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New Zealand's largest literary prize established

A $60,000 grant, the largest single literary prize in New Zealand, has been established at Victoria University of Wellington, along with the International Institute of Modern Letters.

Announcing the Glenn Schaeffer Prize in Modern Letters, the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Helen Clark said the initiative was an exciting development for both Victoria University of Wellington and the New Zealand literary community.

"Today's announcements constitute a major boost for New Zealand's writers. The Institute will help to further enhance Victoria University's reputation as a seedbed for nurturing outstanding literary talent. I wish it and the writers it is involved with every success."

The prize will be awarded biennially and is designed to acknowledge and advance the work of emerging writers from, or based in, New Zealand. The award is to be selected by a panel co-ordinated by distinguished poet and director of Victoria University's creative writing programme, Professor Bill Manhire.

The first award of the Glenn Schaeffer Prize in Modern Letters will be in March 2002.

The International Institute of Modern Letters incorporates New Zealand's oldest and most prestigious Creative Writing Programme at Victoria as well as its Writer-in-Residence programme. The IIML is located at Glenn Schaeffer House on Victoria's Kelburn campus.

Founded by the President & CFO of the Mandalay Resort Group, Glenn Schaeffer, the Institute aims to encourage emerging New Zealand writing talent. It will support and develop scholar exchanges, fellowships, research and publishing projects and administer the Glenn Schaeffer Prize in Modern Letters.

Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University, Professor Stuart McCutcheon said the University was delighted to be home to the International Institute of Modern Letters. "It is a very prestigious honour and we see it as recognition of the excellent reputation Victoria's creative writing programme has gained, not only locally but also overseas."

Institute Co-director and head of its New Zealand operations, Professor Bill Manhire says the new award will highlight the potential of important new writers. "Both the Prize and the Institute itself will significantly enhance awareness of New Zealand literature in the US and internationally. It is a major vote of confidence in the work of New Zealand writers."

The Advisory Board of the Institute includes Booker Prize winner Salman Rushdie, Pulitzer winning biographer Scott Berg, recent US Poet Laureate Mark Strand, novelist Jane Smiley and New Zealand business leader, arts patron and Victoria University Professor, Dr Roderick Deane.

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