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Young writer wins Katherine Mansfield Award

Alice Miller - 2009 BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards premier winner.
Wellington writer Alice Miller has won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award.


Wellington writer Alice Miller has won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award.  Miller took the $10,000 premier prize for The Windmill, a love story that award judge Dame Fiona Kidman says ‘tripped her heart’.

“This story could be described as a contemporary love story but it seemed much more than that."

"It captures beautifully the essence of young student life, apparently casual love affairs set against the intensity of study and creativity, while at the same time illustrating that the choices made are never as random as they may appear on the surface.

“If the heart does play a role in the choice of a winner, this is the story that tripped mine,” said Dame Kidman.

The 26-year-old is one of the youngest-ever Katherine Mansfield award recipients. 

Miller is a former Glenn Schaeffer Fellow completing an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and with an MA in Creative Writing with Distinction from the International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML).

In 2008, she was the co-winner of the Landfall Essay Competition and earlier this year she was awarded the Louis Johnson Writers’ Bursary to allow her to complete her poetry manuscript, Farflungness, prone to

Miller’s story stood out in a tough competition with a record number of almost 1800 entries for the 50th BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards. 

Karen Phillips, a school administrator living in Ahipara, Northland won the Novice category for The Visit, a story category judge Carl Nixon said ‘brings a tear to the eye and a smile to the lips’.

The Visit is a deserving [novice category] winner that could hold its own with some of the best of New Zealand fiction,” said Mr Nixon.

Emma Robinson, a Year 12 student at Awatapu College in Palmerston North, won the young writer’s prize for her story, Skipped the Censor. She won ahead of more than 550 entries from secondary school students around the country.

Youth category judge, Kate De Goldi says Ms Robinson’s winning story has an arresting structure and voice.

“The correspondent’s voice is very skilfully wrought; it conveys personality, place, relationships, a sense of displacement, and an irrepressible enthusiasm for life. This writer has a sophisticated sense of concision.”

Mrs Phillips wins $1500 as does Ms Robinson and her school.

Alice Miller joins New Zealand literary heavyweights CK Stead, Frank Sargeson, Vincent O’Sullivan and Keri Hulme and more recently Charlotte Grimshaw and Julian Novitz on the list of BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards winners.

Many past winners were present at the ceremony, including two of this year’s judges, Carl Nixon who took the award in 2007 and Kate De Goldi (then Kate Flannery) who won in 1991.

  • Read the winning short stories

Premier Winner: Alice Miller
The Windmill (PDF 47KB) 

Novice Winner: Karen Phillips
The Visit (PDF 19KB) 

Youth Winner Emma Robinson
Skipped the Censor (PDF 28KB) 

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

6 Oct 2009

The Big Idea Editor