Writing has been a significant part of my life from childhood. When I was teaching at a Junior Theatre School, I wrote children’s plays to perform. Reading poetry is a long-established love and I recently discovered some poems I wrote in 1974.
Dance is my parallel love. A QEII grant in 1979 lead to ten years of performance in folkloric dance in multi-cultural Sydney. Most of those years were with Xochipilli Mexican Dances and Fiesta International. I was privileged to have studied and performed with a Ukrainian cultural group for two years. The plethora of cultural clubs blessed me with great memories of Russian, Greek, Hungarian and South American culture and a great deal of fun.
Performance work is sporadic. My work life has ranged from dance, teaching in English colleges, being a Pilates practitioner and voluntary work. This variety introduced me to people of many skills, cultures, countries and experiences, which have informed my writing. After living in Sydney, Australia for twenty-one fruitful years I returned to my birthplace Tamaki Makaurau.
I am a first-generation New Zealander of Cook Islands and Scottish ancestry. After WWI, my grandpa James Murray went to sea and met my grandma on Rakahanga, a tiny island in the Cook Islands. Grandpa was a voracious reader and instilled in me the love of words. He introduced me to literature, poetry, ancient myths, history and encouraged me to write. I began my studies in English, History, and languages at Auckland University at the age of seventeen - which I did not complete.
I completed my Bachelor of Arts degree in Australia, in Theatre Studies and Literature in 1992. John Cranna’s creative writing course at ‘The Hub’ in Auckland, followed by his novel writing course inspired me to return to the path of storytelling. The interactive learning along with the collaboration of wonderful peers was fuel for the lonely labour of writing.
My father Frederick Murray was born in Rakahanga and my mother Mary Strickland was born in Rarotonga. Many Cook Islanders migrated to New Zealand just after WWI and were New Zealand citizens. They met near the Ferry Buildings in downtown Auckland when my father spotted a pretty woman having lunch. Dad worked three jobs to get out first home. Mum sewed at home until she could return to work as a seamstress. As with many new settlers, they saw education as a means for their five children to thrive and have a good life. I honour their memory for every opportunity they gave me and my four brothers. The image of them stepping out and looking so smart is one of my favourites.The other person I must honour is my Godmother, Aunty Mimi. Aunty not only recognised my love of dance, but also imprinted her deep love for the Divine in my upbringing. No University can teach you the values of such committed love as that of my parents and my godmother.