We all like to see a new literary or publishing prize. That is, most of us do, because I do appreciate that prizes in the arts are problematic, and that some do not, for perfectly valid reasons, like them. However, for most, the positives outweigh the negatives. These positives include – in different combinations – kudos, money, time, publication.
Last week, I received a press release about a new prize being offered by one of our wonderful local-ish, independent, and non-profit, publishers, Finlay Lloyd. I have reviewed many Finlay Lloyd publications over the years, and I also reported on their 10-year anniversary back in 2016. Their output is small in quantity but the quality, both in content and in the physical product itself, is high. Their design aesthetic is carefully considered and I love handling, as well as reading, the results. Like many small publishers, they are not afraid to publish the books and forms others eschew. Take their FL Smalls, for example. These are tiny books – smaller than a traditional novella, even – written by emerging and established (like Carmel Bird) writers. Finlay Lloyd also publishes short story collections, illustrated novels, and nonfiction on difficult subjects, like their Backlash: Australia’s conflict of values over live exports (my review).
Given this background, it’s to be expected that if they came up with a prize it would be a bit left-field, and it is. Called the 20/40 Publishing Prize, it aims to “encourage and support writing of the highest quality”, but writing that meets certain criteria. Here is how they describe it:
In an environment where writers find it increasingly difficult to find an audience, Finlay Lloyd is branching out to offer a publishing opportunity for fiction and non-fiction prose works between 20,000 and 40,000 words through the 20/40 Publishing Prize.
Finlay Lloyd’s publisher and commissioning editor, Julian Davies, is quoted in the Press Release as saying:
‘We’re incredibly excited to be able to encourage writers to submit pieces of this length, a scope which has proven itself through time to be particularly engaging and rewarding for writers and their readers.
‘It’s long enough to allow the rich development of a concept but tight enough to encourage focus and succinctness.
‘Each year we plan to select two winning authors, closely supporting them through the editorial process with care and enthusiasm, and publishing their entries in line with Finlay Lloyd’s innovative design standards.’
This length is, of course, novella length – but Finlay Lloyd has not used the term “novella” because this term refers to short prose fiction, while the prize encompasses fiction and nonfiction. They say on their website that “all genres of prose writing are welcome, including hybrid forms”. 20/40 is, I should clarify, an unpublished manuscript competition with publication being the prize.
The press release goes on to explain that Finlay Lloyd is “dedicated to identifying and encouraging good writing free from external pressures such as reputation and the undue influence of market forces”. Consequently, the judging panel will read the submissions “blind”, and will focus on “creative inventiveness and quality”.
Their hope is that 20/40 will “offer an incentive for writers to get down to work and hone their expressive skills”. They believe that readers are “hungry for writing of quality that is published with care and flare as well-designed and engaging paper artefacts”. See what I mean? The content AND the object are both important to them. I know many readers, myself included, who are so hungry.
Anyhow, submissions can be made between 1 January and 10 February, 2023. They will announce the shortlist in October and publish the winning books – one fiction, one nonfiction, I think – in November. The prize is being overseen by their “expert advisory board”:
- Dr Christine Balint, whose novella, Water music, I’ve reviewed
- John Clanchy, novelist and short story writer whom I’ve reviewed a few times here
- Donna Ward, writer, publisher, and editor
- Dr Meredith McKinney, academic, translator – including of Mori Ôgai’s The Wild Goose on my TBR – and daughter of Judith Wright
- Emeritus Professor Kevin Brophy, whose recent short story collection is on my TBR
I must say that I’m tickled about the timing of this announcement, given its relevance to Novellas in November.
12 thoughts on “Monday musings on Australian literature: on 20/40, a new publishing prize”
Entirely by coincidence, I have a review of Kevin Brophy’s Lion in Love short story collection on the blog.
Yes, me, short stories, ha!
Ah thanks Lisa … you’ve done a few short stories lately. What’s happening?!
Ha ha, yes, 4 since August, making a grand total of 131 on the blog since 2008!
Can you still say you don’t read them, then! Haha! I’m starting to feel that I can’t really say I don’t read crime. It’s just that I don’t seek out crime, but I do read some that come to my attention and sound interesting.
The thing is, —with apologies to authors crafting their collections, because in attempting to explain myself, I don’t mean to be unkind — I just don’t find them memorable. Two Kinds of Books may be an exception, but in general, within a week or two, I don’t remember a thing about any of the stories or the collection as a whole. I just don’t find that satisfying.
Whereas there are countless novels that have stayed with me…the characters, the settings, the themes, the ideas and preoccupations I remember novels years — decades — after I read them.
I can understand that … for me though I have to say that there are many novels I don’t remember either. And I can feel off right now some unforgettable short stories, though of course the majority that are good reads, I don’t remember.
Interesting isn’t it? I guess it’s all about what it is that makes a satisfying read for each reader. I know we short story lovers are in a minority.
Call me crazy, but I believe every writing contest should be judged blind. I always wonder which famous authors would fall away if they didn’t have a reputation to lean on. In that way, having a name that the contest folks know will sell is, in a way, shaping what we read by staying within boundaries of what’s already popular.
Thanks Melanie, I understand this and like the idea in theory, but I guess it’s hard to do with prizes for published books? Part of it is to do with the panel too … some prizes here have panels and perhaps criteria that often see books shortlisted and win that are not the “usual” authors or in the traditional forms/styles. I like those awards.
I also wonder if the panel chooses the famous entries because they don’t want to be “on the wrong side of history” and picking someone less famous or prestigious.
Yes, very good thought. I wouldn’t like to be on a judging panel – I’m too much of an on-the-one-hand-but-then-again-on-the-other sort of person.
What an innovative idea for a competition, and with publication at the end of it, a great idea.
Thanks Liz … I think manuscript competitions with publication the prize are pretty special for authors.