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The Stella Prize shortlist, 2013

March 21, 2013
Miles Franklin, 1902

Miles Franklin, 1902, by H.Y. Dorner (Presumed Public Domain)

Woo hoo … The Stella Prize shortlist has been announced.

I posted the longlist a few weeks ago before, but just to recap, the Stella Prize is a new award on the Australian literary scene. It is named for Miles Franklin and is “for the best work of literature (fiction and non-fiction) published in 2012 (for this inaugural one) by an Australian woman”. The prize of $50,000 will go to one author.

I like the look of the shortlist. It includes authors I’ve read and enjoyed before (de Kretser, Kennedy and Tiffany) and the authors I picked out as particularly interesting (to me, anyhow) from the shortlist:

  • Courtney Collins, The burial (Allen & Unwin): a debut historical crime novel which reimagines the life of  Australia’s ‘lady bushranger’, Jessie Hickman. I’m not a crime reader, but this one intrigues me.
  • Michelle de Kretser, Questions of travel (Allen & Unwin): the fourth novel by this award-winning writer.
  • Lisa Jacobson, The sunlit zone (Five Islands Press): a verse novel which has been reviewed several times already for the Australian Women Writers Challenge. (See my roundup over there. The reviews I read while writing that round-up have increased my interest in this book).
  • Cate Kennedy, Like a house on fire (Scribe): a collection of short stories by one of Australia’s best short story writers.
  • Margo Lanagan, Sea hearts (Allen & Unwin): a fantasy or speculative-fiction novel about selkies and the like that I believe also appeals to non-genre readers. Lanagan has a reputation for lovely prose, so I’d be interested to check her out some time.
  • Carrie Tiffany, Mateship with birds (Picador): the second novel by the author of the truly splendiferous Everyman’s rules for scientific living.

It’s all fiction, but there’s “genre” writing here, as well as traditional “literary” fiction, poetry and short stories. It’s rather sad that only one can win but let’s hope the longlisting and shortlisting will raise the profile of these authors – and others along with them – because that is the prime goal of the award. (For the winner, though, the prize purse of $50K will be an important outcome!)

And, it looks like the Australian independent publisher Allen & Unwin has scooped the pool with three of the six shortlisted books! Congratulations to them.

The first winner of the Stella Prize will be awarded in Melbourne on the evening of Tuesday 16 April. I’ll keep you informed.

PS Is it the 2013 prize for books published in 2012, or is it the 2012 prize awarded in 2013?

15 Comments leave one →
  1. Meg permalink
    March 21, 2013 8:22 am

    I haven’t read Sunlit Zone or Sea Hearts, but enjoyed Mateship with Birds, Like a House on Fire, The Burial and Questions of Travel. All great reads and well written. I think Like a House on Fire will win.


    • March 21, 2013 8:24 am

      Oh good for you for having a “punt” Meg … I’m rather keen to read The burial because of it’s subject matter and The sunlit sea because of its form.

  2. buriedinprint permalink
    March 21, 2013 9:06 am

    Thanks for posting these; no luck finding them at the library (with the exception of the Lanagan) but was able to request an earlier collection of Cate Kennedy’s stories which sounds intriguing, and will keep an eye for the others as well. (Loved Carrie Tiffany’s first, and enjoyed deKretzer’s The Lost Dog.)

    • March 21, 2013 3:19 pm

      Thanks Buried … I think I might need to go online then for those others. I loved Tiffany’s first too – a little treasure – I enjoyed The lost dog and The Hamilton case by de Kretser.

  3. March 21, 2013 9:54 am

    Hi Sue, I like the varied nature of the shortlist. It will be fascinating to see how the ‘genre’ novels fare in the final analysis. I know the fiction to non-fiction ratio of all entries was 4:1, so there’s no surprise there’s no non-fiction books present, but it will be even more fascinating to watch over time how non-fiction books are judged in the prize. It must be hard to judge fiction vs non-fiction. John

    • March 21, 2013 3:21 pm

      Thanks John … it would be good perhaps if they could expand the prize into Fiction and Non-fiction though there’s that whole blurred edges thing again isn’t there as soon as you start to categorise. Let’s hope they can keep the award going.

  4. March 21, 2013 10:56 am

    Thanks for the congrats, we’re obviously delighted with 3 out of 6! And we’re claiming Carrie Tiffany as a ½ as she’s one of our wonderful tutors for our Faber Academy courses 🙂

    It has been great to see the support the award has received in the inaugural year, and as you say it is great to see such a mix too.

    There are excerpts from our titles here if you want a taster:

    • March 21, 2013 3:23 pm

      Credit where credit’s due A&E … not that the other publishers aren’t doing well too, of course, but still your authors have done well. I’m happy to let you claim half of Tiffany but Picador mightn’t!

  5. March 21, 2013 5:27 pm

    Lovely to see some short stories on that list! I’m very curious to see who will win!

  6. acommonreaderuk permalink
    March 21, 2013 6:55 pm

    £50k will mean that it becomes quite a significant prize I would think. One to watch!

    • March 21, 2013 9:19 pm

      Yes, Tom … I think it’s good seeing more prizes offering a reasonably decent amount of money these days. I remember last year’s winners of the Prime Minister’s Prize talking about what winning that prize (again a significant amount) meant to them – for most it gave the breathing space to research/work on their next book.

  7. March 21, 2013 8:52 pm

    I think it is an interesting list, if only because of the interesting mix between genre and form! I have only read the Lanagan and thought it was an excellent book! I am keen to read some of the others!

    • March 21, 2013 9:20 pm

      Thanks Marg … I think they’ve done a good job of achieving what they wanted to do i.e. celebrating the diversity of women’s writing. Not everyone can be long and shortlisted but they have achieved some lovely breadth.


  1. Basking in ‘The Sunlit Zone’. My review of an ingenious novel. | elwordsmith

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