Two Victoria University Press writers win first-book awards

Press Release – Victoria University of Wellington
Two Victoria University Press writers have won the best first book prizes for fiction and poetry in this year’s New Zealand Post Book Awards, announced today.

Amy Head, a Wellington-based editor, has won the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA) Best First Book award for fiction for her collection of short stories, Tough. Marty Smith, a Hawke’s Bay teacher, has won the NZSA Best First Book award for poetry for her first collection, Horse with Hat.

Amy Head’s debut story collection is set mainly on the west coast of the South Island and features rugged characters in equally rugged landscapes. She says there is something about the west coast that inspires fiction.

“So much of the history of the coast, as well as being jammed full of vivid characters and events, has been about adapting to isolation. Geography still holds sway, and I wanted the stories to reflect that.”

Marty Smith’s debut poetry collection is a family history that speaks of the effects of war on returned servicemen and their families. She says the book tries to search for emotional truth in the family.

“The war ran like current under our family. Dad didn’t talk about it, but it was always there. Like all those men, their gift to us was silence. This book is about what war does to ordinary people.”

VUP Publisher Fergus Barrowman says he is thrilled with the news.

“It’s wonderful that Amy and Marty’s achievements have been recognised. VUP has an ongoing commitment to publish excellent new work.”

Both writers are graduates of the Master’s in Creative Writing at Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters. Institute Director Professor Damien Wilkins, says the prizes will give the two books a great push.

“Amy’s stories and Marty’s poems are particularly tangy pieces of New Zealand literature. Awards also boost a writer’s confidence and I’m excited to see what work comes next from two such distinctive and exciting talents.”

The NZSA Best First Book Awards will be presented at the New Zealand Post Book Awards in Wellington on Wednesday 27 August.

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