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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | March 31, 2020

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Stella Prize Shortlist

Stella Prize Shortlist
Alinta Koh

The inaugural Stella Prize shortlist has been announced…

Named in honour of Stella Miles Franklin – pioneer of Australian women’s literature – and based on the model of the UK’s women-only Orange Prize, the Stella Prize aims to raise the profile of women writers and their work in Australia.

From over 200 fiction and non-fiction entries received, judges Kerryn Goldsworthy, Kate Grenville, Claudia Karvan, Fiona Stager and Rafael Epstein have selected six for the shortlist. All books shortlisted are fiction, with historical fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction represented, as well as a collection of short stories and a verse novel.

There has been a lot of talk about women in literature over the past few years, especially since VIDA: Women in Literary Arts released pie charts graphing the severe gender imbalance in publishing in 2010.

Prizes like the Stella and the Orange aim to promote and celebrate women writers, though detractors believe they are going about it the wrong way.

Miles Franklin

There is the thought that making an exclusive prize for women demeans them in the process, by implying that they are not competitive enough to be well-represented in writing competitions usually dominated by men.

This may be true, but in practice, the Stella Prize does serve to promote the long and shortlisted authors and their books, and allows the winner to continue working by providing $50 000 in prize money.

Women’s lit, contemporary fiction, Australian fiction – these are terms are often used pejoratively, even by people who live within the definitions. While there is obviously a problem of under-representation of women in literature, at least next time someone implies the problem lies not with the industry, but with the lack of quality work in these fields, you can challenge them with these six books, and make the conversation a bit more interesting!

Without further ado, the shortlist is as follows:

The Burial by Courtney Collins (Allen & Unwin)

Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser (Allen & Unwin)

The Sunlit Zone by Lisa Jacobson (Five Islands Press)

Like a House on Fire by Cate Kennedy (Scribe Publications)

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)

Mateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany (Picador)


The winner will be announced April 16th.