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Prize in Modern Letters countdown

27 February 2006

Prize in Modern Letters countdown

If the thought of New Zealand Post Writers & Readers Week is making you giddy with excitement, spare a thought for the six finalists of the $65,000 Prize in Modern Letters, who have to wait until 18 March to find out whether they have won.

This year, the biennial prize will be announced by Dr Rick Gekoski at a special function in the foyer of the Embassy Theatre, after a set of readings from the six finalists: Tusiata Avia, Jo Randerson, Kate Camp, William Brandt, Carl Shuker and Louise Wareham.

Rick Gekoski is best known in New Zealand for his recent book, Tolkien’s Gown and Other Stories of Great Authors and Rare Books. A dealer in rare books and manuscripts, he has run two private presses, and served as a judge for the Man Booker Prize in 2005. He is visiting Wellington as part of Writers & Readers Week.

The winner of the prize will be decided by a panel of American judges: novelist and poet Stephen Dobyns; New Directions publishing house editor, Barbara Epler; and novelist and biographer, Geoffrey Wolff. The shortlist was compiled by a panel of New Zealand authors, broadcasters and journalists chaired by Professor Bill Manhire. The prize is administered by Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters.

The prize is considered to be the world’s largest literary prize for an emerging writer. The two previous winners are novelist Catherine Chidgey and poet Glenn Colquhoun.


- Kate Camp [Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars (1998); Realia (2001)] and Tusiata Avia [Wild Dogs under My Skirt (2004)] are both poets, while the remaining four shortlistees are fiction writers.

- Jo Randerson [The Spit Children (2000); The Keys to Hell (2004)] is shortlisted for her two collections of short fiction, but is also well known for her work in theatre.

- Three writers – Tusiata Avia, Carl Shuker [The Method Actors (2005)], and Louise Wareham [Since You Ask (2004)] – have made the shortlist on the basis of one published book only.

- Half of the shortlisted writers have already been published outside New Zealand. The novels by Louise Wareham and Carl Shuker both come from small American literary publishers, while William Brandt’s The Book of the Film of the Story of My Life has been published in Britain and the United States as well as in New Zealand.

- Two of the shortlisted finalists – William Brandt [Alpha Male (1999); The Book of the Film of the Story of My Life (2002)] and Kate Camp – were also finalists in 2004.

Winning Words: Prize in Modern Letters: The readings by the shortlisted writers will take place from 5:15-6:15pm. Book at Ticketek; door sales also available.

The winner will be announced in the Embassy Theatre foyer at 6:30pm.


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