Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
New Writer Challenges Old Favourites in New Zealand Post Book Awards
A Wellington writer’s first novel will go head-to-head with works by two of our most acclaimed authors as finalists in the country’s most prestigious literary honours, the inaugural New Zealand Post Book Awards.
Alison Wong’s As the Earth Turns Silver was selected by a judging panel of five for the Fiction category shortlist, along with award-winning author Fiona Farrell, for her novel Limestone, and award-winning short-story writer Owen Marshall for his collection, Living as a Moon.
Stephen Stratford, convenor of judges for the New Zealand Post Book Awards, said selecting just three Fiction finalists from such a strong field was cause for much debate among the judging panel.
‘It was always going to be a challenge, but we agree that each of these three finalist books is convincing, compelling, superbly crafted and contributes distinctively to New Zealand’s literature’, he said.
Fiction is one of the four finalist categories announced today - reduced from a previous eight - in the new, streamlined Awards structure. The other three categories are Poetry, General Non-fiction and Illustrated Non-fiction.
With just 16 finalists competing in these Awards– down from 26 in previous years - readers can be sure they are getting the cream of New Zealand publishing’s crop.
Stratford, who brings vast experience to the panel as judge for the last Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards in 1983, convenor of the first Montana Book Awards in 1984 and judge for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 1999, says reducing the number of categories and finalists means the standard of those selected are exceptionally high.
Joining Stratford on the Awards’ judging panel are poet, short-story writer and novelist, Elizabeth Smither; writer, educationalist and broadcaster Charmaine Pountney; writer, historian and broadcaster Paul Diamond; and nature writer and photographer Neville Peat.
The panel agreed that the standout category this year was Illustrated Non-fiction.
‘ The standard was very high: each finalist is not only a beautiful object but is also a showcase of the book designer’s art, with typography that enhances the text, page layouts that let the images have maximum impact, and superlative reproduction values.’
The full list of finalists in the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Awards by category are:
As the Earth Turns Silver by Alison Wong (Penguin Group (NZ))
Limestone by Fiona Farrell (Vintage, Random House NZ)
Living as a Moon by Owen Marshall (Vintage, Random House NZ)
Just This by Brian Turner (Victoria University Press)
The Lustre Jug by Bernadette Hall (Victoria University Press)
The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap by Michael Harlow (Auckland University Press)
Aphrodite’s Island by Anne Salmond (Viking, Penguin Group (NZ))
Beyond the Battlefield: New Zealand and its Allies, 1939-1945 by Gerald Hensley (Viking, Penguin Group (NZ))
Cone Ten Down: Studio pottery in New Zealand, 1945-1980 by Moyra Elliott and Damian Skinner (David Bateman Ltd)
Encircled Lands: Te Urewera, 1820-1921 by Judith Binney (Bridget Williams Books)
The Invention of New Zealand Art & National Identity, 1930-1970 by Francis Pound (Auckland University Press)
Art at Te Papa edited by William McAloon (Te Papa Press)
Go Fish: Recipes and stories from the New Zealand Coast by Al Brown (Random House NZ)
Māori Architecture: From fale to wharenui and beyond by Deidre Brown (Raupo, Penguin Group (NZ))
Marti Friedlander by Leonard Bell (Auckland University Press)
Mrkusich: The Art of Transformation by Alan Wright and Edward Hanfling (Auckland University Press)
The Category Award winners and the overall New Zealand Post Book of the Year winner will be announced at a gala dinner held in Auckland on 27 August 2010.
With fewer categories, the Awards’ prize pool has been substantially increased, with the overall New Zealand Post Book of the Year Award winner receiving $15,000. Winners of the four Category Awards will each receive $10,000 and the People’s Choice Award winner $5,000.
Also announced today are the three New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Best First Book Awards Winners.
The Best First Book Awards for Non-Fiction, Poetry, and Fiction were established by the New Zealand Society of Authors with the aim of encouraging new writers and their publishers. They are announced simultaneously with the New Zealand Post Book Awards category finalists for the first time this year.
Wellington writer, Anna Taylor who graduated with an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University in 2006, wins the 2010 NZSA Hubert Church Best First Book Award for Fiction for her book Relief (Victoria University Press).
Stratford summarised Taylor’s work as a powerful collection that has at least one memorable image or sentence on every page. ‘No pressure, but we expect a glittering career.’
The 2010 NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry goes to Selina Tusitala Marsh for her collection Fast Talking PI (Auckland University Press). Dr Marsh is a poet and scholar of Samoan, Tuvaluan, Scottish and French descent who lives with her family on Waiheke Island.
‘The judging panel found Marsh’s collection exhilarating,’ says Stratford.
‘The poems are sensuous but strong, using lush imagery and clear rhythms and repetitions to power them forward.’
The judging panel stated that Trust was an extraordinary work from someone with unparalleled and probably unrepeatable access to women in gangs.
‘A potent combination of oral history and memoir, it packs a powerful punch.’
Each NZSA Best First Book Awards category winner receives $2,500.
New Zealand Post Group’s sponsorship of the country’s national book awards is symbolic of their strong and active support of the country’s literature. As sponsor of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards for 15 years, this new sponsorship highlights the company’s commitment to promoting literary excellence. Working closely with Booksellers NZ, New Zealand Post and other dedicated segments of the community actively encourage New Zealanders to read and enjoy books.
The New Zealand Post Book Awards 2010 are also sponsored by Creative New Zealand. The Awards are managed by Booksellers NZ and supported by the New Zealand Society of Authors and Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd.
The Bookman has put an illustration of the book he regards as the likely winner alongside each of the four categories. I have to say though that the Illustrated non-fiction category is a wide open field and I will not be surprised by whichever shortlisted title wins that one. But if I was a betting man and the TAB ran a book on these awards I'd put $100 on As the Earth Turns Silver to win the fiction category. For me it was not only the best NZ novel in 2009 it was also one of the best I read from any quarter.
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