Zee is a children’s author, illustrator & fine artist who approaches all her work with vigour and imagination. Her fiction has been short-listed for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards in the Best Youth Novel category, and she has had work commissioned for the Auckland Arts Festival, Artweek Auckland, Wellington Botanic Gardens, and the Auckland Heritage Festival. Zee had her debut fine art exhibition at Youthline Gallery in 2016.
Zee works to promote other artists, especially young creatives, through collaboration, encouragement, and publishing opportunities such as the NZ Young Writers Anthology and Spotlight On New Zealand Arts (SONZA). She shares her knowledge and experience by visiting schools and participating in community events. She has spoken at events including the National Bookseller’s Conference, Lexicon, and at Auckland Libraries.
When not making stuff, Zee can be found with a cup of tea and a good book, planning her next creative adventure, or out for a walk in the beautiful forests of Aotearoa.
Media & Events
- Otago Daily Times (June 2018)
- Waikato Times (May 2018)
- Lexicon Speaker: GeekCraft & Out of the Background (June 2017)
- Wellington Access Radio Happiness interview (June 2017)
- Couragemakers Podcast – Featured Guest (June 2017)
- Felt Feature: Meet the Maker (Feb 2017)
- The Itchy Kraken – Featured Author (Nov 2016)
- Book Promotion Using Local Events – podcast guest (Aug 2016)
- NZ Book Festival Blog – Auckland Zinefest (July 2016)
- What’s Good Zinefest Feature (July 2016)
- Eastlife Magazine Feature (June 2016)
- More FM Radio Review (Bookiemonster) (May 2015)
- Eastlife Magazine Feature (April 2015)
This is the long & rambling version of my bio! (Feb 2016)
I was born in Kanpur, India in January 1989, and moved to New Zealand in July of the same year. We have a mixed heritage of Eastern and Western ethnicities, but ultimately New Zealand is my home. My name, Zenobia, means ‘daughter of Zeus’ from the Greek tradition, and may be one reason why I have such a fascination with the old mythologies.
We lived in Auckland and I grew up with my parents, my younger brother and sister, my granddad (whom we called Pa, and is very dear to my heart) and a number of pets over the years. As a child – and like many authors – I devoured books, and it would often frustrate me that there was a limit on the number of books I was allowed to check out at our local library.
The books that left the biggest impressions on me as a child were C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and all of Roald Dahl’s books. Later on, influences included J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness series. I remember reading a line from Matilda expressing how grown-ups seemed to forget what it’s like to be a child, and I made a promise to myself to never be one of those grown-ups. I like to think I’ve kept that promise.
Most of my years growing up were spent not really knowing what I was doing, and so doing bits of everything, learning many things – and making many mistakes. Having said that, I don’t regret them, because they’ve made me the person I am today. I found maths easy, and writing hard, but was most interested in spirituality, psychology and philosophy. It was these interests that led me to creative hobbies, including music and painting.
I ended up deciding on a career in Visual Art, but dropped out of my Visual Arts degree before the end of the first semester because I realised that I just wanted to paint what I wanted to paint – I didn’t really want to study it. I went on to a Bachelor of Education, which I graduated from, and taught full time for just under two years.
Earlier, I said that most of my years growing up were spent not really knowing what I was doing. They were also spent trying to deal with chronically low self-esteem, which contributed to ongoing depression and anxiety. After the death of my granddad, a significant relationship break-up and general work stress, I fell deeper into those feelings and found them harder to manage. My partner in particular encouraged me to get help, and I started seeing a counsellor.
I talked to my friends and family about what I was going through, though many found it hard to believe that someone who came across as confident and sensible (apparently) could somehow be depressed or anxious. I met many wonderful people who held my hand through the process – and I know they are always there to help. I am grateful to have them in my life.
It was in this time that I decided to be a writer. Again, my partner encouraged me, telling me that I didn’t need to worry about how it would work, but that I should just start writing and everything else would fall into place. I was dubious at the time, but I gave it a go. Well, it turned out he was right! Even though I’m an avid planner, and always think ahead, I’ve learned that the only real way to figure something out is to have a go at it – I didn’t want to look back on my life and wonder, ‘What if?’
I made many mistakes – again – in that year, but I learned a lot (are you seeing a pattern?) and made some wonderful writer friends who brighten every day and keep my spirits up. I often think back to when I was younger, reading those amazing books and thinking that I could never be good enough to be an author! If the little girl devouring books could have seen who she’d grow up to be, I know she would be proud.
My debut story What Stars Are Made Of was published in December 2014, and I received some beautiful comments from readers that have made me feel touched, humbled, and proud all at once. I live now with my partner and my cat in Auckland, where I work as a fiction writer, an editor, an artist, an illustrator, a tutor and a bookshop assistant!
In 2015, I published The Caretaker of Imagination and its sequel, Lucy’s Story: The End of the World. I also created two companion colouring books, started publishing zines. As my first year being a ‘published author’ I learnt lots about events, publicity, and stress – which caused me to dip back into anxiety and depression later in the year.
In 2016, as I work towards my ‘full time creative’ dream, I am also being more mindful of my health and well being. Life is a journey and I am here to enjoy it, to soak it up, and to contribute to the world in my unique way.