Announcing the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize 2024 shortlist

Announcing the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize 2024 shortlist

We are pleased to announce the four writers who have been shortlisted for an award that celebrates fresh writing with a ‘unique and original vision’ are: Abigail von Ahsen with Flawless, Jade Hallamore with Infused with Magic, Jacqueline Owens with Vividwater, and Tracy Farr with Wonderland.

(l to r: Abigail van Ahsen, Jade Hallamore, Jacqueline Owens, Tracy Farr (photo by Ebony Lamb)

There were 45 entries in total, with the shortlist judged by Cassie Hart and Anne Kennedy.

Cassie Hart considered ‘There was an incredible breadth of subject matter this year within the entries, with lots of science fiction, historical fiction, and poetry in particular. I think this speaks to our desire to look back, to look forward, and to look within in order to make sense of the world around us as it was, is, and potentially will be. I’m delighted by the ways in which our writers explore narratives, and the range of perspectives within these works. If your story did not make it through to the shortlist, have heart – there were lots of great stories submitted, though not all of them fit the requirements of this particular prize as well as others.’

Anne Kennedy, who was part of the shortlist judging panel for the first time, found ‘Reading the manuscripts submitted for the Laura Solomon prize was quite the odyssey! There is so much good writing going on in Aotearoa, and so many riveting topics. I found it interesting that there were lots of speculative projects submitted, perhaps a comment on the weird times we live in.

As always, in judging anything, it’s agony to make decisions! Writers who didn’t get shortlisted should remember that any judge will have certain biases – likes, dislikes – as much as they might try to be objective. Wear your writer’s thick skin, and keep going!

A prize like this is invaluable in creating a platform for writers, in so many ways – to have a deadline and finish a work, to take the phew-moment step (if you’re anything like me) of sharing a big project, and to then consider the next stage in your writing life. And of course, the Laura Solomon Prize, with its growing reach and importance, makes it crystal clear that we need imaginative writing in our society.

The shortlisted entries now go to the final judging panel to decide on the winner, who will be announced in June.

Mary McCallum, director of The Cuba Press will be taking part in judging the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize for the fourth year and says: ‘Vividwater, Infused with Magic, Wonderland and Flawless – the titles of the shortlisted manuscripts say it all. These are works that rock the ‘unique and original vision’ that was at the heart of Laura Solomon’s work and that we are looking for in winners of this prize. Every year has a different vibe and this year all four finalists are writing speculative fiction set in Aotearoa –  something Laura would have approved of. And we have a mix of authors – some we know, who are published and have won awards for their work, and others who are hitherto unpublished. It’s always exciting to see who the finalists are and I am looking forward to reading them. What a treat!’.

Award for fresh writing with a ‘unique and original vision’

The NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize celebrates the life and work of the writer Laura Solomon. This prize is judged within the criteria set by Laura Solomon, for new writing with a ‘unique and original vision’. Both published and unpublished writers were invited to enter completed manuscripts written across genres (fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, drama or children’s writing). This annual prize was created from a bequest, from Laura and The Solomon Family.

The NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize:

  • paves the way for new and exciting writing to make its way into the marketplace
  • awards the winner a cash award as an ‘advance’ of NZ$1000 and a publishing contract supplied by The Cuba Press
  • pays for the book production and printing. The Cuba Press will edit, design, print, market, distribute and promote the book and e-book and pay standard author royalties.
  • The first year for this prize was 2020. Previous winners are Lizzie Harwood (Polaroid Nights 2021), Rachel J Fenton (Between the Flags 2022), and Lee Murray (Fox Spirit on a Distant Cloud) 2023.

More information about Laura Solomon and the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize