Shifting Sands 2009

Oct 2009

Changing Perspectives in History and Biography

The 2009 residential workshop, held at Vaughan Park Retreat Centre over Labour weekend, was the first of what is intended to be an annual series of writers' residential workshops covering different forms of writing. It was fitting that the inaugural residential workshop reflected Michael King's major interests in history and biography.

The workshop's title, Shifting Sands, expressed the changing nature of history and biography. Research reveals hitherto unknown facts, there are new points of view, and perception and interpretation alter over time. Leading writers presented not only their experiences in research, writing for different audiences, book structure and publishing, but also highlighted the factors which changed the "way of seeing" in their research.

Writers gained much from the interaction and intensity of a long weekend retreat in the company of colleagues and respected professionals and Vaughan Park offers the ideal setting for such in-depth discussions. They debated the shaping of history, what constitutes the truth in biography and discussed the finer points of research and book structure. These discussions were enjoyed in a relaxed, informal atmosphere. Vaughan Park overlooks Long Bay Regional Park with its superb beach and a cliff-top walk with extensive views over the islands of the Hauraki Gulf.

Sessions covered literary, cultural, historical and collective biography, New Zealand history from a Maori perspective, themes in New Zealand history, writing for different audiences, local and regional history, research and publishing.

Speakers included Anne Salmond, Brian Boyd, Monty Soutar, Gavin McLean, Janet Hunt, Gordon McLauchlan, Paul Monin, Christine Cole Catley, Iain Sharp, Deborah Challinor, Paul Diamond, Sandra Coney and publishers Bridget Williams, Geoff Walker and Sam Elworthy. The programme also included time for attending writers to discuss the challenges of their own particular projects.

Attending writers gave the 2009 Workshop a 93% rating for having met their expectations.

The most valuable aspects were deemed to be:

  • interaction with other writers
  • the residential retreat concept
  • the limited size of the group
  • interaction with publishers
  • discussion time with speakers

For one attending writer's impressions of the 2009 Residential Workshop, see Simon Nathan's review at:

The workshop acknowledges the generous assistance of an Auckland Regional Services grant from North Shore City.

View 2009 Residential Workshop Programme

View 2009 Residential Workshop Speakers' biographies


North Shore City Council  - sponsored this event