The BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards, one of New Zealand's big two short story competitions (the Sunday Star Times competition being the other), are now to be called the BNZ Literary Awards. The Premier Award (basically the winner of the open category) will now be known as the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award.
I checked the BNZ's website last week to see when entries would open for this year's competition and who the judges might be, and was told about the "facelift" (their term), and that more details would be available on 1 June. The only other change I can see is that the deadline has been pushed back to 23 July 2010 (it was 30 June in previous years). Good news for recalcitrant short story writers like me, but hardly ground breaking.
Are there any other changes? The prize money looks the same as last year (wouldn't $10k be nice for less than 5000 words…). No judges are announced as yet… maybe changes are afoot there: a panel, or perhaps the entrants won't be told who'll be judging them, just as the judges don't know who's written each story? For some reason I doubt it.
It seems it's just a bit of rebranding. I don't want to rip what is a great competition and one which has helped me get two rungs up the literary ladder, but isn't "The BNZ Literary Awards" a little misleading. It is, after all, still a short story competition. "Competition", "Award", I'm willing to let that slide (especially if there are tax advantages). And I know the previous name didn't mention short stories, but Katherine Mansfield was a pretty big clue. Do BNZ intend on expanding the "Awards" to include other literary forms like poetry and essays/creative nonfiction? What about longer literary forms: novellas, novels, memoirs, biographies… Again, I doubt it.
This isn't meant to be a criticism of the competition, I mean awards, or the BNZ (who must be praised and praised again for fronting up with the case for over 50 years…), but what's wrong with telling it like it is? Isn't the NZ literary awards scene already muddled enough by the fact that NZ Post seems to sponsor everything else (again: cheers to NZ Post, boos most every other NZ corporation)? A visitor from overseas could be forgiven for not knowing which of the following were bigger deals: a Prime Minister's Literary Award (career achievement) and a Bank of New Zealand Literary Award (one short story)? I guess it's all in the footnoting.
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