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NZ’s largest literary prize to be announced

6 March 2008

NZ’s largest literary prize to be announced

The judge of the competition, Brigid Hughes


The wait is almost over for the six emerging writers nominated for New Zealand’s largest literary prize.

The $65,000 Prize in Modern Letters will be announced on Saturday 15 March as part of New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Week.

The biennial prize is sponsored by United States business leader and arts philanthropist Glenn Schaeffer, and administered by the University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). Eligible writers must have published no more than two books – but the winner will take away a prize worth more than the Montana or Prime Minister’s Awards.

The judge of this year’s prize, New York literary editor Brigid Hughes (The Paris Review, A Public Space), will present the cheque to the winner in Wellington. Short-listed writers, who were selected by three New Zealand judges last November, will give readings in the event Winning Words, which culminates with the announcement of the winner.

The event will be chaired by IIML director and well-known poet Professor Bill Manhire.

The short-listed writers are: Michele Amas, David Beach, Mary McCallum, Jo Randerson, Anna Sanderson and Louise Wareham Leonard.

Michele Amas is well-known for her distinguished career as an actor, and starred in the main-bill play Home Land at Circa Theatre. She is nominated for her first collection of poetry, After the Dance.

David Beach has worked as a mail sorter for New Zealand Post, and is nominated for his first book, Abandoned Novel, which – despite its title – is a collection of 60 sonnets.

Mary McCallum has worked as a television and radio broadcaster. She is nominated for The Blue, a whaling novel set on Arapawa Island in 1938. An early draft of The Blue won her the New Zealand Society of Authors’ Lillian Ida Smith Award 2003/4.

Jo Randerson is best known as an actor and theatre worker. She has been Burns Fellow at the University of Otago, and in 1997 she received the Sunday Star Times Bruce Mason Award for playwriting. She is nominated for her short story collections, The Spit Children and The Keys to Hell.

Anna Sanderson has a background in photography, the visual arts, and English literature. She was a co-founder of the art criticism journal Monica. She is nominated for Brainpark – a collection of reflective and incisive personal essays.

Louise Wareham Leonard is nominated for her two novels: Since You Ask and Miss Me a Lot of. She grew up in Wellington, Sydney and New York City and was educated at Columbia College in New York and Victoria University of Wellington. She is a book reviewer and teacher living between New Zealand and Australia. Media are welcome to attend the ceremony.

Winning Words: Prize in Modern Letters will be at the Embassy Theatre, from 5.15pm to 6.30pm on Saturday 15 March. Tickets are $15 from Ticketek, door sales also available. Attached is a photograph of the judge, Brigid Hughes.


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