Natasha Lester and Rashida Murphy will judge the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award, worth $15,000 for an unpublished WA writer

It’s just two months until 3 February 2022 when entries will open for the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award for an unpublished work of fiction, narrative non-fiction or young adult fiction by an unpublished writer. The winner receives a cash prize of $15,000 and a publishing contract with Fremantle Press.

To help keep you motivated, we thought we’d introduce you to two inspiring writers who also just happen to be our two new judges.

Meet Natasha Lester, former Hungerford winner and New York Times bestselling author.

What do you look for in a story?

That indefinable thing that makes me feel immersed in a character’s circumstances and compelled to follow them wherever they take me. It’s a bit to do with voice and a bit to do with character development and a bit to do with magic, I guess!

Name a book you’ve read and loved in the last 12 months.

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

If you could share one career highlight, what would it be?

Definitely making the New York Times bestseller list. That still doesn’t feel real!

Meet Rashida Murphy novelist, mentor and facilitator.

What do you look for in a story?

Lyricism, recognition, heart. I always look for the way language is stretched, made musical and surprising, whenever I’m reading anything, fiction, poetry or non-fiction. I look for ideas made beautiful by language-craft, words that make me linger, smile, think, write my own words in a notebook and wonder, how did they do that? But all those beautiful words must make a story that is compelling and believable. It should make me care about the world in that story and the people affected by that world.

Name a book you’ve read and loved in the last 12 months.

I’ve loved too many books this year! I’ll pick one that I re-read and re-discovered the joy I must have felt when I first read it as a student. It’s also a book that does everything I’ve just mentioned I love in a book. It’s a book about books, about country and race, about identity and art, about language and its limits, and the way we remember what we need to as writers even if it breaks us. Audre Lorde’s Zami: A New Spelling of My Name resists classification.

An excerpt: My mother had a secret and special relationship with words, taken for granted as language because it was always there. { } I am a reflection of my mother’s secret poetry as well of as her hidden angers.

If you could share one career highlight, what would it be?

I was at a writers festival in Ubud some years ago, sharing a house with Melissa Lucashenko, reading her then work-in-progress which would be published subsequently as Too Much Lip. And she was reading my novel The Historian’s Daughter. While I was engrossed in the story of Kerry Slater and the stolen bike, Melissa emerged from her room to tell me that I was a great writer, and what she really loved about my novel was the possibility that stolen countries can be returned to original owners. I must add here that Melissa has long been a hero of mine; I have used her words as teaching tools throughout my career as a teacher, and to meet her would have been a highlight in itself – the fact that she read my words and considers me a friend fills me with so much inadequate joy I can barely speak.

In 2022, Western Australia’s most prestigious award for an unpublished work will celebrate its 31st year. The competition will open on 3 February and close on 20 March 2022. The winner will be announced in October 2022. For the full terms and conditions, or to browse books by previous winners, go to the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award page.

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