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Kapka Kassabova awarded Berlin Writers’ Residency

16 July 2002

Kapka Kassabova awarded Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers’ Residency

Kapka Kassabova, an award-winning novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer, has been awarded the 2002 Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers’ Residency, worth approximately $60,000.

The Auckland writer, who was selected from a strong field of applicants, will take up the nine-month residency at the beginning of September. The Arts Board of Creative New Zealand will cover the rental costs of the apartment, which is situated in the centre of Berlin, and provide a $3000 a month stipend and travel allowance.

For Kassabova, the residency will allow her a sustained period of time to work full-time on her fourth novel and a new collection of poems, to be published in England and New Zealand in 2003.

“I’m very grateful to have this opportunity and it has come at a perfect time with relation to my new project for a novel,” Kassabova says. “My novels so far have had a strong European connection and this will continue with the new one.”

Arts Board Chair Murray Shaw says the residency is an excellent opportunity for a New Zealand writer to live in a cultural hub of Europe.

“Kapka is a talented, versatile writer who has already made her mark in New Zealand literature,” Murray Shaw says. “It will be interesting to see what impact her return to Europe will have on her writing and I look forward to reading the work that results from her time in Berlin.”

Kassabova was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1973 where she lived until emigrating to England, and then to New Zealand in 1992. English is her fourth language in which she has written poetry, novels, articles and essays. Earlier this year, she was co-winner of the 2002 Landfall Essay Competition with an essay entitled We Too Are Europe and also won New Zealand Travel Writer of the Year in the 2002 Cathay Pacific Media Awards.

In fact, Kassabova is fluent in five languages: Bulgarian, Russian, French, English and Spanish. By the end of her residency in May 2003, she will no doubt be fluent in German.

“I don’t speak any language where the verbs go at the end of the sentence but I’m sure I’ll succumb to learning German,” she says. “I can’t imagine spending time in a country and not speaking the language.”
Kassabova, the author of two novels and two poetry collections, has won considerable acclaim for her work. Her first novel, Reconnaissance, was published by Penguin in 1999 and has been translated into Japanese and Hebrew. It was shortlisted for the fiction section of the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards and won the Best First Book award in the South East Asia and South Pacific section of the 2000 Commonwealth Writers Prize.

Her first collection of poetry, All Roads Lead to the Sea, was published by Auckland University Press in 1997, was shortlisted for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards in 1998 and won the NZSA Jessica Mackay award for Best First Book of Poetry.

Kassabova’s second poetry collection, Dismemberment, was published in 1998 and her second novel, Love in the Land of Midas, in 2000.

For the past year, Kassabova has enjoyed teaching at Auckland University of Technology but is looking forward to writing full-time.

“I grew up in Europe and returning there after 10 years in New Zealand will be an exciting and eye-opening experience,” she says. “While my sensibilities and my accent remain East European, I am now a New Zealand writer and artistically, I represent this country rather than my native Bulgaria.”

This is the third year that Creative New Zealand has offered the residency. Last year’s recipient was Auckland writer Tina Shaw, whose latest novel Paradise has just been published.

The Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers’ Residency is the organisation’s largest writers’ residency. As well as supporting other international residencies for artists, Creative New Zealand’s Arts Board currently co-funds five writer-in-residence programmes at New Zealand universities, plus a children’s writer-in-residence programme at the Dunedin College of Education.


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