Whanganui-born writer Sue Wootton is returning to her hometown to talk about her life and work as an award-winning poet, novelist and essayist.

She also plans to simply "walk the familiar streets" and visit places that will feature in her next novel.

Now based in Dunedin, Wootton recently published her fifth book of poetry The Yield which was shortlisted for the 2018 Ockham NZ Book Award. Her first novel, Strip, was longlisted for the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Award for Fiction.

Her children's book Cloudcatcher tells the tale of Mr Bellavista, grower of prize tomatoes, who sets out to catch the clouds blocking the sun from ripening his fruit.


Now she has won the 2020 Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship and will follow in Mansfield's footsteps with a residence at Villa Isola Bella in Menton in the south of France next year.

While there, she will work on her next poetry volume, Systems of Light, and in the meantime she has a PhD thesis to submit to the University of Otago and a novel to complete.

"Whanganui will feature in my novel and it will include references to the Duncan Hospital on Durie Hill," Wootton said.

"It first opened in Silverstream and moved to Whanganui in 1953 where it operated until 1979."

The hospital employed revolutionary polio treatments instigated by Australian bush nurse, Sister Elizabeth Kenny.

"I'm also a trained physiotherapist and I've treated a number of people with post-polio symptoms so I have a particular interest.

"When I was a child, our neighbour had polio and I did chores for her like collecting the paper.

"I remember being a little bit afraid but at the same time I knew she needed my help."


Wootton's interest in the intersection of medicine and the humanities is reflected in much of her writing and the new novel will explore it further.

Growing up in Whanganui, she attended Tawhero, Rutherford and Whanganui High schools and has fond memories of her school years.

"I enjoy hearing about people from Whanganui doing interesting and amazing things.

"I do believe it provides a wonderful nursery for people to go out into the world and excel in all kinds of ways.

"Although I live in Dunedin, I love my hometown and I'm looking forward to visiting my favourite places especially Kai Iwi Beach."

Wootton will give an author talk at the Sarjeant Gallery next week on the personal benefits of writing and says she hopes to provide encouragement to aspiring Whanganui authors.

Sue Wootton: Stories are good for your health. Thursday, October 17, at 7.30pm, Sarjeant on the Quay, 38 Taupō Quay. Tickets: $12 includes homemade cake and coffee.