Writer Catherine Chidgey last night won the inaugural Prize in Modern Letters, worth $60,000.

The announcement was made at the Writers and Readers Week in Wellington.

The prize is for an emerging New Zealand writer who has published at least one but not more than two books. It is the largest literary prize in New Zealand and Australia.

Chidgey's first novel, In a Fishbone Church, won the 1998 Best First Book Award in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards.

Her second novel, Golden Deeds, was runner-up for the Deutz Fiction Medal in the 2000 Montana Awards.

The other three authors shortlisted for the Prize in Modern Letters were novelist Charlotte Randall, dramatist Briar Grace-Smith and poet James Brown.

The prize is run by the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University.