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Bright future for literary writing in New Zealand

7 November 2007

Bright future for literary writing in New Zealand

The literary skills of Gen Y are not totally dampened by text, chat rooms and social networking sites, as a 22-year-old showed by clinching the big prize of this year’s Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition.

Wellington university student Eleanor Catton is one of the youngest winners in the 23-year history of the awards.

Sunday Star-Times editor, Cate Brett, says that the competition is designed to recognise and encourage the talents of New Zealand writers.

“It is wonderful to see a young author of such calibre shine in an age where technology dominates the creativity of youth. This is something we need to foster if we want to ensure a bright future for literary writing in New Zealand,” she says.

Open Division judge Owen Marshall describes Ms Catton’s story, entitled ‘Necropolis’, as “a complete and deceptively simple story, with a high level of skill below the easy surface”.

“The author's ear for dialogue is perfect, the humour wry and unforced, and the description original. It is a story made of so little, yet enlivened by language skills, selective context, and a sharp observation of human nature. A worthy winner of the competition,” he said.

Ms Catton receives $5000 cash, her story published not only in the Sunday Star-Times, but in Random House’s annual collection of short stories and $500 worth of books from Random House.

The Sunday Star-Times Short Story Competition, held annually, has become nationally recognised as a breeding ground for some of New Zealand’s most celebrated short-fiction writers. The list of previous winners includes literary luminaries such as Judith White, Norman Bilbrough, Carl Nixon and Sarah Quigley.

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In a Capital Trifecta, the remaining Open Division places were also awarded to Wellington writers. Second place went to ‘Yolk’ by Samara McDowell, while Jonathan Barrett was awarded third place with ‘The Measure of Gary Mooney’.

The Secondary School Division award was also scooped by a Wellingtonian - Wellington High School student Mary Dennis for ‘Have You Tried Therapy?’

Secondary School Division judge David Hill described the story as “an emotionally powerful story of isolation and bleakness, nicely balanced by jet-black humour and moments of splendidly accurate observation.”

Auckland students took the other two prizes. Second place was awarded to St Cuthberts College student Briar Lawry for ’Summertime in Tarras’ while Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle of Western Springs College was awarded third place for ‘Broken Eggshells’.

The best unpublished newcomer, was awarded to Eleanor Catton. She will receive a Random House experience spending time with fiction publisher Harriet Allan.

Winners were presented with their awards last night by Prime Minister Helen Clark at an event held at the Auckland Art Gallery, MC'd by Emily Perkins.

2006 winner Sarah Laing was also at the event to discuss her success of the last 12 months, which includes the launch of her debut book, a collection of short stories entitled ‘Coming up Roses’.

All six winning stories will be published in the Sunday Star-Times.


Full list of 2007 winners:

Open Division
First - Eleanor Catton, Wellington (Necropolis)
Second - Samara McDowell, Wellington (Yolk)
Third - Jonathan Barrett, Wellington (The Measure of Gary Mooney)
Highly Commended (in no particular order)
Pauleen Hayes, Hastings (And Yet)
Jessica Lebas, Nelson (Sleepy Fox)
Carl Nixon, Christchurch (The Tide Clock)
Mary-anne Scott, Hawke's Bay (Swings And Roundabouts)
Louise Slocombe, Wellington (Not Waving But Drowning)
Christine Stewart, Wellington (Jane Has Told Saffron)
Yvonne van Dongen, Auckland (The Best Friend)

Secondary Division
First - Mary Dennis, Wellington High School, Wellington (Have You Tried Therapy?)
Second - Briar Lawry, St Cuthberts College, Auckland (Summertime in Tarras)
Third - Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle, Western Springs College, Auckland (Broken Eggshells)
Highly Commended (in no particular order)
Ava Atkinson-Barclay, Columba College, Dunedin (Calculated Formula)
Elizabeth Cronin, Tauranga Girls College, Tauranga (Tamarillo)
Ruby Porter, Northcote College, Auckland (Touched)
Manon Revuelta, Epsom Girls Grammar, Auckland (Sugar For His Tea)
Charlotte Trevella, Rangiruru Girls' School, Christchurch (Small Town Weather)
Summer Withers, Manawatu College, Foxton (Objective)
Dazhao Zhang, Pakuranga College, Auckland (Mr Lawrence's Calendar)


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