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Wilkins, Damien - Literary papers of Damien Wilkins

Identifier: wilkd


  • Creation: 1980-

Access and use

Access is freely available to bona fide scholars within the J.C.Beaglehole Room for research and private study. For any use beyond this, please contact the J.C.Beaglehole Room ( in the first instance.

Biographical / Historical

Damien Wilkins is a New Zealand novelist, playwright, editor, poet and musician. Currently the Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Victoria University of Wellington, he is best known for his award-winning novels including The Fainter (2006), Chemistry (2002), and The Miserables (1993) which won the 1994 New Zealand Book Award for Fiction.

Wilkins graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in 1984 with a BA Hons in English Literature. In 1988 he became assistant editor at Victoria University Press (VUP) and then studied at Washington University, St. Louis, USA, where he completed a MFA in creative writing. Since 2014 he has been the director of the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Wilkins publications include The Veteran Perils (1990), The Miserables (1993), Nineteen Widows Under Ash (2001), Chemistry (2002), When Famous People Come to Town (2002), The Fainter (2006), For Everyone Concerned (2008), Somebody Loves Us All (2009), The Best of the Best New Zealand Poems (2011) - co-edited with Bill Manhire; Max Gate (2013), Dad Art, (2016), and Aspiring in 2020. Nineteen Widows Under Ash, was joint runner up for the Deutz Prize for Fiction in the 2001 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. The Fainter was runner-up for the Montana Medal for Fiction in 2007 and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

In 2008, Wilkins was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship and in 2013 received an Arts Foundation Laureate Award. Max Gate (2013), a novel about Thomas Hardy, was a fiction finalist in the 2014 New Zealand Post Book Awards. His novel, Dad Art (2016), was launched at the 2016 New Zealand Arts Festival and was longlisted for the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Wilkins’ first young adult novel, Aspiring (2020) won the Young Adult section in the 2020 New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults.

Wilkins has worked on television scripts including Duggan and The Insider's Guide to Happiness. His first play, Drinking Games, was produced at Circa Theatre in 2008. Working as a founding editor of Sport Magazine (NZ literary magazine, 1988-2019), in 2005 the anthology he edited, Great Sporting Moments The best of Sport Magazine 1988-2004, won a Montana Book Award.

Also a musician, Damien Wilkins is a songwriter who has released songs through his project/group The Close Readers. Previously, he had played in the band The Jonahs (1980s). In 2011 Damien released an album of original material ‘Group Hug’ under the name The Close Readers; followed by 'New Spirit' (2012) and 'The Lines Are Open' (2014).


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Repository Details

Part of the Tapuaka Heritage & Archive Collections - JC Beaglehole Reading Room, Victoria University of Wellington Library Repository

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Wellington 6140 New Zealand
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