Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Steve Braunias and sensible sentencing

I don’t usually run press releases but this one deserves it:
Wintec Announces New Zealand’s Richest Writing Prize
Wintec in Hamilton is pleased to announce a new and unique writing prize – an award for the highest-paid sentence in New Zealand. Steve Braunias, editor in residence at Wintec’s School of Media Arts, will award $500 to the student who has written the best sentence during the year.
The award will be held annually, and is eligible for all third-year degree students and diploma students of journalism at Wintec. The $500 prize makes it New Zealand’s richest-ever award for a single sentence of writing.
Mr Braunias says he hopes the award will encourage quality writing among the Wintec students. “Every story anyone ever writes is made up of sentences,” he says. “A good sentence really jumps out, and can give the reader a powerful jolt, or move them, make them laugh, make them think, or change the entire direction of their life, possibly.
“It might contain information. It might be illuminating. It might be a beautifully composed piece of language, each word strung up like lanterns. It might be short.
“I will be on the look-out, and have my cheque book ready to award the student who may not be the greatest reporter, or the best interviewer, but who has, for one moment, been inspired to write a line worth $500.”
I have written hundreds of words for the books page of one national Sunday newspaper and not been paid. I have written a book for one celebrated indie publisher and not been paid (this is why I like the multinationals: they pay, and pay fast). So $500 for a sentence, which might consist of only a few words, looks good. This is better than the NZ Post awards, better than the Man Booker, better even than a Creative NZ grant. (Flashback: one lunchtime in the late 70s I performed a half-hour “gig” in the Quad at Auckland University and earned $100. I can’t instantly convert that to 2013 dollars (i.e. can’t be bothered) but it was a massive sum at the time, probably equivalent to the charge-out rate for a senior partner in a law firm. So I figured I had done the right thing by dropping out of law school.


The report of this new award in Wintec’s Waikato Independent was illustrated by a an uncredited photo (above) of Steve Braunias with Winston Peters at a Wintec Press Club luncheon last May. I attended it and described Peter’s performance as guest speaker here. The photo was taken after lunch: I don’t recall a soup fight but from the state of Steve’s shirt there must have been one at some point.

1 comment:

Katherine said...

Steve has a lot of reading ahead of him then :-)