SpiegeltentIt was standing room only in the Spiegeltent tonight, at the launch of the Stella Sparks campaign and the announcement of the 2016 Stella Prize longlist.

Seven wonderful Australian writers (of fiction and non-fiction, prose and songs) each spoke to the assembled literati about Australian women writers that have inspired, provoked and moved them.

Carrie Tiffany (Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living and Mateship with Birds) opened proceedings with a funny and heartfelt story about discovering Elizabeth Jolley’s Palomino as a teenager.  Tiffany borrowed it from the local library because the school library was contained in a condemned portable building that remained locked and out-of-bounds throughout her whole high school career.

Alice Pung (Unpolished Gem, Laurinda) discussed how Ruth Park’s works spoke to her about how working class people could be portrayed with depth, compassion and insight.

Andy Griffith (The Day My Bum Went Psycho and too many others to list) spoke about how Carmel Bird generously supported and mentored his earliest efforts.

Clare Wright (The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka and Beyond the Ladies Lounge) found her feminist epiphany in the university library’s copy of Damned Whores and God’s Police: The Colonisation of Australian Women by Anne Summers.  The epiphany was not shared by her housemates, who steadfastly refused to let her borrow their clothes.

Angie Hart (singer/songwriter, formerly of Frente) found her way out of the well of grief through The Burial by Courtney Collins  and the poems of Dorothy Porter.

Emily Bitto (The Strays) spoke movingly of The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead and was enraged by the fact that on the cover of her edition, Jonathon Franzen’s name was larger than Stead’s.  Franzen had written a brief forward.

Celeste Liddle (essayist and commentator) discussed the YA works of Robin Klein, and how their imagery and stories shaped her as a writer.

Each writer probably only spoke for five minutes or so but they were funny and moving and heartfelt and  interesting.  Then Alice Pung announced the long list.  The shortlist will be announced on 10 March, with the final $50,000 prize awarded in Sydney on 19 April.

The 2016 Stella Prize longlist is:

  • The Women’s Pages by Debra Adelaide (Pan Macmillan)
  • The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop (Hachette)
  • Panthers and the Museum of Fire by Jen Craig (Spineless Wonders) 
  • Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight (Random House)
  • Hope Farm by Peggy Frew (Scribe)
  • A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories by Elizabeth Harrower (Text)
  • A Guide to Berlin by Gail Jones (Random House)
  • The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau (Bloomsbury) 
  • A Short History of Richard Kline by Amanda Lohrey (Black Inc.)
  • Anchor Point by Alice Robinson (Affirm Press) 
  • The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood (Allen & Unwin)
  • Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright (Giramondo)

Shame there is only one non-fiction title this year (the last one on the list).

But was it a good night out?  Was it ever!  I was reunited with eight of my HardCopy colleagues (including one from the ACT and another from Tasmania) and it was terrific to hear about each others’ progress in only a few short months.  One had signed with an agent, another (Nicole Gill) had a piece published in the February edition of The Monthly.  Both as a direct result of the HardCopy program.  I also managed to touch base in a very positive way with the agent I soon hope to sign with…  Stay tuned folks.