Announcement of the 2022 winner of the Michael Gifkins Prize for an unpublished novel

Emma Sidnam received the 2022 Michael Gifkins Award for her manuscript Backwaters. Sidnam wins a publishing deal with Text and a NZ$10,000 advance on royalties.

The prize is awarded to an unpublished manuscript by a New Zealand writer, celebrating the life and work of writer and agent Michael Gifkins.

Emma Sidnam is a Wellington-based poet and student. She enjoys translating life into art and combining puns with meaningful messages that connect with people. As a fourth generation Asian New Zealander, she is passionate about representation and ensuring that all voices are heard.

On winning the award, Emma said: “I have always written with the aim of publication. This novel has helped me grow within myself over the past two years, and I’m incredibly excited to see it out in the world. This award means the world to me and I hope this is just the beginning. Backwaters will be published by Text in September 2023.

Sidnam was shortlisted by Text Publishing alongside Tiffany Brown, Maria B. Joseph and Anna Woods from an impressive long list of thirteen manuscripts, selected by judges Dr. Paula Morris and Dr. Vanda Symon.

Editor Michael Heyward said: “We are proud of the achievements of the Michael Gifkins Prize over the past six years and honored by our continued association with his family in supporting the prize. The prize has already made it possible to discover remarkable books and to highlight very gifted writers. We are delighted that this year’s winner is Emma Sidnam, and we look forward to publishing her novel.

Tom Baragwanath’s Thriller paper cage, last year’s award winner, will be released in September 2022. Paper Cage is both a biting thriller and a beautifully written and watched portrait of a community. Masterton is not a big city. The community is tight, if not always harmonious. So when a child goes missing, it’s a big deal for everyone. And when a second child disappears, the whole town hugs its own children a little more. Text just announced that the US rights to PAPER CAGE have been sold to Anchor, with the book billed as reminiscent of Mare of Easttown.

Previous Gifkins Award winners are Ruby Porter (2018) for Attraction, Tom Remiger (2019) for Soldiers and Gigi Fenster (2020) for A Good Winter.

Submissions for the 2023 Prize will open on July 25 and close at midnight NZST on October 14, 2022. The Prize will be administered by the New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ) Inc. Entry Forms and Terms general can be found here.

About Backwaters, the award-winning manuscript

Laura is tired of being asked where she really comes from. Her family has lived in Aotearoa, New Zealand for four generations and they are ambivalent at best about their Chinese heritage. But when asked to write about the Chinese-New Zealand experience for a work project, Laura finds herself drawn to the diary of her great-great-grandfather Ken, a market gardener in the early years of the British colony.

With the help of her beloved grandfather, Laura begins to write a version of Ken’s story, imagining his youth in Guangzhou and his journey to a new land. But then a family secret is revealed, leading Laura to embark on her own journey of self-discovery and coming to terms with the past.
A tender and nuanced novel about the bittersweet search for belonging, Backwaters marks the arrival of a bright new talent.

The Michael Gifkins Prize is made possible through a generous financial commitment from the Gifkins family and Text Publishing. It is administered by the NZ Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi o Aotearoa (PEN NZ) Inc.

© Scoop Media

Irene B. Bowles