Monday musings on Australian literature: ACT’s literary awards

Last week, I attended the ACT Writers Centre’s Christmas Party and Awards Night. It was a lovely, relaxed affair – just the sort I like. Not too much ceremony, but much good will and conviviality. I loved seeing writers, and others from our little territory’s literary community, mingle with each other, commending each other’s achievements. I could name drop, but fear forgetting a special name as you always do in situations like this, and I could describe some fan-girl moments, but that, too, could be fraught. So, instead, I’ll just say what a very enjoyable night it was (helped along by delicious local wines from Eden Road Wines, who do a great job in Canberra sponsoring arts organisations, including, in my experience, the ACT Writers Centre and Musica Viva. Thanks Eden Road – and your wines are delicious.)

And now, the awards – which come in two strands.

ACT Book of the Year Award

This award, “for excellence in literature”, is supported by the ACT Government, and supports ACT-based writers and writing. It “recognises quality contemporary literary works including fiction, non-fiction and poetry by ACT-based authors published in the previous calendar year”. The winner receives $10,000, with any highly commended book receiving $2,000, and the shortlisted books earning $1,000 each. Not the biggest awards in town, but we are a small jurisdiction. I should note too that “ACT-based” can include residents outside the ACT who “can specifically and strongly demonstrate an ACT-based arts practice”.

Paul Collis, Dancing homeThis year’s winner and runners-up were:

  • Paul Collis’ Dancing home (Winner), which also won the David Unaipon Award in 2017, and has been reviewed by Lisa. I have it on order.
  • Merlinda Bobis’ Accidents of composition (Highly commended)
  • Jackie French’s Facing the flame (Shortlist)
  • Omar Musa’s Millefiori (Shortlist)
  • Rachel Sanderson’s The Space Between (Shortlist)

ACT Writers Centre Awards

These sponsored awards are managed by the ACT Writers Centre.

Marjorie Graber-McInnis Short Story Award

Amanda McLeod’s Loyal Animals

June Shenfield Poetry Award

Natalie Cook’s Incursion, Extinctions.

The 2018 Anne Edgeworth Young Writers’ Fellowship

Gemma Killen. She will receive support from the Trust to help her develop her skills in writing for the screen with a focus on comedy scripts.

Anne Edgeworth’s son announced that, next year, the award will change emphasis, slightly, from “young” to “emerging”, recognising that new older writers also need support.

Publishing Awards

Kirsty Budding, paper cutsThese awards were established in 2004 “to recognise, reward and promote writing by ACT region authors that has been published by small publishers or been self-published”.

  • Fiction: Kirsty Budding, Paper cuts: Comedic and satirical monologues for audition or performance (Blemish Books, who also published Nigel Featherstone’s three novellas). Budding lives and works in Canberra as a theatre producer and teacher. She has been shortlisted and/or won several playwright awards, including being a semi-finalist in the 2017 ScreenCraft Short Screenplay Contest, Los Angeles.
  • Non-fiction: Robert Lehane’s Verity (Australian Scholarly Publishing). This is a biography of Canberra pioneer, Verity Hewitt, who, among other things, established a bookshop in Canberra in 1938. She also, apparently, taught Gough Whitlam, and was an activist in the peace movements of the 1950s to 70s.
  • Children’s: Maura Pierlot’s Trouble in Tune Town (Little Steps Books). This is Pierlot’s first children’s picture book, and it has been gaining recognition in awards – Best Illustrated Children’s E-Book in the Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) 2018 (Joint Winner); and a finalist in the Children’s Picture Book (Hardcover Fiction) in the International Book Awards 2018
  • Poetry: Paul Cliff, A constellation of abnormalities (Puncher and Wattman). Cliff is a poet, playwright and editor whose has been published for over 30 years, and has won or ben shortlisted for several awards including the Mattara Poetry Prize, the David Campbell and Rosemary Dobson Poetry Prizes.

Full details of the awards, with all the shortlisted writers can be found on the ACT Writers Centre website.

Congratulations to all the winning and shortlisted authors, and a big thanks to the ACT Writers Centre for inviting me to the event.

8 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: ACT’s literary awards

  1. It was a great night at the awards, Sue, wasn’t it! I enjoyed myself very much. The atmosphere was great and very friendly and supportive. We do have a great books and writing community here in the ACT, and it is truly about encouraging each other and celebrating each other’s achievements. I was very pleased that Paul Collis won this years Book of the Year. I’ve been meaning to read it for some time, but now I will make it one of my aims to read it over summer.

  2. It’s good to hear about this, Sue, and I like their choice of winner. I think it’s a brave choice, because I found it a difficult, confronting book to read, but it’s an important one all the same.

  3. This sounds like something that I would have loved to attend. The fact that it was relaxed sounds good. I look at all these awards and I think about how many books that I want to read that I will never get to 😦

    • Depressing isn’t it Brian! Particularly when you start to see the years running out!! Well, at least I can still talk in decades, hopefully, but there aren’t a lot of them, all the same!

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