International Writers' Workshop NZ International Writers' Workshop NZ Inc

Auckland, New Zealand

Sue Courtney

I joined IWW in 2004, the year the group moved to the North Shore.

I have had a couple of stints as Competition Secretary; I set up this website in 2006, I took over the role of Newsletter Editor in 2008, was President from September 2009 until the end of 2012, then again from the April 2014 until September 2015, and am now in the role again since November 2016. In 2010 I co-edited Beyond the Persimmon Tree, IWW's 2011 anthology of fiction, non-fiction and poetry, which IWW self-published - click on Books in menu above.

I mostly write creative non-fiction and I have been writing about wine for many years, particularly on my website,, which came to life in 1998. My wine writing has also appeared on a number of other websites.
Since 2007 I have had a wine column in Urban & Country, a monthly magazine that is inserted into the Waikato newspapers.
I also wrote a wine column in the Rodney Times from 1996 to 2014, and had regular wine columns in Growing Today magazine, Third Age magazine and Foodservice magazine but sadly those magazines no longer exist.
My writing has appeared in Wine Enthusiast magazine (US), Mercedes magazine (Australia), Food and Wine magazine's annual wine guide (US), Fodors New Zealand (US) and the New Zealand Herald plus my writing has appeared in print in Canada, Mexico and China.

I have had some success in IWW competitions, winning a travel story, an interview and a magazine article in 2005, and a child's story in 2010. In 2010 I won the Auckland Botanic Gardens creative writing competition with my fictional story, Crystal Plate see below.

I really enjoy the IWW workshops, sharing writing with the talented writers in our group and learning from the tutors that cover so many different genres. I'd love to be able to write fiction as easily as I can write non-fiction and I'd like to get more of my travel stories published.


Sample Writing

Crystal Plate - Fiction
From Kerikeri to Karikari - Travel and Wine: Non-Fiction

Crystal Plate

Mrs Arbuckle's highlight of the year was the 'welcome to spring' afternoon tea party. It was when she made her famous asparagus rolls and served them on her crystal plate. Her late husband had given her the plate not long after they had married. She hardly used it any more but its oblong shape was perfect for asparagus rolls. She grew her own asparagus just so she could cut the spears on the morning of the party. She blanched them in boiling water and chilled them in ice water. The asparagus spears were crisp and the brightest of green. She cut the crusts off the bread and lovingly spread each slice with her special spread. No one knew that it was only mayonnaise with a teaspoon of horseradish. It gave the rolls a delicious piquant tang.
At the afternoon tea party crystal plates of various shapes and sizes were laden with mouth-watering food.
"Your asparagus rolls are divine," said all her friends.
Mrs Arbuckle watched with satisfaction as one roll after another was eaten. Her plate was the first to have its exquisite crystal etching revealed.
"One day you will have to share your recipe," said Mrs Bothwell. "Now have a pikelet, dear, and make sure you pile it up with cream and jam." The fluffy pikelets were arranged on a circular plate alongside two little bowls one filled with jam and the other with a pile of whipped cream.
"The plate belonged to my grandmother and came from the old country," said Mrs Bothwell proudly. "It's been in our family for generations."

The ladies chatted about their kitchen successes and failures.
"I was so pleased that my macaroons worked the first time. They rose beautifully and popped, just like they should," said Mrs Didsbury delightedly. "See, they're crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey in the middle."
"You were lucky. I took three attempts to get these kisses just right," said Mrs Green, pursing her lips. "But I'm pleased I did. Take a bite. Isn't it dreamy how they melt in your mouth."
Nina was excited about her Neenish tarts. She liked that they called them Nina's Neenishs. They disappeared quickly, the chocolate and the lemon a delicious sweet sour contrast and the jam in the centre a surprise. An animated discussion followed on who liked to eat the chocolate icing side first and who liked to eat the white icing side first. One lady couldn't decide and took a bite right down the centre line. The chatter and laughter was like the babble of a Japanese water feature.
Soon the plates were empty and sated ladies with full tummies started drifting away. Plates were washed and put carefully back in the cupboard together with their memories.

After Mrs Arbuckle died her children and grandchildren cleaned out the cupboards. "Anyone want this old crystal plate?"
"Nah. I wouldn't use it."
"Nor would I. Put it on the Trade Me pile."

Winner of the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens 'Sculpture in the Gardens' writing competition 2009-2010, judged by Siobhan Harvey. The story was inspired by Phil Newberry's sculpture, 'Intensified Rain', made from recycled galvanised iron and crystal and glass plates.
Published in Beyond the Persimmon Tree.

From Kerikeri to Karikari and New Zealand’s northern-most vineyard

The white sands of Karikari Beach, on the northern side of Karikari Peninsula, seem pristine, untouched. Walking barefoot along the beach I hear the sand squeak beneath my weight and feel the dry grains of quartz run between my toes. Way above the high tide mark are sporadic clusters of scallop, tuatua and other exotic shells taken to their resting place by a recent storm to die a lonely death. On the dunes, tussock grass is trying to take hold. It’s so quiet and tranquil, it’s easy to forget about life on the main street. It is peace at its finest.

Suddenly I sense movement close by. Where? It takes a moment to spot the well-camouflaged breeding bird hackling its feathers in alarm at my approach. This stretch of beach, backed by sand dunes and wetlands, is over five and a half miles (nine kilometres)long and with little public road access it is a sanctuary for the NZ dotterel, bittern, variable oyster-catcher, fernbird and marsh crake. I take a wide berth so not to disturb the bird, further.

Taking time out to visit Karikari Beach is always a highlight of my visits to Karikari Estate Vineyard, part of Carrington Resort and the northern-most vineyard in New Zealand ... Click here to read more and view photos.