The inaugural Richell Prize for Emerging Writers, established in honour of the late publisher Matt Richell, has announced its shortlist.
The list of five competing for the $10,000 prize and a year’s mentoring with Hachette Australia includes three fiction entries and two non-fiction.
Launched in May this year with the Richell family, in partnership with Guardian Australia and The Emerging Writers’ Festival (EWF), the prize, which is for unpublished writers in Australia, attracted 975 submissions.
The finalists include Jonathan O’Brien for &, described as a “striking and lyrical start to what will no doubt be a future outstanding debut”. The judges said that “this story takes a firm grip of the reader with its narrative and never lets go”.
No Way, Okay Fine by Brodie Lancaster, said the judges, “represents an exciting shift in new non-fiction in Australia – young, chatty, pop culture obsessed….informal (which isn’t to say uninformed, quite the opposite) and powerfully feminist”.
Sally Abbott’s Closing Down has “clean, vivid prose and intriguing characters” and “immediately pulls the reader into a plausible yet brutal vision of a future Australia: a broken country carved up into inclusion and exclusion zones and a population uprooted and transient”.
Gun Club by Lyndel Caffrey is a “mature and accomplished submission that belies its unpublished status”. The judges said: “The compelling voice and beautiful imagery will take root in many readers’ minds. A very personal, powerful, yet still fresh account of Australia at war.”
The final shortlisted entry is But With Blood by Ellena Savage, which is a “dazzling hit of unique, sometimes naively daring prose” that “injects the topical and personal with rich historical and literary references, tackling race, power and privilege, while constantly managing to check in on its own”.
The judging panel was led by Richell’s widow Hannah Richell.
The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Sydney on 29th October.
Richell, who was c.e.o. of Hachette Australia and also chairman of Hachette New Zealand, died following an accident while surfing. The 41-year-old, who was from the UK, worked at Bloomsbury, Pan Macmillan and John Murray before moving to Sydney with his wife and two children, aged six and three.