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First book is a winner

A Featherston writer, broadcaster, and media personality has taken out one of the top prizes at New Zealand’s annual premier literary event.

Noelle McCarthy won the award for the best first book at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards last week for her searingly honest account of growing up in Ireland and her often fractious relationship with her mother.

Called Grand: Becoming My Mother’s Daughter, few subjects are off limits in this soul-searching personal memoir, including her own and her mother’s struggles with alcohol addiction, and her mother’s final illness.

McCarthy described winning the E H McCormick Award for General Non-Fiction as a thrill and an honour.

“It’s wonderful to win an award for a first book,” she said.

With the book having been published a year ago now, McCarthy said she had had enough time to reflect and consider the process as a first experience.

“Winning this award feels like a really special milestone.

“To be a finalist was special, and to win was overwhelming.”

She described an emotional moment at the award ceremony when she thanked
her [now deceased] mother.

McCarthy said writing the book had been a collaboration, and she gave credit to her two editors and other important contributors.

“The idea for Grand came from my husband, who is also a writer.”

She is married to John Daniell, with whom she makes podcasts at their Wairarapa studio outside Featherston under their label Bird of Paradise Productions.

McCarthy will shortly be travelling to Ireland, where Grand is to be published next month. Penguin Ireland has bought worldwide rights to the book.

“Ireland is the other part of the story for me. It’s very meaningful the book will come out there.”

Grand was written in Featherston during the covid lockdowns.

“I would go for daily walks and think about all the places in the book,” she said.

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