Wootton, Sue

Wootton, Sue


Primary publisher
Otago University Press and Makaro Press
Rights enquiries
Otago University Press and Makaro Press
Publicity enquiries
As above

In Brief

Sue Wootton’s poems and short stories have been published in journals and anthologies, and Hourglass (2005), her first collection of poetry, received wide critical favour. Sue Emms wrote, ‘Wootton’s style is open and accessible…Hourglass contains warm and intelligent writing.’ Wootton was the 2008 Robert Burns fellow, and her second collection of poetry, Magnetic South was published the same year by Steele Roberts. Wootton has won poetry competitions, and has received a range of awards and prizes for her writing. Her novel Strip was longlisted for the Acorn fiction prize in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards and poetry collection The Yield was a finalist in the 2018 poetry category of the Ockham NZ Book Awards.

The Yield
By birdlight
Magnetic South
Out of Shape
The Happiest Music on Earth


Wootton, Sue (1961 – ) is a poet, novelist and essayist. She writes for children and for adults. Born in Wellington and raised in Whanganui, Wootton trained and practised as a physiotherapist in Dunedin and overseas. She graduated from the University of Otago with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 2003. In 2015 she graduated with a Masters in Creative Writing (awarded with distinction) from Massey University. She has a special interest in the medical humanities and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Otago, researching the role of language and the imagination in recovery and wellbeing. She co-founded and edits a Health Humanities e-magazine called Corpus: Conversations about Medicine and Life, and teaches creative writing in schools, universities and community settings.

Wootton’s work has been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and internationally. Her work for children has been published in The NZ School Journal, and appears in the anthologies A Treasury of NZ Poems for Children (Penguin Random House, 2014) and Summer Days (Penguin Random House, 2017). Her storybook Cloudcatcher was published by Steele Roberts in 2010. Her work for adults includes 5 collections of poetry, a collection of short stories (The Happiest Music on Earth, Rosa Mira Press, 2013), a screenplay (Bleat, produced as a short film by Short Film Otago in 2014), and a novel, Strip, Mākaro Press 2016).

Wootton was the 2008 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago, and was awarded the 2012 NZSA Mid-Career Award and the 2018 NZSA Beatson Fellowship. She has won the NZ Poetry Society International Competition (2011), the Takahē International Poetry Competition (in both 2010 and 2015), the 2008 Inverawe Poetry Competition (Australia), the 2013 Victoria Cancer Council Poetry Prize (Australia), and the 2015 Caselberg International Poetry Prize. She has been runner-up, or listed for, a range of other literary awards including the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Competition (runner-up 2009 and 2010); the 2008 Sunday Star Times Short Story Competition, the 2011 Royal Society Manhire Science Writing Prize, the 2015 Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize, the University of Canberra Vice Chancellor’s Prize (2015, 2016, 2018), the International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine (2013, 2016, 2018), and the 2018 Landfall essay competition.

Her poems appear in Best NZ Poems 2004 and 2018.

In 2006, Wootton won both the Poetry Award for ‘Breakfast with Raymond Carver’ and the Fiction Award for ‘Weight’ at the Aoraki Arts Festival. In her judge’s report for Wootton’s winning poem, poet Bernadette Hall commented that: ‘It takes subtle control, linguistic dexterity and a big heart to come up with such stuff.’

In 2008, Wootton's short story 'Virtuoso' was included in the competitive publication Six Pack Three (NZ Book Month, 2008). She was also a finalist in the Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition with her story 'Beyond Pluto'. Wootton also placed in both 2007 and 2008 in the Bravado International Poetry Competition.

She was winner of the 2010 Takahē international poetry competition with a poem called 'Haunted', as well as in 2015 for the poem 'Calling'. In her report of the 2015 competition, judge Riemke Ensing said '‘Calling’ made the most of knitting and sewing imagery to deliver an accomplished poem about keeping open lines of communications between friends... The last line especially – the use of ‘thee’ – suggested Martin Buber and for me took the poem to yet another dimension.' (Takahē 85)

Wootton won the 2011 New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry competition with her poem, 'Icediver'. Judge Tim Upperton called it 'The poem I kept returning to, and which grew richer with each re-reading.' She was also short-listed for the 2011 Manhire Science Writing Prize with a story called 'Icy Noctiluca'.

Wootton was runner up in the 2012 Open International Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine, for her poem “Wild”. She was commended in the 2016 and 2018 Hippocrates Prize for poems including “As it is on Earth’, which has since been selected by Fiona Farrell for Best NZ Poems 2018.

Her poem 'Daffodils' won the poetry section of the 2013 Cancer Council Victoria Arts Awards, established as a means for people affected by cancer to communicate their experiences in a creative way.

Wootton was awarded the 2015 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize for her poem 'Luthier'. Judge Michael Harlow described it as 'a poem alive in its language’ and ‘a fine pleasure to read aloud'. That same year she was runner-up for the Gwen Harwood Poetry Prize in Australia for her poem 'Smeuse'. poem 'Admission' in the 2016 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine.

Strip was longlisted for the Acorn fiction prize in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards. Writing for Landfall Review Online, Tina Shaw called Strip “a smart, sexy, quietly subversive novel from an author who totally knows what she is doing.”

Wootton’s fifth poetry collection, The Yield (Otago University Press, 2017), was a finalist in the 2018 poetry category of the Ockham NZ Book Awards.

Sue Wootton lives in Dunedin and is available for Writers in Schools visits.


Updated October 2017.