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Fiction writers dominate Modern Letters entries

MEDIA RELEASE 13 August 2003
Public Affairs

Fiction writers dominate Modern Letters entries

Fiction writers account for nearly two-thirds of the nominated authors for the $60,000 Prize in Modern Letters, to be awarded for just the second time in April next year.

Professor Bill Manhire, Director of the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University, says poets, non-fiction writers, children’s writers, and dramatists are also represented in the 39-strong field. Entries for the Prize closed on 31 July.

A panel led by Professor Manhire, now begins the difficult short-listing process, with selected finalists announced in October.

“There is a great deal of talent around,” says Professor Manhire. “Arriving at a shortlist is going to be very, very hard.”

Once chosen, finalists’ work goes forward to be read by a panel of American jurors. The winner is named during Writers and Readers Week at the International Festival of the Arts in March 2004.

Glenn Schaeffer, the literary activist who founded the International Institute of Modern Letters, funds the Prize in Modern Letters.

“In the short life of the Prize, it has transformed the landscape of literary awards in New Zealand,” says Professor Manhire.

“When it began, it was the largest arts award in Australasia. Now, following on from it, we have the new Prime Minister’s literature awards for senior writers, which matches its $60,000 prize.”

Professor Manhire said the Prize in Modern Letters was still the largest award for an emerging writer in the Pacific region, and possibly in the world.

The inaugural Prize in Modern Letters was awarded in March 2002 to novelist Catherine Chidgey. The New Zealand Listener subsequently named her New Zealand’s leading novelist under 40. Her second novel, Golden Deeds, was recently published in Britain and the United States where it was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

Chidgey’s third novel, The Transformation, will be published later this year by Victoria University Press.

The first Prize in Modern Letters attracted 32 nominations.


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