Deborah Shepard is an Auckland biographer, life writing mentor and teacher of memoir with a PhD in Film Studies. She began her career as a film and art historian. Her previous three books: Reframing Women: A History of New Zealand film (Harper Collins 2000), Between the Lives: Partners in Art (Auckland University Press, 2005), and Her Life's Work: Conversations with Five New Zealand Women (AUP, 2009) were critically acclaimed for documenting the contribution of women to the arts in New Zealand.
In 2013 Deborah received an autumn residency at the Michael King Writers Centre in Auckland to work on a book about writing memoir. More recently Deborah returned to the topic of her first book Reframing Women and wrote an update Reframing Women: Gender and Film in Aotearoa New Zealand 1999-2014 for a special issue on 'Gender, Globalisation and Film' for the transdisciplinary, French based and UNESCO supported journal Diogenes published by Sage Publications, London.
In 2015 the New Zealand Society of Authors engaged Deborah as interviewer for an Oral History project interviewing eight New Zealand authors on the theme of their life and work and their involvement with the Society. Between August and November Deborah completed the interviews with: Philip Temple, Chris Else, Marilyn Duckworth, Joy Cowley, Owen Marshall, David Hill, Tessa Duder and Witi Ihimaera.
The project was funded by an Award in Oral History from the Ministry of Heritage and Culture. At the time of the announcement Jackie Dennis, Director, NZSA said, 'These interviews will supplement the archival information on NZ Literature already held in the National Library's research collections, thus improving the resource for educational (academic) work, biography and literary exhibitions and broadcasts.'
Deborah is also a life writing mentor for the New Zealand Society of Authors. These mentorships are available to members of the NZSA. Further details on how to become a member of the NZSA are available here. In 2010 Deborah mentored 30 new writers on the First Chapters writing programme and edited eleven of their life stories for the publication, Translucence: Life Writing from Manukau and Papakura. In 2014 Deborah worked with a new writer on a six month NZSA mentorship. You can read about the new writer and her story on the 'Your Story' page of this website.
Deborah began her career researching and writing about historic buildings for the Christchurch City Council following a degree in Art History at Canterbury University in the 1980s. Also during that period she worked as an Information Officer for the Robert McDougall Art Gallery writing a monthly series entitled ‘Picture of the Month at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery’, for the Christchurch Press. Deborah studied creative writing at Edinburgh University in the late 1980s and Life Writing at the City Literary Institute in London 1992-93. Since 2006 she has taught Life Writing courses, and winter and summer schools for the Centre for Continuing Education at the University of Auckland and for the Creative Hub. She also teaches an 'Introduction to Memoir' course and a series of Masterclasses at the Michael King Writers' Centre, at the Signalman's Cottage on the beautiful volcanic cone Takarunga/Mt Victoria above Auckland Harbour and Devonport. You can find out more about her courses in the ‘Workshops’ page on this site.
Since 2006 Deborah has been the consultant biographer for Mercy Hospice, Auckland and has written a guide to Life Reviewing. She facilitates regular training workshops at the Hospice on the gentle art of recording the stories of people who are terminally ill.
Her most recent book The Writing Life is based on oral history interviews with twelve of New Zealand’s most acclaimed and admired authors. Deborah has taught introductory and master classes in memoir, biography and journal writing at the University of Auckland’s Public Programmes and Devonport Library, and is a life writing mentor for the New Zealand Society of Authors. She is a member of the oral history association of New Zealand NOHANZ and in 2022 recorded the life's work of children’s author Pamela Allan for the State Library of NSW, who hold a repository of Pamela's watercolour collection of book illustrations. In 2023 Deborah is conducting a series of interviews for Auckland Central Library covering the life and work of Netherlands-born poet Riemke Ensing.
Deborah lives in Auckland.
You can read more about Deborah's books and her work as a film and art historian here.