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Candidates for Prize in Modern Letters announced


08 November 2007

Candidates for Prize in Modern Letters announced

Six emerging New Zealand writers have been short-listed for the $65,000 Prize in Modern Letters, and the winner will be announced next March during the New Zealand Post Writers and Readers Week.

One of the world's wealthiest literary awards, the biennial Prize in Modern Letters is sponsored by United States business leader and arts philanthropist Glenn Schaeffer.

The shortlisted writers are: Michele Amas, David Beach, Mary McCallum, Jo Randerson, Anna Sanderson and Louise Wareham Leonard.

Professor Bill Manhire, director of the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University, says he is delighted by the range of writers to have made it this far.

“There are two novelists, two poets, a short story writer, and an essayist. And they’re all writers who venture beyond familiar territory. To borrow Janet Frame’s phrase, they’re travelling ‘far from the road labelled Scenic Drive’."

Broadcaster, editor and writer Elizabeth Alley, Dominion Post Books Editor Guy Somerset, and novelist and academic Damien Wilkins were on the short-listing panel this year and New York literary editor, Brigid Hughes (The Paris Review, A Public Space) will judge the winner.

Michele Amas is well-known for her distinguished career as an actor, and is currently starring in the main-bill play Home Land at Circa Theatre. She is nominated for her first collection of poetry, After the Dance.

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David Beach works as a mail sorter for New Zealand Post, and is nominated for his first book, Abandoned Novel, that – despite its title – is a collection of 60 sonnets.

Mary McCallum has worked as a television and radio broadcaster. She is nominated for The Blue, a whaling novel set on Arapawa Island in 1938. An early draft of The Blue won her the NZ Society of Authors’ Lillian Ida Smith Award 2003/4.

Jo Randerson is best-known as an actor and theatre worker. She has been Burns Fellow at the University of Otago, and in 1997 she received the Sunday Star Times Bruce Mason Award for playwriting. She is nominated for her short story collections, The Spit Children and The Keys to Hell.

Anna Sanderson has a background in photography, the visual arts, and English literature. She was co-founder of the art criticism journal Monica. She is nominated for Brainpark - a collection of reflective and incisive personal essays.

Louise Wareham Leonard is nominated for her two short novels: Since You Ask and Miss Me a Lot of. She grew up in Wellington, Sydney and New York City and was educated at Columbia College in New York and at Victoria University of Wellington. She is a book reviewer and teacher living between New Zealand and Australia.

More information about the Prize can be read at:


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