Lizzie Harwood is the inaugural winner of the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize!

The NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize awards a publishing contract with Cuba Press to the winning manuscript which will be published later in 2021. NZSA congratulate Lizzie Harwood on winning this prize for new writing with a ‘unique and original vision’ , that celebrates the life and work of writer Laura Solomon.

Lizzie Harwood says: “It’s a huge honour to be the inaugural winner of the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize. I am extremely grateful to her family, The Cuba Press and NZSA to receive this prize as a different layer to Laura Solomon’s shining legacy.

Polaroid Nights has whispered to me for years, I rewrote it countless times – but in increasingly diluted versions. Reworking it since coming back home to NZ (and specifically for the Laura Solomon prize) led me back to an original vision for it exploring the unique haven yet snare of Auckland’s inner-city nightlife of the mid-90s.”

Lizzie Harwood grew up on Great Barrier Island and writes novels set in the far-flung places she’s lived. Published works are a memoir, Xamnesia, and Triumph: Collected Stories. Her short fiction appears in multiple anthologies.
After 24 years out of NZ, mainly in Paris, she’s back in Auckland with her family.

Lizzie’s manuscript was selected by a panel consisting of Mary McCallum (Cuba Press), Nicky Solomon (Solomon Family) and panel convenor and award-winning author Tina Shaw, who commented: ‘It was exciting to act as a judge for this inaugural prize and to see such outstanding work across the board. Each of the shortlisted manuscripts showed originality and flare, while the winning submission stood out for its sheer verve – a fast and furious snapshot of 90s nightlife. Laura would have loved it.’

Mary McCallum from the Cuba Press, had this to say: ‘My co-director at The Cuba Press, Sarah Bolland, and I were thrilled with the quality of the manuscripts in the shortlist for the Laura Solomon Prize. All five were skilfully written and well-conceived and fizzed with the energy and inventiveness we were looking for. It was hard to pick a winner, but in the end the four of us in the final judging panel kept coming back to Polaroid Nights. It is vivid and contemporary, sharp and funny, but with a dark hinterland – the nightlife of Auckland under siege from a serial rapist – that verges on the surreal. I remember the excitement I felt reading one of Laura’s manuscripts when I was a reader for Penguin, and I felt the same excitement reading Polaroid Nights by Lizzie Harwood. We are proud to be the publishers of this winning manuscript and are grateful to the Laura Solomon Trust and the NZSA for the opportunity. ‘

Nicky Solomon commented: ‘It has been an enormous privilege to be involved in the final stage of selection for the prize.  Laura would have been overwhelmed and delighted with the number and calibre of entries, and we are so thrilled that one of her dreams has come true.

Our heartfelt thanks to the NZSA, which was always very supportive of Laura, to Cuba Press, and to all of those who entered their work.  Huge congratulations to Lizzie Harwood – we have no doubt that your work would have thrilled Laura, and resonated with her ambition for this prize’.

About the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize

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).

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.

In July 2019, NZSA received a bequest from the estate of writer Laura Solomon to establish a new annual literary prize. Sister and family trustee, Nicky Solomon, expresses the family’s delight at the nature of the bequest. “It was something Laura was really passionate about and I love the idea that something she wanted would be happening. It’s a legacy that she is able to leave for other writers.”

“She has created something positive to help other people, which she would be really proud of,” says Nicky. “It will give her an ongoing presence – not just for us as a family but for the writing community, which was so important to her.”

Laura Solomon was a longstanding and active member of the New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc), and she is much missed by the society.  Laura kept writing novels and plays throughout her life, despite being affected by a brain tumour that was discovered while she working at a high-end IT job in London.

In her review of Laura’s short story collection Alternative Medicine, Jessica Le Bas wrote: “The hallmark of Solomon … was to pull no punches and aim for the jugular when it came to working up the surreal, and the macabre.”

The directors of The Cuba Press, Sarah Bolland, and Mary McCallum, are delighted to be involved with the Laura Solomon Prize. “Laura Solomon was one of those rare talents with a wild imagination,” says Mary McCallum, “who sadly didn’t have enough time to make her mark on the literary world. We think this is a very positive step to set up a prize in her name, and we are looking forward to working with the New Zealand Society of Authors and the Laura Solomon Trust to discover and publish talented new writers with wild imaginations who need this kind of practical support to make their mark.”

Right up until her death, Laura was planning new writing projects and pursuing her dream of being a full-time writer. In a 1996 interview, Laura said, “I’ve always written and I’ll continue to write. I wrote my name when I was three and never looked back.”
More information about Laura Solomon and the NZSA Laura Solomon Cuba Press Prize

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