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Announcing the winner of the Surrey Hotel writers residency award (with pizza allowances)

Crime reporter Kelly Dennett is the winner of the inaugural Surrey Hotel Steve Braunias Memorial Writers Residency in Association with The Spinoff Award.

There are two runners-up, both who have also won residencies at the Surrey Hotel in Auckland – in second place, Antony Millen of Taumaranui, who writes novels for young adults, with third place going to Wellington poet Ashleigh Young.

Kelly Dennett is a journalist at the Sunday Star-Times, and will use the residency to work on her book about the disappearance and murder of Jane Furlong.

She wrote in her application, “Jane disappeared from Auckland’s Karangahape Road in 1993. She was 17. She was a mother, a girlfriend, and a daughter. At the time she was also a prostitute and her profession made sensational headlines in the 1990s….My book is about who Jane was, what her childhood was like and what prompted her to turn to the wild scene of K Rd. It also rules out a main suspect in her disappearance.”

Antony Millen is head of English and literacy at Taumarunui High School. His novel for teenagers is about two friends at the end of their Year 13 in rural King Country, and has shearing gangs and girls beating up boys in it.

Victoria University Press editor Ashleigh Young is working on her second collection of verse with the working title of Ghost Bear. “It’s about friends, loneliness, sea creatures, lovers, electricity, and nakedness.” It’s probably got bears and ghosts in it, too.

“Congratulations to Kelly, Antony, and Ashleigh,” 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 finalists in the shortlist of 10 – especially Taupo novelist Tina Shaw, who came within a whisker of third place when the votes were tallied up from the selection panel of 57 writers and publishers.

“A different selection panel of 57 writers and publishers would have judged it completely differently.

“We expect great things from the three winners and will put them under intense pressure to produce a masterpiece.

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

First prize is seven nights accommodation at the fabulous Surrey Hotel in Grey Lynn, Auckland, with $500 spending money as well as generous pizza allowances across the road at Domino’s and two free roast dinners at The Surrey.

Second prize is five nights and four nights, respectively, with lesser pizza allowances.

The winners of the award, described recently as “the most exciting new initiative in New Zealand writing this month”, have until the end of August to take up their residency.

The Spinoff and Steve Braunias wish to thank all who entered, and Surrey Hotel general manager Denise King for making the residency possible.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.