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BooksJuly 17, 2017

Announcing the shortlist of the 2017 Surrey Hotel writers residency award


We received close to 100 entries for the coolest writers residency award in New Zealand. Today, right now, we name the 10 writers who have made the shortlist.

Ten finalists have been chosen in the 2017 Surrey Hotel Steve Braunias Memorial Writers Residency in Association with The Spinoff Award.

Applications for the second annual extremely groovesome writers award attracted close to 100 entries. The grand winner, and two runners-up, will be named sometime next week.

The first prize is seven nights accommodation at the fabulous Surrey Hotel in Grey Lynn, Auckland, along with free wifi, free breakfasts, a free Sunday roast, and $500 cash as well as pizza allowances across the road at Domino’s. The runners-up get four and three nights free accommodation, respectively, wifi and breakfast, no roast, and lesser pizza allowances.

Spinoff Review of Books literary editor Steve Braunias said twice the number of entries were received this year. “The standard was very high, and it was a miserable experience replying to the 90 or so unsuccessful entrants with the bad news. But we haven’t told the 10 finalists. This is the first they’ll have heard of it.”


The 10 finalists competing for the three residency awards are, in alphabetical order:

Serena Benson, who wishes to work on a book with the working title How to Become a Drug Addict And Recover

Stuff journalist Harrison Christian, who wishes to work on his essay collection, Land of Fire, which would include his remarkable encounter with Stewart Murray Wilson

Sue Copsey, who wishes to work on the second half of her young adult novel Bobbie and Bo

Andrea Ewing, who wishes to write a sequence of poems based on her two years in Cambodia investigating some of the still-living Khmer Rouge leaders

Writer and broadcaster Charlotte Graham, who wishes to work on an extended essay on the psychology of ballet, based on her 2016 science writing paper at the IIML, which was judged the best portfolio of any undergraduate creative writing student, and named winner of the Victoria University Prize for Original Composition

Award-winning novelist Mandy Hager, who wishes to work on a sequel to her acclaimed young adult political thriller, The Nature of Ash

Steffanie Holmes, a New York Times best-selling author of 17 paranormal romance and “dark sci-fi” novels, who wishes to work on  Fossilised Nation, “the third and final book in my dystopian Chronicles of the Wraith series which explores themes of segregation and discrimination through the cracked mirror of a near-future world scarred by a catastrophic disaster”

Eddie Monotone, who wishes to work on a horror comic. He sent in some drawings and fuck they were cool

Greytown writer (and 2016 finalist) John Summers, who wishes to work on an essay or essays which may or may not connect state housing and Norman Kirk

Playwright Finn Teppett, who wishes to work on the third draft of a play called Cannibal, “about a young person who buys a house in Auckland. The only way he can afford it is to wreck the lives of each of his family members”

 Steve Braunias and Spinoff chief Duncan Greive wished to thank everyone who entered.

“It was a pleasure and a privilege to hear from so many creative minds,” they said, speaking at the same time.

“The greatest number of entries came from screenplay writers, and writers of fantasy novels.

“There was also a murder mystery set in a disused mental hospital, one about a psychopath on a bushwalk, guerilla warfare set in Upper Hutt, and a horror novel described as ‘Salem’s Lot set in Howick’.

“There was a synopsis which included the arresting line, ‘At the age of 16 children must under go The Fixing to seal their adult identity or else be driven mad.’

“Another wrote, ‘I had the idea for this book seven years ago when I locked myself out my house and had to walk to my landlords to get a spare key. I imagined a teenage girl with long dark hair being brutally murdered in her remote neighbourhood…’

“And there was this outline: ‘Mick Vlatkovich was born around 1440, and served in Vlad the Impaler’s army. He was selected along with eight others to consume Vlad’s blood, becoming vampires.’

“There were poets, and wine writers, and gardeners, and historical novelists, and graduates from the IIML. There was an entry from a Slovenian woman in New York, several from the UK and Australia, and writers working on Power Rangers: Ninja Steel. Someone in Torbay wanted the prize because it meant they could see their former doctor at Grey Lynn Medical Centre.

“Sure there were one or two timewasters, and one or two unsane people. But it’s with genuine regret that the judging panel passed on so many fascinating applications, and we hope the best of these writers find an opportunity to complete their projects.”


The judging panel of seven were drawn from publishing, booksellers, media, academia, high school, retirement villages, and the Winz office.

The idea behind the residency is to give writers an opportunity to work on a long-ish project in an intense burst day and night without interruption and in comfort and style.

The winners have until the end of September to take up their residency at the Surrey Hotel, which has established itself as the leading provider of literary accommodation in the South Pacific.

The Spinoff Review of Books is brought to you by Unity Books.

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