Julian Novitz has confirmed his place as one of the nation’s most talented emerging writers by winning the country’s top short fiction award.
The Christchurch-born and raised writer took the BNZ Katherine Mansfield premier prize of $10,000 for his story, Three Couples, at an awards ceremony held in Te Papa, Wellington tonight.
He joins New Zealand literary heavyweights CK Stead, Frank Sargeson, Vincent O’Sullivan and Keri Hulme and more recently, such critically acclaimed writers as Charlotte Grimshaw and Carl Nixon on the list of award winners.
Wellington creative writing student, Joseph Ryan won the novice category for his story Stranger Than Beautiful.
Clare Tanton, a year 13 student at Taikura Rudolf Steiner School in Hastings, won the young writer’s prize for her story, The Hole in the Fence ahead of more than 360 entries from secondary school students around the country.
BNZ General Manager People and Corporate Relations, Bridget O’Shannessey says each of the winners demonstrate the qualities the Awards aspire to foster.
‘All three winners are committed to the discipline of creative writing and have worked hard on their stories to take first prize. It’s a huge pleasure to see writers of this calibre coming through the ranks and I warmly congratulate them.’
Peter Wells, this year’s BNZ Katherine Mansfield Writers’ Awards premier category judge says Julian Novitz’s winning story showed a high degree of observational humour.
‘It cleverly uses black humour with an underlay of sadness or irony. Three Couples has the qualities of an excellent short story - self contained, yet showing all the world 'in a grain of sand'.
Julian Novitz says previous BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award winners are among his favourite writers and considers it a huge honour to be considered alongside them.
‘I am incredibly excited and pleased to have won the award, finally, after having entered every time for the past eight years.’
Julian Novitz proved he was a writer to watch when he won the Hubert Church Award for best first book of fiction for My Real Life and Other Stories in 2005. His novel, Holocaust Tours was published the following year. He is a graduate of the Victoria University of Wellington's creative writing programme and is now in the final stages of completing a PhD in literary studies and creative writing at the University of Melbourne. He is currently working on his second novel.
The Award’s novice category judge, Elspeth Sandys says Joseph Ryan’s story, Stranger Than Beautiful is touching and beautifully crafted.
‘Stranger Than Beautiful skirts territory which, in less capable hands, could have resulted in prurience or sentimentality, the author’s grip on his highly sensitive material never falters.’
Joseph Ryan wins $1,500.
Young Writers’ category judge, Bernard Beckett says Clare Tanton’s story is a sharp piece of writing that rewards a second and third visit.
‘The Hole in the Fence stood out as much for the things it didn’t do as those it did. The control of this writer is impressive; the key details of the story are let out at just the right moment, being neither too heavily signposted nor dwelt upon.
‘This story focuses on doing what it should: letting the narrative gently unfold in a manner that is charming and intriguing.’
The win took Ms Tanton entirely by surprise.
‘I couldn’t believe I’d won. I was stunned. This is the first time I’ve entered any of my stories in a competition. It really gives me confidence to carry on trying.’
She wins $1,500 as does her school.
BNZ has sponsored the awards - which aim to foster the country’s literature - for almost five decades. They are New Zealand’s longest-running short story awards, established in 1959. Plans are underway to celebrate the Awards’ 50th anniversary in 2009.
Katherine Mansfield’s father, Sir Harold Beauchamp, was a director of Bank of New Zealand, a position he held for 38 years. He was also the chairman of the board for 17 years.
There are three categories comprising the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Writers’ Awards.
The premier category is open to all writers, published or unpublished. Stories must be between 1,000 and 5,000 words long.
The Novice category is open to writers who have not had creative writing published or broadcast for payment previously. Stories must be between 1,000 and 3,000 words.
The Youth category is open to students attending a secondary school students who are under 19 years of age at the awards’ closing date. Stories must be between 750 and 2,000 words long.
BNZ Katherine Mansfield Writers’
Winners’ biographical information
Premier category winner
Julian Novitz was born in Christchurch in 1980 and currently lives in Melbourne. He is a graduate of the Victoria University of Wellington's creative writing programme and is now in the final stages of completing a PhD in literary studies and creative writing at the University of Melbourne. Julian is the author of two books, a collection of short stories (My Real life and other stories) and a novel (Holocaust Tours), both published by Random House. In 2006 he was the winner of the New Zealand Society of Authors Hubert Church Award for best first book of fiction. A second novel will hopefully see the light of day, sometime in the near future.
Novice category winner
Joseph Ryan lives in Wellington where he is a full time student at both Victoria University and Whitireia Polytechnic. He has attended various writing courses and workshops over the past few years, including the Novel Writing Course at Whitireia Polytechnic, as well as the, Iowa Workshop, Children's Writing and Short fiction workshops at Victoria's IIML. At the moment he spends most of his spare-time working on his short story collection , which he has almost finished, and his novel (both of which play on the kinds of stock-motifs/characters, seen in Stranger than Beautiful). Apart from general fiction, Joseph also has a strong interest in illustration: http://josephedwardryan.blogspot.com, and hopes to one day write and illustrate his own graphic novel.
Youth Adult category winner
Clare Tanton was born in Hastings and has grown up in Hawke’s Bay. She is currently a year 13 student at Taikura Rudolf Steiner School. From an early age she discovered a passion for stories, writing, and theatre, the latter taking her to the Globe Theatre in London in 2007 with the SGCNZ Young Shakespeare Company.
In their last year at Taikura, students have the opportunity to research an area of interest in a twelve-month practical and theoretical project. Clare chose to explore the art of short story writing and it was through this that she entered the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards.
In 2009 Clare will begin a nursing degree. She hopes to pursue a double career; continuing to develop her writing skills.