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David Coventry and Chris Tse win Best First Books at 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

10 May 2016

MA in Creative Writing graduates were among the winners at the inaugural Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Eight winners were announced at a ceremony in the Auckland Town Hall, including four in the Best First Book categories.

The Hubert Church Award for Fiction was presented to David Coventry, who completed the MA in 2010, for his first novel The Invisible Mile (Victoria University Press). Coventry's debut was also shortlisted for the overall Fiction prize: the  inaugural $50,000 Acorn Foundation Literary Award, which was won by Stephen Daisley.

The Invisible Mile will be published in the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth by Picador in mid-2016. Translations into Hebrew, Dutch, Spanish, German and Danish are to follow. Coventry received the Todd New Writers' Bursary in November 2015. Read about David Coventry's experience of the MA.

The Jessie Mackay Award for Poetry was presented to Chris Tse (MA in Creative Writing 2005) for  his first poetry collection How to Be Dead in the Year of Snakes (Auckland University Press).

Tse's poetry and short fiction have been recorded for radio and published in numerous journals, magazines and anthologies, including Sport, Turbine, The New Zealand Listener, Landfall, Cha, Poetry NZ, Takahe, JAAM, Snorkel, Best New Zealand Poems, and Starch. He is one of three poets included in the joint collection AUP New Poets 4 (Auckland University Press, 2011).

New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair, Nicola Legat, says the winners’ works stood out in a stellar list of finalists.

'This year’s winning books are testament to the sheer hard work and passion of their authors and a determination for excellence on the part of their publishers. These awards are vital to the health and progression of our literature. The Trust salutes this year's winners, and sincerely thanks our sponsors and our outstanding judges,' says Ms Legat.

Read about all the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards winners.

Read about the MA in Creative Writing at Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters.

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Tina Makereti is the Pacific Regional Winner of the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize

4 May 2016

Tina Makereti,  is the Pacific Regional Winner of the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for her story 'Black Milk', selected from nearly 4000 entries.

Makereti is a graduate of both the MA and PhD Creative Writing programmes at Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters and currently co-convenes the IIML's CREW 256: Special Topic - Māori and  Pasifika Creative Writing Workshop (Te Hiringa a Tuhi).

Now in its fifth year, the Commonwealth Short Story Prize is for the best piece of unpublished short fiction in English. Read more about the Prize and the full 2016 shortlist.

Almost 4000 entries from writers in 47 countries were received for the 2016 Prize. From these entries, a shortlist of 26 was selected by a global judging panel, representing each of the five regions of the Commonwealth: Helon Habila (Africa), Firdous Azim (Asia),  Pierre Mejlak (Canada and Europe)  Olive Senior (Caribbean), and Patrick Holland (Pacific).

Five regional winners have now been chosen from the shortlist.

Chair of the judging panel, South African novelist and playwright Gillian Slovo, commented: 'Tina Makereti's "Black Milk"...impressed with a lyricism that takes the reader into another world while keeping us always on earth...'

Read 'Black Milk' in full on Granta.

Makereti says: 'It's a wonderful surprise to win the regional prize with this strange little story. It couldn't have existed without Fiona Pardington's photography, which requires us to see in a different way. Good fiction makes us see in a different way also, so it makes me very happy that 'Black Milk' might have achieved that.'

Hear Makereti interviewed about her winning story. (Interviewer: Patrick Holland)

The regional winners will now compete to be selected as the Overall Winner of the 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, to be announced at the the Calabash Literary Festival in Jamaica on 5 June.

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Bill Manhire House

27 April 2016

Tree with autumn leaves in front of Bill Manhire House, Institute of Modern Letters

Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters building will be named Bill Manhire House in recognition of Emeritus Professor Bill Manhire.This is in recognition of the exceptional service Emeritus Professor Bill Manhire has given the University and to honour his contribution to the wider world of New Zealand writing.

Damien Wilkins, Director of IIML, is thrilled by the announcement.

"Bill's name is synonymous with creative writing at Victoria. His students represent more than 30 years of teaching, and include so many of the stars of New Zealand poetry, prose and scriptwriting. He set the tone for an approach to teaching new writers that was beautifully intuitive and flexible, while also being rigorous and disciplined. Somehow you always came away from a class with Bill convinced that this was the most important thing in the world to be doing. It was like being inside a dream - but there was always a deadline too."

Bill Manhire is recognized nationally and internationally for his pioneering work in establishing the discipline of creative writing at Victoria. His famous 'Original Composition' course, which he taught for more than 25 years, attracted new writers who would go on to become leading literary figures. These include Elizabeth Knox, Barbara Anderson, Jenny Bornholdt, Kirsty Gunn, Anthony McCarten and James Brown.

In 2001 he founded the IIML and led the flagship Master's programme, which continues to produce award-winning authors such as Booker Prize winner Eleanor Catton, Catherine Chidgey, Hinemoana Baker, Tusiata Avia, Ashleigh Young, Laurence Fearnley and Lawrence Patchett. In 2008 he established New Zealand's first PhD programme in creative writing. He retired from Victoria in 2013.

Bill Manhire has won every major writing award in New Zealand, including the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement, the Katherine Mansfield Award, the New Zealand Book Award, and the Montana Book Award. He was the inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate and he is a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate. In 2005, he was awarded the Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature and he also received an Honorary Doctorate from Otago University. He continues to be strongly identified with creative writing at Victoria.

Professor Jennifer Windsor, Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences, says that the naming of the IIML building as Bill Manhire House honours that legacy.

"How we name something reflects our values and aspirations. This naming will create excitement and is part of the commitment to nurture the extraordinary creative writing that the IIML fosters. It also makes visible Victoria's ongoing tradition of imaginative exploration and artistic achievement that helps mark Wellington as a creative capital."

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Best New Zealand Poems 2015 is live

4 April 2016

The 2015 edition of Best New Zealand Poems is launched today, introducing both established writers and new voices to the wider public.

The anthology has been published annually since 2001 by the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) at Victoria University of Wellington.

Poet and academic John Newton had the task of sifting through the thousands of poems published in books and journals last year in search of twenty-five that delivered what he wanted.

'I was looking for an active jolt of pleasure, that moment of finding something that really does it for you, when you can't wait to get on the phone or on Facebook, or, better still, to hot-foot it over in person, and compound the pleasure by hearing it echoed in the pleasure of the person you're sharing it with.'

Best New Zealand Poems series editor Chris Price, a senior lecturer at the IIML, says one of the contributions is from Selina Tusitala Marsh, who just last month performed for the Queen at Westminster Abbey. 'Her poem describes watching The Vampire Diaries after a day spent teaching post-colonial theory,' Ms Price says.

Diverse cultures and forms of communication feature strongly in this year's selection, demonstrating that our poetry is both rooted in the local and connected to the world. Sarah Jane Barnett's beautiful and timely poem looks at the life of a refugee from Ethiopia. Gregory O'Brien's poem attempts to gain the ear of the King of Tonga, and Alison Wong tries to decipher the language of match-making in Shanghai. Kani Te Manukura remembers Te Kooti's last stand and thinks about Aotearoa's race-time continuum, and Ashleigh Young encounters a man in Reno with the voice of 'Death's personal computer'.

Readers of John Newton's top 25 poems are also able to hear recordings of several of the poets reading their work.

Ms Price says there is a playful, wry tone to much of this year's work.

'Hera Lindsay Bird announces that "It's a bad crime to say poetry in poetry" but she does it anyway, Alexandra Hollis reminds us that Rihanna is as profound as the stars, and Bryan Walpert's title, "This poem is conversational", might be a comment on the very nature of contemporary New Zealand poetry.'

Best New Zealand Poems is published by the IIML with support from Creative New Zealand, and is hosted by the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection.

Best New Zealand Poems 2015 can be viewed at

For more information contact Chris Price on 04-463 6854 or

A media release issued by Victoria University of Wellington Communications & Marketing.

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Best New Zealand Poems goes bilingual

15 March 2016

Huang Lihong performing a Chinese tea ceremony at the launch.

Huang Lihong performing a Chinese tea ceremony at the launch of Best New Zealand Poems 2014 in its bilingual edition.

On Tuesday 15 March a ceremony was held at Victoria University's Wai-te-ata Press to celebrate the publication of Best New Zealand Poems 2014 in a ground-breaking English-Chinese bilingual edition. The ceremony featured a tea ceremony, calligraphy, and a reading of Peter Bland's poem, 'Locality' in English, Cantonese, Mandarin and Hunan dialect, recreating the ambience of a traditional Chinese literary gathering.

This is the first time that the Best New Zealand Poems series, selected and published annually by the International Institute of Modern Letters, has been translated in full into a foreign language. The publication of 25 contemporary New Zealand poems in Chinese will raise the profile of New Zealand literature in China and in New Zealand's diverse Chinese communities.

Left to right: Designer Ya-Wen Ho, Wen Powles, translator Yujing Liang, Dr Luo Hui and Dr Sydney Shep.

Left to right: Designer Ya-Wen Ho, Wen Powles, translator Yujing Liang, Dr Luo Hui and Dr Sydney Shep.

The project, initiated by the New Zealand Centre for Literary Translation, received financial support from the Confucius Institute and creative input from the IIML and Wai-te-ata Press. Both Yujing Liang, the translator, and Ya-Wen Ho, the book designer, are postgraduate students at the School of Languages and Cultures. A collaboration across languages and disciplines, the book exemplifies Victoria University's commitment to cultivating creative capital and building links with the Asia-Pacific.

Poet and IIML lecturer Chris Price was among the featured poets at the launch.

Poet and IIML lecturer Chris Price reads Peter Bland's poem 'Locality' at the launch.

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Triple win for Maraea Rakuraku at Adam NZ Play Awards

13 March 2016

Adam NZ Play Award winner Maraea Rakuraku with Suli Moa, winner of Best Pacific Island Play

Tūhoe; Ngāti Kahungunu Maraea Rakuraku is the 2016 Adam NZ Play Award winner for her play Tan-Knee, which also won Best Play by a Māori Writer and Best Play by a Woman Writer at the same Awards.

Rakuraku, who is undertaking the MA in Creative Writing (Script) at Victoria's International Institute of Modern Letters this year,  is a writer, performance poet (DuskyMaidensNobleSavages), broadcaster, reviewer, producer and founder of boutique media and production house Native Agency Ltd. She formerly co-produced and co-presented RNZ's Te Ahi Kaa with Justine Murray.

Her first full-length play, The Prospect (2012), won three Chapman Tripp Theatre Awards, including New Playwright of the Year for Rakuraku. In the same year she was awarded the annual Tau Mai e Kapiti Writer in Residence award.

The first in a planned trilogy, Tan-Knee is described as 'an impressive and gripping story of a Tūhoe family. Tu returns home to re-open a boxing gym but Taneatua (aka Tan-knee) isn't as Tu remembers and not many in the town are that thrilled about his intrusion into their world. Yet, it provides welcome relief from the white vans parked up for days all over town, and the undercurrent of unsettling activity rumoured to be driven by Māori Sovereignty groups – Te Urewera Prophets aka the TameItis.'

MA in Creative Writing (Script) graduate Finnius Teppett was also awarded Highly Commended for My Dad's Boy, about a young man's relationship with his father and his own impending fatherhood.

The Adam NZ Play Award winners were announced at a presentation at Circa Theatre on 13th March. Suli Moa, winner of Best Pacific Island Play with his boxing play 12th Round, is pictured with Rakuraku at the Award ceremony. Read about all the winners at

Hear from Maraea Rakuraku and our other 2016 MA Scriptwriting students in their own words.

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Creative Writing graduates on Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist

7 March 2016

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalists have been announced and Victoria's Creative Writing graduates feature in the Fiction, Poetry and Non-Fiction categories.

David Coventry (MA in Creative Writing 2010)'s first novel, The Invisible Mile (Victoria University Press) has been shortlisted in the Fiction category and is in the running for the new $50,000 Acorn Foundation Literary Award. How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes (Auckland University Press), the debut poetry collection from Chris Tse (MA in Creative Writing 2005) is shortlisted in the Poetry category, and Lynn Jenner is a finalist in the Non-Fiction category for her genre defying Lost and Gone Away (AUP), written during her PhD Creative Writing (awarded 2013).

Four Victoria University Press authors are shortlisted. Read more about the finalists.

The winners will be announced on 10 May.

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