Showing all posts tagged: Australian literature

Vale Australian poet Antigone Kefala

6 December 2022

Antigone Kefala, an Australian poet of Greek-Romanian heritage, died on Sunday 4 December 2022, aged 92. Kefala was only two weeks ago named winner of 2022 Patrick White literary award.

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Literary authors are among the lowest paid Australian writers

6 December 2022

The recently released results of a survey of Australian authors and writers make for sobering reading. If you’re considering a writing career, you ought to sit down before reading on. With rare exceptions, most Australian authors need at least one other job to make their writing ambitions feasible.

Income per annum varies according the nature of their writing, anywhere from about A$27,000 for educational writers, down to A$14,500 for literary authors. Bear in mind the minimum annual salary in Australia is a little over $42,000, based on a rate of A$21.38 per hour.

Education authors earned the highest average income from their practice as an author ($27,300), followed by children’s ($26,800) and genre fiction ($23,300) authors. Even though these figures are above the overall average for authors, they are not enough to live on, to support a family, or to pay rent or a mortgage. At the other end of the spectrum are poets, who earned an average of $5,700 from their creative practice. Literary authors earned $14,500, which is a decrease in real terms since 2015.

In case you’re wondering, literary authors are likely the sort of author anyone who wants to write wants to be. They also tend to be winners of literary awards including the Stella Prize, Miles Franklin, SPN Book of the Year, and Patrick White Award. And yet they only earn about a third of the Australian minimum wage for their craft.

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Antigone Kefala wins 2022 Patrick White literary award

27 November 2022

Antigone Kefala, an Australian poet of Greek-Romanian heritage, has been named winner of the 2022 Patrick White Award.

In 1973 Patrick White became the first Australian author to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and he used the prize money to create an award for Australian writers. The winning author is usually an established writer who administrators of the prize feel has been not been adequately recognised during their career. Further, the winner is selected, rather than being nominated, so the prize could — in a sense — be regarded as a lifetime achievement award.

If you’re a fan of poetry, and aren’t familiar with Kefala’s work, now might be the time to become acquainted with her free-form verse, that has variously been described as “minimalist” and having an “almost metaphysical detachment.”

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Gravidity and Parity by Eleanor Jackson wins 2022 SPN book of year

25 November 2022
Gravidity and Parity by Eleanor Jackson, book cover

Gravidity and Parity, written by Eleanor Jackson, and published by Vagabond Press, has been named winner of the Small Press Network (SPN) Book of the Year award.

Gravidity and Parity is a poignant and intricate collection of poetry that guides the reader into the journey of motherhood, pulling no punches in how it addresses and details all that is often unsaid or unknown about pregnancy. The book is set during the COVID pandemic, and author Eleanor Jackson beautifully encapsulates this all-too-familiar moment in recent history, reflecting on themes of connectedness and isolation.

The SPN does invaluable work representing the interests of over two hundred and fifty small and independent book publishers in Australia and New Zealand.

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Those Dashing McDonagh Sisters by Mandy Sayer

22 November 2022
Those Dashing McDonagh Sisters, by Mandy Sayer, book cover

The McDonagh Sisters, Isabel, Phyllis, and Paulette, were Australian film producers active almost one hundred years ago. Based in Sydney, the trio made six films, including two documentaries, in an age of filmmaking that saw the transition from silent features to sound, or talkies.

The youngest, Paulette, was one of only five women film directors in the world. Phyllis produced, art directed, and conducted publicity. And the eldest, Isabel, under her stage name Marie Lorraine, acted superbly in all the female leads. Together, the sisters transformed Australian cinema’s preoccupations with the outback and the bush — and what they mocked as ‘haystack movies’ — into a thrilling, urban modernity.

Their work and lives are the subject of a new book, Those Dashing McDonagh Sisters: Australia’s First Female Filmmaking Team, published by UNSW Press, by Sydney based Australian writer and novelist Mandy Sayer.

The sister’s stories are a fascinating chapter in the history of both Australian film production, and Australia itself. Sayer’s book will help introduce their now often overlooked work to a new generation of people with an interest in Australian filmmaking and its past. For a glimpse of the McDonagh’s work, have a look at this trailer for their 1930 film The Cheaters.

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Currowan by Bronwyn Adcock wins 2022 Walkley Book Award

17 November 2022
Currowan by Bronwyn Adcock, book cover

Currowan, by NSW based Australian journalist and writer Bronwyn Adcock, has been named winner of the 2022 Walkley Book Award. Published by Black Inc., Currowan is a harrowing personal account of a bush fire that burnt for seventy-four days on the NSW south coast in 2019.

The Currowan fire — ignited by a lightning strike in a remote forest and growing to engulf the New South Wales South Coast — was one of the most terrifying episodes of Australia’s Black Summer. It burnt for seventy-four days, consuming nearly 5000 square kilometres of land, destroying well over 500 homes and leaving many people shattered.

Bronwyn Adcock fled the inferno with her children. Her husband, fighting at the front, rang with a plea for help before his phone went dead, leaving her to fear — will he make it out alive?

In Currowan, Bronwyn tells her story and those of many others — what they saw, thought and felt as they battled a blaze of never-before-seen intensity. In the aftermath, there were questions — why were resources so few that many faced the flames alone? Why was there back-burning on a day of extreme fire danger? Why weren’t we better prepared?

Currowan is a portrait of tragedy, survival and the power of community. Set against the backdrop of a nation in the grip of an intensifying crisis, this immersive account of a region facing disaster is a powerful glimpse into a new, more dangerous world — and how we build resilience.

The Walkley Awards, which are presented annually, recognise excellence in Australian journalism.

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Signs and Wonders by Delia Falconer wins 2022 Nib Literary award

16 November 2022
Signs and Wonders, by Delia Falconer, book cover

Signs and Wonders, by Delia Falconer has been named winner of the 2022 Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award.

Building on Falconer’s two acclaimed essays, ‘Signs and Wonders’ and the Walkley Award-winning ‘The Opposite of Glamour’, Signs and Wonders is a pioneering examination of how we are changing our culture, language and imaginations along with our climate. Is a mammoth emerging from the permafrost beautiful or terrifying? How is our imagination affected when something that used to be ordinary — like a car windscreen smeared with insects — becomes unimaginable? What can the disappearance of the paragraph from much contemporary writing tell us about what’s happening in the modern mind?

Scientists write about a ‘great acceleration’ in human impact on the natural world. Signs and Wonders shows that we are also in a period of profound cultural acceleration, which is just as dynamic, strange, extreme and, sometimes, beautiful. Ranging from an ‘unnatural’ history of coal to the effect of a large fur seal turning up in the park below her apartment, this book is a searching and poetic examination of the ways we are thinking about how, and why, to live now.

In addition, Mortals, by Rachel E. Menzies and Ross G. Menzies, won this year’s people choice award.

The literary prize, often referred to as the Nib Award, was established in 2002, and principal sponsors are presently Mark and Evette Moran. The award recognises excellence in literary research, and is open to Australian works of any genre, fiction or non-fiction.

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The Best Books of 2022 from The New Yorker

12 November 2022

Twenty-twenty-two must be winding down if “best books of the year” lists are beginning to appear.

The Best Books of 2022, from the New Yorker, is the first summary I’ve seen so far, though they add the crucial “for now” provision. After all, anything could happen in the next month and a half. It’s a pretty extensive list, and includes the fiction work of two Australian authors I could see, Cold Enough for Snow by Jessica Au, and The White Girl by Tony Birch.

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Stage and TV for Pip Williams The Dictionary of Lost Words

12 November 2022
The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams, book cover

The Dictionary of Lost Words, the debut novel of Adelaide Hills, South Australia, based author Pip Williams, which I happen to be reading at the moment, is to be the subject of not one, but two separate adaptations.

A stage production, directed by Jessica Arthur, a collaboration between the State Theatre Company of South Australia and the Sydney Theatre Company, is set to open in September 2023, in Adelaide. The show then moves to Sydney, where it opens in late October 2023.

And then this week Australian television producers Lisa Scott and Rebecca Summerton announced they had acquired the TV rights to the book, and were planning a six to eight part series. At this stage it remains unknown when the show will go to air.

Set with the publishing of the first Oxford Dictionary as a backdrop, The Dictionary of Lost Words, published in March 2020 by Affirm Press, recounts the story of Esme, the daughter of one of the lexicographers working on production of the dictionary:

Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day, she sees a slip containing the word bondmaid flutter to the floor unclaimed. Esme seizes the word and hides it in an old wooden trunk that belongs to her friend, Lizzie, a young servant in the big house. Esme begins to collect other words from the Scriptorium that are misplaced, discarded or have been neglected by the dictionary men. They help her make sense of the world.

Over time, Esme realises that some words are considered more important than others, and that words and meanings relating to women’s experiences often go unrecorded. She begins to collect words for another dictionary: The Dictionary of Lost Words.

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Small publishers thrive on Prime Minister’s Literary Awards shortlist

9 November 2022

The shortlist for the 2022 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards was unveiled this week. Thirty titles, across six categories — including fiction, poetry, Australian history, and young adult — were selected from over five-hundred and forty entries.

Notably, sixteen of the books shortlisted were published by members of the Small Press Network, a representative body for small and independent Australian publishers.

With consolidations taking place in the publishing industry worldwide, potentially reducing the number of publishing houses, and leaving only a handful of large players, this is a welcome indication that smaller publishers are thriving.

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Susannah Begbie wins 2022 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers

3 November 2022

Australian doctor Susannah Begbie has been named winner of the 2022 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers, with her manuscript titled When Trees Fall Without Warning.

Her work, When Trees Fall Without Warning, which took ten years to write, is an expertly told, compelling work of commercial fiction. Instantly captivating, with characters alive with personality who ring emotionally true, this is an original and lively narrative that creates memorable insights into a dysfunctional family dynamic. The Richell Prize judges have no doubt that Susannah is a writer with the ability to create an ongoing literary career.

So good to see that ten years of writing looks like it will result in a published work.

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Emily Bitto wins 2022 Roderick Literary Award with Wild Abandon

3 November 2022

Melbourne based Australian author Emily Bitto has been named winner of the 2022 Roderick Literary Award, with her 2021 novel Wild Abandon.

Two hundred and thirty entries — a record number — were received for the 2022 award. All were of a high standard, which made selecting a shortlist, let alone a winner, difficult, according to Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson, who headed up the judging panel.

A lot of very good books just didn’t make the shortlist. But in the end Emily Bitto’s extremely well-crafted account of a young Australian man’s ‘escape’ to New York and then into the US heartlands after the breakdown of his first serious relationship — a coming of age and into self-knowledge story set against a richly symbolic and allusive account of the decline of civilisations — won the prize.

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Bramble a literary journal for and by disabled creatives

31 October 2022

Bramble is a newly launched quarterly literary journal for, and by, disabled creatives. Founded by Spencer Barberis, and Scout Lee Robinson, past University of Wollongong arts students, Bramble only publishes creative work by disabled writers and artists based in Australia.

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Australian genre fiction authors look overseas for publishers

22 October 2022

If you’re an Australian author, don’t bother submitting manuscripts for anything other than literary fiction to local publishers. Nothing else will be accepted. That seems to be the message from a number of prominent Australian writers, including Stephanie Laurens and Shelley Parker-Chan, who say they had to find overseas publishers for their works of genre fiction.

The local publishing landscape is dominated by trade houses that concentrate on contemporary or literary fiction: books that are often character-driven, serious and contemplative. But these novels are not the most popular. A 2021 survey of Australian readers found crime and mystery was their favourite genre, followed by science fiction and fantasy, then contemporary and literary fiction.

But according to Jo MacKay, the head of local publishing at HQ Books, a division of HarperCollins, the Australian book market is saturated by the likes of fantasy fiction. It may be popular, but no one is buying it, if that makes any sense. And while Australian authors undoubtedly greatly benefit from exposure to markets such as those in America, there are strings attached.

For instance, Laurens reported having to be content with a cover design her publisher thought would be conducive to sales, rather than an option she would have preferred.

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Tom Keneally, Katrina Nannestad win 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize

22 October 2022

Sydney based Australian author Tom Keneally has won the adult category of the 2022 ARA Historical Novel Prize with his novel Corporal Hitler’s Pistol. Katrina Nannestad meanwhile, who resides in central Victoria, was named winner of the children and young adult category with Rabbit, Soldier, Angel, Thief.

Keneally has graciously shared his prize money with this year’s other award longlisted authors. Keneally was forthright in his decision. Speaking as an eighty-seven year old he said, he’d rather see other writers benefit from the prize money instead of him spending it on incontinence pads.

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Why aren’t Australian books being nominated for the Booker Prize?

19 October 2022

It’s been six years since the work of an Australian author was nominated for the Booker Prize. Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan was the last recipient in 2014, with his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North.

Since then only South African born Australian author J.M. Coetzee has made the cut, being named on the longlist for the 2016 Prize with The Schooldays of Jesus.

But 2014 was also the year changes were made to the Prize’s eligibility requirements, allowing any English language title to be nominated, essentially opening up the award to American writers. Since then it seems Australian books have struggled to gain traction.

The Booker was once confined to authors from the Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe — an empire rule that looked increasingly silly, leading to a change in 2014 to allow all novels written in English, so long as they were published by UK and Irish publishing houses. Much fuss was made about the decision to let Americans in (including by Carey), but it is undeniable that since then, they have made up roughly a quarter of every longlist and won three times; at this year’s prize, which was won by Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunatilaka on Monday, six of the 13 nominees were American. These authors are most often living, working and published in the US — seemingly an easier path into the UK than the long road from Australia.

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The 2022 Richell Prize shortlist for unpublished writers

13 October 2022

The 2022 Richell Prize shortlist — which is open to unpublished Australian writers of adult fiction and adult narrative non-fiction — was announced on Tuesday 10 October 2022. This year six writers were selected from a field of some seven hundred aspirants.

  • Zainab’s Not Home, by Hajer Al-awsi
  • When Trees Fall Without Warning, by Susannah Begbie
  • Wake, by Kate Harris
  • Place Setting, by Eva Lomski
  • The Little Ones, by Anne Myers
  • The Medusa, by Lisa Nan Joo

In addition to a cash prize, the winner — who will be named on Thursday 3 November 2022 — will receive twelve months mentoring with a publisher at Hachette Australia, and may possibly see their manuscript published.

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Psalms For The End Of The World by Cole Haddon

10 October 2022
Psalms For The End Of The World, by Cole Haddon, book cover

Psalms For The End Of The World, written by Australian-American author Cole Haddon, and published by Hachette Australia, is a novel aptly titled for the times. For more than one reason.

The first, and most obvious, is the end-of-days gloom permeating global affairs presently. The other, of all things, relates to the winners of the 2022 Nobel Prize for physics. That’s because for the overt references to the end of the world, Psalms For The End Of The World also includes — among other things — physics and quantum entanglement in the mix:

It’s 1962 and physics student Grace Pulansky believes she has met the man of her dreams, Robert Jones, while serving up slices of pecan pie at the local diner. But then the FBI shows up, with their fedoras and off-the-rack business suits, and accuses him of being a bomb-planting mass-murderer.

Finding herself on the run with Jones across America’s Southwest, the discoveries awaiting Gracie will undermine everything she knows about the universe. Her story will reveal how scores of lives — an identity-swapping rock star, a mourning lover in ancient China, Nazi hunters in pursuit of a terrible secret, a crazed artist in pre-revolutionary France, an astronaut struggling with a turbulent interplanetary future, and many more — are interconnected across space and time by love, grief, and quantum entanglement.

With a timeline spanning centuries, and incorporating the stories of multiple characters, Psalms For The End Of The World seems to have something for everyone, be they fans of crime, science fiction, fantasy, or historical fiction.

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The Small Press Network Book of the Year Award 2022 shortlist

7 October 2022

The Book of the Year Award 2022 shortlist was announced on Tuesday 4 October 2022, and features seven titles this year:

Also known as the the BOTYs, the award is an initiative of the Small Press Network, an organisation representing some two-hundred and fifty small and independent Australian publishers. The winner will be named on Friday 25 November 2022.

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Limberlost the new novel by Robbie Arnott

3 October 2022
Limberlost by Robbie Arnott, book cover

Limberlost (published by Text Publishing, October 2022), is the new novel from Tasmania based Australian author Robbie Arnott, and follows his 2020 book The Rain Heron, which was shortlisted for the 2021 Miles Franklin literary award.

As with The Rain Heron, conflict features in Limberlost, though this time the story is told from the perspective of a boy whose older brothers are away, fighting during the Second World War:

In the heat of a long summer Ned hunts rabbits in a river valley, hoping the pelts will earn him enough money to buy a small boat. His two brothers are away at war, their whereabouts unknown. His father and older sister struggle to hold things together on the family orchard, Limberlost.

Desperate to ignore it all — to avoid the future rushing towards him — Ned dreams of open water. As his story unfolds over the following decades, we see how Ned’s choices that summer come to shape the course of his life, the fate of his family and the future of the valley, with its seasons of death and rebirth.

Early reviews for Limberlost look promising. Kimberley Starr, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald, praises Arnott’s magical realism, and lyrical magic, which made The Rain Heron a treat to read:

Any readers unresponsive to the magical realism of Arnott’s previous novels should find something to appreciate here, and people who already value his writing will have the opportunity to see him working his lyrical magic in a more familiar but equally beguiling world.

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