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The Stella Prize Long List
14 / 03 / 2013
Part of the ethos of the Victorian Women’s Trust (publisher of Sheilas) is to “showcase women’s talents in exchange for skills, ideas and information”. In this spirit, this month’s ‘Culture Club’ looks at the Longlist of the Stella Prize, a new award for women in Australian literature.
In its inaugural year, the Stella Prize has been in part created to redress the lack of acknowledgement women have previously received in Australian writing awards.
Author and feminist Stella Miles Franklin (My Brilliant Career, 1901) bequested the Miles Franklin Literary Award be given to “the novel of the year judged to be of the highest literary merit and ‘which must present Australian Life in any of its phases’”.
Last year, Anna Funder became the tenth woman to have ever received the annual prize since its inception in 1957. Of those ten, two are multiple prize recipients – Thea Astley has won it four times, and Jessica Anderson twice – meaning the prize has been awarded to women on 14 occasions in total over more than half a century.
And so, thanks to a group of dedicated women writers, a stand-alone Australian women’s prize for literature has been created with the Stella Prize (and with a top nod back to Stella Miles Franklin).
The $50,000 prize will be awarded to the best book (fiction and non-fiction) published in 2012 by an Australian woman.
Judges of this year’s prize include writer and critic Kerryn Goldsworthy, author Kate Grenville, actor Claudia Karvan, bookseller Fiona Stager, and ABC broadcaster Rafael Epstein.
Late last month, organisers of the Stella Prize announced their first ever Longlist of 12 nominees. Chair of the Stella Prize judging panel, Kerryn Goldsworthy, explained:
“For the inaugural Stella Prize, out of the almost 200 original entries, the judges have arrived at a varied and eclectic longlist that reflects the breadth of imagination, knowledge and skill in contemporary Australian women’s writing. The list includes a collection of short stories, a fantasy novel, a speculative-fiction verse novel, and three non-fiction books with very different subjects and styles. There are mixed-genre books involving biography, history, memoir and art; there are novels about real people, and nonfiction books using the beautiful writing techniques of fiction. There are stories from the past and from the future; stories of children at risk, of racial tension, of world travel, and of unimaginable danger and loss.”
The shortlist will be announced on 20 March. The final winner will be announced on 16 April, 2013.
We encourage Sheilas readers to support Australian women writers by checking out the longlist and following up with a visit to your local bookstore to purchase your pick! As Aviva Tuffield, Chair of the Stella Prize, says, “The Stella Prize judging criteria are that the works be original, excellent and engaging, and thanks to our dedicated judges, we are convinced that book-lovers now have a wealth of reading treasures ahead of them.”
For more information, check out the Stella Prize website here.
The Stella Prize Longlist entrants are:
Floundering – Romy Ash (Text Publishing)
Tom and Jordy have been living with their gran since the day their mother, Loretta, left them on her doorstep and disappeared. Now Loretta’s returned, and she wants her boys back. Tom and Jordy hit the road with Loretta in her beat-up car. The family of three journeys across the country, squabbling, bonding, searching and reconnecting. But Loretta isn’t mother material. She’s broke, unreliable, lost. And there’s something else that’s not quite right with this reunion. They reach the west coast and take refuge in a beachside caravan park. Their neighbour, a surly old man, warns the kids to stay away. But when Loretta disappears again the boys have no choice but to ask the old man for help, and now they face new threats and new fears.
About Romy Ash
Romy Ash is a Melbourne-based writer. She has written for GriffithREVIEW, the Big Issue and frankie magazine. She has a regular cooking column in Yen magazine and writes for the blog Trotski & Ash.
Mazin Grace – Dylan Coleman (UQP)
Growing up on the Mission isn’t easy for clever Grace Oldman. When her classmates tease her for not having a father, she doesn’t know what to say. Papa Neddy says her dad is the Lord God in Heaven, but that doesn’t help when the Mission kids call her a bastard. As Grace slowly pieces together clues that might lead to answers, she struggles to find a place in a community that rejects her for reasons she doesn’t understand. In Mazin Grace, Dylan Coleman fictionalises her mother’s childhood at the Koonibba Lutheran Mission in South Australia in the 1940s and 50s. Woven through the narrative are the powerful, rhythmic sounds of Aboriginal English and Kokatha language.
About Dylan Coleman
Dylan Coleman is a Kokatha-Greek woman who grew up in Thevenard, on the far west coast of South Australia. She has a PhD in creative writing from the University of Adelaide, where she teaches Indigenous health, and her short stories have been published in Southerly and various anthologies. For over twenty years, Dylan has worked across Aboriginal education, health, land rights, and the Arts, with a focus on Aboriginal community engagement and social justice. Dylan lives on the outskirts of Adelaide with her partner and son.
The Burial – Courtney Collins (Allen & Unwin)
It is the dawn of the twentieth century in Australia and a woman has done an unspeakable thing. Twenty-two-year-old Jessie has served a two-year sentence for horse rustling. As a condition of her release she is apprenticed to Fitzgerald ‘Fitz’ Henry, who wants a woman to allay his loneliness in a valley populated by embittered ex-soldiers. Fitz wastes no time in blackmailing Jessie and involving her in his business of horse rustling and cattle duffing. When Fitz is wounded in an accident he hires Aboriginal stockman, Jack Brown, to steal horses with Jessie. Soon both Jack Brown and Jessie are struggling against the oppressive and deadening grip of Fitz. One catastrophic night turns Jessie’s life on its head and she must flee for her life. From her lonely outpost, the mountains beckon as a place to escape. First she must bury the evidence. But how do you bury the evidence when the evidence is part of yourself?
About Courtney Collins
The Burial is the debut novel of Courtney Collins. It has been optioned for a feature film by Pure Pictures. Courtney’s next work in progress, The Walkman Mix, has already received attention through the Melbourne Lord Mayor’s Creative Writing Award 2011. Courtney grew up in the Hunter Valley in NSW. She now lives on the Goulburn River in regional Victoria.
The People Smuggler – Robin de Crespigny (Penguin)
At once a non-fiction thriller and a moral maze, The People Smuggler: The True Story of Ali Al Jenabi is one man’s epic story of trying to find a safe place in the world. When Ali Al Jenabi flees Saddam Hussein’s torture chambers, he is forced to leave his family behind in Iraq. What follows is an incredible international odyssey through the shadow world of fake passports, crowded camps and illegal border crossings, living every day with excruciating uncertainty about what the next will bring. Through betrayal, triumph, misfortune – even romance and heartbreak – Ali is sustained by his fierce love of freedom and family. Continually pushed to the limits of his endurance, eventually he must confront what he has been forced to become.
About Robin de Crespigny
Robin de Crespigny has spent three years working with Ali Al Jenabi to write his story. She is a film-maker and lives in Sydney. This is her first book.
Questions of Travel – Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)
Questions of Travel charts two very different lives. Laura travels the world before returning to Sydney, where she works for a publisher of travel guides. Ravi dreams of being a tourist until he is driven from Sri Lanka by devastating events. Around these two superbly drawn characters, a double narrative assembles an enthralling array of people, places and stories – from Theo, whose life plays out in the long shadow of the past, to Hana, an Ethiopian woman determined to reinvent herself in Australia.
About Michelle de Kretser
Michelle de Kretser was born in Sri Lanka and emigrated to Australia when she was fourteen. Educated in Melbourne and Paris, Michelle has worked as a university tutor, an editor and a book reviewer. She is the author of The Rose Grower, The Hamilton Case, which won the Commonwealth Prize (SE Asia and Pacific region) and the UK Encore Prize, and The Lost Dog, which won a number of awards including the 2008 NSW Premier’s Book of the Year Award, the Christina Stead Prize for Fiction, and the 2008 ALS Gold Medal.
Sufficient Grace – Amy Espeseth (Scribe Publications)
Ruth and her cousin Naomi live in rural Wisconsin, part of an isolated religious community. The girls’ lives are ruled by the rhythms of nature — the harsh winters, the hunting seasons, the harvesting of crops — and by their families’ beliefs. Beneath the surface of this closed, frozen world, hidden dangers lurk. Then Ruth learns that Naomi harbours a terrible secret. She searches for solace in the mysteries of the natural world: broken fawns, migrating birds, and the strange fish deep beneath the ice. Can the girls’ prayers for deliverance be answered?
About Amy Espeseth
Born in rural Wisconsin, Amy Espeseth immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s and lives in Melbourne. A writer, publisher and academic, she is the recipient of the 2007 Felix Meyer Scholarship in Literature, the 2010 QUT Postgraduate Creative Writing Prize, and the 2012 CAL Scribe Fiction Prize. Sufficient Grace won the 2009 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript.
The Sunlit Zone – Lisa Jacobson (Five Islands Press)
The Sunlit Zone is a moving elegy of love and loss, admirable for its narrative sweep and the family dynamic that drives it. A risk-taking work of rare, imaginative power.
“The Sunlit Zone combines the narrative drive of the novel with the perfect pitch of true poetry. A darkly futuristic vision shot through with bolts of light. Brilliant, poignant, disconcerting.” Adrian Hyland
“This novel in verse, at once magical and irresistible, draws us in to a vivid future. In Lisa Jacobson’s telling, the Australian fascination with salt water and sea change is made over anew. Romance holds hands with science and takes to the ocean.” Chris Wallace-Crabbe
About Lisa Jacobson
Lisa Jacobson’s The Sunlit Zone was short-listed for the 2009 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript. An earlier poetry collection, Hair & Skin & Teeth, was shortlisted for the National Book Council Awards. She has studied literature at Melbourne and La Trobe Universities, and remains an Honorary Research Fellow at La Trobe. She shares a bush block in Melbourne with her partner and daughter.
Like a House on Fire – Cate Kennedy (Scribe Publications)
In Like a House on Fire, Cate Kennedy takes ordinary lives and dissects their ironies, injustices and pleasures with her humane eye and wry sense of humour. In ‘Laminex and Mirrors’, a young woman working as a cleaner in a hospital helps an elderly patient defy doctor’s orders. In ‘Cross-Country’, a jilted lover manages to misinterpret her ex’s new life. And in ‘Ashes’, a son accompanies his mother on a journey to scatter his father’s remains, while lifelong resentments simmer in the background.
About Cate Kennedy
Cate Kennedy is a prizewinning short-story writer, who has published two collections, Dark Roots and Like a House on Fire. She is also the author of a novel, The World Beneath; a travel memoir, Sing, and Don’t Cry; and the poetry collections Joyflight, Signs of Other Fires and The Taste of River Water, which won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2011.
Sea Hearts – Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)
‘Why would I? People are uneasy enough with me – if I start bringing up sea-wives, they’ll take against me good and proper.‘
‘It could be secret.’
On remote Rollrock Island, the sea-witch Misskaella discovers she can draw a girl from the heart of a seal. So, for a price, any man might buy himself a bride; an irresistibly enchanting sea-wife. But what cost will be borne by the people of Rollrock – the men, the women, the children – once Misskaella sets her heart on doing such a thing?
About Margo Lanagan
Margo Lanagan is an internationally acclaimed writer of novels and short stories. Black Juice was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and won two World Fantasy Awards and the Victorian Premier’s Award for Young Adult Fiction. Red Spikes won the CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers and was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize. Her novel Tender Morsels won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and was a Michael L. Printz Honor Book for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. Margo lives in Sydney.
The Mind of a Thief – Patti Miller (UQP)
For 40,000 years the Central NSW area of Wellington was Aboriginal – Wiradjuri – land. Following the arrival of white men, it became a penal settlement, mission station, gold-mining town and farming centre with a history of white comfort and black marginalisation. In the late 20th century, it was also the subject of the first post-Mabo Native Title claim, bringing new hope – and new controversy – to the area and its people. Wiradjuri land is also where author Patti Miller was born and, mid-life, it begins to exert a compelling emotional pull, demanding her return. Post-children, having lived a dream life in Paris, it is hard for her to understand, or ignore, and so she is drawn into the story at the heart of Australian identity – who are we in relation to our beloved but stolen country?
About Patti Miller
Patti Miller was raised on a farm in central western NSW and has worked teaching writing for over twenty years. She has written many books and has also been widely recognised for her very successful ‘Life Stories’ workshops, which she presents at universities, writers centres and overseas writers retreats, as well as for migrant and Aboriginal communities. She currently teaches at the Faber Academy in Sydney.
An Opening – Stephanie Radok (Wakefield Press)
Artist and writer Stephanie Radok possesses a unique international perspective. For over twenty years she has written about and witnessed the emergence of contemporary Aboriginal art and the responses of Australian art to global diasporas. In An Opening: Twelve love stories about art, Stephanie Radok takes us on a walk with her dog and finds that it is possible to re-imagine the suburb as the site of epiphanies and attachments.
About Stephanie Radok
Born in Melbourne, Stephanie Radok has worked in Adelaide as an artist, freelance visual art writer and editor since 1988. For over twenty years, she has written reviews and criticism for The Adelaide Review, Artlink, Art Monthly and other magazines. In 2011 a survey exhibition of her artwork The Sublingual Museum was shown at Flinders University City Gallery.
Mateship with Birds – Carrie Tiffany (Picador)
On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next-door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard-working Betty has escaped to the country with her two fatherless children. Betty is pleased that her son, Michael, wants to spend time with the gentle farmer next door. But when Harry decides to teach Michael about the opposite sex, perilous boundaries are crossed.
About Carrie Tiffany
Carrie Tiffany was born in West Yorkshire and grew up in Western Australia. She spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Red Centre and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist. Her first novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living (2005) was shortlisted for numerous awards including the Orange Prize, the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the Guardian First Book Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, and won the Dobbie Award for Best First Book (2006) and the 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Award for Fiction. Mateship with Birds is her second novel.
Check out the Stella Prize website for more information – http://thestellaprize.com.au/
The Shortlist will be announced next week, on 20 March. The inaugural prize will be announced on 16 April, 2013.
Support Australian women writers? Get reading!