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Cherry, Frances
Writer's File

Frances Cherry

Wellington - Te Whanganui-a-Tara
Cherry, Frances
In brief
Frances Cherry was a fiction writer for adults and children and taught creative writing for more than twenty years. The daughter of well-known communist parents, a strong anti-establishment strand runs through her writing, and feminism and lesbianism are recurring concerns. Her short stories appeared in numerous anthologies and were collected as The Daughter-in-Law and Other Stories. She wrote several adult novels and her work was broadcast extensively on RNZ National.


Cherry, Frances (1937 – 2022) was a fiction writer for adults and children and a teacher of creative writing for more than twenty years.

Cherry was raised in Wellington and lived in the region all her life. The daughter of well-known communist parents, accounts of her early life describe her embarrassment at finding her mother on a soapbox in Courtenay Place, or her father up Cuba Street selling the People's Voice.

Perhaps because of these early experiences, there is a strong anti-establishment strand in Cherry's writing. Feminism, lesbianism and identification with other women writers are also recurring concerns.

Short stories appeared in numerous anthologies including Shirley Temple is a Wife and Mother (1977); New Women's Fiction (1998); In Deadly Earnest (1989); Subversive Acts (1991); Erotic Writing (1992); and 100 New Zealand Short Short Stories (1997).

Mary Daysh wrote of her work: ‘Cherry is certainly a gifted writer who has sustained a consistent and high standard.’

Cherry's collection of short fiction is The Daughter-in-Law And Other Stories (1986). Her novels for adults include Dancing With Strings (1989); The Widowhood of Jacki Bates (1991); and Washing Up in Parrot Bay (1999).

Alison Laurie describes Washing Up in Parrot Bay as ‘...thoughtful, witty and topical... a refreshing and open-hearted look at New Zealand women involved in complex relationships with other women and men.’

In The Dark (1999) is a novel for junior readers. It shows a family custody dispute from the child's point of view.

Frances Cherry's fiction was extensively broadcast on National Radio, including an adaptation of her novel The Widowhood of Jacki Bates. She tutored creative writing since 1980, and was a judge in numerous writing competitions.

Leon (2000) was shortlisted in the Senior Fiction category of the 2001 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards.

A collection of short stories, Gate Crasher, was published in 2006.As Ronda Bungay writer, Gate Crasher 'takes the random and turns it; there is a sense of intimacy, a feeling of being inside the stories, an underlying knowing that nothing remains unhidden here.'

Flashpoint was published by Scholastic in 2006. It is a story about a teenage girl's life that gets turned on its head just as everything is going well. It is described by a reviewer as ‘that sort of book — you open it, start reading, and feel compelled to finish.’

Cherry's novel Kyla (Scholastic, 2009), is a story about a young girl coming to terms with the death of her grandmother, her only caregiver. Kyla is faced with having to leave the only home she's ever known to live with an aunt who she thinks hated her grandmother. But as time goes on, Kyla realises that she hasn't been told the whole truth.

In the Otago Daily Times, Tania Roxborogh writes of Kyla, 'mothers and teachers will recognise [her behaviour]; young girls will understand [her] frustrations. This a wonderful novel to get as a present for your pre-teens and for the library... [with an] ending to satisfy the most cynical of us.'

Cherry ran memoir and novel writing workshops for more than 20 years in adult community education classes around Wellington. When cutbacks led to many of those courses being cut, she continued to run them in her own home.

A memoir, To Be Perfectly Frances, was published by Steele Roberts in 2018.

Frances Cherry passed away on the 24th of April 2022.