In her introduction to The Writing Life, Deborah Shepard highlights the determination and passion of the twelve writers she interviews and curates into this collection. Shepard has selected a diverse group covering many genres: from writing for children, to many approaches to the novel, poetry and non-fiction. The writers are Joy Cowley, Marilyn Duckworth, Tessa Duder, Chris Else, Patricia Grace, David Hill, Witi Ihimaera, Fiona Kidman, Owen Marshall, Vincent O’Sullivan, Philip Temple and Albert Wendt.
The interviews show that adversity breeds a certain compulsion, which becomes the grit that seeds the pearl of craft. Shepard refers early on to a line in Owen Marshall’s Janet Frame Memorial Lecture of 2007, in which he refers to the ‘hammering out’ of New Zealand writing:
When I reread those comparatively early New Zealand writers, who, unlike Katherine Mansfield, chose to stay in New Zealand, people like Frank Sargeson, RAK Mason, James K. Baxter, Robin Hyde, O.E. Middleton, Charles Brasch, Allen Curnow, E.H. McCormick, I have a sense of work being cut and hammered out of adversity.