuitable. A nine year old cant make head nor tail of Tropic of Capricorn, let me tell you. Basically, I would read anything I could get my hands on. It seems to be a common thing about writers, we read everything, even cereal packets. I am still an avid library user. It is one of life's greatest pleasures for me, going to the library and bringing home a delicious pile of books.
Family: Married with one son, Sam, who is 22. No pets, because I travel a lot. Also, to quote a New York writer whose name I have forgotten, I am more interested in things I can have a conversation with.
Favourite foods: Seafood is good. The odd glass of champagne. A juicy nectarine. A ripe tomato. Fresh bread.
Music: Jazz. Van Morrison. Lucinda Williams. Pedal steel guitar. Leonard Cohen. Tom Waits. Joni Mitchell. Tracy Chapman.
Sports: I like swimming, walking dancing, table tennis. I'm not a big team player. I love playing Scrabble, does that count?
Things that make me angry: Politicians who seem to want war. Aggressive drivers.
Sad: My son living in another country because I miss seeing more of him. The huge amount of poverty and suffering on this planet.
Happy: Family. Good friends. Long walks. Finding treasures in op shops. Gardening.
MEDIA LINKS AND CLIPS
Updated January 2017.