Mandy Hager is a multi-award winning writer of fiction for young adults. In 2019 she was awarded the Margaret Mahy Medal for life-time achievement and a distinguished contribution to New Zealand’s literature for young people.
She has won the LIANZA Book Awards for Young Adult fiction 3 times (‘Smashed’ 2008, ‘The Nature of Ash’ 2013, ‘Dear Vincent’ 2014), the NZ Post Children’s Book Awards for YA fiction (‘The Crossing’ 2010), an Honour Award in the 1996 AIM Children’s Book Awards (‘Tom’s Story’), Golden Wings Excellence Award (‘Juno Lucina,’ 2002), Golden Wings Award (‘Run For The Trees’, 2003) and six Notable Book Awards.
She has also been awarded the 2012 Beatson Fellowship, the 2014 Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship and the 2015 Waikato University Writer in Residence. In 2015 her novel ‘Singing Home the Whale’ was awarded the Margaret Mahy Book of the Year award, and the Best Young Adult fiction Award from the NZ Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It has also been named a 2016 IBBY Honour Book, an international award.
In May 2017 her historical novel for adults, Heloise, was published by Penguin NZ. It tells the life story of Heloise d’Argenteuil, famed lover of 12th century French philosopher Peter Abelard. It was longlisted for the 2018 Ockham Book Awards.
She is a trained teacher, with an Advanced Diploma in Fine Arts (Whitireia) and an MA in Creative Writing for Victoria University. She also writes adult fiction, short stories, non-fiction, educational resources, blogs and articles, and tutored the Novel Course for Whitireia’s Creative Writing Programme for 10 years.
Mandy (Amanda) Hager was born in 1960 in Levin, New Zealand. Her father, Kurt, was born in Vienna, Austria, and her mother, Barbara, in Zanzibar, East Africa. They met in Otaki, and spent most of their married life in Levin, where Mandy’s father established a clothing factory. She is the third child of four – with two sisters and one brother. They were raised with a strong sense of social justice – something evident in all her writing.
Mandy is married to Brian, and has two adult children, Thom and Rose, and is a doting granny to Leo and Luna. She lives on an acre of land on the Kapiti Coast, New Zealand. While raising her children, she volunteered her time as policy writer/committee member for her local community creche and later as a member of the Houghton Valley School Board of Trustees.
She started her professional life as a primary teacher, before specialising in the teaching of people with learning difficulties. This would lead to the publication of her 2004 book Help! My Brain Hurts – Special Tips for Special Kids: A guide for students with learning differences. (Essential Resources Educational Publishers Ltd). She has also written numerous educational resources for Learning Media and the School Journal.
As well as her Teaching Diploma, she has an Advanced Diploma in Applied Arts (Writing) from Whitireia Polytechnic and a MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University, Wellington. She has also worked as a youth education officer for the Red Cross, a research assistant to Dr Erich Geiringer as he wrote his anti-nuclear book Malice in Blunderland, administrative support for the New Zealand branch of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), a research and resource writer, a tertiary-level writing tutor, speaker and workshop facilitator.
Her first published book Tom’s Story, was a picture book dealing with the issue of the death of a parent, after the tragic death of her husband in a boating accident in 1992. The first of its kind published in New Zealand, it was launched by the Governor General and went on to win an Honour Award in the AIM Children’s Book Awards in 1996. It has gone on to offer comfort to bereaved children as a resource through Skylight, the National Loss and Grief Centre, which she has supported through the years.
Of her 14 published books to date, she has won or been shortlisted for 23 awards, including Margaret Mahy Book of the Year, Best YA fiction, and Notable Book Awards. In 2016 her book Singing Home the Whale was selected by the International Board for Books for Young People (IBBY) as an IBBY Honour Book, with copies deposited in libraries throughout Europe. Two of her books have been translated into Chinese and Slovenian and her Blood of the Lamb trilogy was published in the US by Pyr Books. Two of her film scripts have been finalists (and one runner-up) in script competitions, one local (River City Film Festival 2003), one overseas (Moondance Film Festival 2008).
Her books deal with the big issues facing young people and have traversed such topics as suicide and self-harm, date rape, abuse of power, terrorism, political corruption, the treatment of refugees, violence against women, degradation of the environment and climate change, the mistreatment of animals, native forest logging, racism, ableism, sexism, religious manipulation and persecution, social media bullying and intergenerational damage, all underpinned with a strong message of love, compassion, generosity, non-violent resistance and the need to stand up and use one’s voice to protect human rights. Her writing also gives voice to the mentally and physically disabled, gay, non-white and indigenous characters, allowing them agency and challenging the stereotypes.
In 2014 she was awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship, one of NZs oldest and most prestigious writing awards, which enabled her to spend 6 months living in Menton, in the South of France as she researched a new project. In 2015 she was awarded Writer in Residence at Waikato University, Hamilton, where she worked on the first draft of her historical novel for adults, Heloise (Penguin NZ, 2017.) When published, this book was on the bestseller list for several weeks and longlisted for the 2018 Ockham Book Awards.
She has also been awarded the 2017 D’Arcy Writer’s Grant to produce the 13,000 word essay ‘For Art’s Sake’, looking at the politics of the arts and arts education, and the 2012 Beatson Fellowship.
In 2019 she was awarded the Margaret Mahy Medal for life-time achievement and a distinguished contribution to New Zealand’s literature for young people.
From 2005 – 2008 she was employed as a researcher and resource writer for the Internal Affairs funded NGO The Global Education Centre, covering issues such as:
- ‘The Next’ – An extensive 38,000 word resource for the Global Education Centre (‘providing an innovative approach for engaging young people in an exploration of social justice and global issues through Hip Hop.’)
- ‘Parihaka and the gift of non-violent resistance’
- The Measure of Money – a look at global money systems and the role of the World Bank
- Take Action – a guide to promote community engagement
- Who Are You In The Global Village? Identity issues
- Cook Me Some Eggs, Woman – the global and local issues around violence against women, in association with Amnesty International
- Get Up! Stand Up! Music for Change – protest music of the past and present
- Creating Culture – young people and advertising
- Healing the World – traditional healing practices and the global pharmaceutical industry
- Climate Wars – the politics of climate change
- The Trafficking Trap – The global issues surrounding illegal drug, human, animal and plant trafficking
- Slaves to fashion – the threads that bind us – The global issues pertaining to fair trade in the fashion/textile industry worldwide
- Big Business – saints or sinners – The global issues surrounding the rise and control of giant multinational corporations.
In 2006 she was contracted to develop new bibliotherapeutic resources for the DARE Foundation, to use with youth at risk. She developed DARE To Be You’ – five integrated resources based around her novel for young adults Run For The Trees. Modules include: Family Issues, Disability Issues, Self Esteem, Celebrating Diversity and Conservation Issues. This was followed in 2007 by ‘DARE To Move On’ – a comprehensive 177 page resource to target youth at higher risk, based around her commissioned novel Smashed, which centres on the issue of date rape. The programme explores Identity, Peer Pressure, Trust, Revenge, Consequences, Responsibility, Powerlessness, Assumptions, Truth, Expectations, and Inner Strength, focusing on the ten core life skill strategies and techniques identified as most effective by UNICEF, UNESCO and WHO. Both resources were very positively reviewed in 2009 by Nikki Evans, Director Social Work Programme, Canterbury University, who said: It is clear that both programmes have the potential to reduce risk relationships for young people both as a preventative programme and as an intervention for youth at risk . . . the emphasis on diversity is strong and integrated. This is a significant strength of the programmes. Facilitators reported significant changes in behaviour and many positive outcomes. She also participated as a Board Member of DARE and trainer for the programmes.
In 2008 she wrote the script for the Homeworks Trust funded training video He Drove Me Mad, An investigation into the relationship between domestic violence and mental illness (Directed by Shirley Horrocks, Point of View Productions), based on the research of her sister, Debbie Hager.
She has been an active member of the Book Council’s Writers in Schools scheme, travelling the country speaking in numerous schools and running writing workshops. In addition to this, she has been a featured speaker, panel chair and workshop facilitator at numerous festivals, including:
- Australia/NZ Literary Festival, Kings College, London
- The American Library, Paris, France
- Tertiary Writing Network Colloquium
- Margaret Mahy Medal Lecture
- NZSA National Writers Forum
- Off the Page – Massey University
- Beyond the Page Festival
- Kapiti Writers Retreat
- WORD Christchurch
- Writer’s Week, International Festival of the Arts
- Puke Ariki Festival
- Wallace Arts Trust
- Kokomai Literary Festival
- Ladies Litera-Tea
- Auckland Writers Festival
- IBBY World Congress
- Storylines Festival
- Hamilton Gardens Festival
- Dunedin Writers Festival
- Wairarapa Word
- Bookrapt Seminars
- Tauranga Arts Festival
- Raglan Writer’s Festival
- Katherine Mansfield Memorial Lecture
- Australasian Association of Writing programmes
She has also been involved in selection panels for the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship, the Society of Authors Mentoring programme, the Hugh Ronald Morrieson Awards, Northland NZSA Short Story Competition, and the Janet Frame Memorial Award.
Since 2009 she has tutored novel writing for Whitireia’s Creative Writing programme, facilitating the novel writing of over 120 students, which has resulted in a number of works being published and several students going on to MA study, as well as award nominations and wins. She also works as a writing mentor for the Society of Authors and the Creative Hub, and as an external assessor for Auckland University. She is a trustee/member of the Kapiti Children’s Writers Group, and runs annual writing workshops for the local community.
She maintains a website (www.mandyhager.com), a Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/MandyHagerAuthor/ ) and a Twitter account (@MandyHager), and has been a regular blogger on her website and opinion writer for online newspaper Kapiti Independent News.
A strong desire to ‘say something’ through her writing permeates everything Mandy writes. She tries to convince others (and herself!) to remain hopeful in the face of daunting global issues. Her favourite quote, and the tenet by which she lives, comes from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”