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First novel shortlisted for top book award

First novel shortlisted for top book award

An early morning phone call from a friend alerted University creative writing tutor Mary McCallum that her first novel had been shortlisted for the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Ms McCallum was today named a finalist in the prestigious fiction category with her first book about life in an isolated whaling community, The Blue. She is also eligible for the fiction prize in the New Zealand Society of Authors First Book Awards.

“It’s overwhelming to be honest. I really hoped for it to be in the first book section but this is really thrilling,” she says.

“This means they thought The Blue was of a quality that could go into the main fiction pool, and that’s really, really exciting for the book.”

Ms McCallum says a congratulatory phone call came from a friend who had read of her success in the newspaper.

“I’m still trying to come to terms with it, actually, but it’s very cool to have that vote of confidence.”

Ms McCallum hopes the novel will gain a fresh profile after being shortlisted.

“After an initial period a book starts to lose its shine and hopefully this will reinvigorate interest in it.”

She is up against three other female authors in the category: Laurence Fearnley for Edwin & Matilda, Alice Tawhai for Luminous, and Charlotte Grimshaw for Opportunity.

Ms McCallum was the first of three published authors to read in the University’s Writers Read programme at a session last month. As well as excerpts from The Blue, she read from her next novel, a work in progress titled Precarious.

There are 25 finalists in eight categories in the book awards, with the winner of each category receiving $5000. The Montana medal for poetry or fiction is worth an additional $10,000. The results will be announced on 21 July,

For more information on The Blue:


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