Each year, the winner of the fiction category at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards receives a Acorn Prize for Fiction worth $50,000. Today we reveal the identity of this extremely gererous woman.
The anonymous benefactor responsible for funding the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards’ $50,000 annual fiction prize is ready to be known.
Retired Bay of Plenty radiologist Jann Medlicott has been an avid reader her whole life and believes we cannot call ourselves a civilised society until we celebrate our writers and poets as much as we do our sporting heroes and heroines.
“Our novelists have a deep understanding of the human condition and can convey it in all its messiness. We need them,” she says. “Everything I’ve read in my life has made me who I am. I believe we are products of what we read, not what we eat.”
The winner of the fiction award – now to be known as the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction – will be presented with $55,000 in 2020. It is one of the world’s richest literary honours.
Medlicott said the idea to support New Zealand novelists came to her in 2015 after she returned from a trip abroad. “I’d travelled extensively and found myself thinking there was no other place I felt compelled to go to. I developed this idea that I could fund a major new prize for New Zealand fiction. It did feel really quite outrageous, but I spoke to a friend, then went to the Acorn Foundation, who began discussions with the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.”
The Acorn Foundation is a community foundation based in the Bay of Plenty, which encourages people to leave a gift in their wills and/or their lifetimes. Donations are pooled and invested, and the investment income is used to make donations to local charities or in accordance with the donors’ wishes.
Late last year, Medlicott was diagnosed with pelvic cancer. She has now completed radiation therapy for the unexpected recurrence of a tumour 14 years after initial diagnosis and surgery. “I had been considering whether to make myself known, but the cancer diagnosis was a wake-up call and a reminder that we’re all on a continuum between being and not being, and that I’d better get a move on.”
She had initially chosen to donate anonymously out of a desire to live without the pressure of recognition as a major philanthropic benefactor.
“But circumstances change,” she says. “Supporting New Zealand writers gives me a good deal of satisfaction. I want to make myself known in order to encourage others to step up and donate in any way possible.”
Born in 1942, the middle child in a family of five, Medlicott spent her early years in Kohi, rural Taranaki. She learned to read at an early age and developed a fascination for words and stories. “I experimented with words at meal times, with mixed results! The Oxford Dictionary was a favourite and I browsed it at random,” she says.
“By intermediate school age, I had devoured most of the 19th Century novels on the shelves. From secondary school, Katherine Mansfield’s The Dolls House and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway are vividly recalled as transitional. The beauty of the prose became as important as the narrative.”
During her medical training at the University of Otago, Medlicott read books in between shifts as a barmaid and as a nurse aide at what was then Porirua psychiatric hospital. By the time she left to work in England, she had a collection of more than 1,000 books.
She says the extent of her overseas travel has strengthened her appreciation of New Zealand. “I have an absolute commitment to where I am from, that’s why I want to support our writers.”
“I can unequivocally say that our literature is as good as any in the world. We need to look at new and innovative ways to support our writers. If you go to any other country, there are shelves and shelves of books of their own writers; they showcase it.”
Jann Medlicott has been involved in private radiology practice in the Bay of Plenty since 1988, latterly as a partner in MEDEX radiology. She retired in 2011.
The New Zealand Book Awards Trust chair Nicola Legat says that New Zealand literature has a true patron saint in Jann Medlicott. “Not only is Jann’s endowment of the fiction prize a remarkable act of generosity, but she is also deeply invested in New Zealand literature, reading widely and knowledgeably and keenly aware of how important it is to our national cultural conversation. We are hugely grateful to her.”
The 40 books longlisted for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards were announced late last month. The Awards’ 16 finalists will be announced on 4 March 2020. The winners in each of the Awards’ four categories – fiction, poetry, illustrated non-fiction and general non-fiction, as well as the four MitoQ Best First Book awards, will be announced at a ceremony on 12 May as a marquee event during the 2020 Auckland Writers Festival.
The Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction is judged this year by author, journalist and reviewer Mark Broatch; short story and non-fiction writer Nic Low (Ngāi Tahu) and Chris Baskett, an independent Tauranga bookseller of 20 years’ standing. A longlist of 10 books was announced last month which will be narrowed down to a shortlist of four books in early March.
In an office with more than its share of romantics, sops and heart-on-the-sleevers, we get pretty excited about Valentine’s Day. It lets us listen to Dame Judi Dench recite the loveliest love poem ever, watch ABBA and Belinda Carlisle without shame, and then lock in some rom-coms – a Bridget Jones, A Star is Born, Amelie, Dirty Dancing – for the weekend. Note: Nobody puts Baby in the corner.
But most of all, Valentine’s Day gives us the perfect excuse to talk about our love for this dynamic Pacific city we call home. “Last, loneliest, loveliest, exquisite, apart…” said Rudyard Kipling on an 1891 whistlestop tour. Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau is a stunning city – we have a subtropical rainforest on our doorstep, the wild and wondrous West Coast beaches just beyond. There’s the extraordinary beauty of the Hauraki Gulf and its 50 islands, then the city itself built among 50 maunga, the volcanic sentinels which centre you wherever you are.
Whether you're a born-and-bred Aucklander, or someone whose seduction and induction was more recent, this is a city of wonderful possibilities (and, to be fair, a lot of roadworks). Very simply... we love Auckland and, since it's Valentine's Day, we've had a crack at explaining why. We've made a list!
We ❤️ Karekare. We ❤️ Tiritiri Matangi Island. We ❤️ Food Alley. We ❤️Concert FM. We ❤️ Selina Tusitala Marsh. We ❤️ Puhoi Pub. We ❤️ Rangitoto. We ❤️ Objectspace. We ❤️ Aotea Great Barrier. We ❤️ Taika. We ❤️ Taste in Memory. We ❤️ Auckland War Memorial Museum. We ❤️ Hotunui. We ❤️ K’Road. We ❤️ Anika Moa. We ❤️ The Black Friars. We ❤️ Oakley Creek. We ❤️ Cielito Lindo. We ❤️ The Greenhouse. We ❤️ John Campbell. We ❤️ Mr Zhou's Dumplings. We ❤️ Otara Markets. We ❤️ Avondale Markets too. We ❤️ Q Theatre. We ❤️ 300km of cycleways. We ❤️ Rose Matafeo. We ❤️ Michael Parekōwhai’s The Lighthouse. We ❤️ Tuatahi. We ❤️ JK. We ❤️ SBW. We ❤️ SPQR. We ❤️ Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve. We ❤️ Prof. Jane Harding. We ❤️ The Wine Cellar. We ❤️ Waikōwhai Walkway. We ❤️ Witi Ihimaera. We ❤️ Whau Cafe. We ❤️ Marsic Bros Fish ‘n’ Chips. We ❤️ Anawhata Falls. We ❤️ Awesome Architecture. We ❤️ Tapu Misa. We ❤️ Te Ara I Whiti – Lightpath. We ❤️ Bob Harvey. We ❤️ Daily Bread. We ❤️ Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki. We ❤️ Coco’s Cantina We ❤️ Creative Mornings. We ❤️ Waiheke vineyards. We ❤️ Diana Wichtel. We ❤️ Beauden Barrett @ the Blues. We ❤️ Kakamatua Inlet. We ❤️ Oscar Kightley. We ❤️ North Shore Literary Walk. We ❤️ Lake Wainamu. We ❤️ Te Oro. We ❤️ Britomart Train Station. We ❤️ Britomart’s fairy lights. We ❤️ Neil Finn. We ❤️ Metro magazine. We ❤️ Auckland Theatre Company. We ❤️ the Waitakeres. We ❤️ healthy kauri. We ❤️ our 48 maunga. We ❤️ Simon Wilson on Auckland. We ❤️ Symonds Street Cemetery. We ❤️ Cafe Abyssinia. We ❤️ Academy Cinema. We ❤️ Grey Lynn Park. We ❤️ The Civic. We ❤️ books. We ❤️ bookshops. We ❤️ science. We ❤️ critical thought. We ❤️ The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards aka #theockhams.
We ❤️ Auckland.
Forty books across four categories - fiction, poetry, illustrated non-fiction and general non-fiction - have been longlisted for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, the nation's premier literary competition. A shortlist of 16 titles - four in each category - will be announced on Tuesday 4 March. The awards ceremony itself takes place in Auckland on Tuesday 12 May.
The 40 books longlisted for the 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards announced today are a wide-ranging and inspiring collection reflecting the diversity of contemporary Aotearoa and the excellence of our writers, artists and publishers.
Traversing cultural, historic, artistic and political landscapes, the longlisted books explore who we are as a nation, from our social issues and natural environment, to the lives of our artists and explorers, imagined experiences and worlds. The list features exciting debut writers as well as a number of previous award-winners and literary stars.
Ten books are longlisted in each of the four awards categories – fiction, poetry, illustrated non-fiction and general non-fiction.
"This year’s awards drew over 170 entries, a 12 per cent increase on the previous three years," says the New Zealand Book Awards Trust’s Dr Paula Morris. "We’re seeing an unprecedented number of brilliant and beautiful books, with this wide-ranging longlist a distillation of the best for readers to devour. Competition will be fierce in all categories."
The 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards longlisted titles are:
Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize
- The Absolute Book by Elizabeth Knox (Victoria University Press)
- Lonely Asian Woman by Sharon Lam (Lawrence & Gibson)
- Necessary Secrets by Greg McGee (Upstart Press)
- Auē by Becky Manawatu (Mākaro Press)
- Moonlight Sonata by Eileen Merriman (Black Swan, Penguin Random House)
- Pearly Gates by Owen Marshall (Vintage, Penguin Random House)
- Attraction by Ruby Porter (Text Publishing)
- A Mistake by Carl Shuker (Victoria University Press)
- Loving Sylvie by Elizabeth Smither (Allen & Unwin)
- Halibut on the Moon by David Vann (Text Publishing)
Mary and Peter Biggs Awards for Poetry
- Craven by Jane Arthur (Victoria University Press)
- Listening In by Lynley Edmeades (Otago University Press)
- Back Before You Know by Murray Edmond (Compound Press)
- Under Glass by Gregory Kan (Auckland University Press)
- Moth Hour by Anne Kennedy (Auckland University Press)
- Ransack by Essa-May Ranapiri (Victoria University Press)
- How to Live by Helen Rickerby (Auckland University Press)
- Lay Studies by Steven Toussaint (Victoria University Press)
- Because a Woman’s Heart is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean by Sugar Magnolia Wilson (Auckland University Press)
- How I Get Ready by Ashleigh Young (Victoria University Press)
Illustrated Non-Fiction Award
- Crafting Aotearoa: A Cultural History of Making in New Zealand and the Wider Moana Oceania edited by Karl Chitham, Kolokesa U Māhina-Tuai, Damian Skinner (Te Papa Press)
- Protest Tautohetohe: Objects of Resistance, Persistence and Defiance edited by Stephanie Gordon, Matariki Williams, Puawai Cairns (Te Papa Press)
- Frances Hodgkins: European Journeys edited by Catherine Hammond and Mary Kisler (Auckland University Press and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki)
- Funny As: The Story of New Zealand Comedy by Paul Horan and Philip Matthews(Auckland University Press)
- The New Photography: New Zealand’s First-generation Contemporary Photographers edited by Athol McCredie (Te Papa Press)
- We Are Here: An Atlas of Aotearoa by Chris McDowall and Tim Denee (Massey University Press)
- Louise Henderson: From Life edited by Felicity Milburn, Lara Strongman, Julia Waite (Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū)
- McCahon Country by Justin Paton (Penguin Random House)
- Colin McCahon: There is Only One Direction, Vol. 1 1919-1959 by Peter Simpson(Auckland University Press)
- The Meaning of Trees: The History and Use of New Zealand’s Native Plants byRobert Vennell (HarperCollins)
General Non-Fiction Award
- Women Mean Business: Colonial Businesswomen in New Zealand by Catherine Bishop (Otago University Press)
- Dead People I Have Known by Shayne Carter (Victoria University Press)
- Dead Letters: Censorship and Subversion in New Zealand 1914-1920 by Jared Davidson (Otago University Press)
- Shirley Smith: An Examined Life by Sarah Gaitanos (Victoria University Press)
- Wild Honey: Reading New Zealand Women’s Poetry by Paula Green (Massey University Press)
- Finding Frances Hodgkins by Mary Kisler (Massey University Press)
- Towards the Mountain: A Story of Grief and Hope Forty Years on from Erebus bySarah Myles (Allen & Unwin)
- The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa by Vincent O’Malley (Bridget Williams Books)
- Fifteen Million Years in Antarctica by Rebecca Priestley (Victoria University Press)
- Whale Oil: One Man’s Fight to Save His Reputation, then His Life by Margie Thomson (Potton & Burton)
The 2020 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards shortlist of 16 titles will be announced on 4 March 2020. The winners, including the four MitoQ Best First Book awards, will be announced at a ceremony on 12 May as a marquee event during the 2020 Auckland Writers Festival. The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards website has more information about the longlisted titles.
The Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize will award $55,000 in 2020. It is judged by author, journalist and reviewer Mark Broatch; short story and non-fiction writer Nic Low (Ngāi Tahu) and Chris Baskett, a passionate reader of local fiction and an independent Tauranga bookseller of 20 years’ standing. An international judge, whose identity will be revealed in March 2020, will join them to decide the ultimate winner from their shortlist of four.
Finalists and the ultimate winner in the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry will be selected by publisher and acclaimed poet Kiri Piahana-Wong; poet Tim Upperton,whose collection The Night We Ate the Baby was an Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist in 2016, and Phillippa Duffy, whose two decades in the book industry include publishing, board positions and bookselling.
The General Non-Fiction Award will be judged by Hocken Librarian and experienced documentary and cultural heritage collections advisor Sharon Dell; respected bookseller, reviewer and practising artist Stella Chrysostomou and well-known journalist, presenter and voracious reader Guyon Espiner.
Odessa Owens, an award-winning publisher and Whitireia publishing programme tutor, is joined in judging the Illustrated Non-Fiction Award by Lana Lopesi, an independent critic, editor and author, and Hamish Coney,an award-winning writer, arts advisor and founder and former director of the auction house Art+Object.
The Ockham New Zealand Book Awards are supported by Ockham Residential, Creative New Zealand, the Acorn Foundation, Mary and Peter Biggs CNZM, MitoQ and the Auckland Writers Festival.
"From the start we’ve wanted to give back to those organisations and individuals that enrich us as a society. Critical thought and enquiry – and extending the joy of thinking and learning to all New Zealanders – is at the heart of the Ockham ethos." Mark Todd reflects on Ockham Residential’s partnership with the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.
2020 will mark the fifth year of our sponsorship of the New Zealand Book Awards. It’s a huge honour for our company, Ockham Residential, to have this association and I confess I pinch myself whenever I hear them called 'The Ockhams'. For the briefest moment I think, 'Oh, what a wonderful coincidence – we share the same name.' Then just 'Oh!' It’s a thrill – the very best kind of reflected glory.
I try to read each of the shortlisted works each year. The poems, the novels, the non-fiction – the lot. I didn’t get close this time round – I’m guessing I’m about a third of the way of the way through – but I have until the next awards next May to catch up. It does mean I have a full-on Christmas coming up.
I’ll have to be disciplined because the longlist for the 2020 Awards is announced in late-January. I can imagine the weeks leading up to the announcement must be exciting and nerve-shredding for the authors and publishers: I get quite anxious myself. And then to March when the shortlist comes out.
I feel for the authors: I feel for the judges too. Perhaps my favourite New Zealand book since we came on board is Greg McGee's The Antipodeans. It was longlisted in 2016: it's an immense and incredibly ambitious work (and if you haven’t read it yet, you absolutely must). I cried the first time I read it, cried even more the second time. As it happens, it wasn’t shortlisted that year, but it has a lifelong place on my internal bookshelf.
One of the very best aspects of 'The Ockhams' – see, I had to slip that in! – actually has nothing to do with us. It's the family of sponsors and supporters who have also joined up. I have terrible habit of inadvertently not acknowledging very important people so please forgive me if/when I miss out an absolute legend. The astonishingly generous sponsorship of the Acorn Foundation – $50,000 for the best work of fiction. The Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry. The Te Mūrau o te Tuhi Māori Language Award, supported by Creative New Zealand, for books written entirely in te reo Māori. And – most recently – MitoQ’s sponsonship of the four Best First Book Awards.
It’s a privilege to be part of the Book Awards whānau, overseen so expertly by Nicola Legat and Belinda Cooke, along with the New Zealand Book Awards trustees. The awards – and the recognition, profile and financial assistance they give to their creators – are a special part of Aotearoa / New Zealand’s cultural fabric and identity.
I have two young children and I guess I could shamelessly use them as an excuse for why I’m a little behind in my Ockham Awards reading. Over the first decade of their lives, I’ve read thousands of books with them – and sat snuggled up alongside them in bed, seen their imaginations bloom, seen them enchanted by the magic and mystery of these other worlds. Truth be told, I’ve often been ensnared myself. There’s a wonderful Dr Seuss quote you may have heard which says it all:
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
I believe the good doctor’s observation has never been more pertinent than today. Critical thought and enquiry – and extending the joy of thinking and learning to all New Zealanders – is at the heart of the Ockham ethos. To play a small part in taking what Stephen King called the "uniquely portable magic" of books to New Zealanders means the world to me – and to Ockham.
Thank you for letting us share in the story.
Photo credit: Mark presents the 2019 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards' Illustrated Non-Fiction Award to Sean Mallon, co-author with Sébastien Galliot of Tatau: A History of Samoan Tattooing, published by Te Papa Press. Photo by Marcel Trompe.
Five years ago we shared our inaugural Ockham mission statement, a declaration of what we stood for and what we hoped to achieve for Auckland. Tonight, at our 10th birthday celebration, we’ve revisited – refined, zhushed, simplifed! – that 2014 statement of intent.
Our vision for Auckland is unashamedly ambitious: we want our buildings to be as beautiful as the landscapes they sit within. This is a stunning city – we have a subtropical rainforest on our doorstep, the vast, wild, wondrous West Coast beaches just beyond. There’s the extraordinary beauty of the Hauraki Gulf and its 50 islands, then the city itself built among 50 maunga, the volcanic sentinels that centre you wherever you are.
And so we set out to make buildings which deserve to belong here. We want to leave a legacy to the city – elegant, enduring buildings that people like to look at, long to touch, love to live in. We seek to lead by example: we hope other developers will also look long-term, start seeing housing as infrastructure, the building blocks of community – and not merely as fields in an Excel spreadsheet.
We love Auckland. It’s really that simple, and perhaps a future mission statement will be pared back to these three words (less is more and all that). But for now, there's a bit more that needs to be said: we have a responsibility to ensure that all our people, all Aucklanders, can make the most of their lives in this glorious place. Find the good life for themselves and their whānau.
But enough of the preamble (and drum roll please)...
Ockham Residential's Mission Statement
"To make beautiful buildings that people love to live in, homes that honour this dynamic Pacific city, stand the test of time, inspire others – and bring an awesome Auckland lifestyle to as many people and communities as we can."