In Eleanor Catton's awardwinning book The Luminaries, wealthy gold prospector Emery Staines unexpectedly begins to give away his fortune. Now, the 29-year-old author – the youngest ever winner of the Man Booker Prize – wants to follow suit.
Catton has set up a NZ$15,000 (£7,500) grant for young writers with the money The Luminaries won as part of the New Zealand Post awards for best fiction and people's choice. But Catton's as-yet-unnamed grant isn't going on writing; instead, it's a reading grant to offer authors "the means and opportunity not to write, but to read, and to share what they learn through their reading with their colleagues in the arts".
Speaking at the New Zealand Post awards ceremony, Catton said: "Writers are readers first; indeed our love of reading is what unites us above all else. If our reading culture in New Zealand is dynamic, diverse, and informed, our writing culture will be too."
Writers who land the no-strings-attached grant will get $3,000 each (just over £1,500) to spend on reading time. Catton told the Guardian that the only caveat of her self-described "time to read" grant is that the successful applicants need to pen a "short piece of non-fiction about their reading (what was interesting to them, what they learned) that will be posted online so that others can benefit from their reading too".
Catton herself is a voracious reader. In a Dazed interview last October, she spilled on the epic reading list she devoured while coming up with the sprawlingly neo-Victorian Luminaries: "I’d never read the big Russian novelists before, so I started off reading Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. Then I moved on to Dickens, Thackeray and Wilkie Collins. Then Flaubert and George Eliot."
"At the same time, I was reading a lot of 20th-century crime novels, like Graham Greene, moving on to Patricia Highsmith and Agatha Christie."
Basically, a whole lot of reading goes into creating a prizewinning book. So who knows? If you win one of her reading grants, you might end up producing the new Luminaries.
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