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Segue 11: Fall 2013  ||  Siobhan Harvey


about the author


Siobhan Harvey is a poet and nonfiction author whose works include the poetry collection, Lost Relatives (Steele Roberts, 2011), the work of literary criticism, Words Chosen Carefully: New Zealand Writers In Conversation (Cape Catley, 2010) and the anthology, Our Own Kind: 100 New Zealand Poems about Animals (Random House NZ, 2009). Her creative non-fiction has been published in Landfall, was Highly Commended in the 2013 Landfall Essay Prize, and runner up in the 2011 Landfall Essay Competition. Recently, her poetry manuscript, Nephology for Beginners, won 2013 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award (and will be published in 2014 by Otago University Press). Recently also, her Poet's Page was launched on The Poetry Archive (UK), co-directed by Sir Andrew Motion.


about the work


To parent a child with autism, Asperger's or autism spectrum disorder is a journey through an often frightening, perplexing yet miraculous hinterland. My son was eight years old before he received a clear diagnosis. Until then, his fixations with the esoteric such as with Nephology and his inability to conventionally assimilate amongst his peers were treated as willfulness and/or weirdness, even by some of his school teachers, even in the supposed enlightened times in which we live. As his parents, my partner and I have felt (continue to feel) infinitely protective of our son and frustrated by the paucity of assistance and recognition for children like him.

“A Boy Called Cloud” began, partly, because of this medley of the emotional, social, reactionary and insightful. Of the many other influences and inspiration, these are charted in this piece of creative non-fiction. The easiest part of developing the work was writing it out. The manner in which children with Autism, Aspergers or ASD are treated is a subject I remain passionate about. And, as an author, my modus operandi for examining issues which motivate me is to explore them through my writings.

I am a staunch proponent of the notion that writers should be motivated by a political raison d’etre.  

Thereafter, the hardest part of developing “A Boy Called Cloud” was to maintain authorial impartiality—to write about Autism Spectrum Disorder objectively by utilizing the experiences of a protagonist, my son, for whom I have a long history of advocating. It would have been all too easy for me to compose a piece of work about my boy which was overtly saccharine in content and tone. But, as an author, I’ve long understood I need to write with detachment; and so I had to work from a dispassionate standpoint when approaching even this most subjective of subjects.

I find the craft of creative nonfiction thoroughly liberating. I lecture and tutor creative writing, and have introduced the subject of creative nonfiction to my Third Year students. Always, I tell them that, unlike fiction or poetry, creative nonfiction leaves the author with nowhere to hide. When writing creative nonfiction, you are saying to the world, this happened to me! To expose yourself in this manner can be frightening. Yet, I argue, it can also be invigorating, because you can write about topics which reach deeply into your readers’ hearts and souls, generating empathy and raising awareness of matters which might otherwise have remained unspoken, overlooked, or ignored.


Siobhan harvey on the Web









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