O'Rourke, Maris

O'Rourke, Maris


Primary publisher
David Ling Publishing. Duck Creek Press.

In Brief

Maris O’Rourke’s memoir Zigzags and Leapfrogs was launched at the Auckland Writers Festival in 2019. Zigzags and Leapfrogs (David Ling) is a memoir of an unlikely life that embraces themes of persistence, luck, bravery, ambition, roaming, joy, disappointment and success. After a long career in education she reinvented herself as a writer in 2008. O’Rourke met with immediate success winning awards such as the IWW’s Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems with Motherings, as well as receiving a number of highly commended titles in other national and international awards. O’Rourke has also published 6 children's books, a family history Through My Eyes, a poetry collection Singing With Both Throats and had her work included in numerous journals and anthologies such as 150 Essential NZ Poems: Facing the Empty Page (Random House, 2014) the International Literary Quarterly (UK) #16 (2011) and Ngā Kupu Waikato (2019).


O’Rourke, Maris has been an author, literary performer and judge since 2008 when she decided to redirect her career path. Prior to her decision to become a writer, O’Rourke led a long career in education. She was the first Secretary for Education in New Zealand as well as the first Director of Education for the World Bank in Washington DC. After making the decision to enter the writing field, O’Rourke was met with immediate success in numerous adult poetry competitions, anthologies and international literary magazines.

O’Rourke’s first children’s book was Lillibutt’s Big Adventure (Duck Creek Press, 2012), closely followed with Lillibutt’s Te Araroa Adventure (Duck Creek Press, 2014) and Lillibutt’s Australian Adventure (Duck Creek Press, 2015). Each book in the series was illustrated by Claudia Pond Eyley. Lillibutt’s Te Araroa Adventure was recently translated into Te Reo Māori by Ani Wainui as Te Haerenga Māia Riripata i Te Araroa (Duck Creek Press, 2016), and was distributed to every Te Kōhanga Reo and Kura Kaupapa Māori in New Zealand. In 2017 it was a finalist for the prestigious Te Pounanu award in the New Zealand Children's Book Awards for a book entirely in Māori. In 2018 she published Our Superbaby! (GTMpress) beautifully illustrated by collage artist Helen Bell.

Her first poetry collection Singing With Both Throats was published by David Ling in 2013, seen as an analogy for how O’Rourke herself sees her life. The collection is divided into three sections: Passages, Parallels and Pathfinder, and compiles a range of traditional and modern poetry form. Singing With Both Throats was met with great reviews, with New Zealand authors like Sue Wootton describing it in Takahē as a “warm-hearted collection from a poet to watch.”

O’Rourke is also a passionate performer, using her children’s books and poetry to run sessions in New Zealand schools. Aside from these sessions O’Rourke also regularly performs her work, frequenting over 15 poetry readings, conferences and festivals, ranging from The NZ Writers and Readers Festival in 2013 to the AUT Masters Readings in 2017.

Having published a family history, children's books and poetry, O'Rourke then redirected her attention to producing a longer piece of work. She began a memoir titled Zigzags and Leapfrogs as part of her thesis for AUT's Master of Creative Writing (first class honours). Zigzags and Leapfrogs was published by David Ling and launched at the Auckland Writers Festival in 2019. O’Rourke is still living in Auckland and working on another bilingual children's book Birdsong with Helen Bell and Stephanie Huriana Fong and her second poetry collection Motherings.


Maris O'Rourke's LinkedIn profile

Maris O’Rourke on Voices: commonwealth women and education

Interview for Gardens Mag by David Williams

Maris O’Rourke on Radio New Zealand ‘Nine to Noon’

Maris O’Rourke on Radio New Zealand ‘Arts on Sunday’

Storylines Author Profile

The New Zealand Society of Authors profile

Bookmarks interview on RNZ with Jesse Mulligan

Updated September 2017.