New Zealand Book Awards Return with Major Fiction Prize

After a 12-month hiatus, the country’s premier book awards will return in 2016 with a new structure, a new judging process and a significant, annual fiction prize of $50,000.

The New Zealand Book Awards winners will be announced at an event during the country’s largest literary gathering — the Auckland Writers Festival — in May 2016.

The New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair, Nicola Legat, says she is delighted to announce the changes, and in particular the major fiction award, which is provided by the Acorn Foundation, through the generosity of one of its donors. “It creates a tremendous and lasting literary legacy. The sum of $50,000 will be awarded to the top fiction work annually, in perpetuity. This will make a difference not only to the receiving writer, but also to the literary fabric of New Zealand. It is a huge gift for us all.”

The Acorn Foundation is a Western Bay of Plenty-based community foundation that encourages people to leave bequests in their wills, or gifts during their lifetimes. Acorn Foundation’s Operation’s Manager, Margot McCool, says it is humbling to witness such generosity. “Since 2003 we have been encouraging generosity, so that people who really care about their community can fulfil their wish of enabling organisations and causes they believe in. We are so pleased that this award will make such a difference to New Zealand novelists’ careers,” says Mrs McCool.

In addition to an annual fiction winner, there will be a poetry, a general non-fiction and an illustrated non-fiction winner and, should there be sufficient entries, a Māori language award. The three Best First Book Awards will also continue.

Ms Legat added that including the awards in the Auckland Writers Festival programme ensures they reach more people.

“The New Zealand Book Awards will be the first public event in the festival’s line-up. With the festival growing exponentially year-on-year (55 percent in 2014 and a further 17 percent in 2015), we are taking New Zealand writers to a huge reading audience.”

Auckland Writers Festival director Anne O’Brien says embracing the New Zealand Book Awards was a natural fit. “The festival is committed to sharing a love of books and reading and to championing and supporting New Zealand writers through exposure to thousands of festival-goers each year. The New Zealand Book Awards are a celebration of writing excellence and we’re delighted to offer them a home in the festival’s programme,” says Ms O’Brien.

The four main categories will be judged by specialist judges, three per category, plus a Maori language adviser for the Maori language awards. The judges will select a longlist of around eight books in each category. It will be announced in November 2015.

The shortlist of four books in each of the categories will be announced in early March 2016.

“The changes to the judging process are a direct result of the consultation process carried out by the Book Awards Trust in 2014. Having fewer books for each judge to read, and having more specialist depth in each genre, will allow a more detailed examination of the works,” says Ms Legat.

The call for entries in the awards is scheduled for August 1 this year.

The Acorn Foundation is a Community organisation based in the Western Bay of Plenty, which encourages people to leave a gift in their Will and/or their lifetime, 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 $2.4 million, and this year expects to distribute a further $500,000. It currently has invested funds of $13 million. Donors may choose which organisations are to benefit each year, or they may decide to leave that to the trustees’ discretion. This will allow for the changing needs of the region in years to come.

Community Foundations are the fastest growing form of philanthropy worldwide, and there are now 13 community foundations throughout New Zealand.

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