QUEENSLAND LITERARY AWARDS 2013!

QLA Award winners 2013

QLA Award winners 2013

I was lucky enough to attend the 2nd annual Queensland Literary Awards last night – The People’s Literary Awards after the Newman government, as one of its first acts, cut funding and dismantled the previous Premier’s awards.
Well poo to you Can Do Campbell. It’s better this way. Just don’t send along one of your lackey’s next time and try to muscle in on the action. Handing out a few $15 000 fellowships doesn’t make you a friend of the literary community, I’m afraid.
The minister for just about everything else including the arts, made a quick speech, explaining that he had to rush off to the (not said, but surely felt) much more important Rugby League Awards. I wonder how much money Rugby League received from the state coffers? And hey, aren’t football players PAID? Thousands of dollars every year? Excuse me while I just pop another bottle of Moet and polish the Porsche with it.
Anyway, enough moaning. At least he was forced to read two short stories as part of the process, so we’ve increased his literacy.

Once he left, the mood lightened and we celebrated some truly wonderful writing and the hard work of the organising committee, especially the magnificent Claire Booth who has worked for a whole year as manager, unpaid. Cheers were loudest for the locals and two favourites took out the big prizes, Kris Olsson for the wonderful Boy Lost and Melssia Lucashenko for Mullumbimby. I’m not sure but Melissa could be the first indigenous woman to take out a major fiction prize in Australia. Well done to them both – tireless, inspiring writers.
Cate Kennedy took out the Steele Rudd Short story prize, the only award for short story collections in the country, with her Like A House on Fire.

This year mentorships were given to the shortlistees of the emerging writer categories, both for indigenous and mainstream. A wonderful idea. Mentorships are worth their weight in gold anytime, but especially when you’re just starting out. Well done QLA Committee.
The O’Hara family sponsored the emerging writer prize in memory of their late mother. Three of her daughters took to the stage and honoured the “fight in the dog” of every writer, acknowledging the sheer guts it takes just to finish writing a manuscript let alone getting it published.

My favourite speech of the night was by the winner of the Young Adult Book Award, Jaclyn Moriarty,(A Corner of White) who told us about growing up in a house where pocket money was only paid if you’d filled an exercise book with stories. $1.50. Her wily father then used to win their earnings back with a toy roulette wheel. But what moved me was when she talked about receiving letters from her teenage readers. One thirteen year old wrote, “when I’m feeling bad, I hold one of your books and I feel better.” Jaclyn went on to talk about how important books are because they provide this comfort. That it is through literature that we, perhaps for the first time, or the only time, feel that we are not isolated. And, she went on, this is why literary awards and the prize money they provide, are important too. Because they give writers the time and space they need to create the books that provide this comfort and connection.
She further endeared herself by forgetting to take her prize and then stumbling as she left the podium. She probably thought she’d made a mess of things, but for me, she’d touched the very heart of why we write and read. To find and give that comfort.

QUEENSLAND LITERARY AWARDS

Queensland Literary Awards: Queensland Book of the Year winner Simon Cleary, Fiction Book Award winner Frank Moorhouse and Non-Fiction Book Award winner Robin De Crespigny. Picture: Liam Kidston

Queensland Literary Awards: Queensland Book of the Year winner Simon Cleary, Fiction Book Award winner Frank Moorhouse and Non-Fiction Book Award winner Robin De Crespigny. Picture: Liam Kidston

 

Last night I had the great pleasure of attending the inaugural Queensland Literary Awards. And what a wonderful night it was. After the heinous axing of the Premier’s awards by the new conservative government, the power of the people and the hard work of a few like Krissy Kneen, Claire Booth and Matthew Condon, made these awards the “most noble”of the literary calendar this year as Fiction Book winner Frank Moorhouse noted in his acceptance speech.

Not a politician in sight, which meant the speeches were entertaining and the room was filled with laughter and feel-good vibes. Richard Fidler, host of Conversations on ABC radio, hosted the event and set the tone for the evening by saying that by sacrificing our literary prize money we writers had saved Queensland from certain Apocalypse.

With fifteen awards in all, there are too many to list here. The event made the front page of The COurier Mail however so click here for  a complete list.

Highlights for me were the emerging writer prize, won by Catherine Titasey for her manuscript, “Islands of the Unexpected”. She’d flown all the way from Thursday Island where she lives, and the book is set, to accept the award and accompanying bottle of coins collected by literary buskers. She had never met another writer.

Winner of the David Unaipon Award, SivParker, moved the audience when she told of how her mother had taught herself to read using Anne of Green Gables! Without the efforts of volunteers and donors, there would have been no award this year for her to win.

I’d entered Thrill Seekers in the Young Adult section but was up against some fierce competiton. I was happy to cheer for Neil Grant’s book about a young refugee from Afghanistan and an Australian boy, The Ink Bridge.

When the award for best Non-Fiction book was announced and the winner stood up, I got a shiver down my spine, because from the back she looked so much like my best writing buddy Helena Pastor who I imagined one day also winning the award. Robin De Crespigny won with The People Smuggler, humanising the face that many demonise.

The party after the event was a hoot. Spirits were high and the drinks were free. It felt like we’d all achieved something quite grand, together. We’d stood up for the importance of writing and reading. The strength of the winners was that they all, in their different ways, showed how the power of story helps change the way we think.

Congratulations to all the winners and most especially to those who worked so hard to ensure that Queensland’s vibrant literary scene retained its awards.