Profile: Teresa Sjoquist

Helen Martin
Theresa Sjoquist, professional writer, speaker and celebrant, lived in many interesting places and had many adventures before moving to Helensville in 2012. Her Dutch parents met in New Zealand, her father having come from Holland on the 1952 bride flight, her mother having immigrated with her parents by boat. Growing up in Mairangi Bay, as the eldest of their 11 children Theresa had plenty to do helping look after her siblings. When she was 14 the family moved to Hatfields Beach in Orewa, home of future Prime Minister Robert Muldoon (Theresa remembers one Neighbourhood Day when, throwing beer bottles through their legs on the beach to see who could throw furthest, he was the only person whose bottle broke). After finishing school at Orewa District High she moved to Christchurch and took up office work with the “great ambition”, she says, to be the receptionist then the secretary.
Overseas travel called. Theresa began in Sydney, moved to Adelaide and then, with a partner, drove across the massive Nullarbor Plain in a 1963 Ford Falcon. Appetite for adventure whetted, the couple booked themselves onto a passenger ship bound for Singapore, only to discover when they reached the tropics that the pervasive stench coming from below deck signalled their ‘passenger’ ship was also carrying cattle, not ideal travelling companions. Travel around South East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand) was followed by time spent in Europe (Holland, Poland, Spain, England, Wales) then, after a brief return to New Zealand, Theresa moved to Vancouver, where she married and lived for some six years.
Returning alone to New Zealand she moved to Nelson, where her interest in the arts was fired up while she managed a band. Obviously, ending up as the secretary was not Theresa’s destiny. Having begun to write while travelling, she traded in her car for a word processor, took a six-day writing workshop with author/publisher Christine Cole Catley and looked for a way of making a career of her interest. By then she was living on a boat and so began what were to be several years writing articles for sailing magazines around the world. Ending up on a boat built by a man who was “a bit of a Jonas”, Theresa’s tolerance for mishaps gave out when the boat was dismasted 32 miles off Opuaon their first offshore voyage to Fiji, and she left to find her adventures elsewhere. Writing boating articles from her base in Whangarei Theresa accepted an invitation to sail around the South Pacific for six months as cook and provisioner, ending up in Sydney, where she lived for nine years. Writing for boating then other magazines she also began to sell advertising, including for an Australasian arts magazine, and enjoyed the opportunities that gave her to go to many wonderful cultural events and to develop a large network in the arts.
Returning to NZ Theresa, who had previously known inspirational potter and artist Yvonne Rust acted on a suggestion to write her biography, and worked two years full time on the book, researching, writing and taking many of the photos. “I thought I’d be asked to give a speech when the book was launched, and I couldn’t stand in front of a crowd for quids, so I went to Toastmasters and found I really liked public speaking and was good at it,” she says. Never one to leave it at that, Theresa joined the National Speakers Association and was kept busy for some time giving public presentations on the process of the biography ‘Yvonne Rust: Maverick Spirit’ and on Yvonne herself.
After she moved to Helensville in October 2012, Theresa carried on with her writing and advertising work for magazines including Organic NZ and hatched the idea of also becoming a wedding and funeral celebrant which utilised both her writing and speaking skills. “Acelebrant needs to be able to represent people accurately and professionally,” she says. “There’s a real sense of actually being of service. I love it.”
She also loves living in Helensville. Where possible she grows her own food, and enjoys visiting the local markets, where she can buy locally grown produce. Her genuine curiosity and interest in people and the community are the incentive for her Facebook posts, on the Helensville and Parakai community page, photographing events like the Christmas parade, Arts in the Ville and our gorgeous sunsets. “People here are nice, and they care. They’re interested. The connections between people in a small town are quite amazing and they form a framework for a powerful community. I think Helensville will always have that small community feel about it because we have that one road going through the civic area, and that’s really unchangeable and special.”
Examples of Theresa’s writing and photography can be found at

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