Paula Morris’s story, False River, was announced as one of the 19 short stories on this year’s long list in February. In an international line-up of writers, she is the only author from the Southern Hemisphere in contention for the award.
The other five on the shortlist are Elizabeth McCracken, Scott O’Connor, and Yiyun Li, from America; Rebecca John from England and Canadian Madeleine Thien.
Well-known actors will perform the shortlisted stories at two reading evenings at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London on April 22 and 23.
The winner will be announced on April 24 at a gala dinner at the Stationers’ Hall in London.
The award — now in its sixth year, and worth £30,000 to the winner — has always attracted an impressive list of names. Previous winners and shortlisted writers have included the Pulitzer prize winners Adam Johnson, Junot Diaz and Elizabeth Strout, the double Man Booker-winner Hilary Mantel, and fellow New Zealander CK Stead.
“I’m thrilled to be shortlisted alongside such excellent fiction writers,” Paula says. She was informed of the shortlisting last week, but announcements were embargoed until Sunday. “I’ve just arrived back in New Zealand from the UK, and now I have to return in April for the various events. It’s especially exciting to have the story performed in public by an actor.”
False River is set in Louisiana, and draws on some of Paula’s experiences ten years ago as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee.
Like two of the other writers on the shortlist – Elizabeth McCracken and Yiyun Li – Paula is a graduate of the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the US. She recently returned to Auckland after teaching at the University of Iowa, Tulane University in New Orleans and the University of Sheffield in the UK, and is the new convenor of the University of Auckland’s Master in Creative Writing (MCW) course.
Paula’s novel Rangatira (2011) won the fiction categories at the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Awards and the Nga Kupu Ora Maori Book Awards. Her short story collection, Forbidden Cities, was a regional finalist for the 2009 Commonwealth Prize, and her stories have been published and broadcast in New Zealand, the UK and the US.