Jessica Le Bas is an award-winning poet and author who divides her time between Nelson, New Zealand and Rarotonga. As well as being mother to seven children, she has variously worked for the United Nations, as a private secretary to a government minister, as a truck driver, a restaurant manager and a high school teacher.
Her poems have been published in literary journals and collected in books. Her first poetry collection, Incognito, won the Best First Book of Poetry Award at the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. A second collection, Walking to Africa, which explored adolescent mental illness, released in 2009 and was a finalist in the 2010 Ashton Wylie Book Awards.
In 2010 the novel Staying Home, her first work for children, was published under the pseudonym Jesse O. It was researched and written after the outbreak of H1N1 swine flu, imagining a situation (at that time hypothetical) of New Zealand in lock down and won a Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award in 2011. This imagined influenza pandemic scenario became reality in 2020, with the outbreak of Covid-19. Taking on a new relevance the novel rereleased in 2021, as Locked Down, with illustrations by Toby Morris.
In 2019, Jessica Le Bas won the prestigious Sarah Broom Poetry Prize for a sequence of poems described by the judge, Toronto Poet Laureate Anne Michaels, as ‘alive with detail acutely observed’.