Ockham 2020 NZ Book Awards’ Shortlist


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 the natural, cultural and creative landscapes of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards’ 2020 finalists were selected by four panels of three specialist judges (for fiction, poetry, illustrated non-fiction and general non-fiction) and were drawn from 40 longlisted titles that had been narrowed down from more than 170 entries – a 12 percent increase in submissions on the last three years.

The 2020 finalists for the $55,000 Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction are: Auē by Becky Manawatu; Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall; A Mistake by Carl Shuker and Halibut on the Moon by David Vann.

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.

The finalists in the 2020 Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry are: Moth Hour by Anne Kennedy; How to Live by Helen Rickerby; Lay Studies by Steven Toussaint and How I Get Ready by Ashleigh Young.

“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.

The 2020 Illustrated Non-Fiction category finalists are: 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; Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance edited by Stephanie Gibson, Matariki Williams, Puawai Cairns; We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall and Tim Denee; and McCahon Country by Justin Paton.

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.

The 2020 General Non-Fiction category finalists are:  Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter; Shirley Smith: An Examined Life by Sarah Gaitanos; Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry by Paula Green and Towards the Mountain: A Story of Grief and Hope Forty Years on from Erebus by Sarah Myles.

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.”

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 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)

Mary and Peter Biggs Award 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)

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)

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)

The General Non-Fiction, Poetry and Illustrated Non-Fiction category winners will each receive a $10,000 prize. 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.

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


To download shortlisted book covers: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/2upxks9uyrttn3c/AAABmhb1AY94OZKgm4d_v7oPa?dl=0

To download shortlisted author images: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d4aqj5fuehcvf39/AAAqij3V_IhuJbMD7qhhfqCMa?dl=0

To download collage images of each category: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/ynkyycfg69snjv0/AADCrP9EAewq7u_br_lLIlI6a?dl=0

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

#theockhams  facebook.com/NewZealandBookAwards     twitter.com/theockhams

Editor’s Notes:

This year’s Ockham New Zealand Book Awards judges are: author, journalist and reviewer Mark Broatch, short story and non-fiction writer Nic Low (Ngāi Tahu) and Chris Baskett, a passionate reader of local fiction and an independent bookseller (Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction); publisher and acclaimed poet Kiri Piahana-Wong, poet Tim Upperton, whose collection The Night We Ate the Baby was an Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist in 2016 and Phillippa Duffy, whose two decades in the book industry include publishing, board positions and bookselling (Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry); Hocken Librarian and experienced documentary and cultural heritage collections advisor Sharon Dell, respected bookseller, reviewer and practising artist Stella Chrysostomou and well-known journalist, presenter and voracious reader Guyon Espiner (General Non-Fiction Award); award-winning publisher and Whitireia publishing programme tutor Odessa Owens, Lana Lopesi, an independent critic, editor and author, and Hamish Coney, an award-winning writer, arts advisor and founder and former director of the auction house Art+Object (Illustrated Non-Fiction Award).

This year’s Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction international judge is Tara June Winch, an Australian (Wiradjuri) writer based in France. She was named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist after her award-winning debut novel Swallow the Air was published in 2006 and she won a mentorship with Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka. Her latest novel is The Yield.

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are the country’s premier literary honours for books written by New Zealanders. First established in 1968 as the Wattie Book Awards (later the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards), they have also been known as the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Awards are given for Fiction (the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction), Poetry (the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry) Illustrated Non-Fiction and General Non-Fiction. There are also four awards for first-time authors (The MitoQ Best First Book awards) and, at the judges’ discretion, Te Mūrau o te Tuhi, a Māori Language Award. The awards are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust (a registered charity). Current members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Karen Ferns, Paula Morris, Jenna Todd, Anne Morgan, Melanee Winder and Melinda Szymanik. The Trust also governs the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

Ockham Residential is Auckland’s most thoughtful developer. Through creating elegant and enduring buildings that are well-loved by those who make them home, Ockham hopes to enhance Auckland – and to contribute to its many communities. Founded in 2009 by Mark Todd and Benjamin Preston, Ockham supports a number of organisations in arts, science and education. They fund several scholarships at the University of Auckland, sponsor Ngā Rangatahi Toa, a transformative organisation working with excluded youth, and are the lead partner of the Objectspace gallery in Ponsonby. But their principal sponsorship of the New Zealand Book Awards, a relationship now in its fifth year, is perhaps their most visible contribution. Says Mark Todd: “Our communities would be drab, grey and much poorer places without art, without words, without science – without critical thought. That’s why our partnership with the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards means the world to us.”

The Acorn Foundation is a community foundation based in the Western Bay of Plenty, which encourages people to leave a gift in their wills and/or their lifetimes to support their local community forever. Donations are pooled and invested, and the investment income is used to make donations to local charities, in accordance with the donors’ wishes. The capital remains intact. Since it was established in 2003, Acorn has distributed over $6.8 million. Donors may choose which organisations are to benefit each year, or they may decide to leave it to the trustees’ discretion. Community foundations are the fastest growing form of philanthropy worldwide, and there are now 17 throughout New Zealand, with more in the early stages. The Prize for Fiction has been provided through the generosity of one of the Foundation’s donors Jann Medlicott, and will be awarded to the top fiction work each year, in perpetuity. Its base figure of $50,000 in 2016 is adjusted each year, to reflect wage inflation.

Creative New Zealand has been a sustaining partner of New Zealand’s book awards for decades. Creative New Zealand encourages, promotes and supports the arts in New Zealand for the benefit of all New Zealanders through funding, capability building, an international programme, and advocacy. It offers financial support for emerging and established artists, art practitioners, groups and organisations, and provides training and online resources to help artists and practitioners develop professionally, grow audiences and markets, and manage their organisations. It also supports internships and national touring to help develop New Zealand arts. Creative New Zealand provides a wide range of support to New Zealand literature, including funding for writers and publishers, residencies, literary festivals and awards, and supports organisations which work to increase the readership and sales of New Zealand literature at home and internationally.

MitoQ is one of New Zealand’s newest global success stories. Founded on breakthrough cellular research undertaken at the University of Otago, MitoQ® is the only product to directly target the mitochondria, which are responsible for producing the body’s energy. Over 400 reviews and studies have to date been published on the positive benefits of MitoQ® to health and athletic performance. MitoQ’s success has placed the company in the exciting position of being able to put back into its communities through sponsorship, particularly in the arts, which it sees as essential to the wellbeing of society. The company is delighted to support the enrichment of New Zealand literature through the MitoQ Best First Book awards.

Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM are long-time arts advocates and patrons – particularly of literature and theatre. They have funded the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters since 2006, along with the Alex Scobie Research Prize in Classical Studies, Latin and Greek. They have been consistent supporters of the International Festival of the Arts, the Auckland Writers Festival, Wellington’s Circa Theatre, the New Zealand Arts Foundation, Featherston Booktown, the New Zealand Book Council, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the Featherston Sculpture Trust and the Kokomai Arts Festival in the Wairarapa. Peter was Chair of Creative New Zealand from 1999 to 2006. He led the Cultural Philanthropy Taskforce in 2010 and the New Zealand Professional Orchestra Sector Review in 2012. Peter was appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for arts governance and philanthropy in 2013.

The Auckland Writers Festival is the largest literary event in New Zealand and the largest presenter of New Zealand literature in the world. Now in its 20th year, it hosts more than 200 local and international writers for seven days of discussion, conversation, reading, debate, performance, schools, family and free events ranging across fiction, non-fiction, poetry, music, theatre, culture, art and more. Festival attendance in 2019 exceeded 83,000.