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Former Booker Prize Judge Appointed to 2018 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize Jury

By January 24, 2018No Comments

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Critically acclaimed Scots writer, journalist and founding editor of the Scottish Review of Books Alan Taylor has been announced as the international judge who will assist the local panel in selecting the winner of the $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize in the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Taylor and his wife, author and literary editor Rosemary Goring, will be in New Zealand in May as guests of the Auckland Writers Festival, which hosts the awards ceremony as part of its six-day programme of events, with their visit supported by Festival Platinum Partner Heartland Bank.

“It is a pleasure and a privilege to be asked to join the judging panel for the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize,” says Taylor of the task ahead of him. “What I’m particularly looking forward to is discovering new writers who, as Muriel Spark said, help open doors and windows in the minds of readers. I like novels that are novel, that surprise, shock and amuse, sometimes simultaneously, and whose style is innovative, distinctive and memorable. That for me is the hallmark of all great fiction writing.”

Taylor brings considerable experience to the judging table; he was a member of the Booker Prize’s management committee and a judge of the prize in 1994.

The four judges, which also include convenor and bookseller Jenna Todd, novelist, poet and academic Anna Smaill, and journalist and reviewer Philip Matthews will deliberate over a shortlist of four books that will be announced on 6 March 2018. These finalists will be narrowed down from the present fiction longlist of:

  • The New Animals by Pip Adam (Victoria University Press)
  • The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey (Victoria University Press)
  • The Earth Cries Out by Bonnie Etherington (Vintage, Penguin Random House)
  • Salt Picnic by Patrick Evans (Victoria University Press)
  • Sodden Downstream by Brannavan Gnanalingam (Lawrence & Gibson)
  • Heloise by Mandy Hager (Penguin Random House)
  • Iceland by Dominic Hoey (Steele Roberts Aotearoa)
  • Baby by Annaleese Jochems (Victoria University Press)
  • Tess by Kirsten McDougall (Victoria University Press)
  • Five Strings by Apirana Taylor (Anahera Press)

Taylor’s previous newspaper roles include features and literary editor of Scotland on Sunday, deputy editor of the Scotsman, managing editor of Scotsman Publications and writer-at-large for the Sunday Herald. For a number of years he has been a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement’s ‘Freelance’ column. He has written for publications around the world and has made several television documentaries, including about the writers Alastair Reid, John Irving and Muriel Spark.

His books include The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Best Diarists, Glasgow: An Autobiography and Appointment in Arezzo: A Friendship with Muriel Spark.

Taylor lives with his wife in the Scottish Borders and Glasgow.

The Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize and other winners of the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards will be announced at a ceremony on May 15 2018, held as the first public event of the Auckland Writers Festival. 2018 will mark the 50th  anniversary of the first book awards ceremony in New Zealand, presented in 1968 as the Wattie Book Awards.

To find out more about the longlisted titles go to


For interview opportunities, images and further information please contact: Penny Hartill, director, hPR 09 445 7525, 021 721 424,


Editor’s Notes:

The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are the country’s premier literary honours for books written by New Zealanders. First established in 1968 as the Wattie Book Awards (later the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards), they have also been known as the Montana New Zealand Book Awards and the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Awards are given for Fiction (the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize), General Non-Fiction (the Royal Society Te Apārangi Award for General Non-Fiction), Illustrated Non-Fiction and Poetry. There are also four Best First Book Awards and, at the judges’ discretion, a Māori Language Award. The awards are governed by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust (a registered charity). Members of the Trust are Nicola Legat, Karen Ferns, Paula Morris, Catherine Robertson, Rachel Eadie, David Bowles, Pene Walsh and Melanee Winder. Creative New Zealand is a significant annual funder of the awards. The Trust also governs the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults and Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day.

Ockham Residential Group is Auckland’s most progressive developer. Founded in 2009 by Mark Todd and Ben Preston, Ockham describes itself as an urban regenerator, a company that loves Auckland.  Ockham wants to see Auckland’s built environment become as beautiful and as world-class as its natural landscape. The business has ambitions wider than profitability, and has also established the Ockham Foundation. The Ockham Foundation aims to promote original thinking and critical thought — two key elements of widening the public discourse — via educational initiatives. It works with the University of Auckland to fund First Foundation Scholars studying science, and is a major sponsor to Ngā Rangatahi Toa, a charity transforming the lives of Rangatahi excluded from education.

The Acorn Foundation is a community foundation based in the Western Bay of Plenty, which encourages people to leave a gift in their wills and/or their lifetimes to support their local community forever. Donations are pooled and invested, and the investment income is used to make donations to local charities, in accordance with the donors’ wishes. The capital remains intact. Since it was established in 2003, Acorn has distributed over $4.6 million. Donors may choose which organisations are to benefit each year, or they may decide to leave it to the trustees’ discretion. Community foundations are the fastest growing form of philanthropy worldwide, and there are now 15 throughout New Zealand, with more in the early stages. The Book Awards’ $50,000 Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize has been provided through the generosity of one of the Foundation’s donors, and will be awarded to the top fiction work each year, in perpetuity.

Royal Society Te Apārangi is an independent not-for-profit organisation that supports all New Zealanders to explore, discover and share knowledge. Its varied programmes provide funding and learning opportunities for researchers, teachers, school students, together with those who are simply curious about the world. To celebrate the discoveries of New Zealand researchers, the Society awards medals and elects Fellows, who are leaders in their fields. These experts help the Society to provide independent advice to New Zealanders and the government on issues of public concern. The Society has a broad network of members and friends around New Zealand and invites all those who value the work New Zealanders do in exploring, discovering and sharing knowledge to join with them. 

Creative New Zealand has been a sustaining partner of New Zealand’s book awards for decades. Creative New Zealand encourages, promotes and supports the arts in New Zealand for the benefit of all New Zealanders through funding, capability building, an international programme, and advocacy. It offers financial support for emerging and established artists, art practitioners, groups and organisations, and provides training and online resources to help artists and practitioners develop professionally, grow audiences and markets, and manage their organisations. It also supports internships and national touring to help develop New Zealand arts. Creative New Zealand provides a wide range of support to New Zealand literature, including funding for writers and publishers, residencies, literary festivals and awards, and supports organisations which work to increase the readership and sales of New Zealand literature at home and internationally.

Book Tokens (NZ) Ltd underwrites the sale of book tokens within New Zealand. It is administered by Booksellers New Zealand.

The Auckland Writers Festival is the largest literary event in New Zealand and the largest presenter of New Zealand literature in the world. Now in its 18th year, it hosts more than 200 local and international writers for six days of discussion, conversation, reading, debate, performance, schools, family and free events ranging across fiction, non-fiction, poetry, music, theatre, culture, art and more.  Festival attendance in 2017 exceeded 73,000.