Sally Abbott has won the inaugural Richell Prize for Emerging Writers for her manuscript Closing Down.
Abbott was awarded a $10,000 prize, a year's mentorship with Hachette Australia and publication of her work in the Guardian Australia.
According to the judging panel, the first three chapters of Abbott’s manuscript - which conjured up a vision of a future Australia negotiating a tidal wave of refugees - were so impressive that the final decision was unanimous, despite the high quality of the shortlist.
The shortlist featured No Way, Okay Fine, a “culture-obsessed” collection of essays by Brodie Lancaster, &, an "original" take on the art novel by Jonathan O’Brien, Gun Club an account of Australia at war by Lyndel Caffrey, and But With Blood, a clear eyed examination of power, privilege and rice by Ellena Savage.
The judges included Matt Richell's widow, author Hannah Richell, Hachette publisher Robert Watkins, culture editor of Guardian Australia Nancy Groves, former director of Emerging Writers’ festival Sam Twyford-Moore and bookseller Megan O’Brien.
In its first year, 975 writers entered the prize, each submitting the first three chapters of a manuscript in adult fiction or nonfiction. Entries were then longlisted to 21 by a team of readers from the Emerging Writers’ festival, before the judges picked a shortlist and their eventual winner.
The Richell Prize was established earlier this year by Hachette Australia with Guardian Australia and the Emerging Writers’ festival to honour the late Hachette publisher Matt Richell, who died in a surfing accident in Sydney in June 2014.