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NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival Book Awards

NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival Book Awards Announced

The introduction of the Book Competition to the NZ Mountain Film and Book Festival has revealed talent in NZ adventure storytelling. Submissions have been received for short essays, fiction, poetry and non-fiction literature. The contest invited creative narratives on climbing or mountaineering and all aspects of adventure sports, exploration and mountain culture.

The calibre of the entries was high and Dan Clearwater, the Programme Coordinator, says, “The judges loved sinking into the stories; the range of subject matter, tone and depth was broad. The category adds a complementary genre to the festival. Like many of the films, the writing takes a deep dive into human nature and the relationship with the environment and exploration. This mode of adventure storytelling feels intimate; it can be enjoyed at the reader’s own pace and delves into the psyche of the author and their subjects. We are really pleased to announce the winners of our book awards.”

The Grand Prize goes to Neil Silverwood and Marcus Thomas for the book ‘Caves - Exploring NZ’s Subterranean Wilderness’. The book takes readers into New Zealand’s longest and deepest caves. The pair explore the world’s most dangerous cave dives as well as prospecting for a totally new kind of cave on a South Island glacier.

Silverwood likes to explore places that few dare to go, deep into New Zealand’s subterranean caves and crevasses. Not only does he like to crawl into deep, dark spaces, he likes to capture these unusual places on film. He and Thomas have masterfully brought the underworld to life in the book Caves.

Silverwood was born and bred on the West Coast of New Zealand; he works as a full time photographer specialising in imagery of wild and unusual places. He loves the creative process, the challenge of photographing in adverse conditions and the chance to share those wild, inaccessible places with others.

‘Caves’ was recently awarded the Union International Speleology (UIS) Best Caves Book Award, while images featured within the book led to co-author Silverwood’s honour of New Zealand Geographic Photographer of the Year. Silverwood will share some of his incredible photos and experiences, providing a breathtaking glance into NZ’s subterranean wilderness at this year’s event in Wanaka on Wednesday 4 July.

Winner of the Fiction award is Wanaka’s Annabel Wilson for Aspiring Daybook: The Diary of Elsie Winslow. The book presents reflections of a year in the life of Elsie Winslow and her return to Wanaka from Europe to take care of her terminally ill brother. The innovative style of writing melds the mood of the mountains and lake with the stormy nature of the mind. Wilson crafts the tale in the form of poetry, notes and journal writing.

Wilson’s work has been published in journals in New Zealand and overseas. She has been awarded the RAK Mason Fellowship at NZ Pacific Studio, the inaugural Australasian Association of Writers’ Programmes Emerging Writers’ Prize and a residency at the Robert Lord Writers’ Cottage. She will be reading from her book in the Words and Wine Event, Sunday 1 July.

The Non Fiction award goes to Laurence Fearnley and Paul Hersey for their book ‘To the Mountains’. This book offers a fascinating glimpse into New Zealand’s mountaineering culture and history. New Zealand climbers have composed their alpine experience in letters, journals, articles, memoirs, poems and novels. Fearnley and Hersey drew from 150 years of published and unpublished material to capture a common Kiwi spirit of adventure. Both authors will share some of the stories within, and about the journey of compiling the book at the world premiere launch at this year’s festival on 3 July.

Christopher Tuffley won the essay category for the second time, with his entry ‘Climbing Lessons’. Describing his experiences climbing in Yosemite, exploring the common bond formed between two who share opposite ends of the rope, and opposite opinions about how the world operates. The essay will be published in Wilderness Magazine later this year.

Head Judge Dave Vass says, “I really enjoyed the judging process, mainly for the great range of writing I got to read! From the self published 'Do-it-yourselfers' and stories never told, through to the more professional productions, I was entertained, informed, moved and taken places.
Although all the books reflected it to some extent, the winners in particular were real celebrations of adventure, the ways we feel about it and the way the outdoors are woven into our lives.
There were several Kiwi 'huntin, trampin and fishin' type entries, which was great to see - lots of people are out there in the bush and their passion is palpable in their writings. Adventure really means a bunch of different things to different people and I was very entertainingly reminded of that through the judging process.”

Vass, the Head Judge, has a passion for reading and writing about the mountains; Joanne Waide is an English, Art History, and Drama teacher; Dr Simone Celine Marshall is a senior lecturer at the University of Otago and Alistair Hall is the editor of the NZ Wilderness Magazine. Category prizes were: Grand Prize $500, Non Fiction Award $250, and Fiction award receives $250.

The 2018 festival runs in Wanaka from June 29 to July 4, Cromwell on July 4 and Queenstown from July 5 to 7. Programmes are available at Paper Plus in Wanaka or The North Face store at 38 Shotover Street in Queenstown. Tickets are available at

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