Back in December 2017 The Guardian Australia ran an article titled “Eight new Australian writers you should read (according to those who know)”. As the title implies, it lists eight emerging Australia writers to look out for. It’s a serendipitous list compiled by their asking “industry insiders – publishers, editors, festival directors – for their pick of the new cream of the literary crop”. It is therefore not comprehensive nor “scientific” in its creation … but it does provide an interesting guide. I should explain though that these are not all novelists as most lists of emerging writers tend to include.
Given over a year has passed since that list was published, I though it might be fun to see where these writers are now. I haven’t heard of some of them, so this involved a little research. For each writer, I’ll share something from the Guardian, and add some updating commentary.
Luke Carman (recommended by Geordie Williamson, Island)
At the time of this recommendation, Carman had published An elegant young man (Giramondo) and
Getting square in a jerking circle (Meanjin).
… has more smarts, more sincere eloquence, more comic savagery, more unrepentant auto-evaluation, than any other title published in this country. The prose may sprawl in gloriously untidy ways but the mind that animates it is succinct, and brutally so. This is not fiction for the reading classes.
Carman was named as a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Novel in 2014. Since 2017, he has appeared in various of Australia’s literary journals, and, most excitingly, his next book Intimate Antipathies is due to be published in June this year. I say excitingly, even though I haven’t read him yet, because it’s a fascinating sounding collection of essays, and I do love a good essay.
Claire G Coleman (recommended by Zoe Pollock, Brisbane Writers’ Festival)
Coleman’s first novel, Terra nullius (my review), was published in 2017.
Coleman, like so many of our Indigenous writers, demonstrates how acutely our history – most specifically, dispossession and colonisation – is with us in our present day and is not beyond becoming our future. Coleman, a south coast Noongar woman from Western Australia, goes to the heart of Australia’s challenge as a nation – how to universalise the experience of Indigenous people, so that it is something all Australians can understand.
Terra nullius created quite a buzz through 2017 and 2018, and was shortlisted for the Stella Prize in 2018. Coleman’s second novel, The old lie, will be published later this year by Hachette.
Shastra Deo (recommended by Mindy Gill, Peril)
Deo’s publications at the time of The Guardian article were The agonist (UQP), and गुम; or, Lexical gaps (Cordite).
Gill writes that her debut collection, The agonist,
… confirms her place among Australia’s most exciting poetic voices. She writes in persona – a difficult thing to pull off – using the corporeal to explore the human animal in all its beauty and violence. I am in admiration of her work and look forward to watching her star continue to rise.
Gill was certainly on the money with her comments on The agonist, given it won the prestigious ALS Gold Medal in 2018 – quite a feat for a debut work.
Fury (recommend by Amy Middleton, Archer)
Fury’s writings include the following articles Extracting queerness from a narrative of suffering (Archer), Fury against the plebiscite (Overland), and Love and anger: How popular culture sells aggression as romance (Kill Your Darlings).
Middleton writes that
Accessibility is what sets Fury’s writing apart. They are a Melbourne-based writer, spoken word performer, poet and comic artist, with a passion for making complex topics such as oppression, queerness, gender identity, and even love, digestible, illuminating and fun to read (where appropriate!)
Now this one intrigued me, because I only came across Fury a couple of weeks ago – as the writer of an article on Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby in the current Metro magazine, “Australia’s oldest film and media periodical.” On their website, Fury announces that they started working on their first book in 2018, an “experimental graphic novel memoir called I Don’t understand how emotions work.”
Caitlin Maling (recommended by Catherine Noske, Westerly)
Maling’s poetry published by 2017 includes Conversations I’ve never had (Fremantle Press), Border crossing (Fremantle Press), Diego’s head (Cordite).
Noske says that Maling
has a huge list of awards and fellowships to her name, and she currently holds a Marten bequest. With these successes, she is gaining plenty of attention as a poet. But I also love her criticism. … she publishes in academic circles as well as regularly producing essays and reviews.
The awards keep coming. In mid-2018 she was awarded the Patricia Hackett Prize for a “creative non-fiction piece”.
Eddie Paterson (recommended by Marieke Hardy, Melbourne Writers’ Festival)
Paterson’s poetry collections published by 2017 include We will not pay (Overland), Sheep poems (Cordite) and led zeppelin (Red Room Poetry).
Hardy feels it’s unusual to nominate a poet, but that
when a writer such as Eddie Paterson falls across one’s radar the thrilling potential can’t be ignored. …
What’s interesting to me about Eddie’s writing is the visual aspect…
Paterson’s collection, redactor, was shortlisted for the 2018 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry. The judges described it as “a hilarious, politically alive vivid experiment”. But Paterson is not only a poet, but a playwright/scriptwriter and is working on some commissions at the moment.
Peter Polites (recommended by Michaela McGuire, Sydney Writers’ Festival)
… Peter is a true original: he’s celebrated for writing dark realism in the tradition of the early works of Christos Tsiolkas and Luke Davies, but I think he’s funnier than either of them. … A first generation Greek Australian, Peter’s writing examines the borders of society, both geographical and imagined, and the intersections between queer and ethnic identity. He’s one of the most intelligent writers I’ve ever read…
Polites’ second novel, The pillars, is due for publication in the middle of this year, ie. 2019.
Ellen van Neerven (recommended by Sam Cooney, The Lifted Brow)
Last but by no means least is the versatile Ellen van Neerven. By 2017, van Neerven had published Heat and light (UQP) (my review), Comfort food (UQP) and Expert (Overland).
Cooney praises both van Neerven’s writing and the positive role she plays among writers. He says that her debut Heat and light (which I also admired)
is an extraordinary work of linked fictions. For me, the central piece of the book, Water, did what the very best writing can do: after reading it, the world around me was different, never to be quite the same again.
Van Neerven has appeared several times here. On her website, she reports that her play swim featured at the Yellamundie First Peoples Playwriting Festival in January 2019, and that she is also working on a novel.
This is a nicely diverse list, including indigenous writers and queer writers, poets, novelists and essayists, women and men, writers with immigrant backgrounds, and so on.
Do you look out for emerging writers, and if so, are there any you’d love to introduce to us here?