Andrew was nominated for The Prize for an Unpublished Manuscript by an Emerging Victorian Writer. We knew in advance that hadn’t won — they disclose the results in confidence to encourage the winners to turn up — so it was a fantastic surprise to learn on the night that all shortlisted writers were awarded an Unpublished Fellowship Manuscript, courtesy of The Wheeler Centre and the Readings Foundation. As Andrew says in his post about the night, this new initiative puts ‘more flesh on the bones of the competition’s long-standing commitment to emerging writers’. I reckon it’s also a vote of confidence in the quality of the short-listed manuscripts.
The night itself was great fun, thanks largely to the choice of Casey Bennetto as MC, who sang the nominations. Andrew and I had many clever people on our table, including Crikey’s Literary Minded blogger Angela Meyer, who takes the prize for best blog post about the night; Emerging Writers Festival Director Lisa Dempster; and Declan Greene, nominated for the Louis Esson Prize for Drama. Many of them were among the Twitterati who were out in force. Particularly impressive was Laurie Steed, who together with Angela Meyer gave me and Andrew (OMG, LOL) award for Cutest Couple.
On the neighbouring table amidst another flock of Twitterers were Judy Horacek, on the eve of launching her new book, and Francesca Rendle-Short. I got to catch up with Nick Gadd, one of the judges in the Unpublished Manuscript category, and learned that his wonderful debut novel Ghostlines has been optioned as a film. I also reconnected with Estelle Tang, whom I met at the recent Melbourne Writers Festival, and who I discovered is online editor at Kill Your Darlings. Awesome. I touched base with Sisters in Crime Carmel Shute and Sue Turnbull. And I gazed with admiration at the beauty of the dessert buffet alongside my editor Alison Arnold.
I also took the opportunity to thank John Cain, who initiated the awards as Premier in 1985. I told him that I had won the prize for unpublished manuscript in 2004 and had just published my second novel. ‘So it helped you establish yourself as a writer?’ he asked. ‘Absolutely,’ I said. ‘It was very important to me.’ I wanted to add more but he was on the way out. I hope he got the message that his initiative provided a vital opportunity for which I remain grateful.
And I couldn’t resist shaking hands with Peter Temple, whose novel Truth took out the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction. To my delight said he knew who I was (maybe because we are both published by Text).
Temple’s acceptance speech was hilarious, as he objected to the amount of thanking that had gone on and said of his own work, ‘Everyone involved with this book was an impediment to it.’
The Vance Palmer Prize makes it two major literary awards that Temple has won this year, giving all of us genre writers allusions of grandeur.
Congratulations and thanks to all involved in Tuesday night’s festivities: winners, runners up, sponsors, Twitterati, literati, glitterati, and those responsible for the dessert buffet. More pics here.
Updated 4 October 2010
Sample lyrics from Casey Bennetto’s nomination ditties, courtesy of Jason Steger in The Age – A2, Sat 2 October 2010. Third on the list of nominations for the essay prize was Annabel Crabb’s Quarterly Essay on Malcolm Turnbull, or as Casey put it: “number three, a tragedy that cannot be ignored — Malcolm Turnbull, the Labour Liberal guy… Annabel/ described it well/ the tale she had to tell/ Malcolm Turnbull — born to rule/ bound to fail”.