“My absolute favourite thing in the world was, and still is, reading – and I love to write and that was always the one career that appealed to me; to be a writer.”
Jess Copping is an acclaimed young adult fiction writer who, under her maiden name J L Pawley, has written more than ten novels over the past decade, with her debut trilogy being published in New Zealand, China, and Russia, as well as optioned for adaptation to the screen.
Jess attended Westlake Girls’ between 2002 and 2006 as an out-of-zone student, making the long commute from Rodney each day. From Westlake, she moved on to Massey University, where she studied for a double-major in Media Studies and English, covering a broad range of areas, and where, as she puts it in our interview, “completed as many creative writing papers as I could get my hands on.” From there, she went on to complete a master’s degree in English Literature, researching social media and e-reading.
Over the course of our interview, Jess talks passionately about her love for writing while offering rare and unique insight into her process. She also sheds light on some of the realities of being a contemporary writer in New Zealand, such as the challenges around getting published, coping with criticism and how difficult it is to actually make a living from doing the thing that you love.
Jess speaks about her recent transition to teaching at WBHS, reflecting on some of the elements that inspired this decision, including the influence of her inspirational English teacher, Jocelyn Nasmyth, who taught her for all three of her senior years at WGHS. She also mentions the unique insights and further inspiration she gained by visiting schools all around the country as an author involved with Duffy Books in Homes; a children’s charity which pays for books to be given to students at lower decile schools and driven by the beneficent principle that “the more you read, the more you know, the better you are at school and, therefore, the better are your educational prospects.”