I went along to the award ceremony for the BNZ Literary Awards last night here in Wellington. I got an invite by virtue of winning the novice category in the distant past (2007). I also came top ten in the premier category in 2008, but all you get for that is a letter after the winner has been announced.
I'd entered the premier category again this year and knew I hadn't won as October went by without any excited phone calls from BNZ employees. But at 2pm yesterday I got a phone call from an excited BNZ employee informing me I had been judged a runner up by premier category judge Lloyd Jones, that my name would be mentioned in the booklet being handed out at the awards and would I like a copy sent to me? I said that I actually had an invite to the awards and that I'd just collect a copy there. Cue short moment of awkwardness while information sinks in on both sides (runner's up aren't invited coz it'd make the event to expensive, especially if some wanted subsided travel to the awards).
At the awards, Margaret, the kind BNZ employee, proceeded to seek me out and introduce me to Lloyd Jones as one of the runners up. He asked which story mine had been. I told him the title and he said, 'The taxi one. That was a great story.' Which is always nice to hear. Later he told me I came second, but that he'd tell all the other runner ups the same thing if he saw them. Fair enough.
Then I ran into his ghost reader, who'd read all 500 entries and culled them down to a more manageable 50 which Lloyd then read. Once he'd settled on his faves, he and his ghost reader met up in her cousin's kitchen. According to the ghost reader, it really had come down to my story and the eventual winner. Take that with a grain of salt, I guess. The free wine was flowing and there was tequila in the dipping sauce for the prawns. If I came second or sixth, it makes no difference. BNZ have listed five runners up online, with a wee spiel about each of these stories (there's a typo in the quote they pulled from my story; their fault, not mine), but there's no order involved (the booklet explicitly says, 'No particular order' but the online version is silent on this point). Runner up is still worthy of putting on my CV and it was great chatting to Lloyd Jones and his ghost reader about my story (I wanted to changed the ending anyway, now I am motivated to do so).
But if I really did come second, and if it really was a line-ball call, that's a bit gutting. Seeing as how the winner (wait your patience, details to come below) gets $10,000 and some pretty valuable media coverage and I get to sound like a self-obsessed, unsatisfied schmuck on my own blog...
Hearty congratulations go to Wes Lee, winner of the premier category a.k.a. Katherine Mansfield Award for her story 'Furniture' (by my count her third short story competition win this year... check out her website at http://www.weslee.co.nz/).
The novice award went to Chloe Searle for 'Babysitting', as judged by the lovely Emma Neale.
And Brittany Rorrison won the secondary school category for 'Thirteen Stories', judged by Emily Perkins.
Full details of the winners, judges' reports and stories on the BNZ's website.
And props to BNZ for their long running and continued support of this award and, by extension, New Zealand writers.