New Zealand Post and the Katherine Mansfield Menton Trust have announced Wellington author Jenny Pattrick as winner of the 2009 New Zealand Post Mansfield Prize.
The $100,000 Prize covers return travel to France and living and accommodation expenses for six months. Offered in conjunction with the Winn-Manson Menton Trust, the Prize enables a New Zealand author to work at the Villa Isola Bella in Menton, France, where famed writer Katherine Mansfield lived and wrote in 1919 and 1920.
It is the most valuable international residency programme for New Zealand writers.
Jenny Pattrick says she is extremely excited about the Prize.
“The Prize has been given to the who’s who of New Zealand writers and I am hugely honoured to be named as one of them. I can’t wait to experience the South of France and be inspired by its surroundings in the same way that Katherine Mansfield was. I admire New Zealand Post for what they do for literature in New Zealand and for making this Prize possible.
I am possibly the first popular writer to be awarded this prestigious prize. That’s a special pleasure to me. I hope this is a recognition that good popular writing can be just as demanding to write, just as carefully crafted, just as true in its characterisation, themes and ideas as good literary writing.”
New Zealand Post Chief Executive John Allen said “Working from the Katherine Mansfield Memorial Room at the Villa gives a deserving New Zealand author the opportunity to focus without distraction on producing new works that will add to the lexicon of New Zealand literature and enrich us all.
“New Zealand Post is proud to be associated with this exceptional prize”, says Mr Allen. “It fits neatly with our community programme focus on the literary arts and literacy, including Books in Homes, Children and Young Adults Book Awards and Literacy Aotearoa.”
Mr Allen is delighted that Ms Pattrick is the latest in a long and distinguished line of New Zealand writers to be awarded the Katherine Mansfield Prize. She is the second winner since New Zealand Post became the principal partner with the Trust in 2007 and significantly increased the prize value. The first, Damien Wilkins, is about to finish his time in Menton. The Prize has supported many authors over the years, including Janet Frame, Witi Ihimaera, Vincent O’Sullivan and Dame Fiona Kidman.
Jenny Pattrick was born and raised in Wellington, which remains her home. She trained and worked as a teacher before becoming a mother in 1963. In 1969 Ms Pattrick began her career as a jeweller. Her jewellery work has been exhibited in New Zealand and internationally, and featured on the jacket of her second novel, Heart of Coal.
Ms Pattrick wrote intermittently from 1959 to 1993, when she became a full-time writer. She has written fiction for print and radio. With her musician husband, Laughton Pattrick, she has written several songs and musical shows for children.
Her songbooks include Songs for Seasons (Seaview Press, 2000), On our Street (Seaview, 2001) and The Farm at the End of the Road (Seaview, 2002).
Today, Pattrick is best-known as a historical novelist. Her first novel, The Denniston Rose (Black Swan, 2003) and its sequel, Heart of Coal (Black Swan, 2004) are two of New Zealand’s biggest-selling novels. They are set on an isolated coal-mining plateau, Denniston, once the primary coal producer for New Zealand, but now a ghost town. The Illustrated Denniston Rose and Heart of Coal (2006) contain full text plus over 200 photographs and other images, both archival and contemporary, illustrating places and events described in the novels.
Reviewer Mike Crean of The Christchurch Press in 2003 said that ‘Pattrick writes with the assuredness of a veteran. She creates an authentic stage for a cast of characters who interact in ways that always ring true’.
In 2005 Pattrick published Catching the Current (Black Swan). Her huge success is no doubt due to her ability to write accessible historical fiction that reviewer Nicola Salmond describes as ‘a romping good yarn’. A spin-off from the Denniston novels, it follows the lives of Enok/Conrad, a Faroese song-maker who immigrates to New Zealand, and of Anahuia, half-Maori half-Scandinavian. War, land, and belonging are themes.
Pattrick has long been active in the arts community and was awarded the OBE in 1989 for services to the arts. She has served as President of the Crafts Council, has chaired the Arts Council and served on the boards of Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, the New Zealand School of Dance and the New Zealand Festival of the Arts’ New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Committee. She is presently on the Board of the New Zealand Book Council.