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Morris, Paula


Dr Paula Jane Kiri Morris is a novelist and short story writer of English and Ngati Wai descent. She has received numerous awards and fellowships for her writing, and in 2002 - the same year that her debut award-winning novel, Queen of Beauty, was released - she was the Glenn Schaeffer New Zealand fellow. She has published short stories in many journals, magazines and anthologies, and her collection, Forbidden Cities, was published in 2008. Many of her stories have been broadcast in New Zealand and the USA.

Paula has spent most of the last 30 years working in London and New York, first as a publicist and marketing executive in the record business and later as a branding consultant and advertising copywriter. Since 2003 she has taught creative writing at universities – most recently Tulane University in New Orleans, and the University of Sheffield in England. She currently teaches creative writing at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.

Photo Credit: Rob Trathen


Place of residence: Auckland, New Zealand.
Primary publisher: Penguin Books, New Zealand and Scholastic Inc, US
Rights enquiries: Penguin Books New Zealand, 67 Apollo Drive, Rosdale, North Shore 0745, Auckland, and Endeavor Talent Agency, 152 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019
Publicity enquiries: Penguin Books New Zealand, 67 Apollo Drive, Rosdale, North Shore 0745, Auckland, phone 09 442 7463, or fax 09 442 7401


Morris, Paula (1965 - ) is an award winning novelist and short story writer. She was born in Auckland and is of English and Ngati Wai descent.

Morris graduated from the University of Auckland in 1985 with a BA in English and History. She went on to study at the University of York in England, where she completed a D.Phil in 1990. Since then, she has been awarded numerous residencies and fellowships, including stays at Bellagio (the Rockefeller Foundation) in Italy and Brecht's House in Denmark.

In 2001, Morris completed an MA in Creative Writing at the Institute of International Letters. While at the Institute, she wrote the novel Queen of Beauty, which won the 2001 Adam Foundation Prize for Creative Writing.

In 2002, she began an MFA at the University of Iowa as the Glenn Schaeffer New Zealand Fellow, as part of her Scholarship in Modern Letters. She was awarded a Teaching-Writing fellowship for her second year of study in Iowa, and was appointed Writer in Residence by the University's International Programs in spring 2003.

In the early 90s, Morris worked in London, first at BBC Radio 3 and then as a publicist for both Virgin Records and Polygram Records. She moved to New York in 1994 to work for BMG Entertainment, initially for ECM Records and later for RCA Victor, where she was vice president of marketing.

Morris’ aforementioned book Queen of Beauty was published in 2002. Following its release, the novel featured in a number of 'Best of 2002' book lists, with The Listener declaring it it the 'local debut of the year ... a warm, unsentimental portrait of a family in all its confusion and conflicting stories.' At the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, Paula Morris was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors Hubert Church Best First Book Award for fiction for Queen of Beauty, a book described by the New Zealand Herald as a 'stunning debut novel...a masterful work'.

Morris's short stories have been published in numerous anthologies, literary journals and magazines, and broadcast on the radio in New Zealand and the US. She also writes essays, book reviews, and arts features, and has twice been a finalist for Reviewer of the Year in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Hibiscus Coast (2005) was published by Penguin. A literary thriller set in contemporary Auckland and Shanghai, the novel tells the story of a bold scheme to steal Goldie paintings from the Auckland Museum and replace them with expert forgeries. The Christchurch Press suggested that 'Hibiscus Coast continues its predecessor's strengths of fine characterization and evocative writing, and goes further by adding impressive qualities, such as dynamic plot and knife-edge storytelling.' The novel was long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Award, and the film rights were optioned by Touchdown Productions.

Trendy but Casual (Penguin, 2007), described as a 'comedy of bad manners' set in New York City, satirises the PR industry, and the popular obsession with celebrity. 'Morris vividly evokes the ur-city in all its hectic glory,' wrote Jolisa Gracewood (Listener), commenting on the author’s talent for 'captur[ing] the vanity of turn of the century Manhattan in a blizzard of knowing cultural references...a playful, sparkling snow globe of a novel.'

The stories in her first collection, Forbidden Cities (Penguin, 2008), roam around the world - Auckland, Los Angeles, Shanghai, London, Budapest, New York, New Orleans – in exploration of escape, transgression, ambition, delusions, and desire. Forbidden Cities was a regional finalist for the 2009 Commonwealth Prize. The New Zealand Herald called it 'one of the best short story collections written by a New Zealander in years.'

Morris has made festival and panel appearances at events in New Zealand, the US, the UK, and China; in addition, several US universities have hosted her as a visiting writer. For the second half of 2008, Morris was the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow at the Sargeson Flat in Auckland.

Morris edited the Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories (Penguin, 2009), which provides a fascinating snapshot of New Zealand fiction in the early twenty-first century. An interview with Morris (conducted by Alice Te Punga Somerville) featured in in the anthology Words Chosen Carefully, edited by Siobhan Harvey (Cape Catley Ltd, 2010).

Morris’ novel Rangatira was published in 2011, and follows the story of Paratene te Manu as he journeys to an industrialised England in 1863. Rangatira won the Fiction categories of both the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards 2012 and the 2012 Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards.

Paula has published three Gothically-coloured young adult fiction novels, including the New Orleans-based Ruined (2009) and its sequel Unbroken (2011), and the York-based Dark Souls (2011). Morris’ latest YA novel is The Eternal City (2015), a narrative about gods, goddesses, and romance that is set in contemporary Rome.

Paula Morris was awarded the 2014 Bellagio Residency.

Her story False River was longlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award (UK).

In 2015, Paula published On Coming Home, an engaging long essay which confronts the question of Morris’ own belonging and journey back to New Zealand after thirty years abroad. BooksellersNZ said of the text: ‘On Coming Home is impossible not to take personally; a short, sharp 80-page essay that provokes intense reflection on where, after all, one belongs.’

As an academic, Paula has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Tulane University in New Orleans, and the University of Sheffield, as well as at festivals, schools, museums, and writing centres in the UK, US, China, Europe and New Zealand. She is currently a senior lecturer teaching creative writing at the University of Auckland in New Zealand. She teaches at both the undergraduate and masters levels.

Last updated April 2016

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