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Full House For Debut Australian Authors In Awards

MEDIA RELEASE - Monday 19 January 2004

It's a full house for debut Australian authors on the finalist list in respected international literary awards (but New Zealand authors were not too far behind!)

Australian novelists have scooped all six places on the finalist list for Best First Book in this year's South Pacific & SE Asian Region of the Commonwealth Writers Prize. Chair of the judging panel for the region, Aucklander Graham Beattie, has judged this prize on three separate occasions and he says the standard of entries in the Best First Book category were higher this year than in previous years.

The finalists for Best First Book, South Pacific & SE Asia Region, Commonwealth Writers Prize are: Somewhere, Home by Nada Awar Jarrar (published by William Heinemann/Random House, UK)

The Alphabet of Light & Dark by Danielle Wood (published by Allen & Unwin, Australia)

The Lambing Flat by Nerida Newton (published by University Queensland Press, Australia)

Blackwattle Road by Ann Charlton (published by Hodder Headline, Australia)

A Few Short Notes on tropical butterflies by John Murray (published by Viking Penguin, Australia)

Shantaram by G D Roberts (published by Scribe Publications, Australia)

While the entries in Best First Book category this year were dominated in both quantity and quality by Australian authors, Beattie said several New Zealand titles came close to being shortlisted and might be the books to watch in the Best First Book Award for Fiction in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards later this year. These titles included Bloom by Kelly Ana Morey (Penguin Books), a funny, quirky, at times mystical, almost gothic account of three generations of women; Dreams Lost Never Walked by Raumoa Ormsby (Vintage), which Beattie says is not as relentlessly brutal as Alan Duff's Once Were Warriors, but nevertheless unsettling; and The Denniston Rose by Jenny Patrick (Black Swan), the well-researched, often bleak story of five year old Rose and her mother in the now vanished West Coast town of Denniston.

The finalists for the Best Book category will be announced later this month.

Beattie will meet with fellow-judges Nor Faridah Manaf from Malaysia and Deborah Robertson from Australia, in Auckland during mid February to select the two winners for the region. These two winners will be included on an international shortlist for the overall prize.

The final judging of the Commonwealth Writers Prize by a panel comprising the chair-people from all four regions, including Graham Beattie, will take place in Melbourne between 8 - 15 May as part of a week-long programme incorporating author readings, receptions and tours of regional Victoria, hosted by the State Library of Victoria. It's traditional for this literary programme to be rotated year-by-year round the five regions of the Commonwealth. This year the Commonwealth Writers Prize will be the highlight of the Library's 'Wordfest,' part of its 150th anniversary celebrations.

Awarded annually, this major prize for fiction celebrates the outstanding literary talent that exists in many parts of the Commonwealth and its contribution to contemporary writing in English. This year there will be one award of £10,000 for the best book submitted and an award of £3,000 for the best first published book. In each of the four regions of the Commonwealth two prizes of £1,000 will be awarded: one for the best book and one for the best first published book.


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