ReadingRoom

The winners of NZ’s coolest writer’s residency are in

A young dude from Porirua and the woman who created the Halfway House for abused women are among the winners of the 2019 Surrey Hotel-Newsroom writer's residency award.

A book of short stories, a collection of poems, a novel and a history of the Halfway House for abused women will be written in peace, quiet, and considerable luxury by the four winners of the 2019 Surrey Hotel- Newsroom writer's residency award.

The winners of the inaugural prize were announced live on air this afternoon by Jesse Mulligan on his wireless show on Radio New Zealand. There were only supposed to be three winners but judges couldn't decide on the two best candidates for third place so Surrey Hotel management very generously agreed to accommodate both of them for four nights.

And the winner is:

Colleen Maria Lenihan. The 45-year-old Auckland writer and photographer (Te Rarawa/ Ngāpuhi) is working on a collection of short stories to be published by Huia. She wins seven nights at the Surrey, an extraordinary hotel in Grey Lynn, Auckland, in a room with a private courtyard and big old bath. Colleen can also enjoy free breakfast and wifi, and the hotel's famous Sunday roast.

In second place:

Julie Thompson. The 60-something-year-old sociologist divides her time between New York and New Zealand. She has worked for the United Nations, and created the Halfway House for abused women in 1974. She wants to write a history of that life-saving initiative. She wins five nights at the Surrey, as well as free breakfast and wifi but sorry no roast.

Tied in third place:

Nick Ascroft and Danny Bultitude. Ascroft, 45, who works for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment in Wellington and has published three collections of poetry, intends to continue work on an epic autobiographical poem which will tell everything, unfortunately, about his love and sex life. Bultitude, 23, from Porirua who works as a film tutor at Victoria University of Wellington, is a dazzlingly gifted writer who wants to get to work on a raw-ass novel unlike anything published in these tame islands. Both win four nights at the Surrey, where Patrick Gower is just one of many celebrities to found stalking the corridors; and both receive free breakfast and wifi, sorry no roast.

Each of the four will contact Denise King at the Surrey to arrange the dates of their residency. They join a stellar list of writers who won the award in its previous incarnation at the other website; winners included poet Ashleigh Young and journalist Kelly Dennett, who used their time at the Surrey to work hard on projects that were later published to vast acclaim.

Commiserations to all who made the shortlist of 15 and only just missed out on a room at the Surrey. The quality was dazzling. There were over 90 applications for the 2019 award. As Rachael King commented on the Twitter machine, "I think what this confirms is that there are far too many New Zealanders writing books. What have we become as a nation?". Established authors put their name forward; some made it to the shortlist, some not that far. Complete nobodies ventured to apply; their intended work was considered on its merits. Many thanks to everyone who took the time to enter. There wasn't one bad or lame application and it's certainly likely that genius was overlooked when judges drew up the shortlist.

Special thanks to the Surrey Hotel for going in on the residency award. It's a really kind of odd-looking place but the hotel's commitment to the award is absolutely sincere and will provide a haven for the four winners of the 2019 award.

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