Natasha Lester wins 2008 T.A.G. Hungerford Award

Culture and the Arts Minister John Day presented Natasha Lester with the 2008 T.A.G. Hungerford Award for Fiction at a ceremony in Perth last night.

Ms Lester joins a prestigious group of literary talents that includes Gail Jones and Brenda Walker as the 9th winner of the Award for her manuscript What is Left Over, After.

Ms Lester, who is already working on a second novel, said What is left over, after took about three years to complete in between having babies.

“The best bit about winning the award is that I finally feel as though I can call myself a writer – I felt like a bit of a fraud when all I’d had published were poems and short stories but having the novel win the award makes me feel more legitimate,” said Ms Lester.

In her speech, Ms Lester thanked her husband for his support when she decided to leave a corporate career with Maybelline to write full time.

“I gave my husband a very expensive bottle of Krug French champagne for Father’s Day last year so I’m hoping he’ll pop the cork on that to celebrate.

“Either that or diamonds, I’m not fussy!!!” said Ms Lester.

Presented in honour of Tom Hungerford and his outstanding contribution to literature over a period of some sixty years, the T.A.G. Hungerford Award is given for a work of fiction written by a Western Australian author not previously published in book form.

Mr Day commended each of the 28 entrants to the 2008 TAG Hungerford Award for continuing to work with their writing in order to achieve full-length manuscripts.

“It requires a special kind of effort and ambition to do this – particularly without certainty of publication – and it’s an effort which is not often recognised or rewarded. I congratulate each of the entrants for their dedication and achievement,” Minister Day said.

Ray Coffey, former Fremantle Press Publisher and one of four T.A.G. Hungerford judges said the winner displayed considerable skill and facility with language, an originality of image and expression as well as a strong feel for character. This suggests she has the potential to develop into a very good fiction writer,” Mr Coffey said.’

The biennial Hungerford Award is also the most valuable literary prize given in Western Australia for an unpublished work of fiction. The 2008 Award recipient receives a $6000 cash prize provided by New Edition Bookshop, in addition to a publishing contract with Fremantle Press.

Ms Lester was selected as the winning writer from a shortlist of three authors, which also included Bill Powell and Karen Williams.

The T.A.G. Hungerford Award is presented in a partnership between writingWA, New Edition Bookshop, Fremantle Press and The West Australian newspaper. The 2006 T.A.G. Hungerford Award was won by Alice Nelson for The Last Sky.

Natasha Lester is available for interview.

Natasha Lester was a Brand Manager for Maybelline cosmetics until she realised that she cared about writing, not lipstick. In the last three years she’s written a novel, which was long-listed for The Australian/Vogel Award in 2008, completed a Master of Creative Arts at Curtin University and had two children. Her poems and short stories have been published in journals such as Overland and Indigo.

Bill Powell is a retired teacher who both started and finished his teaching career in Western Australian country schools. He taught all year levels from grades 1 to 12 and was the Head of the Music Department at Churchlands Senior High School for over ten years and Principal of a District High School for the ten years before his retirement in 1998. Since then he has turned to writing, for the sheer joy of it as much as for the discipline it requires.

Born in Kondinin, Karen Williams spent the first eleven years of her life living in a series of country towns in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt before the family eventually settled in Perth. Karen abandoned a career in the public service and returned to university to study writing. She now has a Masters in Communication, a PhD in creative writing and a first novel, The Beach House. She lives in Bassendean with her husband, Peter, and her chicken, Little.

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