And the winner is J Wiremu Kane.

The winner of the 2022 Surrey Hotel writers residency award in association with Newsroom is J Wiremu Kane. Ngāpuhi, queer/takatāpui, a doctor in a previous life, this year’s emerging Māori writer in residence at Te Herenga Waka–Victoria University, and the author of “Ringarewa, a long short story so long and so fantastic that it was published over two days at Waitangi weekend, Kane wins seven nights accommodation at the wildly atmospheric Surrey Hotel in Auckland plus $3000 and a Sunday roast.

All the winners of the coolest residency award in New Zealand letters were announced mere minutes ago by Jesse Mulligan on his Afternoon show at Radio New Zealand.

Second place – and $1000 and five nights – has been won by acclaimed Dunedin author Laurence Fearnley. Her latest novel Winter Time is set in the Mackenzie Country. Owen Marshall loved it.

Tied in third place – $500 each, and five nights – are Auē author Becky Manawatu, and Hawkes Bay short story writer Shelley Burne-Field.  

As well, there are three runners-up, who win four nights (no loot but they do get free breakfasts and if they’re there in the weekend, a free roast) at the dear old Surrey: jazz historian Dr Aleisha Ward, short story writer Kirsten McDougall, and novelist Catherine Robertson.

An assessment committee had the devil’s job selecting the winners from a shortlist of 16 writers. It was insanely tight. How tight? Each of the 16 received nominations from committee members. And so Kyle Mewburn, Amelia Rose Reynolds, Emma Hislop, Elizabeth Farris, Ashlee Sturm, Felix Desmarais, Melody Thomas, Tara Black, and Fergus Porteous came close, very close indeed. Commiserations to all.

But congratulations to the seven chosen winners of the 2022 Surrey Hotel writers residency award in association with Newsroom. They have to show up at the hotel before December 1 or the accommodation and the money is withdrawn, as is the hotel’s Sunday roast. The loot is courtesy of award patrons and awesome gentlemen Dick Frizzell and Sir Bob Harvey. The accommodation is courtesy of Denise King, the hotel’s manager, who has supported the residency award since I first staged it in 2016. Past winners are Kelly Dennett, someone whose name I can’t remember because I never heard from her again, Megan Dunn, Colleen Maria Lenihan, Mia Gaudin, and Talia Marshall.

Seven nights, five nights, four nights – of course it’s not long enough to complete anything, but the idea of the Surrey is to provide writers with beautiful and eccentric privacy to focus on their latest masterpiece, and maybe get somewhere with it, find an opening, create a scene, compose very good sentences. Anyway, great things are expected of all seven winners. Aleisha Ward will work on Jazzy Nerves, Aching Feet, and Foxtrots, a history of the jazz age in New Zealand; Kirsten McDougall and Shelley Burne-Field will work on short stories; Catherine Robertson will work on a novel set in Wainuiomata, Becky Manawatu will work on a novel set around a minor character in Auē, and Laurence Fearnley will work on a novel set in a hotel (“I was thinking of a place like the Kelvin Hotel in Invercargill or the Brydone in Oamaru or the Surrey in Auckland.”)

As for the supreme winner of the 2022 Surrey award, J Wiremu Kane will work on a historical novel, Whakarongorua. He described it thus, just a few days ago on the Twitter machine: “It will begin at the 1825 battle of Te-Ika-a-ranga-nui, through the deaths of Hongi Hika and Uruti Tewhareumu the end of the musket wars, the rapid colonisation of Te Tai Tokerau, the burning of Kororareka, the removal of my great-great-great-great grandmother to the Hokianga, her children, gender queer Whai and pansexual Hōri, from the freedom of early contact to the utter rigidity of the Victorian era. It’s gonna be fucking epic!”

Yes. Yes, it will; and it will be worked on at that mock-Tudor masterpiece, that literary salon, that place of rest and deep thought, that provider of a magnificent Sunday roast, the Surrey Hotel.

Many thanks to all 131 writers who entered this year’s award. It was a pleasure to read their works in progress. Thanks, also, to Messrs Frizzell and Harvey, who are already legends but their generosity in this instance makes them very nice legends. Thanks, finally and without whom, to Denise King, manager at the Surrey. New Zealand literature is in her debt. She’s really lovely.

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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