Holden Sheppard stays on a roll as his debut YA novel Invisible Boys makes the shortlist for a fourth major prize

Geraldton-born Western Australian writer Holden Sheppard is one of three writers shortlisted for the Prize for Writing for Young Adults in the 2020 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. Holden is in the running to receive a $25,000 prize, as well as the overall Victorian Prize for Literature worth an additional $100,000, the single most valuable literary award in the country.

Not only that, but Invisible Boys has also been longlisted in the Young Adult category for the 2020 Indie Book Awards.

Holden said he was stoked and overwhelmed by being shortlisted for such a major prize. He said, ‘Invisible Boys is a work of fiction about a time in my teenage years I never thought I would speak publicly about – my struggles with sexuality, identity, feeling like I wasn’t enough of a “real man” because I was attracted to men, and the suicidal ideation that resulted from that. I am buoyed that this rough-as-guts, true-to-life novel written by a gay country boy is being received so well by readers and critics alike. It gives me hope that Australia is ready for more realistic and authentic LGBTQIA+ representation in our national literary canon, and especially for young people. This shortlisting means the absolute world.’

If he wins, Holden will join fellow Western Australian Own Voices authors Ambelin Kwaymullina, Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Kim Scott, who won in their respective categories in the 2019 Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. Holden said, ‘I’m so excited to be in such good company and I feel very grateful to the judges for liking what they read. Thank you for seeing the value in Own Voices stories like mine, and like those of many other Own Voices writers.’

The quality of Fremantle Press poet Nandi Chinna’s The Future Keepers was also recognised by the judges, who made the collection a Highly Commended Book in the Prize for Poetry.

The Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards were inaugurated by the Victorian Government in 1985 to honour Australian writing. The awards are administered by the Wheeler Centre on behalf of the Premier of Victoria. The winners of the main suite of awards – fiction, non-fiction, drama, poetry, writing for young adults, and the biennial Prize for Indigenous Writing – each receive $25,000. The winner of the Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript receives $15,000. The winners of the seven award categories go on to contest the overall $100,000 Victorian Prize for Literature.

This year’s winners will be announced at an awards ceremony on 30 January 2020.

Invisible Boys is the first book to feature in the Fremantle Book Club, a new citywide initiative launching in January. Join the Fremantle Book Club on Facebook.

Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard and The Future Keepers by Nandi Chinna are available in all good bookstores and online.

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