Leaving the draft for A Good Winter sitting in a drawer for 10 years has proved to be a good move by Ōtaki author Gigi Fenster.
The book has been named as a shortlist in the fiction section of this year's Ockham NZ Book Awards.
Writing the novel with funding from Todd New Writers Bursary and Creative NZ which she received in 2012, Gigi set out to write something different from her first novel, The Intentions Book.
"I wanted to write something that was tender and sad and gentle, but the characters just didn't want to go there and after a lot of revision I shelved it."
Stuck between what she wanted and what she had written, Gigi said, "I just put it in a drawer and left it there and had to tell the foundation, sorry I'm not publishing anything from the grant."
That was 10 years ago.
When a friend mentioned the Michael Gifkins Prize for an Unpublished Novel, her friend said, "Surely you've got something sitting in a drawer somewhere that you can enter."
Pulling it out, Gigi applied, was shortlisted, and won the prize which included a publishing contract through the Australian publishing company, Text Publishing.
"Nothing changed between then and now except my attitude.
"Once I looked at it again and the idea in my head shifted from what it should be to what it could be, I didn't need to change much to take it there.
"I couldn't believe it when I won.
"Just to be longlisted and then shortlisted was so amazing.
"I don't like stories with a moral, but this has a bit of a moral to it.
"With creative work, we tend to reject anything which doesn't perfectly fit the idea in our heads.
"We have to remember it still has merit, it still has value even if it's not what was in your head."
Winning the Gifkins prize gave Gigi confidence in her writing, as has being named as a finalist for the Ockham awards.
"As creative people, we never really trust that our work is very good, so winning the Gifkins has given me a big boost. And being shortlisted for the Ockham has done that all over again."
A Good Winter is a finalist for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction, one of the world's richest writing prizes with $60,000 awarded to the winner.
After coming to writing later in life than many people, Gigi has slowly been progressing from teaching corporate training on contract law, to teaching creative writing at Massey University after completing her masters and PhD in creative writing.
"I've recently transitioned to teaching fulltime at Massey after teaching law for many years.
"I do wish I started earlier. I love seeing the younger people come into our programme with such passion."
Of the four people shortlisted for the fiction prize, Gigi is one of three who work at Massey teaching creative writing.
"I work with two of the other people shortlisted and am very flattered and honoured to be there next to them."
For many years Gigi has also taught creative writing to inmates at Rimutaka Prison after being a founding member of the Write Where You Are Collective.
"Having an opportunity to express oneself creatively is important for everybody.
"I don't think writing is therapy, but I do think it can be therapeutic.
"All you need is a pen and paper – it's an easy way for us to teach people to express themselves."
A Good Winter is Gigi's third book following her first novel The Intentions Book and her second book Feverish, a creative non-fiction novel.
A Good Winter
A Good Winter is a psychological thriller telling the story of a lonely disturbed woman who befriends a neighbour who is new to town.
She has come because her daughter is a single parent, parenting a new baby and needs support.
The story tells of how the lonely woman works her way into their lives, giving the reader a dark and complex portrait of a troubled mind.