Writer profiles

Julien Blanc-Gras – 2024

Julien Blanc-Gras – 2024

Julien Blanc-Gras is a writer, traveller, journalist, and father, and has explored the four corners of the world, drawing inspiration from his journeys for many of his works.

His debut book, Gringoland, was awarded at the First Novel Festival in Chambéry in 2005. Among his other works are Paradise (before Liquidation) and A Bit of a Special Envoy, written during the lockdown to counter the prevailing atmosphere.

He has also contributed extensively to the print media, with publications in renowned outlets such as M le magazine du Monde, L’Obs, Philosophie magazine, Le Temps, Le 1, Long cours, Aller-Retour, GQ, Technikart, and Grazia. He is also a presence on Radio France with the podcast Oli and a travel column on France Inter, as well as on Radio Nova with a literary column.

Following the birth of his son and his account of his experiences during his partner’s pregnancy in In Utero, he was entrusted with a column in Parents magazine. In his novel Like in War, he continues to explore the theme of fatherhood in our modern world.

Further reading


Rachel O’Neill – 2023

Rachel O’Neill – 2023

Crop of Rachel O'Neill. Photo by Alison Glenny

Rachel O’Neill is an artist, film maker, teacher of creative writing, communications professional, and, above all poet. O’Neill will be using their six months at Randell Cottage to work on two projects: completing their third book, Symphony of Queer Errands, and a fourth, a collection of prose poems titled Master of the Female Half-Lengths.

O’Neill is a graduate of the Master of Creative Writing workshop at Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters. Their two previous collections of prose poems are One Human in Height (Hue and Cry Press, 2013) and Requiem for a Fruit (We Are Babies, 2021). They have been extensively published in anthologies and journals – most recently Best Small Fictions 2020 (Sonder Press, 2021), Out Here: An Anthology of Takatapui and LGBTQIA+ Writers from Aotearoa New Zealand (AUP, 2021), and Best New Zealand Poems 2019 ( IIML, 2020).

Wearing their artist hat, they provided illustrations for Bernadette Hall’s 2016 poetry collection Maukatere: floating mountain (Seraph Press, 2016) and they collaborate with arts collective All the Cunning Stunts, exhibiting in the European Union and Aotearoa.

Video by Godwit Films
Director – Jeremy Macey 
Camera / editor – Emily Ardern
Sound recordist – Matthew Thompson 
Sedef Ecer – 2023

Sedef Ecer – 2023

Sedef-Ecer. Photo by Brigitte Baudesson

Born in Istanbul, Sedef Ecer grew up in the world of movie-making, theatre and television. Her latest book, Trésor national, was published by JC Lattès in 2021. She writes in different genres and in two languages: she has written more than 500 articles or opinion pieces for the press, novels, screenplays, explored new genres and translated Montaigne, Charlotte Delbo and Saint-Exupery’s works into Turkish.

As a writer and actress, Sedef Ecer has been a nominee or a recipient of prestigious awards. (French National Center of Theater, French National Center of Cinema, Beaumarchais Award, French Society of Multimedia Writers, Draft of a Dream, Velasquez Price, Writing Stipend of Paris Region, National Theater Award of Guérande, High School Students Favorite Play, nominated for Godot Award, Collidram Award, Best Television Comedy La Rochelle Festival) She is one of the founders of Parlement des Écrivaines Francophones.

Her major work is in the field of theatre. Her plays have been performed in numerous theatres and festivals in different countries, published, awarded and translated into Polish, Turkish, Armenian, German, Greek, English, Persian and Italian. As an actress, she has played in feature films and several plays since she was three years old and has worked recently under the directions of Amos Gitaï (with Jeanne Moreau), Lorenzo Gabriel and Thomas Bellorini.

During her stay in Wellington, she hopes to explore an exciting subject: a novel that will focus on the role of New Zealand and Turkish women and the fighting at Gallipoli – her parents live close to the site, and the project is something she has had in mind for some years.

Stuff, 05/03/2023: Turkish-born novelist in NZ to research women and Gallipoli

Further reading

Watch Sedef Ecer – an interview at Randell Cottage, from the French Embassy in Aotearoa New Zealand
Caroline Laurent – 2022

Caroline Laurent – 2022

Photo by Philippe Matsas

Born in 1988 and of French-Mauritian origins, Caroline grew up between French Polynesia, Bordeaux, Italy and Paris, where she currently resides. She still travels regularly to Mauritius to visit her maternal family.

Caroline is a graduate of modern French literature and has been an editor for the past 12 years (JC Lattès, Les Escales, Stock). Her areas of interest include contemporary literature and non-fiction.

Following the success of And suddenly, Freedom, co-written with Evelyne Pisier (80,000 copies sold, and awarded Prix Marguerite Duras and Grand Prix des Lycéennes ELLE 2018), in 2020 she released her second novel, The Shores of Anger (Prix Maison de la Presse 2020) in which she pursues her exploration of the colonial world and the lives of prominent women who have shaped history.

Her feminist convictions and commitment to fighting for what she believes in, led her to establish an opinion column against sexual violence in the publishing industry, bringing together 50 literary figures.

Read Caroline’s full report on her stay here: en français / in English

Read Caroline’s report on her second visit (November and December 2023) here: en français / in English

Caroline Laurent – an interview at Randell Cottage, from the French Embassy in Aotearoa New Zealand

Watch the extended interview.

Lynn Davidson – 2021

Lynn Davidson – 2021

Photo by Suzanne R Livingstone

Lynn Davidson is a poet and novelist. Davidson’s most recent publication is the poetry collection Islander. She won the Poetry New Zealand’s 2020 poetry Award and holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Massey University.

Davidson will be using her time at Randell Cottage to write a memoir of her move to Scotland in 2016 and how, when prevented by Covid-19 from returning to New Zealand, she began exploring the life of her Great-Aunt Vida.

Watch Lynn Davidson talk about her time as the resident at Randell Cottage

Director: Jeremy Macey
Cinematographer: Laetitia Belen
B camera operator: Thaïs Ehinger
Sound recordist: Jessy McNamara
Editor: Shane Loader


Further reading

Amaury da Cunha – 2020

Amaury da Cunha – 2020

Photo of Amaury da CunhaWith a speech therapist mother and a photographer father, it was perhaps almost inevitable that writer and photographer Amaury da Cunha would grow up with a deep understanding of the power of words and images.

Born in Paris, Amaury da Cunha studied modern literature before pursuing photography at the École nationale supérieure de la photographie in Arles. He combines both interests in his work as a photo editor for Le Monde’s literary supplement, in his own writing and exhibitions, and in collaborative projects with other writers and photographers.

His first book, Saccades, a collection of images and texts, was published by Yellow Now. Après tout was released by Caillou Bleu in November 2012, which coincided with his first personal exhibition in Paris for Photography Month. 2015 saw the publication of two books: Fond de l’œil (Roergue), a collection of short texts (odes, meditations, love stories…) on photography; and Incidences (Filigranes), a second collection of images and texts. The autofiction Histoire souterraine (Rouergue) was published in 2017 and followed a year later by Demeure (H’artpon), a book of images accompanied by texts written by Sylvie Gracia.

His photography has been exhibited throughout France and in Belgium.

Amaury da Cunha’s Randell project is an exploration of the life of Minnie Dean, the late nineteenth-century baby farmer who was convicted of infanticide and hanged.

Further reading

Paddy Richardson – 2019

Paddy Richardson – 2019

Photo of Paddy Richardson
Photo credit: Caroline Davies

Dunedin-based writer Paddy Richardson is the 2019 Creative New Zealand Randell Cottage Writing Fellow. Richardson has published seven novels and two short-story collections.

Her Randell project, The Green of Spring is the sequel to her 2017 novel Through the Lonesome Dark. Set in WWI New Zealand, it tells the story of young mining activist Otto Bader who is arrested as an ‘enemy alien’ and incarcerated on Somes Island along with others of Austrian and German origins.


Further reading

Karin Serres – 2019

Karin Serres – 2019

© Bertrand Couderc

Karin Serres, the Randell Cottage’s 2019 French resident is a novelist, a playwright, for stage and radio, and a translator. She trained as a scenographer and her work with staging and performance turned her to writing. She has written over 80 plays for radio and stage, winning national awards for that work, and has also written children’s picture books and young adult fiction.

Her first novel for adults, Monde sans oiseaux (a world without birds) was published in 2013 and in 2015, she was awarded a French national honour – Chevalier des artes et lettres – for her contribution to literature.

Karin’s Randell project is a sequel to her 2018 novel, Happa no ko le peuple de feuilles (Happa no ko the leaf people). She says that writing somewhere else, in an unknown place, is one of her favourite sources of creative energy, that her work thrives on new perspectives.

In this interview, recorded by the communications team of the Embassy of France in New Zealand at the mid-point of her residency, Karin talks about her work and her interest in New Zealand.