Winning The Literary Prize Fight
The announcement of the death of the Australian Literary Prize may be premature, if recent events are any indication. Australian writers will once again shower themselves in ivory-tipped quills, exquisite ruffled collars and vast quantities of opium and laudanum.
The first threat was bullish new Queensland Premier Campbell Newton’s immediate abolition of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards in April. After thirteen years in operation, he dumped the award in order to save a quarter of a million clams (plus sundry administrative costs) and, presumably, to cock a snook at artists-at-the-government-teat that so enrage the Right.
Anna Funder’s All That I Am won this year’s Miles Franklin Award last week and the writer had some choice words for Can Do Campbell in a video, saying “Abolishing writers’ awards is a cost-cutting measure, but also a step towards the unscrutinised exercise of power.”
The Melbourne-born novelist and writer noted that literary prizes such as the Miles Franklin are important “but they are not necessary: we would keep writing without them, as writers do in many countries where they are banned. But prizes are very important to the nation. They show that free speech is alive and unbeholden to government, or to media barons.”
All That I Am was also granted the Independent Bookseller’s Award for Best Debut Fiction, Indie Book of the Year, the Australian Book Industry Awards’ Book of the Year and Literary Fiction Book of the Year, and scored the $35,000 Barbara Jefferis Award. Funder proves that there still many awards to be won, in that All That I Am seems to have won all of them.
This week saw the launch of a Premier’s prize proxy: the Queensland Literary Awards, which has posted a Pozible crowd-funding page to raise $20,000 prize money. The new QLAs have already attracted over 600 books and manuscripts across 14 categories. Submissions have already closed , and the gongs will be distributed at a ceremony on 5 September. They just need to cover more than half of the costs.
Not only is the appearance of the QLAs reassuring, but a couple of other new honorary titles also show that the concept of writing for money is not entirely dead, and that this financial encouragement remains worthy.
Cultural and literary mag Overland has just announced its Short Story Prize for New and Emerging Writers, with naming rights bought by Victoria University. It’s another annual award, and while the stakes aren’t as high (six large for the winner with two runners-up prizes of 1K apiece), it’s a fitting companion to Overland‘s Poetry Prize and righteous in its aim to “[foster] a community of emerging Australian writers both in print and online.” It will open in July and be judged by Enza Gandolfo, Overland editors Jeff Sparrow and Jacinda Woodhead, and Overland fiction editor Jennifer Mills.
And we would be remiss not to mention the new Wheeler Centre Hot Desk Fellowships, which were also awarded this week. These 20 writers get a cool grand stipend (courtesy of the Readings Foundation) and a desk at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre for the next two months to further their literary aspirations. This allows us to also mention that Enthusiast co-editor Mel Campbell snaffled one.
Congrats to Mel and all the other budding award winners and Hot Desk sitters. What one Campbell may taketh away, another Campbell receiveth. (And with that terrible line, this particular Enthusiast removes himself from the field).
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