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Last month, the online "Pacific Songwriting Competition" named local Michael Tiernan "2007 Songwriter of the Year" after he briefly was recognized as runner-up in the contest. Privately sponsored by New Zealand opera singer Deborah Wai Kapohe, the four-year-old competition has in the past awarded cash prizes totaling $40,000 (NZ). This year, the purse strings were tightened, with the top prize being a few hundred dollars.

"The first winner, a Nashville guy, thought there was way more money in the prize packages this year, and he got into a major dispute with the organizers," says Tiernan. When their initial pick declined to be involved with the contest, Tiernan, who had already won the "Best Pop Rock Songwriter" category, got the call.

"I thought it was all settled, but out of the blue, they asked, 'Do you want it?' " he laughs. Despite the second-hand honor, Tiernan says he's happy to find space on his wall for the plaque. "It's sloppy seconds, but I'll take it."

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