Talented teacher and author joins University’s creative writing course

03 September 2015
Phillip Simpson

To say Auckland teacher and author Phillip Simpson has had a varied and broad career would be an understatement.

He completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching at the University of Auckland and has been teaching at Matipo Primary School on the Te Atatu Peninsula for 13 years.

Phillip is also a prolific author. He has had over fifty books and four young adult novels published. His first young adult novel, Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1), was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth novel in 2012.

His latest Young Adult novel, Minotaur, is about to be published in the United States.

“I have stories to tell, stories that take on a life of their own in my head. In some ways, it's almost a relief to release these onto the page. It's my love of stories and story-telling that keeps pulling me back to writing. I have an overactive imagination,” Phillip says.

Before he started writing he did a Bachelor of Arts in Ancient History and Archaeology and a Master of Arts in Archaeology at the University of Auckland. He then changed tack and briefly joined the army before returning to study, completing a Post Graduate Diploma in Museum Studies. He worked as a curator and archaeologist before travelling overseas. He worked in London and was even tempted by a job offer from the British Museum. Instead, he went into the IT and banking recruitment sector in London and then Australia. It was when he was in Australia he started writing fiction 15 years ago.

Now he is a student again developing his writing talent in the University's Master of Creative Writing programme, run by New Zealand author Dr Paula Morris.

“I liked the hands-on approach offered by the Master of Creative Writing. I also chose this course because of the convenor, Paula Morris. No other university seemed to have such a successful and well-respected young adult author at the helm.”

“I've written six novels in the last five years. The novel I'm writing for my MCW will be my eighth and hopefully my best. Paula expects no less - she'll keep hounding me until it is.”

He has a few words of advice for people planning a career in writing. He admits that it is hard graft and you have to make time to write every day.

“Perseverance. Hard work. Discipline and a desire to get better. Develop a thick skin.”

“The young adult market is extremely competitive. The only way to deal with that is to write the best possible story that will appeal to young adults.”

“It's vital that you don't condescend to your audience either. Just because your target audience is young adult, doesn't mean they won't recognise weak or sloppy writing.”

When he’s not at university or teaching Phillip is working to turn Rapture into a graphic novel in collaboration with UK artist Mat Dawson.

Find out more about the Master of Creative Writing.