Winner Of The Spark Prize 2020 From Hardie Grant Books And RMIT Writing And Publishing
Hardie Grant Books and RMIT Writing and Publishing are thrilled to announce that the winner of the inaugural Spark Prize is Youjia Song and her narrative non-fiction book proposal, The Pursuit of Impossible Dreams.
The Spark Prize was launched earlier this year as an exciting new opportunity to foster talent in the narrative non-fiction genre. The prize received over 200 entries from writers across Australia and was judged by readers from both Hardie Grant Books and RMIT’s Bowen Street Press.
The Pursuit of Impossible Dreams is the story of a woman’s defiant decision to have a second child at the start of China’s One Child Policy, told by the daughter who inherited her mother’s fearlessness.
‘Youjia’s winning pitch is a fascinating work of family history that sets the personal against the political,’ said Hardie Grant Books Commissioning Editor Emily Hart. ‘Like all great narrative non-fiction, it draws out its story and its characters. The writing is stunning, right from the arresting opening line: “I have died – many times –before I was even born.” Youjia manages to seamlessly combine moments of beautiful intimacy with incredible insights into China’s modern history. The judges were excited about the potential for The Pursuit of Impossible Dreams to further develop and to resonate with many readers.’
Youjia Song is an artist, wilderness adventurer and emerging writer. ‘To write in narrative non-fiction is to recognise the universality of the human condition, and the stories that make us human,’ said Song, ‘I am touched and elated to be the winner of the Spark Prize. Thanks for letting me share my truth.’
The Spark Prize team was also excited to choose three shortlisted book proposals:
• How to Knit a Human by Anna Jacobson, a split-voice, non-linear memoir following the author’s attempts to re-stitch her sense of self and memory after experiencing psychosis at age 23.
• Dust by Laura Flynn, one family’s pursuit to heal their land in South-West Queensland and shift from traditional farming methods to regenerative agriculture.
• The Mind Has Mountains by Gina Ward, a memoir on the memory of trauma and self in the decades following the deaths of her parents.
‘We were blown away by the breadth and depth of entries that we received in this first year of the Spark Prize: it is a testament to the power and popularity of the narrative non-fiction genre,’ said Hart. ‘The shortlist speaks to some of the best things we saw in all the entries: incredibly honest portrayals of mental health and trauma, and the ability to merge memoir into bigger topics that start conversations and keep people thinking.’
Zoe Dzunko, RMIT lecturer in the Master of Writing and Publishing, said, ‘That the entries resonated so deeply with the Bowen Street Press editors – often moving them in unexpected ways or arousing their interest in topics foreign and familiar – is a tribute to the uniting potential of narrative non-fiction. As a genre that allows us to encounter ourselves through the lens of individual experience, it promotes empathy, understanding and a deeper sense of being in the world. There has never been a greater need for stories that connect us in this way and, fortunately – if the works submitted to the inaugural Spark Prize this year are anything to go by – no shortage of talented voices with important stories to tell.’
The winning prize includes $2000 in prize money, a 6-month editorial mentorship with Hardie Grant Books and a one-week residency at RMIT’s McCraith House on the Mornington Peninsula.