Debut novelist Anna Funder as had a spectacular year. Not because she cleaned up in both the Miles Franklin Award, Australia’s most prestigious literary prize; All That I Am has also won Book of the Year and Literary Fiction Book of the Year at the Australian Book Industry Awards, the 2012 Barbara Jefferis Award, the Independent Bookseller’s Award for Best Debut Fiction, and the Indie Book of the Year. It is reasonable to say Funder is now a literary heavyweight!
Now, you know I have a little experience with this award winning gig... (That wasn’t even a good segue way – goodness me!) And by no means am I comparing my experience to that of Funder’s (though I am looking for a means of putting her name there as a literary darling, followed by my own ramblings!)
Daniela Sunde-Brown, The Courier Mail, asked me what I thought of literary awards and should we have more. Daniela is the daughter of award winning children’s picture book illustrator Angela Sunde, and would be no stranger to the mad ‘whoops’ of delight when a newly emerging talent has been discovered by the award process.
I yelled at her (via email!) Yes, of course we should have literary awards. I am by no means as eloquent as Anna Funder when it comes to debating the merit of Campbell Newman ditching the Queensland Premiers Literary Awards. "I don't really think they are the Premier's to scrap. It's the people's money and the people want to have this recognition of the writers who reflect their world back to them," she said on ABC radio. "I have spent my professional life studying totalitarian regimes and the brave people who speak out against them. And the first thing that someone with dictatorial inclinations does is to silence the writers and the journalists."
But even when you bring the whole debate back to absolute basics, not having a literary award is like a football code playing games all season and not having a grand final. It is like an athlete not having shot at an Olympics.
It is not just Queensland Premier who we have to convince about the merits of literary awards.
From the detractors (or the losers) the oft made comment – ‘the authors are only in it for the money’ or ‘it is just not worth it’ referring to the terms and conditions of competitions – the entry fees and the number of books you have to send.
Yes – there is a monetary reward from prizes and this certainly would help pay the rent; but it is the peer support which translates to word-of-mouth recommendation for your book which means more.
Yes – the costs of entering certainly adds up, this should be traded off against its intrinsic marketing value. The traditional publishers go through this process, so should independent or self published authors.
For me, the most important thing about awards is that they are a celebration of the creativity of those within the industry and recognition for those who are passionate about sharing what they create. I couldn’t have pulled my book together without the unwavering support from authors Zacharey Jane, Peter Carnavas, Annie O’Dowd, Kat Apel, Aleesha Darlison, Yvonne Winer and Yvonne Blakeney. I look at that glorious medal and I am so privileged to be part of this big ‘story’ and all it represents, and yes, it is worth entering!
And the final word from Anna in her pre-recorded speech, the author said she was "hugely honoured and grateful more than I can say."
My sentiments exactly!