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2023 Michael Gifkins Prize Shortlist Announced

Text Publishing and the New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc) are thrilled to announce the shortlist for the 2023 Michael Gifkins Prize for an Unpublished Novel.

Five excellent manuscripts by New Zealand writers have been shortlisted for this year’s prize:

  • How to Stop a River by G. M. Allen, an inventive and atmospheric novel connecting past, present and future stories, linked by a winding river.
  • A Foundling’s Sin by Jane Bitomsky, a lively historical novel full of humour, drama and romance, following an orphan named Repentance as she searches for love and navigates domestic service in Jacobean England.
  • Dolores by Danielle Heyhoe, an absorbing portrayal of a precocious young woman searching for clarity and significance in the wake of intense loss, set across Auckland and modern-day France.
  • My Rose by Tina Shaw, a quietly gripping story of a mother–daughter relationship, as the mother battles her unreliable memory to unravel a mystery from her past.
  • I Am the River… by Helen Waaka, the story of a family, examining the intergenerational trauma of family violence, but also hope, belonging and whānau reconnection.

The winner will be announced in July. The author of the winning manuscript will receive a contract for world rights from Text, along with an advance of NZ$10,000.

This year’s exceptional shortlist was chosen by Text Publishing from a longlist of fifteen high-quality manuscripts selected by writer and editor Michelle Elvy and the inaugural Michael Gifkins Prize winner, Ruby Porter. On the longlist, they said: ‘A strong and surprising collection of manuscripts that delighted with each re-reading. We applaud the writers who submitted—it is no small feat to finish a manuscript and enter it into a competition. And we applaud the writers for the quality and depth of their submissions.’

Other past winners of the Gifkins Prize are Tom Remiger, Gigi Fenster, Tom Baragwanath and, most recently, Emma Ling Sidnam, whose tender debut novel, Backwaters,will be published in September 2023.

The Michael Gifkins Prize is made possible by a generous financial commitment from the Gifkins family and from Text Publishing. It is administered by the NZ Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc).

Entries for the 2024 prize will open in late July.

About the shortlisted writers

G. M. (Geoff) Allen graduated from a Whitireia writing course in 2000. His play Sister Anzac was produced at the NZ Navy and Maritime Museums in 2016. His book, Fairies of Down Under & Other Pākehā Fairytales, was published by Mākaro Press in 2018. How to Stop a River began life as a short play, workshopped at the Mercury Theatre in 1981. He lives in Northcote, Auckland with his wife, Robyn, a Celtic harpist and Methodist minister.

Jane Bitomsky has a PhD in early modern English history, with a focus on pregnancy and crime. She has been published in a range of academic journals, and volunteers as a writer and baker for the Wellington chapter of Good Bitches Baking. She was named a finalist for the 2022 First Novel Prize.

Danielle Heyhoe is a writer based in Tāmaki Makaurau with her husband and three sons. She loves exploring the vast expanse of the human condition through writing that connects with people. Her fiction has been published by takahē, Landfall, Headland and more. She was shortlisted for the Sargeson Prize in 2020.

Tina Shaw is an author who has written for a diverse range of age groups and genres. Her most recent novel, Ephemera,is set on the Waikato River, a location she knows well from growing up outside Kirikiriroa. She works as a manuscript assessor and is the editor of the New Zealand Society of Authors’ quarterly publication, NZ Author. As editor, her seventh edition of the Bateman NZ Writer’s Handbook will be published later this year.

Helen Waaka’s (Ngāti Whātua, Ngā Puhi, Ngāti Torehina) manuscript I Am the River… is a sequel to her collection of interconnected short stories, Waitapu, which was a finalist in the 2016 Ngā Kupu Ora Māori Book Awards. Helen is grateful for the Michael King Emerging Māori Writer’s Residency she was awarded in 2018 and for an NZSA manuscript assessment in 2021 to help advance her work. She won the Pikihuia short story competition in 2015 and her stories have appeared in several Huia short-story collections.

For administration and media enquiries, please contact:

Lydia McClelland
Text Publishing

Jenny Nagle
New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc)
+64 27 627 2728


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