29th November 2011
South Australian university student and first-time novelist Hannah Kent has today been named the winner of the 2011 Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award - receiving a total prize package worth $12,000 and the honour of being the award’s inaugural recipient.
The award was established by Writing Australia – a national literature organisation comprising five state-based writers’ centres (SA, the ACT, NSW, VIC & TAS), formed in January this year. Writing Australia is dedicated to creating professional development opportunities to assist Australian writers and this new national award, managed by the SA Writers’ Centre, was designed to aid the progression of an unpublished manuscript – in the genre of adult literary fiction or genre fiction – to its next stage. The prize consists of $10,000 cash to help provide the winner with ‘the time’ to write and a $2,000 mentorship component.
Currently completing her PhD in Creative Writing at Adelaide’s Flinders University, 26-year-old Hannah received the award for her manuscript ‘Burial Rites’ – a fictional work based on the true story of Agnes Magnusdottir, who in 1830 was publicly beheaded in Iceland for the murder of her employer.
“I was introduced to Agnes’ story when I lived in Iceland as a 17-year-old,” says Hannah. “I couldn’t stop thinking about what it must have been like for her to become such an outcast in the small community she had grown up in. ‘Burial Rites’ is my attempt at trying to understand this woman and why she’s been portrayed the way she has.”
Described by one judge as a “complex, evocative and powerful tale that contains startling observations on the human condition”, Hannah’s winning manuscript was selected from a pool of over 400 entries.
“We were thrilled that this award attracted such a staggering level of interest in its first year and from all corners of the country,” says Barbara Wiesner, Director of the SA Writers’ Centre. “Each of the state-based writers’ centres hear constantly from members that they either don’t have enough time to write or wish they could get an objective viewpoint from an established writer to help them improve their work. This Writing Australia award addresses both those issues – providing the winner with funds to find that time and the chance to receive professional guidance.”
For Hannah, the mentorship is a highlight of her win – “I’m incredibly excited about the prospect of working with a published Australian author who can look at my work with fresh eyes and give me feedback and advice based on their own experiences.”
The judging panel for this year’s Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award comprised Valerie Parv (international best-selling romance & non-fiction author), Mark Macleod (senior lecturer in English at Charles Sturt University, TV & radio presenter), Peter Bishop (leading writing teacher & mentor) and Patrick Allington (author & book critic).
“Hannah’s manuscript was considered the most promising of all the entries,” says Wiesner. “We’re confident this development opportunity will assist her to realise her dream of developing this work into her first published novel,”