New Zealand Post Book Awards - a glittering event

Kia ora ladies and gentlemen, good evening and welcome to the inaugural  Elizabeth Heritage New Zealand Post Book Awards Speech Awards. These prestigious new awards recognise excellence, elegance and exciting new levels of profanity in the speeches given at the New Zealand Post Book  Awards by authors, publishers, judges and associated distinguished persons.
 
 
 
First up we have John Campbell, narrowly beating Sir Michael Cullen to the Speech By The Most Famous Person In The Room Award. In a nod to the varying interpretations of ‘black tie’ on display, he said it was an honour to see so many writers so beautifully dressed. He paid tribute to the publishers of poetry and illustrated non-fiction especially, calling what they do an “act of love and generosity”, and thanked the smaller publishing  houses in particular for their bravery. Writers and publishers, said John Campbell, “take us to the head and heart of who we are”. He also gets an Honourable Mention for First Profanity of the Night, calling the debate about Best First Book “f***en excellent”.
 
The award for Most Endearing Newbie Speech goes to Quinn Berentson who, upon receiving his Best First Book Award for Non-Fiction, said “I now realise I have peers”, graciously overlooking John Campbell’s comment that everyone in his book Moa: The Life and Death of New Zealand's legendary bird appeared to be “varying degrees of mad”.
 
 
The award for Most Heartfelt Speech goes to Helen Heath, upon her reception
of Best First Book Award for Poetry. She raised a glass to poets everywhere and thanked her family and colleagues for their continued love and support. Judges called her book Graft “a stunner”.
Brian Morris of Huia Publishers gets the Good Point Well Made Award for his speech following the Maori Language Award, in which he challenged judges and readers alike to be able to actually read Ngā Waituhi o Rēhua, now or in generations to come.
 
Congratulations to Jarrod Gilbert, whose book Patched:The History of Gangs in New Zealand got one of the biggest cheers of the night when it beat the other finalists - two cookbooks - to win the People’s Choice Award, and whose speech takes the cake (aha!), winning the Most Peculiar Insult Award. Rushing in from his smoko outside, Jarrod referred to fellow finalist author Annabel Langbein as his “nemesis” who would be “punched in the pav”, before commenting that he “probably should have prepared something to say”. Annabel was spotted later looking entirely unruffled, with a large plate of broccoli.
 
The award for Most Off-Topic Speech goes to NZ Post Chair Sir Michael Cullen, for giving us his pick of the Labour leadership race (Grant Robertson, if you’re interested) and commenting that, re the GCSB Bill, "at least we can no longer say the government isn’t listening to us."
Mad props to judge Guy Somerset for his Most Poisoned Barbs Speech Award. Guy managed to have a dig a sponsors New Zealand Post - “these awards are the only way they’ll ever see so many envelopes in one place” - and the ceremony organisers, urging authors to walk quickly to the stage so we wouldn’t have to listen to much of the music.
 
One of the highlights of the evening has to be Steve Braunias winning the General Non-Fiction Award for his book Civilisation: Twenty Places on the Edge of the Worldand consequently also winning the Most Profanities Per Minute Award. “In recounting how he came to write his book, he recalled thinking “I want to write a minor classic -  I really f***en did think that”, before noting that he “[doesn’t] really like people”.
 
He thanked his fiancee for her support and said he’d love to revisit the places in his book with her and their daughter, “although not all twenty”. Demonstrating the command of imagery for which he is justly famed, Steve compared the process of writing to “digging your way out of a valley that smelt like a sewer” and called his publisher Mary Varnham “absolutely bloody amazing”. In summary, “I’m f***en thrilled”.
In contrast, the award for Best Delivered Prepared Speech goes to judge Vanda Symon, whose comments were well articulated and flawlessly delivered; and the award for Most Selfless Speech goes to Greg O’Brienwho spoke only of Pat Hanly, the subject of his book of the same name, and not at all about his writing of the book.
The award for Best Sports Metaphor in a Speech goes to Poetry award winner 
Anne Kennedy, who won for her book The Darling North, and compared poetry to netball, being non-commercial and involving lots of different people.
 
Kirsty Gunn really cleaned up, winning the Fiction Award, Book of the Year, and Most Discombobulated Author. Kirsty, whose winning book The Big Music is set in Scotland, told me that, with strange symmetry, a previous book of hers that is set in New Zealand had won a major award in Scotland. She wanted me to let you all know that she loves and values bookshops and never, ever uses Amazon.
Overall, lots of weird and wonderful public speaking on display, and lots of applause very well deserved. New PANZ chief Sam Elworthy, resplendent in presidential pinstripe, praised judge John Campbell for his “gutsy enthusiasm that really inspired the crowd”, and commented that it was great to see so many people coming together around the awards on Twitter. I must also give an Honourable Mention to VUP Publisher Fergus Barrowman for Most Trips to the Stage to Collect a Big Red Envelope.
Congratulations to all the speech award winners, and indeed to all the New Zealand Post Book Awards finalists and winners. It was a great evening and I look forward to hearing (and judging) more speeches next year.
 
 
Written by Elizabeth Heritage