Event volunteer Isabella Colton shares her highlights from the 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award and Great Big Book Launch

Mayor Hannah Fitzhardinge with Molly Schmidt and Georgia Richter

Beneath the trees and scenic lighting of the Fremantle Arts Centre, we awaited the announcement of the winner of the 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award, while hearing from 18 Fremantle Press authors pitching their newly published books.

Our witty MCs and authors, Helen Milroy and Holden Sheppard, opened the evening followed by an Acknowledgement of Country by Fremantle Press author and Wadjak Balardong Noongar and Badimaya Yamatji man Jayden Boundry. Then local member for Fremantle Simone McGurk was on hand to introduce newly appointed CEO Alex Allan, who described the role as her dream job.

Holden Sheppard and Helen Milroy
MCs for the evening, Holden Sheppard and Helen Milroy

Then the author pitching began. There were so many great pitches, offering audience members a selection of unique, interesting stories.

The 2021 Fogarty Award winner Brooke Dunnell took the stage to discuss her debut novel, The Glass House, which grapples with unsettling memories, the complexities of ordinary Australian families and the ambiguous motivations behind the actions of a childhood friend.

We then heard Sienna Rose Scully discuss her contribution to the collection of real-life stories in Try Not to Think of a Pink Elephant. She discussed how her OCD made her feel crazy, alone and afraid, but how healing it was to discover she was not alone, as there are so many people in the world suffering quietly from the disorder. Her raw and authentic depiction of her struggle with compulsions emphasised the need for, and importance of, OCD education.

The children’s picture book Wombat Can’t Sing by Katie Stewart encourages kids to appreciate their individual talents and strengths. Katie drew on her childhood experience as inspiration for the book saying that rather than being pushed to be the best at sport, there were places of strength where she could have been directing her energy. This is the key message of her book.

For those interested in historical fiction, David Whish-Wilson’s recent novel, The Sawdust House, is a must-read. Structured in interesting ways, the novel explores themes of love, triumph, tragedy and melancholy.

Hungerford shortlisters standing side by side
The 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award shortlisters

After the author pitches, it was time for the winner of the 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award to be announced. The award is Western Australia’s most prestigious award for an unpublished work of adult fiction or narrative non-fiction. Judges Rashida Murphy, Natasha Lester and Richard Rossiter were given 90 manuscripts to judge. The four shortlisted manuscripts included The Slow Patience of the Sea & other stories, a collection of short stories by Joy Kilian-Essert; Tell Me a Story, a memoir by Gerard McCann; Kintsugi, a collection of narrative non-fiction essays by Marie O’Rourke; and Salt River Road, a novel by Molly Schmidt.

After all shortlisters were congratulated, Molly Schmidt was named the winner, taking away a $15,000 cash prize and a publishing contract with Fremantle Press. The wet weather did not stop her family and friends from standing proud in the front row to cheer her on and celebrate.

Hungerford Award winner Molly Schmidt on stage giving a speech
Hungerford Award winner Molly Schmidt

Molly’s manuscript draws on her life experience growing up in the town of Albany and losing her father to cancer. The story follows two regional teenagers whose lives fall apart after they lose their mother, and it explores ideas of family and community relationships. Her novel includes Noongar characters from the Albany region. These characters are based on her consultation and experiences with Noongar elders from the region, with whom she has built close relationships.

The West Australian writing community came together to celebrate new local stories and authors, showing how these events always demonstrate the integral part that Fremantle Press play in supporting and uplifting local writers and their unique and important stories. There are so many great books that I want to get my hands on to enjoy and widen my perspectives.

About Isabella

Isabella Colton is a second-year student, completing a Bachelor of Arts at Curtin University. Her love for books and avid interest in current affairs sparked her desire to pursue a double major in Professional Writing and Publishing, and Journalism. She’s eager to build her skills as a writer and get more deeply involved with the Perth writing community.

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