Stella Prize 2023 Shortlist announced

It says something about my discombobulated year that I didn’t post on the Stella Prize longlist. And then, I was packing for Melbourne this morning while I listened to the shortlist announcement on ABC RN Breakfast. (Something new I think for Stella.) I didn’t have time to stop and write my post, then, but here I am overnighting in Wangaratta – don’t laugh truckie Bill – and have a few minutes to write a post.

I haven’t read any of the shortlist, you probably won’t be surprised to hear, but as I heard the announcement, I remembered that I had one on my TBR, so I immediately swapped out one of the books I had selected for my holiday reading pile to include it.

This year’s judges are author Alice Pung, in the chair, with her co-judges bibliophile and host of The Garrett podcast (among many other roles) Astrid Edwards; essayist and literary critic BeeJay Silcox; writer, editor, broadcaster, and Walkley award-winning journalist Jeff Sparrow; and First Nations poet, essayist and legal advisor Alison Whittaker. None of these were on last year’s panel. Stella, in fact, does a stellar (sorry!) job of keeping its panels fresh.

You may remember that poetry was added as an eligible form for the prize last year. Indeed, a poetry collection won last year

The shortlist

The 2023 Stella Prize shortlist is:

  • Debra Dank, We come with this place (Echo Publishing, memoir)
  • Eloise Grills, big beautiful female theory (Affirm Press, graphic memoir for want of a better description): Kate’s review
  • Sarah Holland-Batt, The jaguar (University of Queensland Press, poetry collection): Jonathan’s review
  • Adriane Howell, Hydra (Transit Lounge, novel): Lisa’s review
  • Louisa Lim, Indelible city (Text Publishing, memoir)
  • Edwina Preston, Bad art mother  (Wakefield Press, novel): on my TBR, Lisa’s review

The announcement this morning included an interview with Stella Prize CEO Jaclyn Booton and shortlisted author Edwina Preston who said that her book had been rejected 25 times before it found a publisher. She said that if she hadn’t had an agent who kept plugging away, she would have given up. Good on Wakefield! It’s a lovely little independent press in Adelaide, which publishes across an impressive range of fiction and nonfiction forms. I visited them once, many years ago, and have reviewed many of their books. 

So, three nonfiction works/memoirs, one poetry collection, and two novels, continuing wonderful diversity of form that characterises the Stella Prize. I must say – though I haven’t included them all here – the covers for these books are stunning – strong, expressive covers that eschew those book cover cliches so often associated with books by or featuring women.

Alice Pung says of the shortlist:

Although all the books on our shortlist are very different, common themes emerge about a woman’s relationship to her art and to the world around her. All our shortlisted books also explore with moving complexity some of the most pivotal relationships in a woman’s life, and their roles as daughters, partners, wives, and mothers.

Each shortlisted author will receive $4,000 in prize money. The winner will receive $60,000 (through the support of the Wilson Foundation). There’s more on the shortlist on the Stella website.

The winner will be announced on 27 April.


20 thoughts on “Stella Prize 2023 Shortlist announced

  1. Thanks for managing to squeeze this post into your busy life, Sue. And thanks for the link. It would be too much to hope that a book of poetry would win a second year in a row, but The Jaguar would be a worthy winner (he said, having read only one other title on the list).

  2. Again, I wouldn’t have known about the Stella Prize if you hadn’t posted this. Two names jumped out for me and thanks for intro. me to two prominent Australians of Chinese descent, Alice Pung and Louisa Lim. You might have guessed, I’m good at picking out last names of certain heritage. 🙂

  3. I’m actually quite pleased that the theme seems to be women in their art. Typically, I feel like these prizes are constantly covering women as wives, or women as mothers. Ugh. I’d also like to see women as activists, women as community organizers, women as leaders, especially in politics, etc.

    • Fair point Melanie. As a wife and mother, I do enjoy those topics but not as the sole subject matter about women. Stella is the prize most likely to explore the breadth of women’s lives.

      • I hate when I see someone’s bio reads something like “Wife to Steve and mama bear to three cubs.” I kinda wanted to throw up just typing that. Who IS this person that isn’t in relation to other people?

        • Yes, agree, Melanie. And when older women are victims of some act they are nearly always described as a “grandmother” but older men are rarely described that way. I think it’s supposed to increase our sympathy, but it’s so loaded with roles and societal values than with her Individuality or general humanity.

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