The Book Awards 2013

The book on the life, times and work of potter Barry Brickell – His Own Steam, is a Finalist in the Illustrated Non-fiction category for the NZ Post Book Awards 2013.

The Book Awards are a bit of a moveable feast with the grand event alternating between Auckland and Wellington and occasionally Christchurch it seems, but the literate area of our culture always puts on a grand evening of a type that we rarely see in the visual arts here. A top quality venue, lavishly catered food and wine and a request for attendees to dress black-tie makes it an evening to remember and a hovering question around why such sumptuousness only exists for books down here on the bottom corner of the map. (I bet they do it quite well for the Vis.Arts in Venice!)

The Awards are also variable in that categories modify each year with a few constants like Fiction, Poetry and something of mutable title for illustration. Categories are added or subtracted with little explanation but possibly have to do with available candidates or accessible sponsors.  Maybe it’s decisions by the judging panel – it probably changes every year.

Years ago, last century, there were two main awards for literature – The New Zealand Book Awards and the Goodman Fielder Wattie Book Awards. Montana took over sponsorship of the Wattie Awards in 1994 and in 1996 the two awards merged to form the Montana Book Awards. They were huge, multi-facetted events. Then in 2010 sponsorship was assumed by NZ Post. Categories are now only four and restricted to four possibles in each area. It’s a tighter ship. Classifications like General Non-fiction or Illustrative Non-fiction, Maori Language, Lifestyle and Anthology  have come and gone over the years.  Historically ceramics has done well with one of Doreen Blumhardt’s with Brian Brake illustrations, many years ago, Helen Schamroth’s 100 Craft Artists which included ceramists, Ron Sang’s publication for Len Castle and Len’s self-published follow up a couple of years later, both winners,  Cone Ten Down: a history of NZ ceramics from 1945-1980 co-written by Damian Skinner and me – finalist, and Playing with Fire – a history of the ASP edited by Peter Lange and Stuart Newby also a finalist. We have done just fine. Now maybe it’s Barry’s turn.

This year the four categories are…

Fiction, Poetry, Illustrated Non-fiction and General Non-fiction with, a special area for the booksellers themselves with the Neilsen Booksellers Choice added to the popular People’s Choice Award.

Finalists for Illustrated Non-fiction are…

 His Own Steam: the Work of Barry Brickell by David Craig, Gregory O’Brien and Haru Sameshima,  pub by Auckland University Press.…

Hanly by Gregory O’Brien and Gil Hanly,  pub by Ron Sang

Selling the Dream: the Art of Early NZ Tourism. By Peter Alsop, Gary Stewart & Dave Bamford, Pub by Craig Potton Publishing

Stag Spooner: Wild Man from the Bush  by Chris Maclean
Published by Craig Potton Publishing

So, repeat nominations/listings must mean something. Greg O’Brien has two nominations for writing this year plus an earlier two – one as winner, this is Haru’s fourth nomination for photography – one as winner, Ron Sang Publications are enjoying their third nomination as publisher – one as winner (with the book on Len Castle) and Auckland University Press and Craig Potton Publishing always enjoy several nominations each year. It’s an expensive business as publishers must pay to nominate a book but winning, even being a finalist, means extra sales of course. Getting to that list is the hard bit. It’s entirely in the hands of the judging panel – this year headed by John Campbell but criteria are a mystery and priorities clearly alter. However, even if we don’t win we’ll enjoy the evening as the publishers, the Dowse staff, Barry himself, Wailin and maybe more from Driving Creek are coming plus David Craig and yours truly will all be there, while Greg O’Brien is going to have to hop between two tables!  It all happens on August 28th.


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