Zena Shapter

Zena Shapter

Zena Shapter writes from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud, reaching across age and genre into the heart of storytelling. A multi-award-winning author of science fiction, fantasy, speculative and contemporary fiction, she loves conjuring journeys into the beyond and unusual. She’s the author of ‘When Dark Roots Hunt’, ‘Song of the Cawal’, ‘Towards White’, and co-author of ‘Into Tordon’, among others. She’s won over a dozen national awards, including the Australasian Horror Writers’ Association Award for Short Fiction and a Ditmar Award for Best New Talent. She’s also a HSC English tutor, a writing mentor, editor and judge of various literary awards. She believes that stories are our best invention.

As an inclusive creativity advocate, Zena loves teaching storytelling and writing at festivals, libraries, schools, and on behalf of councils, encouraging everyone to value the importance of creativity. She’s founded and led community creativity projects for writers such as the ‘Art & Words Project’, various short story anthologies, and the award-winning Northern Beaches Writers’ Group.


Zena Shapter Ascham Writers Festival 1 300x295 Zena Shapter Book Week 2022
Zena Shapter Walking Workshop 300x207 Ascham Writers Festival 2

Recent Awards:

  • ‘About Time’ – First Place, 2023 Port Writers Open Writing Competition; Shortlisted, 2019 Marjorie Barnard Short Story Award
  • ‘Good Enough’ – Second Place, 2023 FAW Hills Open Writing Competition
  • ‘Keeping Words’ – Highly Commended, 2020 Port Writers Open Writing Competition
  • ‘The Guitar Wizard’ – Best Book, 2017 WABIAD National Open category
  • ‘The Time of the Jade Spider’ – Best Book, 2016 WABIAD National Open category
  • ‘Rider & the Hummingbird’ – Best Book, 2015 WABIAD National Open category
  • Ditmar Award for Best New Talent 2014
  • ‘A Dolphin for Naia’ – Best Book, 2014 WABIAD National Open category
  • ‘Darker’ – First Place, 2013 Australian Horror Writers’ Association short story competition.
  • ‘Champions’ – First Place, Glen Miles Short Story Prize 2013.
  • ‘Scribbles in the Dark’ – Best Book, 2013 WABIAD National Open category.
  • ‘Darker’ – Semi-finalist, Writers of the Future (1st Quarter, 2013).
  • ‘A Sprig After Rain – Shortlisted, 2013 Trudy Graham and Julie Lewis Literary Award
  • ‘Weighting Time’ – Highly Commended, 2013 Hadow/Stuart Short Story Competition.
  • ‘The Something Said’ – First Place, 2012 Fellowship of Australian Writers Manly & Peninsula Short Story Competition.
  • ‘A Knight Answers’ – First Place, 2012 Oberon Writing Competition.
  • ‘Deep’ – Honourable Mention, Writers of the Future (2nd Quarter, 2012).
  • ‘Finding My Way’ – shortlisted by Berkelouw Books for The Pittwater Award 2012.
  • ‘From Here to There’ – superior entry, 2011 Conflux 7.
  • ‘Portrait of a Model’ – First Place, 2011 Fellowship of Australian Writers Manly & Peninsula Short Story Competition.
  • ‘Invisible Dirt’ – First Place, 2011 Oberon Writing Competition.
  • ‘Fighting Off The Foxes’ – First Place, 2010 Fellowship of Australian Writers Manly & Peninsula Short Story Competition.
  • ‘Once, Upon A Wattle’ – commended, 2010 Fellowship of Australian Writers Manly & Peninsula Short Story Competition.
  • ‘Diamonds in the Sea’ – shortlisted, 2009 by ‘Page Seventeen’ magazine.
  • ‘just the way things are’ – commended, 2009 Fellowship of Australian Writers Manly & Peninsula Short Story Competition.

Workshops and Talks

Author Talk or Keynote Speaker – 1hr talk

Zena has won over a dozen national writing competitions, has had short fiction published in over 40 magazines and anthologies across the world, and has had multiple books published. Having written since she was a tween, she now judges writing competitions, and has spent the last 10 years teaching and tutoring kids of all ages in English and creative writing. In her author talks, Zena happily shares her author adventures with libraries, schools, festivals, and any events interested in inspiring young writers to get creating. She talks about her writing process, the importance of creativity and how to incorporate it into all stages of life, the value of the teenage brain/experience, and more. 

High School

‘Mod C’ Craft of Writing – 1.5hr workshop
Stage 6 Writers (Years 11 & 12 Only)

This workshop addresses the very particular and nuanced writing skills needed to succeed in the English HSC (Standard or Advanced) ‘Module C’ component. It challenges students’ perspectives of creative writing, inviting them to understand what the HSC exam will require of them, and how best to showcase their skills in the limited time available for crafting an imaginative, discursive or persuasive text, as well as a possible reflection. It reveals common pitfalls to avoid, enables students to test their knowledge of language devices for practical application, and offers a different approach that supports in-class development, voiced by an experienced personal tutor.

Exquisite Storytelling: Advanced Techniques – 3-4hr workshop
For Stage 5 & 6 Writers (Years 9 to 12)

An advanced technique-focused workshop to enrich young writers already confident with storytelling skills and writing techniques. Develop story precision, write culturally diverse characters, innovate with text structure and language forms, explore the human experience, universal themes and social contexts, and experiment with setting. Students deepen their understanding of technique and how to better craft imagery. Aimed at young writers who already know the basics, who want to advance their skills, or who want to write creatively beyond their high school experience.

Make Talk Matter: Dialogue Masterclass – 2hr workshop
For Stage 5 & 6 Writers (Years 9 to 12)

Speech breathes life into the written page, breaking up long passages of action and description, humanising stories, and giving characters a voice. In this Dialogue Masterclass, students learn how to create dynamic dialogue with conflict, make their dialogue work for its place on the page, avoid common dialogue pitfalls, and deepen their understanding of how spoken words can carry a plot – a transferable skill for those with scriptwriting aspirations for screen or television. With both group and individual writing exercises, students will gain confidence in how they write and use dialogue, ensuring they make talk matter!

Writing Science Fiction & Fantasy – 6hr workshop
For All High School Writers (Years 7 to 12)

Travel to planets light-years away or dive into a far-distant yet magical past with this exciting writing workshop. Conjure magic, play with science, invent futuristic societies, imagine mystical creatures, explore secret skills and hidden treasures – students open any door they like and set their imaginations free! They’ll discover how to transform their speculative ideas into actual stories and craft tales of wonder that will amaze readers. They’ll develop effective worldbuilding tools; set the stage with worlds that are convincing, authentic and original; and create memorable characters relevant to their world, whose compelling stories stay with readers long after they’ve finished reading. This transformative workshop is designed for writers of all ages and levels, and includes an overview of speculative fiction as a genre, plotting pitfalls to avoid, and how to write for your audience.

Writing Technique Development Day – 6hr workshop
For All High School Writers (Years 7 to 12)

This workshop enables all young writers to reach their true potential by advancing their story structure technique, scene-setting skills and writing voice so their words connect easily and expertly with readers and examiners alike. Why does theme matter in literature? What do you want to say to readers through your characters? What makes writing resonate across generations? Why do we need emphasis? Using carefully designed exercises, young writers explore the full range of creative writing techniques to challenge and develop theme, character, setting, and imagery. In learning how to apply such skills to their own projects, they also gain insight into how published authors apply theirs, and the effects created.

Write Your Own Book – 6hr workshop
For All High School Writers (Years 7 to 12)

This full-day workshop gives young writers a true-to-life writing experience by enabling them to plan, structure, write, edit, polish, and produce their very own book. It develops their writing skills, inspires, enriches and engages them by guiding them through the book creation process from start to finish. Story-creation is an intangible art. By turning that creativity into a physical product, young writers can learn to appreciate the importance of every step of production and publication – from careful planning and learning how to turn specific ideas into a book plot with chapters, to story structure revision and application, to challenging personal writing style with creative flourishes, to meticulous proofreading and layout. Can include an experience of peer review and critique on request. Please bring a laptop with Word and a USB port.

Poetry & Lyrics – 1hr workshop
For Stage 4 & 5 Writers (Years 7 to 10)

Poems can be brave, cathartic, conceptual, experimental, reflective; and in this meaningful yet relaxed and friendly workshop students will each write a poem of their own! They’ll discover the power of words and their expression, then how to use them to represent their own experiences of the world. That world might be an ‘outside’ world – people, places, nature. It might also be an ‘inside’ world – emotion, behaviour, identity. We’ll explore the different forms of poetry, techniques poets commonly use, how poets observe the world, how they use tone, subject matter and style to communicate meaning, and how to both start and polish poetic work. This workshop could generate some fantastic poems for sharing in the school newsletter!

Stories Are About Change – 1hr workshop
For Stage 4 & 5 Writers (Years 7 to 10)

Stories are about change. We read to understand how others encounter change, so we can better handle changes in our own lives. This unique approach to story structure can help ensure students’ writing reflects this and resonates with readers. In this workshop they’ll discover how theme, conflict and character can all benefit from a structural review, they’ll examine their purpose in writing stories, develop an understanding of why writers write, and create a story reflective of a specific idea and intention. Please watch ‘Happy Feet’, ‘Star Wars IV: A New Hope’ or ‘Frozen’ in advance of this class.

Imaginative Creations: Story Development – 3hr workshop
For Stage 4 Writers (Years 7 to 8)

A vibrant imaginative workshop to deepen understanding of writing techniques and storytelling from the practical hands-on perspective of a publisher author. Explore literary writing conventions, learn how to create captivating and representative characters beyond a writer’s immediate experience, discover how such characters can then support your climax, develop fresh enthralling story ideas, pivotal narratives, conflicts and tension. Young writers expand their understanding of setting responses, discover monologue and dialogue techniques (a transferable skill to scriptwriting for screen or television), and innovate with individual writing voice and style.

Upper Primary

Build A Detailed World – 2-3hr workshop
For Stage 3 Writers (Yrs 5 to 6)

This workshop helps young writers develop their pre-high school creative writing skills. This is the ideal time to explore and develop young writers’ perceptions of story. While plots do involve a series of events, that’s not all there is to plot – readers need to connect with your main character too. While stories can entertain, they’re not just about entertainment – they should mean something to both writer and reader. Your characters move around your story world, yet that’s not the only place they should exist. Find out more in this creative technique-based workshop on story detail.

Objects: the Magical & Meaningful! – 2hr workshop
For Stage 3 Writers (Yrs 5 to 6)

Objects can be precious, powerful, magical, meaningful, good for us and bad! In this fun, vibrant workshop, young writers stimulate their creative thinking, delve deep into character creation, explore the value of things beyond the familiar, create a story, learn how best to express it, and enjoy the might of imagination! All this and more while we experience how and why characters feel the way they do about the objects within their grasp, and through that better appreciate what it means to be human!

Lower Primary  

Problems In Wonderland: Stories That Matter – 1.5hr workshop
For Stage 1 & 2 Writers (Yrs 1 to 4)

Anyone can write a story. But how do you write a story that readers will want to read? While most young writers are probably familiar with the who/what/where/when/why of narrative structure, a series of arbitrary events doesn’t make for good storytelling. Young writers may also be familiar with the idea of integrating problems, or conflict, into narrative structure. How, though, do you get readers engaged with that conflict? The best stories are written with ‘tension’. The best stories involve ‘high stakes’, and events that really mean something to the characters involved. In this workshop, young writers get to understand and explore these concepts by writing a story of their own. Using action plans and worksheets, they get to think not just about story structure, but the essence of story itself.


  • Zena Shapter was a great workshop presenter, very informative and everyone was totally engaged in her sessions. Would invite her again and recommend her to others.

    The Society of Women Writers NSW - November, 2023

    The Society of Women Writers NSW - November, 2023
    Zena Shapter
  • Zena has done great work with the children, teens and adults in the Mosman community. She has helped increase participation in the annual youth literature awards by delivering inspiring creative writing workshops out of the library. We also benefit from her thoughtful and insightful participation as a judge for the Mosman Youth Awards in Literature. Her workshops for adults are always popular and greatly appreciated too, whether they’re covering basic or advanced techniques, life story, fiction or short story writing.

    Mosman Library - November, 2023

    Mosman Library - November, 2023
    Zena Shapter
  • Zena offered the girls at Ascham a highly engaging and rewarding experience, her invaluable advice about the creative process inspired our students to write more and read more! Thanks again for visiting us.

    Ascham School - July, 2023

    Ascham School - July, 2023
    Zena Shapter
  • Zena Shapter's workshops and talks have been thoroughly loved by staff and customers at Mosman Library Service. We have engaged her to work with both our teens and our adults, and everyone has always come out of her talks and workshops eager to use what they've learned and full of praise for her instruction. She is also a pleasure to work with, always professional and friendly. If you are looking for a speaker or someone to lead a workshop, I would look no further than Zena.

    Mosman Library - November, 2023

    Mosman Library - November, 2023
    Zena Shapter
  • Zena was personable and knowledgeable. She designed an immersive creative writing tour that inspired student's creativity and enhanced their writing skills. I would recommend her workshops for schools looking to inspire enthusiastic young writers in their schools.

    Killara High School - 2023

    Killara High School - 2023
    Zena Shapter
No books to display

New South Wales

Speaker type

  • Author
  • Educational consultant
  • Motivational
  • Virtual visits
available for virtual visits
Zena Shapter