Hungerford winner Molly Schmidt hopes her manuscript will be a successful example of cross-cultural collaboration
Fremantle author Molly Schmidt has won the 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award for her manuscript Salt River Road. She takes home a $15,000 cash prize and a publishing contract with Fremantle Press.
Judged anonymously, the biennial prize is in its 32nd year and is presented to an emerging West Australian writer for their first full-length, unpublished work of fiction or narrative non-fiction.
Molly Schmidt said Fremantle Press had long been her dream publisher for Salt River Road, ‘So, to have been recognised by them? I am still pinching myself.’
Fremantle Press publisher and Hungerford judge Georgia Richter said this year’s winning novel is interspersed with beautiful passages of verse – an effective way of navigating the difficult, changeable journey of grief. Richter said: ‘Salt River Road is about the five Tetley kids, who are falling apart in aftermath of the death of their beloved mother. With the family farm in ruins and their father unable to transcend his grief, Rose Tetley is discovered running away from home by Noongar Elders Patsy and Herbert who have their own history with Rose’s parents. This novel focuses on the fabric of small-town life, and the complexity of family and community relationships.’
Schmidt’s coming-of-age story set in regional Western Australia in the 1970s drew on her own experience of losing her father to cancer. She said it explored ‘the reality of a childhood lost to hospital corridors and the gaping hole a parent leaves behind.
In a parallel narrative, Salt River Road acknowledges the stories and wisdom of the Traditional Custodians of the Great Southern region, the Menang and Goreng Noongar people. Schmidt said, ‘I wrote this story in consultation with Noongar Elders from the Albany area and I am so grateful for their time and friendship. I hope Salt River Road can become a poignant example of the possibilities of cross-cultural collaboration.’
The winner of the 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award was announced at a ceremony at Fremantle Arts Centre last night.
Fremantle Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge said she was delighted that two of the four shortlisted writers lived in Fremantle. She said, ‘We are proudly a creative city and seeing our local writers recognised in this way is brilliant. I can’t wait to read Molly’s work! I’m confident all four shortlisted writers will one day look back on the night as a significant early milestone in their careers.’
Mayor Fitzhardinge said, ‘Through the Hungerford Award, the City of Fremantle is excited to play our role in growing the arts community throughout the state. To this end, I want to congratulate the 90 writers who entered the competition this year and who understand that getting words on the page and meeting tangible goals like competition deadlines is meaningful work in the pursuit of a dream.’
The three judges of this year’s award, Natasha Lester, Rashida Murphy and Richard Rossiter read 90 manuscripts of a variety of forms and genres, including literary fiction, young adult novels, short story collections and narrative non-fiction. The writers who stood out were those who ‘combined a natural affinity with words alongside an understanding that their story needs to appeal to a reader, which meant they had honed and edited and shaped their work, thus setting their manuscripts apart from the others that felt less fully realised and needed more time, development and writerly sweat to be successful’.
Tom (T.A.G.) Hungerford was widely admired as a quintessential West Australian writer and identity. He was proud to have this unique award for debut writers named for him and was always a great supporter of new and emerging writers. Former winners include Gail Jones, Simone Lazaroo, Alice Nelson and Brenda Walker, with Miles Franklin winner Kim Scott identified for publication from the Hungerford shortlist.
The award is sponsored by the City of Fremantle and Fremantle Press.
Media contact: Claire Miller, email@example.com, 08 9430 6331, 0419 837 841
About the winner
Molly Schmidt is a writer and journalist, currently undertaking the Four Centres Emerging Writers Program. In 2021, she completed a thesis in collaboration with Noongar Elders from her hometown, Albany, with the goal of producing a novel which actively pursues reconciliation. By day, Molly works as a radio producer and reporter for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, where her passion for storytelling is put to good use.
About T.A.G. Hungerford (1915–2011)
The writing of T.A.G. Hungerford contributed hugely to helping Western Australians define a sense of self and place in a rapidly changing world. His first collection of short stories was published in 1976 by Fremantle Press. His books, Stories from Suburban Road, A Knockabout with a Slouch Hat and Red Rover All Over have all been major publishing successes. In 1987, T.A.G. Hungerford was made a member of the Order of Australia. In 2002, he was the recipient of the Patrick White Award and in 2004 he was declared a Western Australian State Living Treasure. He was proud to have the unique WA award for debut writers, the T.A.G. Hungerford Award, named for him. He was always a great supporter of new and emerging writers.
1990 Brenda Walker, Crush
1991 Gail Jones, The House of Breathing
1993 Simone Lazaroo, The World Waiting to Be Made
1995 Bruce Russell, Jacob’s Air
2000 Christopher Murray, A Whispering of Fish
2002 Nathan Hobby, The Fur
2004 Donna Mazza, The Albanian
2006 Alice Nelson, The Last Sky
2008 Natasha Lester, What is Left Over, After
2010 Jacqueline Wright, Red Dirt Talking
2012 Robert Edeson, The Weaver Fish
2014 Madelaine Dickie, Troppo
2016 Jay Martin, Vodka and Apple Juice: Travels of an Undiplomatic Wife in Poland
2018 Holden Sheppard, Invisible Boys
2020 Maria Papas, Skimming Stones