Paula was born in Auckland and attended Freyberg Memorial Primary, Rangeview Intermediate and Rutherford High School (now Rutherford College). She went on to tertiary study and graduated with a B.A. from the University of Auckland in 1985, a D. Phil from the University of York, England in 1990, an M.A. from Victoria University of Wellington in 2002 and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 2004. She worked as a production assistant for BBC Radio from 1989-1991 before taking up the position of Press and Promotions Officer for Virgin Records in London from 1991-1992, and Press and Promotions Manager for Polygram in London from In 1994 she began working for BMG Entertainment in New York as a Product Manager (1994-1996), Label Director (1996-97), and Vice-President of Marketing (1997-98). From 1998-2004 she worked as a freelance writer and brand strategist for clients in the US and New Zealand. In 2004 she took up an appointment as Assistant Professor at Tulane University’s Department of English in New Orleans, a position she still holds.
Paula writes novels, short stories and non-fiction articles and has received numerous writing awards and fellowships including the Hoover Presidential Library Association (US) research scholarship (1999); the Adam Foundation Prize in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington (2001); the Schaeffer Fellowship in Modern Letters (for her first year of study at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop) in 2002-2003; International Writer-in-Residence for the University of Iowa’s International Programs (2003); and a Teaching/Writing Fellowship (for her second year of study at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop) at the University of Iowa (2003-4). She was awarded the Hubert Church Award for Best First Book of Fiction (for Queen of Beauty) in the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and has also received grants from Creative New Zealand, Asia New Zealand Foundation, the New Zealand Book Council and Tulane University. She was also shortlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award in the UK (for False River), was a regional finalist in the 2009 Commonwealth Prize (for Forbidden Cities), and won the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards, Fiction category (for Rangatira), and the 2012 Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards in New Zealand, Fiction category (for Rangatira).
Paula has attended various fiction workshops, beginning with classes at “The Writer’s Voice”, YMCA, New York, from 1996-98 and in the student-run group “Readers and Writers” in New York in 1999-2000. During the completion of her M.A. in Creative Writing at Victoria University of Wellington, and during her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa, Paula participated in weekly workshops.
"In 2008, the year Morris was the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellow, she published Forbidden Cities (Penguin, 2008), a collection that roams the world - Auckland, Los Angeles, Shanghai, London, Budapest, New York, New Orleans – in exploration of escape, transgression, ambition, delusions, and desire. The New Zealand Herald called it 'one of the best short story collections written by a New Zealander in years’, and Forbidden Cities was a regional finalist for the 2009 Commonwealth Prize.
Morris was editor of the ‘expatriate' issue of Landfall in 2009 and also edited the Penguin Book of Contemporary New Zealand Short Stories (Penguin, 2009), a snapshot of New Zealand fiction in the early twenty-first century. An interview with Morris (conducted by Alice Te Punga Somerville) featured in in the anthology Words Chosen Carefully, edited by Siobhan Harvey (Cape Catley Ltd, 2010).
Her novel Rangatira was published in 2011 by Penguin and in German in 2012 by Walde+Graf. Based on the true story of an 1863 trip to England by a group of rangatira - including her tupuna, Paratene Te Manu - Rangatira won the fiction categories of both the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards and the Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards. The novel has been described as an 'extraordinary literary achievement and probably the best of recent New Zealand historical novels’ (New Zealand Books) and ‘a triumph of characterisation’ (Listener).
She has been awarded a number of residencies and fellowships, including the Bellagio Residency in Italy, as well as stays in Passa Porta in Brussels, the International Writers and Translators’ House in Latvia, and Brecht's House in Denmark. Morris has appeared at numerous festivals in Europe, New Zealand, the US, the UK, and China.
Morris's short stories have been published in numerous anthologies, literary journals and magazines, and broadcast on the radio in New Zealand and the US. Her story False River was shortlisted for the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award (UK). She also writes essays, book reviews, and arts features, and has twice been a finalist for Reviewer of the Year in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.
In 2015, Morris' first long-form essay, On Coming Home, was published by BWB. The essay explores the lives of writer exiles and narrates the author's own return to New Zealand, confronting the very idea of 'belonging' in the process. The New Zealand Herald described it as 'fabulously literary and deeply personal … to be applauded as a contribution to the intellectual life of us, whoever we turn out to be.’
With Point/Scholastic in the US Paula has published four supernatural mysteries for young adults, including the bestselling Ruined (2009) and its sequel Unbroken (2011), both set in New Orleans; Dark Souls (2011), set in York; and The Eternal City (2015), set in Rome. Her children’s book Hene and the Burning Harbour, part of the New Zealand Girl Series, was published by Penguin in 2013.
Since 2003, Paula has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Tulane University in New Orleans, the University of Stirling in Scotland and the University of Sheffield in England, as well as at festivals, schools, museums, and community centres all over the world. She returned to New Zealand in 2015 to convene the Master of Creative Writing programme at the University of Auckland. She is the founder of the Academy of New Zealand Literature, a new initiative that positions and promotes contemporary New Zealand writing, and helps mid-career writers locate research, residency and festival opportunities overseas."
- Email correspondence from Paula Morris 25 May 2006.
http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/morrispaula.html 9 September 2016
http://www.paula-morris.com/ 9 September 2016