Iona Winter has been awarded the 2022 Copyright Licensing New Zealand and New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa (PEN NZ Inc) $25,000 Writers’ Award for her creative non-fiction project, 'A counter of moons'.
'A counter of moons’ reconsiders and reimagines how we deal with suicide bereavement. Grounded in Iona Winter’s personal and professional experience, it weaves strands of creative non-fiction, memoir and poetry together to address an urgent, important and sensitive issue – one experienced by many in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Warning: this article contains discussion of suicide.
Winter says: "In 2020, my only child Reuben suicided. Immediately, I was challenged with how to be visible in my grieving process, alongside his public persona as a musician, because the intensity of suicide bereavement is like no other kind of grief."
"'A counter of moons' aims to reconsider and reimagine how we deal with this issue, and seek ways to understand, or manage the not understanding, of it. My previous mahi in the mental health field influences my creative practice, in that I attempt to articulate experiences that are often wordless. I have a deep understanding of humanness, and the book will create an opportunity for kōrero, in a society where suicide bereavement is often silently endured."
Whakawhetai ki a koutou CLNZ / NZSA for the grant, and for not shying away from the topic of suicide bereavement. Thank you for providing me with an opportunity to create a body of work that speaks to the bereaved, and lends itself to effect positive change within Aotearoa New Zealand."
Selection panel member Gigi Fenster said "‘A counter of moons’ stands out on both the subject matter and the approach to this subject. The themes explored in this project are urgent and important, and Iona Winter seems to be uniquely placed to explore them. The writing sits firmly within nonfiction, but recognises that this genre has creative elements, and that these creative elements might assist in relating challenging, difficult matters."
Selection panel member Vincent O’Malley agreed, saying "‘A counter of moons’ ... takes a unique approach to an issue that many whānau experience at some point. Blending creative non-fiction, memoir and poetry, Winter seeks to understand and reimagine suicide bereavement, drawing on both personal and professional experience.
Gina Cole said that " 'Counter of moons' focuses on the sensitive and difficult topic of suicide bereavement and handles it in a way that combines powerful, engaging and moving writing with the author’s personal and professional experience."
Iona Winter is Reuben's mum, a poet and author of three collections: Gaps in the Light (2021), Te Hau Kāika (2019), then the wind came (2018), and has recently completed her fourth. Skilled at voicing difficult topics, Iona creates work that spans genre and form. Widely published and anthologised internationally, her poetry and hybrid fiction have been performed solo and in collaboration with other multimedia artists. Iona holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing (AUT), and placed 2nd in the New Zealand Poetry Society 2022 International Poetry Competition.
The 2022 CLNZ/NZSA Writers’ Award selection panel was Gina Cole, Vincent O’Malley, and Giovanna Fenster. CLNZ and NZSA would like to thank the 2022 Selection Panel and all the writers who took the time to apply.