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Prize in Modern Letters announcement due

Prize in Modern Letters announcement due

In just two short weeks, one New Zealand writer will be $60,000 richer when the winner of the country’s largest literary award, the Prize in Modern Letters, is announced.

The winning writer will be named on Saturday 13 March at a function during Writers and Readers Week – part of the New Zealand International Arts Festival. The four shortlisted writers and the inaugural recipient, Catherine Chidgey, will read at a Writers and Readers event on Thursday 11 March at the Heineken Festival Club, Frank Kitts Park, Wellington at 12:10pm.

The Prize in Modern Letters rewards an emerging author who has published one but not more than two books. Administered by the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) based at Victoria University, this will be the second time that the prize has been awarded with Catherine Chidgey announced as the inaugural recipient in 2002. Glenn Schaeffer, an American philanthropist and arts activist who launched the IIML at Victoria University in 2001, personally funds the award, which is thought to be the most valuable for an emerging author anywhere in the world.

The winner will be chosen by a panel of leading contemporary American writers; Sandra Cisneros, Douglas Unger, Geoffrey Wolff and Eric Olsen (the US Director of the IIML), from a shortlist of four drawn up in New Zealand:

William Brandt: Brandt's first collection of short stories, Alpha Male (1999) won the Best First Book of Fiction award at the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. His second, The Book of the Film of the Story of My Life was a Finalist in the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Geoff Cush: Cush is a novelist, playwright and journalist. His first novel, God Help the Queen was published in 1987 and he wrote a number of successful plays while based in London. In 2001, he returned to Wellington to write his second novel, Son of France, which was published in 2002 to great acclaim. He is currently working on the sequel to Son of France.

Kate Camp: Camp is a Wellington poet, prose writer and reviewer. Her first collection of poetry, Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars (1998) won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry at the 1999 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. In 1999, Camp received a project grant from Creative New Zealand to complete her second collection, Realia (2001). In 2002 she was the University of Waikato Writer in Residence.

Glenn Colquhoun: Colquhoun’s first collection of poems, The Art of Walking Upright, won the Jessie Mackay NZSA Best First Book of Poetry Award in the 2000 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. His second collection Playing God was published in December 2002 and won both the Poetry Category of the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2003, and the coveted 2003 Montana Readers' Choice Award. Colquhoun is the first poet to be awarded the Readers' Choice Award.

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