Success for local writers at awards

By Roger Moroney

2 comments
TOP WORDS: Aaron Topp, Anna MacKenzie and Gareth Ward with their winning certificates. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
TOP WORDS: Aaron Topp, Anna MacKenzie and Gareth Ward with their winning certificates. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Three Hawke's Bay authors have tasted success at the 2016 Storylines Book Awards, announced in Auckland earlier this week.

The awards were announced on the annual Storylines Margaret Mahy Day. Aaron Topp from CHB, Anna MacKenzie from rural Hastings and Gareth Ward from Havelock North all picked up awards for their works in the annual competition for writers, illustrators, publishers and people who work in the field of children's literature.

There were eight sections with awards up for grabs. Of the four winners in the Young Adult section, Mr Topp and Ms MacKenzie received awards while Mr Ward picked up the Tessa Duder Award for Best Young Adult Novel with his manuscript The Sin Chronicles: New Blood - which drew high praise from Ms Duder.

"The judges were delighted to find that the author was a new writer of great talent," she said. "His steampunk novel set in Victorian England is great fun, with a series very likely."

The Tessa Duder Award is awarded biennially, when merited, for a work of fiction for young adults 13 and over and it carries a prize of $1500.

The former Royal Marine commando knows his way around books - he and wife Louise run Wardini Books in Havelock North.

He has been writing for the past 25 years although up until now has not got to the publishing stage in what he describes as a "hard industry" to break into.

As well as the financial reward, his work will now go to publishers Walker Books Australia and will hit the shelves, in book form, in about 18 months.

"It's a great boost," he said, adding that should it all work out in terms of sales, he would develop it into a series.

Writing for young teenagers was not too difficult, he reckoned, "because I never grew up".

Mr Topp, who lives in Central Hawke's Bay, also knows a thing or two about books for young people, having worked some years ago as a primary school teacher. He has tasted success with his works of young adult fiction before - picking up the Young Adult Fiction Honour Award at the 2007 New Zealand Post Book Awards with his first book, Single Fin.

His latest work, titled Hucking Cody, hit the mark for the judges of Storylines Notable Books List Young Adult section.

The story is about mountain biking brothers and their relationship - how the younger one has to grow out of his older brother's shadow. The title is an attention-grabber, which is what Mr Topp intended, of course.

"When you're targeting reluctant young male readers you need something that gets their attention," he said. "When I set out to write something I target that reluctant reader and try and create something they will want to read."

He said he started out writing simply because it was always something he wanted to do - things like science and maths did not appeal as much as words did.

Mr Topp said receiving national recognition was hugely rewarding.

Ms MacKenzie, who writes contemporary, historic and speculative fiction, also scored in the Young Adult section with her book Evie's War - a coming-of-age story in a world coming apart as war spreads across Europe.

Like Mr Topp, it was not the first time she had made a mark in the world of book awards, having picked up a string of them since her first work, High Tide.

When asked how she came up with her ideas she said: "The smallest thing can grow into a story - an unusual scene, a story someone tells me, the juxtaposition of two separate memories or thoughts - I don't have time to write them all."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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