Creative Kōrero, Literature, Media

Tauranga Writer Wins National Award With First Book

A first-time novelist is urging other aspiring writers to ‘give it a go’ after winning a publishing contract as the prize in a national competition this year.

Tauranga author Carol Garden’s book for young teens will be published by Scholastic and launched next year. The publishing deal is part of the prize for winning the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award for unpublished authors.

Carol was stoked to be shortlisted for the award when she went away on a sailing holiday in February. Finding out she had won was ‘just magic’ and she braved storms and high sea drama to get home in time to attend the award ceremony.

“We’d taken our boat down to the Marlborough Sounds and we thought we’d allowed enough time to get home via the West Coast and around the top of the North Island. The weather-Gods didn’t play ball, and it was coming round the top of the Island and heading east that proved difficult,” she says.

A week of battling headwinds and rough seas saw Carol, her husband Phil and friend Iain Ogilvie head into the Dove Bay Marina in Kerikeri and hire a rental car to get home in time.

“It was clear we wouldn’t have made it otherwise and I really didn’t want to miss going along and being in a room of New Zealand’s top writers,” she says.

The couple went back up to Kerikeri to bring the boat home a week later, and again struck poor weather. In a final bit of drama their boom snapped just an hour from Tauranga Harbour.

It was during the Covid 19 lockdown last year that Carol wrote the bulk of her novel. In a bid to upskill herself she joined the Tauranga Writers Group and the New Zealand Society of Authors, to gain some understanding of the literary world.

Chairperson of Tauranga Writers, Sharon Manssen urged Carol to enter the competition.

“I didn’t know anything about it, but it seemed like it would be good experience,” she says. “With every workshop I attended I’d gone home and improved my novel. By the time I submitted it I had rewritten it five times.”

All that work paid off, along with tips from some young family members and friends.

Carol describes her book as a futuristic Famous Five, set in New Zealand. The main characters are children (with super-powers) who tackle an evil billionaire intent on mining the sea bed.

“I had read that many children were worrying about the future, particularly about climate change,” says Carol. “I wanted to write a good story set in a pro-environment world, where children were actively working to keep the planet safe.”

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