Judges Report – Fogarty Literary Award 2019

Read the judges report from the inaugural Fogarty Literary Award.

Sixty-four book-length manuscripts were entered in the inaugural Fogarty Literary Award – an amount that far exceeded judges’ expectations and made for an intensive judging period. The majority of works were fiction, with a fair balance between adult and young adult fiction, and a fair portion of these in the fantasy genre. Just a few were short story collections and memoir, with one entertaining experimental work. A number of entries fell far short of the minimum word limit of 50,000 words, and prospective entrants would be advised to pay heed to submission requirements. But on the whole, the quality of works submitted was very high. It is clear that the 18 to 35 year old writers in Western Australia are productive and capable, and this bodes well for our literary culture as this cohort continues to develop its skills.

Ten works were selected for the longlist. These were:

Where the Line Breaks by Michael Burrows (literary fiction)
No Answer by Alex Dook (crime fiction)
The Shapes by Mel Hall (literary fiction)
S to Z by Belinda Hermawan (stories)
The History of Mischief by Rebecca Higgie (younger readers)
Jeffrey by Will Jacobs (literary fiction)
In the Shadow of Burringurrah by Joshua Kemp (gothic / literary fiction)
Home Invasion by Benjamin Mason (stories)
The Absurdity of Being Nothing by Nanci Nott (young adult fiction)
The Last Bookstore by Emma Young (literary fiction)

The longlisted manuscripts were selected because the quality of writing was high, and the reading experience memorable. Each author or manuscript demonstrated potential as a worthy candidate for the Fogarty Literary Award which promotes literacy and the development of a writing career. It was difficult to arrive at a final ten, with several other contenders missing out by a whisker.

Each writer in the longlist will have the opportunity for further feedback from the judges at Fremantle Press and each is to be commended on being part of a very strong longlist.

Michael Burrows’ Where the Line Breaks, Rebecca Higgie’s The History of Mischief, and Emma Young’s The Last Bookstore are the three shortlisted titles for 2019. Each of these works has successfully created a vivid and convincing fictional world which connects with its readers and stays with the reader long after the book is closed. Each work is by a notable new talent, and each of the shortlisted authors will be offered a contract based on the strength of their work.

Where the Line Breaks – Michael Burrows

A young Australian in London is writing his PhD on The Unknown Digger, an extraordinary poet of the First World War whose poems rival those of Brooke, Sassoon and Owen. In alternate chapters, Alan Lewis, war hero in the making, is experiencing life on the front, and a gradually disappearing vision of the life he has left behind. Meanwhile, in the footnotes, the scholar Matt is experiencing the challenges of academia and a new love affair.

This multilayered novel is rich in detail, and rich in irony as the scholar Matt compares his travails with those of the soldier Alan Lewis; and the war hero himself reveals for the reader the vast gulf between myth-making and actual lived experience in impossible circumstances.

The History of Mischief – Rebecca Higgie

Nine-year-old Jessie is a survivor in a car accident that has killed her parents. Her older sister Kay is tasked with rebuilding their family with just the two of them. Neither Jessie nor Kay is equipped to deal with life in the aftermath of such dreadful loss, but the discovery of an extraordinary book offers them both a place to begin again. The History of Mischief tells its own tales about the lives and losses of different characters across the globe, and across time. And that history itself has another history, which Jessie must discover in order to begin making sense of her loss, her inheritance and herself.

Higgie’s novel is an immensely engaging work, with a strong forward momentum and a satisfying emotional resolution.

The Last Bookstore – Emma Young

Emma Young’s manuscript The Last Bookstore is a work of literary fiction about Bookface, the last remaining bookshop in the centre of Perth. Rent is going up and profits going down, and bookstore owner Kate is staring down the barrel of the inevitable. But inside the store, the lives of a community of book readers are displayed through quirky, touching and funny cameos. We see their challenges and connections, and the books they come to buy for comfort, distraction or salvation. Then into Kate’s life walks the Mystery Shopper – is he a knight in shining armour, or just another complication in a complicated world?

This is a feel-good story with a big heart that celebrates the importance of reading and of human connection.

All writers are to be commended on entering the inaugural Fogarty Literary Award.

Georgia Richter, Publisher, Fremantle Press
Cate Sutherland, Publisher, Fremantle Press
Armelle Davies, Editor, Fremantle Press

May 2019

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