05 Oct 2009
Twenty-six-year-old Wellington writer, Alice Miller has won the country’s top short fiction award, confirming her place as one of the nation’s most talented emerging writers.
Far-North resident, Karen Phillips won the Novice category and Emma Robinson, a Year 12 student at Awatapu College, Palmerston North won the Youth category of the 50th BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards at a ceremony held in Wellington tonight.
Miller took the $10,000 premier prize for The Windmill, a love story that award judge, Dame Fiona Kidman says ‘tripped her heart’.
“This story could be described as a contemporary love story but it seemed much more than that. It captures beautifully the essence of young student life, apparently casual love affairs set against the intensity of study and creativity, while at the same time illustrating that the choices made are never as random as they may appear on the surface.
“If the heart does play a role in the choice of a winner, this is the story that tripped mine,” said Dame Kidman.
One of the youngest-ever Katherine Mansfield award recipients, Miller’s story stood out in a tough competition with a record number of almost 1,800 entries.
A former Glenn Schaeffer Fellow completing an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and with an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), Alice Miller is a writer to watch.
In 2008, she was the co-winner of the Landfall Essay Competition and earlier this year she was awarded the Louis Johnson Writers’ Bursary to allow her to complete her poetry manuscript, Farflungness, prone to.
Louise Harvey-Wills, Director, People at BNZ says it has been a pleasure to have sponsored the Katherine Mansfield Awards since its inception 50 years ago.
“Over time the Awards have evolved and grown and many past winners have gone on to become some of New Zealand’s most respected writers. We are proud to have been part of their journey.
“With a record number of entries received this year, creative writing in New Zealand is clearly in good shape. Congratulations to each of this year’s winners, may the win encourage you to take your writing further,” said Ms Harvey-Wills.
Alice Miller joins New Zealand literary heavyweights CK Stead, Frank Sargeson, Vincent O’Sullivan and Keri Hulme and more recently, such critically acclaimed writers as Charlotte Grimshaw and Julian Novitz on the list of BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards winners.
Many past winners were present at the ceremony, including two of this year’s judges, Carl Nixon who took the award in 2007 and Kate De Goldi (then Kate Flannery) who won in 1991.
Karen Phillips, a school administrator living in Ahipara, Northland won the Novice category for The Visit, a story category judge Carl Nixon said ‘brings a tear to the eye and a smile to the lips’.
“The Visit is a deserving [novice category] winner that could hold its own with some of the best of New Zealand fiction,” said Mr Nixon.
Emma Robinson won the young writer’s prize for her story, Skipped the Censor ahead of more than 550 entries from secondary school students around the country.
Youth category judge, Kate De Goldi says Ms Robinson’s winning story has an arresting structure and voice.
“The correspondent’s voice is very skilfully wrought; it conveys personality, place, relationships, a sense of displacement, and an irrepressible enthusiasm for life. This writer has a sophisticated sense of concision.”
Mrs Phillips wins $1,500 as does Ms Robinson and her school.
The BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards, which aim to foster the country’s literature, were established in 1959. They are New Zealand’s longest-running short story awards.
Katherine Mansfield’s father, Sir Harold Beauchamp, was a director of BNZ, a position he held for 38 years. He was also the chairman of the board for 17 years.
For further information contact:
Penny Hartill, Hartill Communications, 09 445 7525, 021 721 424, firstname.lastname@example.org