Wednesday, December 7, 2022

John Summers receives 2022 Janet Frame Award for Prose

Janet Frame Literary Trust

Award Celebrates 70th Anniversary of Janet Frame's Most Famous Prize

Wellington writer John Summers will this week receive the 2022 Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Imaginative Prose, worth $7000. John Summers has published two books of short non-fiction, The Mermaid Boy (2015) and The Commercial Hotel (2021). His writing has appeared in many publications and reviewers have used words such as ‘dazzling’, ‘breath-taking’, ‘sparkling and enduring’ to describe his genre-defying blend of essay, reportage and memoir delivered with the literary finesse of an accomplished short story. 

Janet Frame Literary Trust Chair Pamela Gordon compared the way that at his best John Summers raises non-fiction writing to the level of an art form, to Janet Frame’s own aspiration to do the same.  ‘Autobiography is found fiction’, said Janet Frame. The writer has applied the techniques of fiction writing to their true stories.

John Summers responded: ‘This award is extremely encouraging. A bolt from the blue that says keep writing, we like what you’re doing. It’s hard to overstate such a thing when, for the most part, writing is the act of sitting alone at a laptop. I am especially honoured to find myself amongst the talented people that have received this award, and that it comes in memory of Janet Frame, an incredible, original talent whose work has been important to me.’

Just before Christmas in 1952 Janet Frame received the life changing Hubert Church Award for the ‘Best Prose by a New Zealander’ for her first book The Lagoon and Other Stories (1952). Notoriously Frame was languishing in a mental hospital, misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and only days away from a scheduled lobotomy. When the superintendent read a news report about the accolade he decided to cancel the operation. Out of gratitude for the support and encouragement she had received from the many honours bestowed on her during her long career Janet Frame founded the Janet Frame Literary Trust and bequeathed an endowment fund out of which awards could be given to New Zealand writers. The 2022 award commemorates the 70th anniversary of the date the certificate was signed by PEN New Zealand: December 10th 1952.

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Photo credit for portrait of John Summers: Ebony Lamb

THE COMMERCIAL HOTEL is published by Te Herenga Waka University Press

 Authorised by Pamela Gordon
Chair, Janet Frame Literary Trust