Award-winning teacher and children’s writer Leonie Agnew, from Pakuranga, has won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award.
This is a national competition for a manuscript aimed at young adults and the winner gets a publishing deal with Australasian book publisher Walker Books Australia.
The competition takes place every two years. It is open to all New Zealand writers for a new work of fiction for young adults aged 13 and over. The prize carries a prize of $1500.
The prize is named after famous Kiwi author Tessa Duder.
The manuscript is currently titled The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp. The genre is magical realism and is set in a fictional small town on the west coast of New Zealand.
Basically, a mysterious mobile library appears and the protagonist, Hannah, discovers that the books contain true stories about the people of her town. Hannah is the town’s teenage outcast, blamed for a terrible car accident, and she has plenty of enemies.
The question is, will she use people’s secrets for revenge or find a better purpose? Hannah has repressed memories and finding her own book will unlock chaos throughout the town, unless she finds a way to make peace with her own past.
Agnew told the Time it was his first attempt at a young adult novel.
“The writing was both challenging and rewarding, especially given the timing,” Agnew said.
“Try to rewrite over 60,000 words during lockdown at your kitchen table! It was hard to stay focused, but the award deadline helped me stay focused on the goals.
“I really appreciate the opportunity offered by the Storylines Tessa Duder Award, especially since no one can approach Walker Books Australia without an agent.”
Duder said Agnew’s five children’s novels since 2011 have gone from strength to strength, winning multiple awards along the way.
“But The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp is a stunning achievement for her first substantial young adult novel, a truly worthy winner of the award.
“It’s a contemporary story with a fantasy element, notoriously difficult to pull off, but done with confidence and style.
“I look forward to its publication next year and Leonie’s budding career as one of New Zealand’s most exciting young writers.”
Several of Agnew’s books have been shortlisted or won awards, including the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2010, Junior Fiction Section, Children’s Choice Junior Fiction Section and Best First Book Award from the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2012, and the Inkpot Contest Master in 2015.
She was also a recipient of a writing residency at the University of Otago.
Agnew grew up in Howick and attended Baradene College for four years and then Howick College for one year. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Post Graduate Diploma in Teaching, worked as a copywriter and is now a writer, primary school teacher and creative writing tutor, living in Pakuranga.
His work has also been published in the New Zealand School Journal and broadcast on Radio New Zealand. She has appeared at numerous literary festivals and events, including the Waiheke Literary Festival 2015 and the Auckland Writers Festival 2018. She is the daughter of Time sportswriter Ivan Agnew.