Posted by: Lisa Hill | October 29, 2018

Meet a Kiwi Author: Avi Duckor Jones

Avi Duckor-Jones (Photo credit Nick George)

The Seizure Viva La Novella Prize is one of my favourites because (a) they are spectacularly good at choosing interesting winners and (b) because the novella form means that it’s quick and easy to read the winning titles in a timely way.  (Which is not always true of chunksters, as we all know).  But this year the Seizure Prize offered something new: for the first time the winners were from Across the Ditch.

The two Kiwi winners for 2018 were Anna Jackson for The Bed-making Competition (see my review) and Avi Duckor-Jones for SwimAs you know if you read my reviews, I was impressed by both these very different novellas, so I am delighted to introduce Avi Duckor-Jones through Meet a Kiwi Author (and will bring you a profile of Anna Jackson before long too!)

Avi Duckor-Jones is an Auckland based writer. Although trained as a lawyer, Avi gained his MA in creative writing from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters in 2013. His travel writing has been published with BBC Travel, The NZ Listener and Lonely Planet.  He has worked as a writing instructor and trip leader for National Geographic, directed a school in Ghana, and is the winner of NZ Survivor.  (Gosh!)

Here are Avi’s answers to my questions:

1. I was born in Wellington and raised in the beautiful coastal community of Eastbourne, on the opposite side of the harbor from the city. I grew up in York Bay, which held all the adventures (land and sea) that I could’ve asked for.

2. When I was a child I wrote stories about invented creatures, grand adventures and probably cats.

3. The person who encouraged/inspired/mentored me to write was my Dad.  My father was a writer so I grew up in a house was filled from floor to ceiling with books, and we were always encouraged to tell stories ourselves. Often in lieu of a birthday present, he’d ask for a poem.

4. I write anywhere I can. I’ve been very peripatetic over the last five years or so. “Swim” for example, was written on the kindness of many, many people’s desks, kitchen tables, floors, window seats and lawns as I moved about the place. Some of the work I’m the most proud of has come from writing on trains, planes and buses.

5. I write when I can. My life, until this year, has had no constant rhythm or routine so the writing has been in fits and bursts. I’ve had to set aside intentional self-imposed writing retreats to work. Now, it is first thing in the morning before I go to school to teach, and the last thing at night before I go to bed. Hopefully it’s coming together somewhere in the middle.

6. Research is a great range of things. It is living a full life and trying on many different versions of it. It is listening, watching and noticing. It is reading widely.

7. I keep my published work with all its much more attractive and accomplished friends: on the bookshelf.

8. On the day my first book was published, I told my students at school and they gave me a standing ovation.

9. At the moment, I’m developing the play I wrote and performed last year. I’m working on a collection of short stories, and I’m confused by a huge mess of something I am excited about, even though I’m not sure what it is.

10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I run.

I really like Avi’s response to the question about research.  I think he’s absolutely right about living a full life (though competing in Survivor might be a bit beyond most of us!) and listening, watching and noticing.  Xavier Herbert was apparently notorious for sitting moodily in country pubs eavesdropping on conversations, but it doesn’t seem to matter where or how it’s done, being out and about and listening to people who are not like yourself and your friends is the way to create interesting fiction that has something worthwhile to say.

Swim can be purchased from

PS You can read a short story by Avi here.


  1. A house filled, from floor to ceiling, with books: how lovely. And I think the request for a poem as a gift is a fantastic idea!


    • Even a bookcase is becoming rare these days, so yes, a house full of books is a joy.


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