Shortly after finishing her studies at Victoria University, Chessie Henry put her MA in creative writing to good use to produce a book – not just any book, though; a deeply personal one exploring, among other things, the impact of the Christchurch and Kaikōura earthquakes on her family.

We Can Make a Life was published in 2018 and, the following year, won the E.H. McCormick Prize for General Non-fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Henry, 27, has since travelled to literary festivals around NZ and Asia.

We Can Make a Life is the inaugural Book Club book at next month's Womad Aotearoa Festival.


The true-life story helped raise awareness of the effect on the mental health of first responders in tragedies. Henry's father, Chris, a GP, was in Christchurch when the 2011 earthquake struck and crawled through the wreckage of the burning CTV building searching for and helping to rescue survivors.

The 2016 Kaikōura destroyed the family home.

But Henry says We Can Make a Life might not have been written without crowdfunding website, Boosted. Now a content specialist at Christchurch communications company Brown Bread, she is championing the relaunch of the country's only crowdfunding platform which raises money for home-grown arts and literature.

Brown Bread founder and director Jo Blair says the six-year-old Boosted website needed to be refreshed to handle the growing number of projects artists were posting and make it more user-friendly for artists and donors.

A $120,000 donation from entrepreneur and arts philanthropist Chris Parkin and his wife, Kathy, has allowed for its relaunch on Monday.