17 Dec 2009
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For the first time in its history, the prestigious Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing has been awarded to a work of creative non-fiction.
Victoria University student Ashleigh Young has won the award for her personal essay collection Can you tolerate this?
Supported by Wellingtonians Denis and Verna Adam through the Victoria University Foundation, the $3000 prize is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the Masters in Creative Writing programme at Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML).
Mr Pip author Lloyd Jones was external examiner for Can you tolerate this? a work that explores the ways in which people cope with physical or social awkwardness. He praised the author's talent for finding big subject matter so close to home, and her unfaltering narrative control, concluding that it was "an outstanding debut."
Ashleigh Young is a published poet who lives in Wellington, where she works as an editor for Learning Media. In November, her essay 'Wolf Man', one of the pieces in her award-winning manuscript, received the 2009 Landfall Essay Prize.
"It's very exciting to receive the Adam Foundation Prize, and so heartening," Ms Young says. "The award has encouraged me to continue writing beyond the MA course, and I hope to keep telling stories and to keep figuring things out as I write."
Chris Price, co-convenor of the MA Programme, says the Adam Foundation Prize reflects the engaging quality of Ashleigh's work.
"Can you tolerate this? displays a winning combination of imaginative insight into human nature and a lightness of touch on even the most painful subjects," she says.
The title essay can be read in the newly launched issue of the IIML's online journal Turbine (www.vuw.ac.nz/turbine).
Chris Price says the standard of work submitted for final assessment by the 20 Creative Writing MA students was outstanding.
"There were several books worthy of winning the Adam Foundation Prize, and a number of these fiction writers and poets are sure to figure in our literature in the future."
Previous Adam Foundation Prize recipients include acclaimed authors Catherine Chidgey, Paula Morris, William Brandt and Eleanor Catton.