Photo credit: Claudia Latisnere
Renée Taylor was born in Napier in 1929 of Ngati Kahungunu and Scots ancestry. Known mononymously as ‘Renée’, she describes herself as a lesbian feminist with socialist working-class ideals. Although she did not write seriously until she reached 50 years of age, Renée has since published eight novels and over twenty plays, and achieved numerous accolades. She is a recipient of the 1986 Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council Literary Fund Playwrights Award, and was the 1989 Roberts Burns Fellow, University of Otago. In the 2006 Queen’s Birthday Honours, Renée was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and drama. In 2013 she received the Creative New Zealand Te Waka Toi Award, and Ngā Tohu ā Tā Kingi Ihaka | Sir Kingi Ihaka Award. In 2017 she received the Playmarket Award, a $20,000 prize recognising a playwright who has made a significant artistic contribution to theatre in New Zealand. Most recently, in 2018 Renée received the prestigious New Zealand Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Fiction.
Renée left school at the age of 12 to work in the local woollen mills and then a printing factory. When her own children were young, she began writing short stories, reviews and humorous columns for newspapers, acting in Napier Repertory Theatre and later began a university degree. For twenty years she also directed plays for a number of theatrical groups and schools in the Hawke’s Bay area. In 1979, Renée moved to Auckland to complete her BA at Auckland University and worked as a cleaner at Theatre Corporate where, six years later, she returned as Playwright In Residence. After graduation, she worked at a secondary school teaching English and Drama. On New Year’s Day in 1981, she began writing her first play Setting The Table – completing the first draft of it five days later. She went on to write books and plays which feature women in leading roles and humanise working class people.
Much of her work is published and excerpts are included in collections and anthologies both in New Zealand and overseas. In 1988 Renée was invited to attend the First International Women Playwrights Conference in New York where she was one of three keynote speakers. She also attended the Pacific Writers Conference in London and took part of in a reading tour of Britain and Europe.
Renée lives in Ōtaki where she teaches her ‘Your Life, Your Story’ and her ‘Poem a Week’ workshops. Most recently Renée published a memoir entitled These Two Hands (Mākaro Press, 2017) which is her life, her story, told in patches, like a quilt, one for every year of the life she’s lived so far.
Renée’s weekly blog
Makaro Press author page
Playmarket NZ – list of works
Feature interview – The Hui TV3 Morning Show (Nov, 2018)
Radio NZ interview (Sept, 2013)