Judging her first Landfall Essay Competition in 2018, Landfall editor Emma Neale was seriously challenged. The overall high quality of the 90 submissions made it impossible to choose. After a nails-bitten-to-the-quick struggle, she optimistically submitted her ‘shortlist’ of 21 essays. The publisher had some strong words with her. Emma was told a shortlist needed to be shorter than 21. A lot shorter. There were no fingernails left to chew. She wasn’t flexible enough to bite her toes. The only thing left to gnaw down was the too-long list. In the end she pared the list back to 10 but it seemed so wasteful not to be awarding many more prizes. The world needed to be able to read these damned fine essays. That’s when this book was born … Strong Words is a striking collection of essays that show what Virginia Woolf once described as the art that can at once ‘sting us wide awake’ and yet also ‘fix us in a trance which is not sleep but rather an intensification of life’. It celebrates an extraordinary year in New Zealand writing.