University of Waikato Announces Diana Clarke as 2022 Writer-in-Residence

A novel exploring the sectarian logic of internet communities alongside organized religious groups such as Gloriavale and Scientology will be the focus of new University of Waikato Writer-in-Residence Diana Clarke.

Clarke, who is completing her doctorate in creative writing and literature at the University of Utah, returned home to New Zealand for the 12-month residency, jointly funded by the University and Creative New Zealand.

She says the impetus for her new book,
Gleeville, was motivated by the “embarrassing amount of time” she spent on her phone during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The internet is a petri dish for misinformation, and social media platforms allow for the amplification and dissemination of misinformed voices,” Clarke says.

“The onset of the pandemic has really accentuated this trend, and now the internet is like a bunch of little cults, much like the cults of the physical world, with online communities operating like echo chambers at war with other other echo chambers.”

Gleeville will be Clarke’s third book.

While writing, studying, and teaching in America, Clarke also spent time facilitating informal writing workshops at a handful of anorexia recovery facilities across the United States. The relationship began when a facility manager called to say they wanted to stock his first book, thin girls
(Harper Collins).

Clarke, who suffered from an eating disorder in her early twenties, drew on her own experiences for the novel which explores body image and homosexuality as well as the culture of toxic eating and the power of brotherhood, love and friendships for life.

“I was quite stunned when the center called me. The idea that the people I was thinking of when I wrote this book were reading it now.

The facility’s writing workshops have seen her help patients write about their experience or a letter to themselves or family.

“I was in and out of anorexia recovery for about 18 months when I was in my early twenties and I started writing around that time too. healed, because it definitely isn’t, but having something to focus on, having something that makes you productive, I think has helped my recovery,” Clarke says.

Clarke’s second novel, Hops (Harper Collins), will be published in June and tells how a poor girl who comes of age in rural New Zealand becomes a sex icon, a face of a movement and a mother all rolled into one.

Clarke says she spent a lot of time talking to sex workers in New Zealand and America as part of her research for this story.

She is waiting Gleeville
be very different from his two previous works.

“The book deals with cults at the thematic level, but it is also a family drama. It’s about a millennial woman struggling with financial instability, becoming a nanny and falling in love with a married man,” Clarke explains.

Or at least that’s what the story is about right now, says Clarke.

She says the residency in Waikato would not only provide the luxury of focusing on her novel for a year, but also the opportunity to immerse herself in the New Zealand literary community.

“I feel really lucky to have the residency in Waikato because I’ve always been a part-time writer, adapting my writing to studying and teaching. Having a full year to focus on nothing but writing is every writer’s dream,” Clarke says.

Associate Professor of English Dr Sarah Shieff says the University is delighted to have Clarke in this position, ensuring that the cultural life of Te Kura Toi, the School of Arts and the University at large , is rich and dynamic.

Clarke’s residency will overlap with that of Michalia Arathimos, the writer-in-residence for 2021, who will be on campus until the end of March.

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