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.