Queensland Literary (Fiction) Awards, 2012: Woo-hoo

Readers of this blog might remember that earlier this year the new premier of Queensland axed his state’s Premier’s Literary Awards … to a great outcry from literary aficionados around the country. However, with a wonderful can-do attitude and the support of private sponsors, a group of volunteers revived the awards, rebadged as the Queensland Literary Awards, just over 4 months ago. The prize purse was much reduced but the important thing is that the awards went ahead … And the winners were announced this week.

The awards group kept the full raft of awards that had been part of the original awards, a wide range that had made these awards particularly significant, but they are too numerous for me to list here. I will though report on the main ones of interest to me:

  • Fiction Award: Frank Moorehouse’s Cold light, the third in his trilogy, of which I’ve read the first, Grand days. This award rather breaks the stranglehold that women writers, Anna Funder and Gillian Mears, have had on this year’s awards to date.
  • David Unaipon Award for Unpublished Indigenous Writer: Siv Parker’s Story. This is a significant award for giving opportunities to and showcasing indigenous Australian writers. I’ve read some winners and have a couple more on my TBR.
  • Steele Rudd Award for Short Stories: Janette Turner Hospitals’s Forecast: Turbulence, which has been patiently waiting for me on my Kindle for a few months now. I’m a Hospital fan.
  • The Courier-Mail People’s Choice Book of the Year: Simon Cleary’s Closer to stone

A full list of the awards can be viewed here. Reviews of several of the winners listed above can be found at ANZLitLovers.

Monday musings on Australian literature: What value literary awards?

If you are an Australian reader, you have probably heard that the new Premier of Queensland, Campbell Newman, has abolished the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards. This was a shock as it had not been flagged during the election. His reason? To save some $250,000, as part of the Liberal National Party’s promised cost-cutting drive!

It was a wry moment for me when I heard the news, because only a few days before the announcement, I had pondered in my post about Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature whether, with the Festival becoming an annual event, South Australia would finally have an annual literary award, like most other Australian states.

Queensland’s literary awards program has been running since 1999 and is (hmm, was) one of the most comprehensive literary awards programs in Australia. It offers (offered) prizes in fourteen or fifteen categories, which included unpublished manuscripts, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, unpublished indigenous writers and fiction. Many of our significant writers have benefited from these awards, including Helen Garner, Alexis Wright, Tim Winton, Thea Astley, Nam Le, David Malouf, Judith Beveridge, Peter Carey, and Les Murray.

Australians will know that many of these award winners are not Queenslanders and their winning books were not necessarily about Queensland. Does this matter? All (I think) of Australia’s state-based awards are not state-limited in their criteria. I think that’s a good thing, though I can see arguments for limiting them to their states just as we have awards for women, for young writers, for indigenous writers, for unpublished works. What I don’t think is a good thing is to do away with awards. Awards for creative endeavours are always fraught. There are no objective standards to judge artistic creations by. But, this doesn’t mean they don’t have value – for the winners, for the short- and longlisted authors, and for the industry as a whole.

There are supporters of the decision. One is blogger Mark Fletcher who argues that these awards are “vanity projects” for Premiers and that “there are more significant funding opportunities for the arts in Queensland than the award: the end of the award does not mean the end of arts funding in Queensland”. Opponents, on the other hand, fear that this is the thin end of the wedge and that more cuts to arts funding are coming. Time will tell …

The topic has already been discussed on Australian blogs. Here are just a very few:

  • Angela Meyer of LiteraryMinded talks of the value of the prize to writers, publishers and booksellers
  • crikey.com calls it a sad announcement
  • Jeff Sparrow in Overland argues that this may be the harbinger of more cuts as more conservative governments gain power in Australia. He suggests that “There’s an urgent need for a new defence of literature, arguments that are neither philistine populism nor patronizing elitism but instead make the case why writing should matter to ordinary people. It’s something we’ve traditionally been very bad at. We need to get much better, very quickly.”
  • Lisa Hills of ANZLitLovers advises that the awards will be made with or without prize money and provides the link for submissions.
  • skepticlawyer describes plans by authors Matthew Condon and Krissy Kneen to continue the awards, probably using the law of trusts – and provides a link to their Facebook page for the awards.

I think that’s enough. You get the drift I’m sure. But, I wonder, what do you think about Literary Awards. Are they worth defending? What do awards mean to you, as a reader?

JM Coetzee wins the 2010 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award

The Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards were announced last night, on the eve of the Brisbane Writers’ Festival.

The main award was won by JM Coetzee with Summertime, the third book in his fictionalised memoirs. The first two were Boyhood and Youth. I have this in my TBR but it has yet to arrive at the top! However, since it also won this year’s NSW Premier’s Literary Award, I clearly need to start levitating it.

As with the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards and the Age Book of the Year awards, these awards comprise a whole swag of prizes. I won’t list them all here but, given recent posts on this blog, I would like to mention the David Unaipon Award for an Unpublished Indigenous Writer. This year’s was won by Jeanine Leane with a book called Purple Threads which is apparently a funny and sad tale of a household of indigenous women. I look forward to seeing it in print.

And, on a personal front, my Kindle landed today. I have downloaded Ford Madox Ford‘s The good soldier (because that’s the next classic I want to read) and Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park (because a Jane Austen has to be among the first). More anon …