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Corlett, Shirley
Writer's File

Shirley Corlett

Wellington - Te Whanganui-a-Tara
Corlett, Shirley
In brief
Shirley Corlett is a fiction writer who has published books for adults and children. Her first novel, The Hanging Sky (1990), is a wide-ranging historical story. Her second book, The Stolen (2000), is a fantasy journey for young readers, and it won the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a best first novel for children in 1999. She was joint Writer in Residence at Dunedin College of Education in 2005. Shirley Corlett is available to talk to students over seven years old as part of the Writers in Schools programme.
  • Primary publisher
    Scholastic NZ Ltd


Corlett, Shirley (1940 –) is a fiction writer whose first published novel came to light only after some undercover encouragement from her mother.

Corlett's epic historical novel The Hanging Sky (1990) was a 400,000 word manuscript sitting in a desk drawer when some gentle prodding from the author's mother convinced her to send it to publishers Mallinson Rendel.

‘We were instantly excited,’ says publisher Ann Mallinson. ‘It's a vast undertaking. It's absolutely unique. It's never been done in New Zealand before, at least not in our experience.’

The novel — reduced by editing to a more manageable 250,000 words or 500 pages — is a sprawling historical story that takes the reader from the first Māori habitation to the present day.

Corlett's second book is a fantasy journey for young readers. The Stolen won the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for a best first novel for children in 1999. The story follows three friends who try to reunite two parted lovers lost in one of many mysterious afterworlds.

‘[A] thought-provoking, adrenaline-pumping ghost story with a difference...’ writes Magpies. ‘A compelling read.’

The Weather-Makers (2001), combines elements of both pure fantasy and science fantasy,’ writes Lorraine Orman in Well Read. 'The story moves fast, has an authentic teenage tone, and is an easy read.' The Weather-Makers was shortlisted in the junior fiction category for the 2002 New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards, and was listed as a 2002 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

My Story: Abandon Ship! The Diary of Debbie Atherton, Wellington, 1968
was published in 2003 and explores the sinking of the Wahine, a ferry that sank in Wellington Harbour on April 10, 1968.

Shirley Corlett's book You've Got Guts, Kenny Melrose was released in 2004. Sometimes it seems as though the whole world is against Kenny and his sister Charlotte. Rescued from an orphanage by kind relatives, it looks as if they might finally get the normal life they have longed for. Then their late father's mysterious past catches up with them - yet again. Kenny is falsely accused of theft and finds himself caught up in a web of secrets. It will take guts to find the answer and for Kenny to prove his innocence.

You've Got Guts, Kenny Melrose was a finalist in the junior fiction category for the 2005 New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults, and made the 2005 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book list.

Shirley Corlett was the joint Writer in Residence at Dunedin College of Education with Margaret Beames in 2005.

Through Thick and Thin (2006) was published by Scholastic, and was listed as a 2006 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Book.

Fire in the Sky: The Diary of James Collier, Tarawera, 1886, (Scholastic, 2006) explores the eruption of Mt Tarawera on June 10, 1886.

Corlett also has a story published in the Short Short Story Anthology, Home, called 'Mother of Pearl Trails'.

In the Spotlight (Gilt Edge Publishing, 2008) centers on Ada, who knows she has what it takes to be the star of the stage. But as a new apprentice for a comic opera company in which only children are the actors, she has to start from the bottom — in the chorus. With loads of ambition and streak of mischief, she’s determined not to stay there for long. This historical novel was inspired by the real story of a comic opera company that toured NZ and Australia in the late 18th and early 20th centuries.

Addie Accident, a fast-paced and humorous novel full of mishaps and adventure, was published by Scholastic in 2010.