An award winning book took the most quintessential of New Zealand subjects - sheep - and united it with one of the very highest of literary themes: the meaning and nature of death.
Ellie Catton judged Hamilton student Emily Hunter's story, Of Dust, a clear winner in the young writer category in this year's BNZ Literary Awards held in Wellington, not least because it dared to "... wrestle with a philosophical uncertainty and left that uncertainty unresolved".
The story was selected from an impressive and competitive list of 261 entries - a record and up 81 per cent on last year.
"I was reminded of the ending of Katherine Mansfield's The Garden Party," Catton says of the winning story.
"The ending of Of Dust is similarly open-ended, ineffable and similarly wry."
She says Of Dust is a fantastic story.
"I have a feeling that we will be reading Emily Hunter in years to come."
The inspiration for the story was an actual event. Emily says not having a television in her home until she was nine encouraged storytelling and story writing with her sisters from an early age; she still has her 'poetry book' where she keeps the favourite poems she's written.
The story won Emily a $1500 prize. She also collected $2000 for her school, Sacred Heart Girls College, Hamilton.
Sacred Heart Girls College principal Chris Allen says Emily is an enthusiastic writer who has participated keenly in writing events at school.
"Following the publication of her story The Temptation of Sunlight in Redraft last year, the school community is honoured and delighted with the recognition she has received with this award."
Established in 1959, the BNZ Literary Awards - formerly known as the Katherine Mansfield Awards - aim to foster literature in New Zealand and are the country's longest-running short story awards.
BNZ has been part of the New Zealand landscape for 150 years and holds close ties to Katherine Mansfield. Her father, Sir Harold Beauchamp, was a director of BNZ, a position he held for 38 years. He was also the chairman of the board for 17 years.