Excellence drives fierce competition in Ockham New Zealand Book Awards' shortlist

4 Mar 2020

This content is tagged as Literature .

NEWS

Photo of all winning book covers.

Debut writers and literary luminaries vie for the country’s premier book honours in today’s finalist announcement of 16 compelling works that explore and re-imagine Aotearoa New Zealand’s natural, cultural and creative landscapes.

New Zealand Book Awards Trust spokesperson Paula Morris says that “each year brings surprises, and this highly competitive year is no exception. The quality of books on the shortlists is exceptional. We anticipate that the decisions of the judges in each category will spark passionate debate.”

The finalists were selected from more than 170 entries, initially narrowed to a longlist of 40 titles. Selections were made across four categories, fiction, poetry, illustrated non-fiction and general non-fiction. Read about the four judging panels in our earlier news item

The Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction category winner will receive $55,000 and the General Non-Fiction, Poetry and Illustrated Non-Fiction category winners will each receive $10,000. The winners of the four MitoQ Best First Book awards will each receive $2,500.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, Jann Medlicott and the Acorn Foundation, Mary and Peter Biggs, MitoQ and the Auckland Writers Festival.

In addition to financial support for planning and delivering the awards, Creative New Zealand has supported nine of the projects on this shortlist through publishing subsidies, writing and illustrating grants, support to attend residencies and more.

The winners of the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, including the four MitoQ Best First Book award winners, will be announced at a ceremony on Tuesday 12 May as a marquee event during the 2020 Auckland Writers Festival.

The 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlisted titles are:

Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction:

  • Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)
  • Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall (Vintage, Penguin Random House)
  • A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press)
  • Halibut on the Moon by David Vann (Text Publishing)

Mark Broatch, spokesperson for the fiction judges, applauds the “cheeringly excellent year for New Zealand fiction,” with novels and short story collections of great range, depth and surprise.

“Forced to winnow a great longlist to four, the judges found that these books stood above the others – for their storytelling brio, their exploration of salient ideas, and their dedication to language as a salve and seasoning for the mind, the marrow, the spirit,” he says.

Award-winning Australian (Wiradjuri) writer Tara June Winch will assist the three New Zealand judges to select this year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction winner.

Mary and Peter Biggs Awards for Poetry:

  • Moth Hour by Anne Kennedy (Auckland University Press)
  • How to Live by Helen Rickerby (Auckland University Press)
  • Lay Studies by Steven Toussaint (Victoria University Press)
  • How I Get Ready by Ashleigh Young (Victoria University Press)

“The four shortlisted poets write in different styles, however all pay superb attention to craft, form and tone, and all have produced books with lasting impact,” says Poetry category convenor Kiri Piahana-Wong.

Illustrated Non-Fiction Award:

  • Crafting Aotearoa: A Cultural History of Making in New Zealand and the Wider Moana
  • Oceania edited by Karl Chitham, Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai, Damian Skinner (Te Papa Press)
  • Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance edited by Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams, Puawai Cairns (Te Papa Press)
  • We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall and Tim Denee (Massey University Press)
  • McCahon Country by Justin Paton (Penguin Random House)

Odessa Owens, convenor of the Illustrated Non-Fiction judging panel, says the four finalist books are landmark publications that address significant cultural milestones.

“These brilliantly crafted publications also demonstrate the growing confidence of writers, designers and publishers to innovate with design and world-class production values,” she says.

General Non-Fiction Award:

  • Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter (Victoria University Press)
  • Shirley Smith: An Examined Life by Sarah Gaitanos (Victoria University Press)
  • Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry by Paula Green (Massey University Press)
  • Towards the Mountain: A Story of Grief and Hope Forty Years on from Erebus by Sarah Myles (Allen & Unwin)

General Non-Fiction convenor of judges Sharon Dell says beautiful writing and compelling content have worked together to create four finalist books whose impact will be felt beyond this year.

“The deployment of archival resources, solid research and the mining of memory bring insight into the lives of creative people, and an understanding of how individual lives and experiences reflect the identity and character of Aotearoa,” she says.

To find out more about the shortlisted titles go to http://www.nzbookawards.nz/new-zealand-book-awards/2020-awards/shortlist/

For interview opportunities and further information please contact: Penny Hartill, director, hPR 021 721 424, penny@hartillpr.co.nz