Skip to content
Fearnley, Laurence
Writer's File

Laurence Fearnley

Fearnley, Laurence
In brief

Laurence Fearnley is a short story writer, novelist and curator. Her short stories have featured in journals and have been broadcast on radio, and she has also curated and written about artists working in the area of craft. In 2003 she was selected as an Antarctic Arts Fellow through the Artists to Antarctica programme, and she has received numerous other awards and grants for her writing. She was the Robert Burns Fellow in 2007.



Fearnley, Laurence (Jura Fearnley) (1963 - ) is a novelist and nonfiction writer with a background in craft curation. She graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in 2012 with a PhD in Creative Writing.

Her first novel, The Sound of Her Body (Hazard Press) was published in 1998. 'Extraordinarily powerful...' writes Fiona Kidman. 'Exquisitely realised... exact, sparing, lovely.' In 2000, Fearnley received a New Work grant from Creative New Zealand and published a second novel, Room (Victoria University Press, 2000), which was shortlisted for the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, now known as the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Delphine’s Run (Penguin, 2003) was written in response to Breton separatist activity whilst Fearnley was living in Europe. Delphine, in her early twenties, works as the food trolley girl on the Brest-Paris train. She becomes an unlikely collaborator, or, an innocent player in a series of shocking events.

Butler's Ringlet (Penguin, 2004) presents a realistic and often touching portrait of a provincial male world, seldom covered in recent New Zealand fiction. Black and white photos taken by the author appear throughout the book, painting a vivid picture of rural New Zealand life.

Laurence Fearnley was selected as an Antarctic Arts Fellow in the 2003 round of the Artists to Antarctica programme jointly sponsored by Antarctica New Zealand and Creative New Zealand. Degrees of Separation (Penguin, 2006), was written following her Antarctic Fellowship. This novel focuses on themes of love and memory as three travellers return from a summer on the ice.

Edwin + Matilda
(Penguin, 2007), the second in Fearnley's southern trilogy, is set in Central Otago and details the relationship between 62 year-old Edwin and 22 year-old Matilda, as Edwin uncovers the story of his mother's death 50 years ago. The book was runner-up in the fiction category of the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. It also featured on 'best book' lists in the NZ Listener and Sunday Star Times. Film rights to the novel have also been sold.

Fearnley's short stories have been published in a range of literary journals, including Sport and Landfall, as well as several anthologies.

Fearnley was the 2007 Robert Burns Fellow. She used her tenure to complete the final book in her trilogy of novels, set in Southland and Central Otago. The book, titled Mother's Day, was published by Penguin New Zealand in 2009.

Her novel The Hut Builder (Penguin, 2010) won the fiction category of the 2011 NZ Post Book Awards, now known as the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, and was shortlisted for the international 2010 Boardman Tasker Prize for mountain writing.

Laurence Fearnley worked alongside mountaineer Lydia Bradey to write Going Up is Easy (Penguin, 2015), a climbing memoir that was a finalist in the Banff Mountain Literature Award.

Reach (Penguin, 2014) was longlisted for the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. The novel centres on the ways in which creativity, struggle and danger empower and enrich the lives of individuals. The Quiet Spectacular (Penguin) was published in 2016 and showcases female experience through encounters with friends, family and the natural world.

Fearnley received the 2016 NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award, which is awarded to an author of literary or imaginative fiction or poetry with the purpose of supporting a mid-career or established writer in furthering their literary career.

During 2017 she is co-editing an anthology of New Zealand mountaineering writing with Otago mountaineer and author Paul Hersey. She is also researching and writing a book on the theme of landscape and scent.

Updated November 2016


  • Interview with Laurence Fearnley for The Lumière Reader
  • Interview with Laurence Fearnley for The Christchurch City Libraries blog
  • Article about Laurence Fearnley for NZ Poetry Shelf
  • Review of Reach by NZ Herald
  • Review of The Hut Builder by NZ Herald
  • Review of The Quiet Spectacular by NZ Book Lovers
  • Interview with Laurence Fearnley for The Listener
  • Article on Laurence Fearnley's receipt of the Janet Frame Memorial Award
  • Interview with Laurence Fearnley for Radio New Zealand