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Announcing the winners of the 2017 Surrey Hotel writers residency award

Huzzah! Congratulations to the winner and two runners-up of New Zealand’s grooviest writers residency award.

Auckland writer Serena Benson is winner of the prestigious 2017 Surrey Hotel Steve Braunias Memorial Writers Residency In Association With The Spinoff Award.

Jesse Mulligan made the announcement on his Radio New Zealand show this afternoon, and also named the two runners-up. They are Wellington writer and broadcaster Charlotte Graham, and Greytown essayist John Summers.

Serena, 45, has won seven nights free accomodation at the Surrey Hotel in Grey Lynn, Auckland. She also receives free breakfasts, free wifi, and a free roast when she arrives on a Sunday. The Spinoff will throw in $500 cash, and provide funding for a single value menu Domino’s pizza every night except on Sundays when there is a roast.

She will work on a memoir with the working title How To Become A Drug Addict and Recover.

In her application, she wrote, “I want to the break the back of the book that has taken me seven years in recovery to muster up the courage to pitch…The book will chronicle my journey into addiction and recovery with brutal honesty. It will also document some of the most shameful things I did while in active addiction. That in itself makes me shake.”

Charlotte Graham, in second place, receives five nights free accommodation and lesser pizza allowances to work on proposed book about the psychology of dance. John Summers, in third place, is hosted for four nights, and receives not so much as a pizza crust to work on his essay on state housing.

The Surrey Hotel in the daytime

“Congratulations to Serena, Charlotte, and John,” said Spinoff Review of Books literary editor Steve Braunias.

“It was a hard decision to make and no doubt incredibly unsatisfactory for the seven other very talented finalists in the shortlist of 10 – especially paranormal novelist Steffanie Holmes, who came within a whisker of third place. Steffanie is a best-selling writer who is the author of 17 novels, and it’s a real shame that the judging panel came close but not close enough to choose her for a residency at the Surrey.

“We expect great things from the three winners and hope to see at least one published book result from their residency. Charlotte’s essay, for instance, strikes the judges as something that could be picked up by New Zealand’s smartest publishers of short non-fiction, Bridget Williams Books.

“But for now, we only offer our warmest congratulations to Serena, Charlotte and John, and a key to the door at the Surrey Hotel.”

The luxurious Surrey Hotel is an independently owned hotel complex in the Tudor style, with standard and deluxe rooms, swimming pool, conference facilities, restaurant, bar, and a cat called GM, a stray which now enjoys the good life.

It occupies land on both sides of Great North Rd near the Grey Lynn shops.

The winners will need to make their own arrangements with hotel management to take up their residencies before the end of September, and will also need to contact Spinoff chief Duncan Greive for such things as money and pizza allowances.

“Their prize is conditional on the three winners writing a report on their residency at the Surrey,” said the Spinoff chief, gruffly.

Nearly 100 writers applied for the award. It was was created in 2016 as an opportunity for writers to work intensely on a project in comfort and peace . The inaugural winner was journalist Kelly Dennett, who used her time to write 25,000 words on a true-crime book which will be published in November by Awa Press.


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