PIP McKAY – NZSA Member wins International First Pages 2020

Congratulations to Pip McKay as Winner of the International First Pages Prize for The Telling Time.

Her debut novel of impossible love and soul-destroying secrets where two young women fight to overcome adversity and transport the reader from Yugoslavia, to 1950’s New Zealand, and back again has won the Winner of the International First Pages Prize, 2020.


Now in its third year, the First Pages Prize supports emerging writers worldwide with its annual prize for the first five pages of a longer work of fiction or creative non-fiction. Visit https://www.firstpagesprize.com for more information. 

This year the Award was judged by best-selling, award-winning author Sebastian Faulks
Pip McKay’s travels through the former Yugoslavia informed TheTelling Time, however the connections she forged within the local Croatian community while researching stories of New Zealand’s Croatian immigrants, have been inspirational.

Pip holds a Masters in Creative Writing from the University of Auckland (2017) and in 2018, was awarded a Creative New Zealand/NZSA Complete Manuscript Assessment award for the manuscript.

‘A vivid, engrossing family story that crosses oceans and eras, exploring the price two women pay when new and old worlds collide.’ — Paula Morris


Two young women, a generation apart, travel to opposite sides of the world on fraught journeys of self-discovery.

1958: Gabrijela yearns to escape the confines of bleak post-war Yugoslavia and her tiny fishing community, but never imagines she will be exiled to New Zealand — a new immigrant sent to house-keep for the mysterious and surly Roko, clutching a secret she dare not reveal.

1989: Luisa, Gabrijela’s daughter, departs on her own covert quest, determined to unpick the family’s past. But not all decisions are equal and amid Yugoslavia’s brewing civil unrest, Luisa’s journey confronts her with culture shocks and dark encounters of her own.

The novel’s opening won the 2020 First Pages Prize, judged by an international panel and Sebastian Faulks, OBE. A note from the author about The Telling Time: I decided to call it The Telling Time for multiple reasons: I believe that period between late adolescence and young adulthood is a particularly ‘telling time’. We are often called on to make major decisions that can affect the way life plays out, and these decisions are frequently made with very little knowledge or information. It’s a time that feels risky, that calls on bravado and most definitely resilience. It’s The Telling Time because secrets are at the heart of this novel. Some of those secrets, such as the one Gabrijela carries for thirty years, demand to be told even years later. The story is set in ‘telling times’: late 1950’s post-war Yugoslavia as Tito leads the country under a new socialist regime, and again when Luisa visits in 1989, as the country spirals towards civil unrest — Tito having died in 1980 — and a new breed of hot heads scramble to take ownership and power. And the new immigrant experience is also a ‘telling time’. It certainly was for young Gabrijela making her way in New Zealand, who, despite being supported by her local Croatian community, felt so at odds with these people who seemed sophisticated and different to the people from her small fishing community back home.

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