New Zealand writer Tessa Duder lives in Mission Bay in Auckland,
and has four daughters, a granddaughter and, in 2005, a grandson.
Her family background, from great-grandparents who emigrated to New
Zealand from Europe in the late 19th century, is Italian, French,
Irish and English.
Tessa was educated at Aucklands Diocesan School from age four
to seventeen, except for a year when, aged five and six, she travelled
by ship with her parents to England, where her father studied medicine,
returning to Auckland in 1947.
Showing early promise as a swimmer, she trained for six years during
her teenage years, and was the first New Zealand woman to train seriously
in the new dolphin butterfly stroke, first introduced at the 1956
Olympics in Melbourne.
Between 1954 and 1958, she won many New Zealand junior/senior titles
and records in butterfly and medley.
In 1958 she won a silver medal for 110 yards butterfly at the Empire
Games, Cardiff, with the New Zealand medley team fourth in the womens
medley relay. She became the first New Zealand Swimmer of the Year
Career in journalism and marriage
Retiring from top-class swimming, she began work as a journalist
at the Auckland Star, and after three years travelled on her overseas
experience in Britain and Europe. She married John Duder in
1964, worked at the Daily Express, London, and then lived as a full-time
mother in Pakistan for nearly five years, and in Turangi (New Zealand)
for two, returning to Auckland in 1972.
Her daughters are Elisa (Maori language teacher and educational officer,
born 1966), Clare (born 1968), Joanna (art teacher, born 1969, mother
of Sedef) and Georgia (singer and actor, born 1972). Clare died in
1992 at 24 of a heart condition, having just completed her MA studies
in law and political science.
A new start as a writer
After a brief but enjoyable career as a pianist with a light music
trio around 1977, Tessa began writing fiction at 38, about the time
fourth daughter Georgia began school. Her first novel Night
Race to Kawau was published four years later by the prestigious
Oxford University Press in New Zealand and UK in 1982.
Then came Jellybean and, from
1987 to 1991, the four books of the Alex quartet
in Winter, Alessandra: Alex
in Rome and Songs for Alex).
The paperback of Alex is Penguin New Zealand's best selling
ever work of fiction, for adults or children, and in 1993 the book
was adapted by Tom Parkinsons Isambard Films as a feature film, Alex,
a New Zealand-Australia co-production.
Her Alex novels won her three New Zealand Children's Book of the
Year awards and three Esther Glen medals, and are published in America,
Britain, Australia and Canada. Alex is published in five languages,
with Jellybean and Alex in Winter in two.
Jellybean and Alex have also been named American Library
Association Honour Books.
Mercury Beach was published
in 1997, followed by The Tiggie Tompson
Show in 1999. This book won the 2000 New Zealand Post Senior
Fiction Award, the country's top prize for young adult fiction, and
was followed by Tiggie Tompson All
at Sea, shortlisted for the same award in 2002.
Tessa has also published three educational readers for Shortland
Publications (Play It Again Sam, Dragons and Simply
Messing About in Boats).
As a writer of non-fiction, her books have been for both children
and adults. For children she has written Journey
to Olympia (a history of the first Olympics); The
Making of Alex: the Movie, both for Ashton Scholastic; and Restoring
Tissot, telling the story of the restoration of James Tissots
famous painting stolen from the Auckland Art Gallery, published by
For adults, there are Spirit of Adventure:
the Story of New Zealands Sail Training Ship and Waitemata:
Aucklands Harbour of Sails, both for Century
Hutchinson. In 2001 she travelled with her husband Captain Barry
Thompson to the city of her Italian great-grandparents, Livorno in
Tuscany; the resulting book of travel and family history In
Search of Elisa Marchetti a writers search for her Italian
roots, was published by Penguin in 2002.
Also an editor
As an editor, she has also published a number of anthologies. These
include Nearly Seventeen (Penguin),
a collection of contemporary short stories; Crossing,
an anthology of Australia-New Zealand short stories (with Agnes Nieuwenhuizen
for Reed, Australia); Falling in Love,
a collection of romantic short stories (Penguin); Personal
Best (Reed NZ), a collection of sporting stories.
In 2001 came the highly acclaimed A
Book of Pacific Lullabies (HarperCollins), with illustrations
by the young Russian artist Anton Petrov which won him the 2002 Russell
Clark Award for illustration, given by the Library and Information
Association of New Zealand. The paperback edition of the book in
2002 included a CD of some of the lullabies put to music by Sergei
Chesakov and sung by daughter Georgia Duder. (As an anthology the
book was not eligible for the NZ Post awards).
For the Americas Cup campaigns in New Zealand in 2000 and 2002,
Tessa published Salt Beneath the
Skin and Seduced by the Sea for
HarperCollins, two major and top-selling anthologies of true first-person
sea stories written by New Zealanders.
Theatre and performance
The Warrior Virgin, a new
full-length play for young performers about Joan of Arc, was written
in collaboration with Martin Baynton and first performed in 1995.
Published by Reed in 1996, it has subsequently been produced by high
schools all around New Zealand.
Between 1992 and 1996 Tessa was involved in a number of other theatre
projects, including roles in plays by Shakespeare, Alan Aykbourne,
A.A. Gurney and in the New Zealand medical soap, Shortland Street,
in which she appeared in 11 episodes during October, 1997. She was
a member of the drama quartet Metaphor (with William
Taylor, Martin Baynton and the late Gaelyn Gordon), which between
1992 and 1996 presented over 80 performances of three self-devised
plays, Foreign Rites, Five Go to the Dogs, and Ghost
Writers and three programmes of 'literary cabaret' at six major
arts festivals around New Zealand and the 1995 Come Out Youth
Arts Festival in Adelaide.
Tessa has also written three original stories for the 1998 and 1999
series of The Big Chair television programme for Tv3, and
read Mercury Beach for an abridged version on audiocassette
Jellybean, her second novel about a young girls passion
for music and her ambition to become a conductor, has been presented
three times by writer-director Peter Wilson as a puppet play, first
with his Spare Parts Theatre in Perth and Melbourne in 1995, later
with Capital E Theatre in Wellington and Auckland.
In November 2002 Capital E National Childrens Theatre presented
three Wellington performances of an expanded version of Jellybean,
featuring musicians from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.
Fellowships, schools visits, judging and teaching
Since winning her first grant in 1985, the Choysa Bursary for Children's
Writers, Tessa has been awarded several Creative New Zealand (Arts
Council) grants, including a Special Writing Bursary in 1989, the
first Writer-in-Residence Fellowship at the University of Waikato
in 1991 and the Literary Exchange Fellowship to Australia in 1993.
Under the NZ Book Council's Writers-in-Schools scheme, she has visited
hundreds of classrooms all over the country since 1987, and has spoken
at many professional seminars of teachers, librarians and parents,
including international conferences in Stockholm, Florida, Sydney,
Melbourne, Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington.
She was a featured author at the 2000 18th World Congress of the
International Reading Association held in Auckland, and at the biennial
conference of the Arthur Ransome Society in Durham, England, in 2001.
In recent years she has taught creative writing at the University
of Aucklands Centre for Continuing Education, at summer schools
in Auckland, Hamilton, Kerikeri and Wellington, and many one-day
seminars for both adults and children around the country.
Tessa has been a judge for many book and short story competitions.
In 1995 she was Convenor of the judging panel for the AIM Children's
Book of the Year awards, and has been judge of the 1998 Sunday Star-Times
national short story award, the 1999 Katherine Mansfield Award for
Young Writers and the 2000 and 2002 Sunday Star-Times Award, also
for young writers. She was also for many years a reviewer of picture
books for the parenting magazine Little Treasures.
Tessa is a past president of the NZ Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc),
and currently, a Trustee of Spirit of Adventure Trust and executive
committee member of the Children's Literature Foundation of New Zealand.
She also serves on the management committee of the Foundations
annual Storylines Festival.
Latest books and work-in-progress
In 2008 Tessa added a new genre to her body of work: a collection of 13 short stories for an adult audience. Is She Still Alive? – scintillating tales for women of a certain age was published in May, and featured on Booksellers New Zealand’s Best Seller list for 11 weeks, between No 2 and No 4.
Scheduled for 2009 are two books. In June, the long-awaited compilation of forty years of Margaret Mahy’s poetry will be launched during the Storylines Festival in June. The Word Witch – the poems of Margaret Mahy is being published by HarperCollins as a large format ‘coffee-table’ book, hardback and jacketed, and lavishly illustrated by the outstanding Dunedin artist David Elliott.
Tessa’s Antarctica novel, with the working title of Vince’s Cross, is due for publication end of 2009.