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Winner of 2019 Young Writers' Essay Competition announced

Landfall, New Zealand’s leading journal of arts and literature, is delighted to announce that the winner of the 2019 Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition is seventeen-year-old Jack McConnell, whose essay is titled ‘The Taniwha, Moderation of Our Human Pursuits’.

Landfall editor and competition judge Emma Neale says this essay ‘quietly marshals historical evidence from written sources in lucid prose, establishing an argument in an almost subliminal way’.

In his essay, McConnell fuses history and myth to consider the legend of the taniwha, suggesting the mythological creature provides a warning to examine the consequences of our actions, regardless of its origins or metaphysical status.

‘Clustered with informative detail,’ says Neale, ‘this essay was also structurally, technically and stylistically the work that maintained the most poised control of all the entries submitted.’

McConnell says, ‘The motivation to develop a passion that this competition has provided has been incredibly valuable, as have the lessons I've learned about myself as a writer’.

Second prize goes to Ruby Macomber for ‘Conversations with Immortals’, and third prize goes to Hannah Sieberhagen for ‘A Vegetarian, Feminist, Socialist, Freethinker Campaigns for Safe Sex, in a Pair of Men’s Boots’.

Neale says the quality of entries was high, where ‘perceptiveness, sagacity, empathy, good judgement, acuity and achieving a balanced, sombre overview could all be close synonyms for youthfulness’.

‘The issue of climate change often filtered in to discourse that was ostensibly about other things, yet the primary topics of entries this year still travelled a wide span: from living with obsessive compulsive disorder to the anger and exhaustion of dealing with open and covert racism; to discussions of particular plays, films and poets; from a child’s first encounter with the concept of suicide to an extended poetic riff on sunlight’.

Named in honour of Dunedin poet and literary figure Charles Brasch, who founded Landfall in 1947, the essay competition is an annual award open to budding New Zealand writers aged 16 to 21.

The winner receives a $500 cash prize and a year’s subscription to Landfall.

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