Bold new novel wins Adam Prize

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In a strong year for new writing at Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), a risk-taking, wildly funny, ‘powerful and troubling’ novel has been awarded the 2016 Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing.

Annaleese Jochems, 22, wrote the winning book, And Lower, as part of her 2016 Master of Arts (MA) at the IIML.

“I’m ecstatic and still a little unbelieving at having won. My classmates are a group of deep-feeling, hard-thinking writers and we’re a team now. It’s been a privilege to be involved in their projects and to receive their considered feedback on my novel. Emily Perkins and Pip Adam are both extremely patient, knowledgeable and questioning teacher-supervisors who pushed me to the edge of my brain’s capacity. I’ll never be the same again!” Annaleese says.

Annaleese had been studying writing at the Manakau Institute of Technology in Auckland and moved to Wellington to take up a place on the IIML MA programme.

Supported by Wellingtonians Denis and Verna Adam through the Victoria University Foundation, the $3,000 Adam Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the MA in Creative Writing programme at the IIML.

And Lower tells the dream-like story of two young women who steal money and flee Auckland to live on a boat in the Bay of Islands. It centres on Cynthia, described by one examiner as “a superb character, a creature of pure physical and emotional need,” and her series of misadventures, driven by an erotic fixation and a world-view gleaned from a close study of reality TV. Cynthia wants nothing but love, but when a rival gets in her way the black comedy heats up, and the plot takes a thrilling, violent turn.

Emily Perkins, a senior lecturer at the IIML and co-convenor of this year’s Master’s programme, says it’s been a delight to read the novel as it has developed over the course of the MA.

“Annaleese is an inventive, bold and ambitious writer. She is one of a terrific group of new writers coming through the MA programme, and her exhilarating novel is full of ideas and absurdities that speak to our times. And Lower takes the reader on an unsettling, sometimes hilarious, always surprising ride, rendered with sensory acuity and charm.”

Acclaimed author Tracey Slaughter, an examiner for Annaleese’s thesis, praises:  ‘a narrative of delightful originality’ and ‘dazzlingly astute observations’, delivering a ‘slick transition from irony to menace… with lucid, pared-back imagery’.

“Throughout, it is Jochems’ piercing sense of tone which shines. The voice of the piece is always taut, savvy, biting… beautiful.”

An extract from the novel features in the newly launched 2016 edition of literary journal Turbine | Kapohau, available online.

Previous Adam Foundation Prize recipients include authors Eleanor Catton, Catherine Chidgey, Ashleigh Young and Hera Lindsay Bird.

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