Scott, Rosie

Scott, Rosie

In Brief

Rosie Scott was a novelist and literary activist, best known for her work in fiction, including novels, short stories, poetry and plays. Her writing explores the passion and anguish of contemporary life, and her books have been published and translated internationally. Scott lived in Australia, and she received Australian awards and prizes, as well as receiving recognition in this form in New Zealand. Rosie Scott and Tom Keneally have edited PEN anthologies of refugees' work, and Scott has also published a collection of non-fiction essays.


Scott, Rosie (1948 - 2017), was born in Johnsonville, Wellington. She completed an MA (Hons) in English Literature at Victoria University of Wellington and a Diploma in Drama in Auckland. An itinerant period in publishing, journalism, acting, waitressing and social work provided an extensive amount of material for “her inventively written tales of career girls, drug addicts, family women and queens of love in the shifting cinematic dream world of modern society” (The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature).

The beginning of her literary career was marked by the volume of poems, Flesh and Blood (Hard Echo Press, 1984) and a play ‘Say Thank You to the Lady’ (Mercury Theatre Two, 1985). The play followed a Pākehā social worker “who discovers in a lawless Māori girl a model for the strength she herself needs to break free of oppression in marriage and work” (The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature). ‘Say Thank You to the Lady’ was received with popularity, and won the 1986 Bruce Mason Award. Scott was the script editor for the feature film version of the play, Redheads (1992) directed by Danny Vendramini, Scott’s husband.

Shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards, her first novel Glory Days (Penguin, 1988) went on to be published internationally in Australia, Germany, UK and the US. Marilyn Stasio described Glory Days as “an introspective voice that’s rich in poetry and raw with anguish” in her review for the New York Times Book Review.

Queen of Love and other stories (Penguin, 1989) is “a collection of clear-sighted, hard-nosed stories about women’s relationships, competitiveness and sexiness and Nights with Grace (Heinemann, 1990) is equally forthright yet lyrical about ‘that lovely drenched expectant silence before sex’. Scott can handle abandonment to a passionate affair on a dreamy Pacific island without ever using a cliché in language or plot” (The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature).

Scott’s three later novels, Feral City (Reed Books, 1992), Lives on Fire (Hodder & Stoughton, 1993) and Movie Dreams (Tandem Press, 1995) look at the angst of the city and its accompanying dehumanising superficiality. Laurie Clancy describes the Auckland-set Feral City as a “nightmarishly dystopian novel that savagely attacks the then-contemporary government policies of privatisation and economic rationalism”. Set in Brisbane, Lives on Fire follows Belle’s road to recovering her sense of self-worth, immersing herself with a group of street kids in a touring theater. Movie Dreams follows Adan Loney, a boy who is feeling fed up with the world and crushed by the suicide of his friend Lee, and decides to leave his Brisbane school for a hitchhiking trip to Cairns.

All of Scott’s books have been internationally published and translated; including in the Rolling Stone and the Metro. Since the late 1980s Scott lived in Australia (Brisbane, then Sydney), maintaining a dual New Zealand-Australian citizenship. Scott was very active in the Australian writing community, notably in her work for Sydney PEN and her 10 years spent serving on the board and as the executive of the Australian Society of Authors (ASA), during which she was elected Chair.

In 1998, Rosie Scott received the Bruce Mason Playwriting Award.

The Red Heart (Vintage, 1999) is a collection of non-fiction essays. Feral City was republished in Germany in 2001 in a list of classic science fiction books.

Faith Singer is a novel set in Sydney's King's Cross (2001), and in 2003 itwas voted as one of the 100 best Australian books (all genres) by members of the Australian Society of Authors. In 2004 an international survey run by the Orange Prize Committee, Guardian Newspaper and Hay Festival named Faith Singer as one of the Top 50 Essential Contemporary Reads.

In addition to writing, Scott was also a judge of various literary awards, including but not limited to the Steele Rudd Literary Award, the NSW Premier’s Award, the Christina Stead Prize, the Kenneth Slessor Prize, the Australian Society of Author’s Barbara Jefferis Award, and the Nita Kibble Award.

Scott also completed a Diploma in Counselling, a Doctorate at the University of Western Sydney, taught creative writing at the University of Technology Sydney and continued to mentor and inspire a multitude of young writers.

In 2004 and 2005, Scott and Tom Keneally edited a PEN anthology of refugees' work called Another Country, which is now in its third edition. Scott and Keneally were nominated for the Human Rights Medal, and Another Country was cited as a reason for the judges awarding Australian PEN the Community Human Rights Award. Scott was a recipient of the inaugural Sydney PEN Award for services to PEN in 2006.

In 2013, she co-edited A Country Too Far with Keneally, an anthology that brings together 27 of Australia’s most talented authors to write on the experience of asylum seekers. Scott later started the group ‘We’re Better Than This’ in 2014, a movement fighting against refugee children in detention.

In 2015 Scott edited The Intervention: An Anthology (University of New South Wales Press) alongside Anita Heiss. The anthology details the story of the Intervention and the despair of the First Nations people.

In 2016, on Australia Day, Scott was awarded Member (AM) in the General Division of The Order of Australia Order, for both her service to literature and her extensive work in human rights and inter-cultural understanding. Also in 2016, she was the recipient of the NSW Premier’s Special Award.

Scott passed away peacefully on the 4th of May 2017 from a brain tumour, at home with her family. She left behind a legacy of kindness and generosity, truly loved and admired by her readers, friends and family.


Updated September 2017.