Marilyn Duckworth is a novelist, poet, and a writer of short stories and memoir. Her narratives focus on relationships and the historical contexts in which they transpire. Her heroines often strive to make personal choices and achieve degrees of self determination. Duckworth has published many novels, as well as collections of short fiction, poetry and a novella. She has also written extensively for radio. Duckworth has received distinguished awards, fellowships and grants, and she was awarded an OBE in 1987. Her autobiography, Camping on the Faultline was published in 2000.
Place of residence: Wellington
Marilyn Duckworth was the 1980 recipient of the Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship. One of New Zealand's most long-standing and prestigious literary awards, the fellowship is offered annually to enable a New Zealand writer to work in Menton, France.
Disorderly Conduct jointly received the New Zealand Book Award for Fiction (shared with C. K. Stead) at the 1985 New Zealand Book Awards.
She was awarded both the Auckland University Literary Fellowship and the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship in 1996.
Camping on the Faultline, published in 2000, is her autobiography.
Duckworth was a wide-eyed twenty-two when the letter arrived from London accepting her first novel A Gap in the Spectrum. A dozen more would follow. Today she describes herself as a 'New Zealander in her wooden tent above a faultline, practising the trick of permanence'.
There was never much of that in her rather hectic earlier life: two countries, forty-nine houses (and a shelter shed), twelve schools, four husbands, passing lovers, and friends who die - the ultimate desertion. But there are constants, too - her sister, poet Fleur Adcock, her four lively daughters - and weaving through all this: her writing.
Encroaching sometimes dramatically on her life and work are her friendships with other writers: Shadbolt, Duggan, Baxter. We accompany her through the stirring sixties and seventies and as far as the nervous nineties. Hovering over her story are the benign ghosts of her first love, Richard, and his friend Dan, whom she married twenty years after Richard's death. Like a novel she might have written herself, this memoir folds neatly back upon itself, an autobiographical origami. (From publisher press release.)
Swallowing Diamonds (2003) traces the life of Bundle who started off abandoned as a baby at a Wainuiomata house. Now 28, she’s thinking of writing her own story, 'bits of real stuff, diamonds of truth…' but Bundle has difficulty swallowing some of the normal aspects of life.
The NZ Society of Authors announced Marilyn Duckworth as the recipient of the 2004 Foxton Fellowship. Playing Friends (2007) follows Clarice, fifty nine and widowed, with not much money coming in and not many friends, who decides to buy a flat with Una, an acquaintance from her school days. Una unexpectedly comes complete with a very loud, very pregnant sixteen year old. These wacky but entirely believable women bounce off each other uncomfortably. 'Lively, pertinent and honest about the realities of growing older.'
Marilyn Duckworth was the 2011-2012 President of Honour of the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA). She delivered the March 2012 Janet Frame Memorial Lecture, held each year as part of New Zealand Book Month, and delivered by the NZSA President of Honour.