The 2022 Miles Franklin longlist

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The 2022 Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist was announced this morning. An annual award, the Miles Franklin recognises outstanding works of Australian fiction.

Some familiar titles there, some new ones, either way time to update those to-be-read lists. The shortlist will be announced on Thursday 23 June 2022.

2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) shortlist

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The 2022 Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs) shortlist has been announced. Sixty-five titles are vying for recognition in thirteen award categories, including audiobook, biography, fiction, non-fiction, children, and literary fiction.

Across these categories, together with The Matt Richell Award for New Writer of the Year, shortlisted titles — in no particular order — include:

The winners will be named at a ceremony on the evening of Thursday 9 June 2022, at the ICC Sydney.

Red, a novel by Felicity McLean, the Ned Kelly story retold

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Red, by Felicity McLean, bookcover

A novel that is a contemporary re-telling of the story of nineteenth century Australian bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly? Ok, you have my attention. Such is the premise of Red (published by HarperCollins, 18 May 2022), the second novel by Sydney based Australian writer and journalist, Felicity McLean.

But McLean isn’t flippantly bandying about references to Ned Kelly merely to, you know, attract attention, she has partly based her protagonist Ruby “Red” McCoy, on the contents of Kelly’s 1879 Jerilderie letter.

It’s the early 1990s and Ruby ‘Red’ McCoy dreams about one day leaving her weatherboard house on the Central Coast of New South Wales, where her best friend, Stevie, is loose with the truth, and her dad, Sid, is always on the wrong side of the law. But wild, whip-smart Red can’t stay out of trouble to save her life, and Sid’s latest hustle is more harebrained than usual. Meanwhile, Sergeant Trevor Healy seems to have a vendetta against every generation of the McCoys.

So far only a few reviews of Red have been published, but Australian author John Purcell holds McLean’s writing in high regard:

But the novel’s greatest strength is the voice of narrator Red. I know it is loosely based on Ned Kelly’s voice from the famous [Jerilderie] letter, but it goes well beyond that. Red speaks to us as a fully formed living entity with her own ticks and wisdom. So much so that I started to believe McLean must have suffered from some kind of unholy possession throughout the writing of the book. Red’s narration overflows with colourful anecdotes, cheek and bravado. McLean’s use of language is ceaselessly inventive, coming up with the goods time and time again.

A critique of Trent Dalton’s novels by Catriona Menzies-Pike

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An in-depth look at the writing of Brisbane based Australian author Trent Dalton, in particular his two bestsellers Boy Swallows Universe, and All Our Shimmering Skies, by Catriona Menzies-Pike, editor of the Sydney Review of Books.

If Dalton’s prose style skims the surfaces of his characters’ lives, so does his thinking about the moral and political world. Dalton infantilises his audience by feeding them palatable maxims about history, society and human flourishing. The themes are repeated again and again in case the rowdy kids up the back aren’t paying attention.

It’s a longer read, but well worth the time. It seems to me effectively critiquing a work of fiction — as is writing a good novel in the first place — is an art form in itself. Many of the book reviews I read — and, doubtless — write myself, essentially summarise the plot and include a few words as to the merit or otherwise of the title. There’s nothing wrong with that, when choosing what to read next I often quickly look for a consensus, before deciding what to do.

Brazen Comics Festival Sydney 2022

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Some late news to hand for anyone with an interest in graphic novels, and comics, who’s in Sydney tomorrow: the Brazen Comics Festival is on at the East Sydney Community and Arts Centre, in Darlinghurst, Sunday 22 May 2022, from 10AM until 4PM.

Brazen Comics Festival is a one day comics festival. The festival will amplify, highlight, and celebrate the voices of women, non-binary, and gender diverse people in comics, and foster a connected, welcoming, and supportive community of comic fans and creators in Australia. Brazen Comics Festival is accessible and welcoming to all.

Poor financial incentives deter emerging Australian writers

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“Artists in this country are used to living one paycheque away from poverty.” With those words, Evelyn Araluen, winner of this year’s Stella Prize, had everyone’s attention. The proceeds from the literary prize mean Araluen will be able to pay down some debt, and work two jobs instead of three.

But that’s not the reality for many other writers — even those who are published — in Australia, if working two jobs, while still focussing on their art, is meant to constitute reality.

Most writers are forced to take other work, because the rewards for writing all those books we like to read are virtually non-existent. It’s a state of affairs, warns Melbourne based literary agent and author Danielle Binks, that will force young and emerging authors to consider other lines of work all together:

“Kids are already hung up on how much money you can make and whether you can do this for a living … I tell them the reason I write – the reason we all engage in books, art, theatre, anything – is that art changes people and people change the world. But I’m convinced there’s a whole generation of artists, and writers in particular, who will not choose this path.”

Time is a Mother, By Ocean Vuong

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Time is a Mother, By Ocean Vuong bookcover

Time is a Mother (published by Penguin Random House, 5 April 2022), is a collection of poetry written by Northampton, Massachusetts based Vietnamese writer Ocean Vuong, following the death of his mother in 2019.

In this deeply intimate second poetry collection, Ocean Vuong searches for life among the aftershocks of his mother’s death, embodying the paradox of sitting within grief while being determined to survive beyond it. Shifting through memory, and in concert with the themes of his novel On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Vuong contends with personal loss, the meaning of family, and the cost of being the product of an American war in America. At once vivid, brave, and propulsive, Vuong’s poems circle fragmented lives to find both restoration as well as the epicenter of the break.

Isabella Cho writing for The Harvard Crimson, says Vuong channels fear to bring forth this bold new collection of work:

The finale of Vuong’s sprawling poetic vision is at once dangerous and peaceful, elegiac and triumphant. Vuong’s text pulses with an attentiveness to fear. It is through this emotion that he renders such luminous meditations on his life, and of the people who have come to change it. Vuong fears, which is to say, he refuses to not love.

2022 Emerging Writers’ Festival

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The 2022 Emerging Writers’ Festival takes place in Melbourne from Wednesday 15 June through to Saturday 25 June 2022. The full program for the festival can be seen here. The festival also hosts the National Writers’ Conference, a one day event being held online on Saturday 18 June 2022:

As the centrepiece event of the Emerging Writers’ Festival, the National Writers’ Conference is all about informing and inspiring writers of all genres and styles. Hear the best industry advice from our distinguished Ambassadors and dive into conversations about how to start a publication, the role of literary criticism, the art of the interview and more.

It’s not all about listening to others though, aspiring writers will also have the opportunity to spruik their work during the conference:

Plus, book a Pitch It! Session for a unique opportunity to pitch your manuscript to a publisher or editor. You have just 5 minutes so keep it brief and don’t forget to leave room for questions! These publishers, editors and literary agents are here to support emerging writers, so give it a go.

This All Come Back Now, edited by Mykaela Saunders

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This All Come Back Now, edited by Mykaela Saunders bookcover

This All Come Back Now, edited by Australian writer and teacher Mykaela Saunders, and published by University of Queensland Press, is the first ever collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speculative fiction.

The first-ever anthology of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speculative fiction — written, curated, edited and designed by blackfellas, for blackfellas and about blackfellas. In these stories, ‘this all come back’: all those things that have been taken from us, that we collectively mourn the loss of, or attempt to recover and revive, as well as those that we thought we’d gotten rid of, that are always returning to haunt and hound us.

Speculative fiction anthologies featuring the work of Indigenous writers, wherever they may be, seem to be a new thing. Walking the Clouds, compiled by American academic and writer Grace L. Dillon, who incidentally coined the term Indigenous Futurisms, was published in 2012.

Said then to be the “first-ever anthology of Indigenous science fiction”, Walking the Clouds includes short titles by Indigenous authors living in New Zealand, Canada, America, Hawaii, along with an excerpt from Australian author Archie Weller’s 1999 novel Land of the Golden Clouds.

Julia Gillard talks to Stella winners Evelyn Araluen and Evie Wyld

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Former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard talks to the 2022 Stella Prize winner Evelyn Araluen, in her podcast A Podcast of One’s Own. Also joining the discussion is Evie Wyld, winner of the 2021 Stella, and Jaclyn Booton, executive director of the Stella Prize.

To celebrate the 2022 prize, Julia sits down with Evelyn Araluen, this year’s prize winner, to discuss her award-winning debut book, Drop Bear, which weaves together past and present, her personal history and the story of indigenous Australia through powerful lyrical verse. Evelyn shares her writing experience, her journey into poetry and what it’s been like being recognised by the prize.

Julia also speaks with Jaclyn Booton, the Executive Director of the Stella Prize, about how it was established and why it is so important to spotlight Australian women’s writing. Evie Wyld also joins this bumper episode to share her experience as the 2021 prize winner and talk about her critically acclaimed novel, The Bass Rock.

Melbourne Jewish Book Week 2022

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After being held online the last of couple of years on account of the pandemic, Melbourne Jewish Book Week returns as in person event from Saturday 28 May until Tuesday 31 May 2022.

Evelyn Araluen in conversation with Jeanine Leane

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Some late news to hand… Australian poet Evelyn Araluen, winner of the 2022 Stella Prize, will speak with Wiradjuri writer Jeanine Leane, at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne, this Thursday evening, 12 May 2022.

Kevin Rudd discusses The Avoidable War with Ben Doherty

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 The Avoidable War, by Kevin Rudd, book cover

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd will be discussing his book The Avoidable War (published by Hachette Australia, March 2022) with Ben Doherty, the Sydney based international affairs reporter for The Guardian, at Gleebooks, on the evening of Thursday 12 May.

The relationship between the US and China, the world’s two superpowers, is peculiarly volatile. It rests on a seismic fault of cultural misunderstanding, historical grievance, and ideological incompatibility. No other nations are so quick to offend and be offended. Their militaries play a dangerous game of chicken, corporations steal intellectual property, intelligence satellites peer and AI technicians plot. The capacity for either country to cross a fatal line grows daily.

The 2022 Australian federal election campaign in full swing, and China’s rise, and the potential for conflict with the United States, are matters that have been in the spotlight. And while Australians may not be Rudd’s target readership, Daniel Flitton, writing for The Sydney Morning Herald, suggests The Avoidable War is essential reading for us nonetheless:

Rudd hasn’t written this book for Australians and that is exactly why Australians should read it. This is not a political screed or point-scoring exercise in domestic battles. Sure, there are familiar Ruddisms expressed. The word “core” gets a particular workout to explain interests or principles. But the book amounts to a thoughtful and well-structured examination of the dynamics between the world’s greatest power and its greatest challenger, the consequences of which Australians cannot escape, but can seek to shape.

Simone Amelia Jordan on writing your first book

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Sydney based journalist and writer Simone Amelia Jordan, winner of the 2021 Richell Prize for emerging authors, on overcoming your sense of imposter syndrome, and getting on with writing your first book.

…it’s an absolute life goal for writers and non-writers alike, to get these stories out of us and into the world. I’m a journalist by trade, so writing creative non-fiction has been a challenge. But I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone to learn and be the best I can be.

Evelyn Araluen’s Stella Prize acceptance speech

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In a passionate and moving acceptance speech after winning the Stella Prize last week, Evelyn Araluen implores Australian governments to do more to fund the arts in Australia.

Artists, in this country anyway, are used to instability, we’re used to two or three jobs, we’re used to paltry super, and the constant fear of illness and accident faced by all precarious workers. We’re used to living one pay check away from poverty. Despite this slap in the face, this blunt dismissal of the clear social and cultural good the arts provides to all Australians, artists were still advocating and organising throughout the pandemic, and the fires and the floods. They were still working through the isolation of endless lockdowns in the hope that their creative efforts, their work, would help someone else survive.

2022 Best Young Australian Novelists awards

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Ella Baxter, Michael Burrows, and Diana Reid, have been named winners of the Sydney Morning Herald’s 2022 Best Young Australian Novelists awards.

Judges Thuy On, Gretchen Shirm and SMH Spectrum editor Melanie Kembrey said the three novels ‘stood out from the many entrants for their strong narrative voices, memorable characters and sharp writing — they’ll make you laugh, cry and keep thinking long after you’ve turned the final page’.

The 2022 Brisbane Writers Festival

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The 2022 Brisbane Writers Festival opens tomorrow, Tuesday 3 May 2022, and concludes on Sunday 8 May. This is the festival’s sixtieth event, and if the program is anything to go by, it looks like there is something for everyone.

In this special year of the sixtieth celebration of the Brisbane Writers Festival, we bring a world of beautiful, wise, strong and urgent voices from across the Pacific Ocean and from around the world to Meanjin/Brisbane.

Australian author survey 2022

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Australian writers are being invited to participate in the national author survey, an initiative of Macquarie University, the Australia Council for the Arts, and the Copyright Agency. It is seven years since the last such survey which found Australian authors earn on average less than — get ready for it — A$13,000 a year.

This survey will investigate the current experiences of Australian authors in the book industry, and follows on from an earlier survey conducted in 2015, which, among other findings, reported that Australian authors earn on average $12,900 per annum from their creative practice. Their key findings on author income have been instrumental, informing and strengthening the advocacy efforts of the ASA and book creators over the years. The ASA enthusiastically supports the effort to update this data and urges all members to participate.

The survey closes on Friday 27 May 2022.

Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen wins the 2022 Stella Prize

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Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen, bookcover

Dropbear, the debut collection of poetry by Melbourne based Australian writer Evelyn Araluen, has been named winner of the 2022 Stella Prize.

Melissa Lucashenko, chair of the 2022 Stella Prize judges, says Dropbearannounces the arrival of a stunning new talent to Australian literature.

“When you read Evelyn Araluen’s Dropbear you’ll be taken on a wild ride. Like the namesake of its title, this collection is simultaneously comical and dangerous. If you live here and don’t acquire the necessary local knowledge, the drop bear might definitely getcha! But for those initiated in its mysteries, the drop bear is a playful beast, a prank, a riddle, a challenge and a game. Dropbear is remarkably assured for a debut poetry collection, and I think we can safely say it announces the arrival of a stunning new talent to Australian literature. Congratulations, Evelyn.”

At twenty-nine, Araluen is the youngest recipient of the literary prize that celebrates the writing of Australian women, and says she may never have become a poet had she not studied her great-grandfather’s language:

Araluen, a descendant of the Bundjalung Nation born in Dharug Country and now based in Naarm/Melbourne, began writing poetry while she was studying her great-grandfather’s language at TAFE, becoming attuned to poetic techniques like fragmentation and different sentence structures. “I honestly don’t think I would have become a poet if I hadn’t started learning that language,” she told ABC Arts in 2021.

2022 Women’s Prize shortlist announced

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Six titles have been named on the 2022 Women’s Prize shortlist:

  • Great Circle, by Maggie Shipstead
  • Sorrow and Bliss, by Meg Mason
  • The Book of Form and Emptiness, by Ruth Ozeki
  • The Bread the Devil Knead, by Lisa Allen-Agostini
  • The Island of Missing Trees, by Elif Shafak
  • The Sentence, by Louise Erdrich

The winning book will be announced on Wednesday 15 June 2022.