February 6, 2018
“As the country’s largest writers’ organisation, we celebrate significant literary achievements, especially on the international stage,” says NZSA President, Siobhan Harvey.
This year Ashleigh Young from Wellington won the Windham-Campbell Prize from Yale University, worth US$165,000, for her collection of personal essays ‘Can you tolerate this?’ The essayist and poet is the first New Zealander to receive the Windham-Campbell Prize from Yale University, presented last
September. The way the awards are structured means the writers have no idea they’re nominated, until they hear of the win.“It came completely out of the blue,” Young said.
Young’s book of 21 essays traverses topics from Hamilton’s nineties music scene to a stone-collecting French postman; and from family histories to Bikram yoga. It also touches on Young’s early life in Te Kuiti. She says, about receiving the NZSA Waitangi Day Honour:
“Whenever I finish writing something and send it out, I hope that maybe a handful of friends will read it, and maybe one or two of their friends, or some old workmates who feel they probably ought to. It’s a bit like skipping a stone – when I throw it across the water, it makes a couple of tiny hops, then sinks. Feeble, yes, but am I disappointed, no! Because I am clumsy and I know what to expect. But then – by some massive fluke – I threw this different stone and it really did not behave normally. It skipped all the way across the river and sprouted tiny weird legs and started sprinting through the trees. It was extremely startling. What I mean to say is, receiving this honour feels like part of that dream, part of that totally unpredictable story. And it’s also more: it’s someone telling me, ‘This is yours!’ I can’t express how much it means to be given such an acknowledgement. It lifts me up. I wish I could give every young person who is struggling right now an honour for every single day that they make it through.”
Ashleigh Young works as an editor in Wellington and teaches creative science writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters. Ashleigh Young’s poetry and essays have been widely published in print and online journals, including Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction, Five Dials (UK), Poetry (UK) and Slate (US). She gained an MA in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters in 2009, winning the Adam Prize. Her first book was the poetry collection Magnificent Moon (VUP, 2012), followed by the essay collection Can You Tolerate This? (VUP, 2016), for which she won the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction and a 2017 Windham-Campbell Literature Prize from Yale University. Can You Tolerate This? is forthcoming in 2018 from Riverhead (US) and Bloomsbury (UK). Ashleigh works as an editor at Victoria University Press. She blogs at eyelashroaming.com.
The NZSA Waitangi Day Honours are a relatively new award bestowed by peers; it has quickly grown to become a highly regarded and prestigious honour. Previous recipients include Anthony McCarten, Eleanor Catton and Selina Tusitala Marsh.
Photo credit: Russell Kleyn
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Jenny Nagle, Chief Executive Officer, email@example.com
Siobhan Harvey, President, firstname.lastname@example.org
New Zealand Society of Authors (PEN NZ Inc.) PO Box 7701, Wellesley Street, AK 1141 Ph:09 379 4801