“I FELT unlucky at first, but now I can say I feel very lucky.”
That is the feeling of Auckland author and photographer Colleen Maria Lenihan, who has just completed a writing residence in Southland.
Her trip was initially planned to take three weeks but the lockdown in Auckland allowed her to spend more time working on her stories in the region.
Now, she felt heartbroken to leave.
“I really want to come back and I’m thinking of maybe even moving to the area,” she said.
Lenihan was selected as this year’s Dan Davin Literary Foundation Writer in Residence.
A biennial programme, it invites writers from around New Zealand to apply to stay in Southland while working on their latest piece.
During their stay, the writers hold workshops with school pupils and adults and shared their skills in writing, particularly in short stories.
As part of the programme, Lenihan stayed at Yule House in Invercargill and had the opportunity to visit Milford Sound and Stewart Island.
She said the experience – especially the trip to Milford – inspired her to write a new story.
“I was quite moved by the experience and I’m very excited to write this piece.
“I don’t know if it will be a short story or a short non-fiction essay – I still need to think.”
She preferred not to share any details of her story at this stage as part of the process was to just tell very few people, “if anybody”, when she was at the “germination part of writing”.
“I think it is a mistake for creatives [writers] to talk too much about an idea before it is done. It is almost stealing your own thunder and it kind of dissipates the energy. It is to do with the inspiration and motivation to write,” she said.
However, Lenihan was quite excited with her piece, she said.
This was the first time she had been in Southland and said the region really surprised her in a positive way.
Lenihan was impressed with the southern hospitality – she believed she made real friends during her time here.
“I did not know much about the place but the perspective I got of Invercargill, from other people, was sometimes negative. I was wondering how it would be.
“The furthest south I’d been before was Dunedin and I think a lot of people in Auckland don’t really come down much. A lot of my friends, who have been seeing my Instagram stories, are saying they need to come and spend more time here, and I absolutely agree.
“It was amazing. I had a brilliant time. I loved the area – it is so beautiful.”
Foundation chairwoman Rebecca Amundsen was happy to be able to provide this experience for Lenihan.
“It is always great to bring people to Southland who have never been here before. It has been great to show her around. I hope we really inspired her and she goes back to Auckland with a little piece of Southland.”