A huge roar of delight echoed through the corridors of Manukau Institute of Technology’s Faculty of Creative Arts in Auckland, New Zealand this morning.
Eleanor Catton (28) is the youngest ever recipient of the Man Booker Prize and teaches creative writing to 30 Bachelor of Creative Arts students at the Institute.
Her class had gathered to watch a live stream of the Man Booker Awards ceremony. All were quietly hopeful that their teacher would take home one of the world’s most significant literary prizes.
“We all just lost it when Eleanor was announced as the winner,” says Kirsti Whalen (24), one of Catton’s creative writing students.
“It’s surreal – seeing her achieve such incredible global success gives me hope for the future. We’re just so proud of what she’s achieved.”
Whalen says Catton has been much more than simply a teacher to her class.
“She’s a mentor, and she’s one of us. Ellie’s win means that New Zealand’s voice is being noticed and heard on the global contemporary literary scene. She’s shown that as a people, we’ve got stories that are worth telling, worth listening to. Winning something like the Man Booker is an incredible, inspirational achievement.”
Ms Catton teaches both programmes in partnership with some of New Zealand’s most accomplished writers, including Professor Witi Ihimaera, Professor Albert Wendt, Robert Sullivan, Sue Orr, and Anne Kennedy.
Having been taught by Catton this year, Whalen says the greatest thing learnt from the Man Booker Prize winner is to not be afraid of failing.
“Ellie’s shown me that success is hard work and not just about the writing but also being a present member of the literary world, reading widely and exploring what it means to be a working writer.”
Whelan says she’s very proud to be studying at Manukau Institute of Technology.
“We’re learning from some of New Zealand leading writers and the Faculty of Creative Arts is a great space for growth and development,” she says.