New Zealand authors – actual authors, prospective authors, old authors, young authors, literary authors, genre authors, every kind of author except those who are merely authors of their own misfortune – are invited to apply for the newly created prestigious Surrey Hotel writer’s residency award in association with Newsroom.

The Surrey, a remarkable mock-Tudor hotel in the central Auckland suburb of Grey Lynn, is an ideal retreat for writers wanting space and comfort to empty their heads and do hard, good work. There are three prizes. The grand first prize merits the winner seven nights free accommodation at the Surrey, with breakfast, wifi, and the hotel’s famous Sunday roast thrown in. Second prize is four nights and third prize is three nights, each with breakfast and wifi but sorry no roast. All winners receive that precious commodity: privacy, to write.

I put myself up at the Surrey in 2014 to work on a long section of my book The Scene of the Crime. I needed somewhere I could just sit and write, day and night, no one around, no interruptions, in an intense regime of writing and thinking and dreaming. I stayed three nights and wrote close on 30,000 words. HarperCollins published the book that Christmas and it was a best-seller – I took a family holiday in Rarotonga on the proceeds – and probably the best thing in it is the long section I wrote like a demon at the Surrey.

I loved writing there. Later, I hit on the idea that other writers would thrive at the Surrey, too, and decided to do something about it. And so it came to pass that the Surrey offered an annual writer’s residency in association with the Spinoff. It ran from 2016 to 2018. Nothing was happening in 2019 until I was approached by the hotel’s general manager, Denise King, to revive the award – and here we are.

Winners in the past included poets, novelists, memoirists, science writers, YA fiction writers, essayists, and genre authors. Wellington writer Ashleigh Young wrote a few lines there, later published in her poetry collection How I Get Ready. Nelson writer Naomi Arnold knuckled down and worked on her astronomy book, Southern Nights. Stuff journalist Kelly Dennett broke the back of her crime book The Short Life and Mysterious Death of Jane Furlong – shortlisted for this year’s Ngaio Marsh crime writing award for non-fiction.

Serious writers from any discipline, and of any age and any experience, are eligible. Winners will need to negotiate the dates of their residency with Denise King at the Surrey. She’s lovely and the staff treat all guests like royalty. Patrick Gower stayed there last week; he sent me a photo of the Sunday roast and man it looked good.

Nominations for the 2019 Surrey Hotel Writer’s Residency Award in association with Newsroom are open now, and close soon. As in really soon: the deadline is Monday week, September 3, at 5pm.

Email me at with the subject line THE SURREY HOTEL RESIDENCY. Send in a brief covering letter outlining the project you have in mind, and it wouldn’t hurt to maybe attach a few pages of the work in progress.

Bravo to the Surrey for opening their doors. The residency is a rare and cool opportunity to do some quality work, to make some art, to dream and think and write. “The purpose of an artist,” as Cyril Connolly once proclaimed, “is to create a masterpiece.” The Surrey awaits your masterpiece: apply now.

The famous Sunday roast at the Surrey. Photo: Ashleigh Young.

Steve Braunias is the literary editor of Newsroom's books section ReadingRoom, a noted writer at the NZ Herald, and the author of 10 books.

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