Another award for talented writer

Celebrated New Zealand author Tessa Duder, left, and Pakuranga children’s writer Leonie Agnew. Photo supplied

Teacher and award-winning children’s writer Leonie Agnew, of Pakuranga, has won the Storylines Tessa Duder Award.

It is a national competition for a young adult manuscript 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 It is open to all New Zealand writers for an unpublished work of fiction for young adults aged 13 and above. The award carries a prize of $1500.

The award is named for celebrated Kiwi author Tessa Duder.

The manuscript is currently titled The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp. The genre is magical realism and it’s set in a fictional, small town on the West Coast of NZ.

Basically, a mysterious mobile library turns up and the protagonist, Hannah, discovers that the books contain true stories about people from her town. Hannah is the teenage town pariah, held responsible for a terrible car crash, 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 mayhem on the entire town, unless she finds a way to make peace with her own past.

Agnew told the Times it was her first attempt at a young adult novel.

“The writing was both challenging and rewarding, especially given the timing,” Agnew said.

“Try rewriting over 60,000 words during lockdown at your kitchen table! It was hard to stay focused, but the award deadline helped me to stay goal orientated.

“I really appreciate the opportunity offered by the Storylines Tessa Duder Award, especially as no one can approach Walker Books Australia without an agent.”

Duder said Agnew’s five novels for children since 2011 have been going from strength to strength, scooping up several awards along the way.

“But The Impossible Story of Hannah Kemp is an astonishing achievement for her first substantial novel for young adults, 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 eagerly to its publication next year and to Leonie’s burgeoning career as one of New Zealand’s most exciting young writers.”

Several of Agnew’s books have been shortlisted for or won awards, including the Tom Fitzgibbon Award in 2010, the Junior Fiction Section, the Children’s Choice Junior Fiction section and the Best First Book Award of the New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards 2012, and the Master of the Inkpot Competition in 2015.

She has also been the recipient of a writing residency at the University of Otago.

Agnew grew up in Howick and attended Baradene College for four years, then Howick College for a year. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a Graduate Diploma in Teaching, has worked as an advertising copywriter and is now a writer, primary school teacher and creative writing tutor, living in Pakuranga.

She has also had work published in the New Zealand School Journal and broadcast on Radio New Zealand. She has appeared at a number of festivals and literary events including the 2015 Waiheke Literary Festival and the 2018 Auckland Writers Festival. She is the daughter of Times sports writer Ivan Agnew.