News from the Editor's desk - August 2015

Supporting Australian writers

In the May 2015 issue our Editor lamented the low or non-payment of many book reviewers (young ones especially). Peter Rose wrote: ‘The time has come for us all to become better literary citizens – more engaged, more informed, more giving. We’re all involved: publishers, consumers, and writers.’ He committed the magazine to doubling its base rate as soon as possible.

The response has been remarkable. Dozens and dozens of people, sharing our belief that literature is not an indulgence and that all writers deserve to be paid, have made donations (some of them substantial ones). We know from their comments that they too are concerned about the withholding of payment and professional encouragement from young writers. Close readers of our Patrons pages will note the addition of several new names and upward movement within the different tiers (from the resolute Realists to the audacious Augustans and Olympians). We thank all of our donors. Every $5 or $50 donation helps our cause and goes to critics and creative artists.

Because of readers’ generosity, ABR is now able to increase its base rate for reviewers from $40 to $45 per 100 words. It’s not a fortune but it’s heading in the right direction, and it certainly beats the $20 per 100 words we were able to pay as recently as early 2013. Poets now receive $300 per poem. Essays and short stories will also attract higher payments.

With your support, we intend to increase our base rates further in coming months – and beyond that. Our campaign continues, and it is a genuine and energetic one.

One caveat though: sustaining these base rates and increasing them in future years will require support from subscribers, government, philanthropic foundations, and donors. All four tiers are crucial – especially the first. The easiest way for individuals to assist magazines that support Australian writers and new talent is to subscribe to them.

ABR Patrons’ Fellowships

Any issue of this magazine that carries an ABR Fellowship article is a notable one for ABR. The Fellowship program – created in 2010 and inaugurated by Patrick Allington with a long investigative article on the contested history of the Miles Franklin Award (ABR, June 2011) – has reinvigorated the magazine. The Fellowships (each worth $5,000) are intended to reward outstanding Australian writers and to enhance ABR through the publication of major works of literary journalism.

This month we publish Shannon Burns’s Fellowship article – an 11,000-word profile of Gerald Murnane. If anyone can put Goroke on the map it is Shannon Burns – with a little help from his distinguished subject. Since moving to this small town in the Wimmera six years ago, the author of The Plains and Tamarisk Row has made it his own. He is secretary of the Anzac Day committee and a member of the Goroke Men’s Shed; he has even judged the local yabby competition. Nor has Murnane been idle in a literary sense. As well as maintaining his voluminous personal archive, he has written several new books. Text will soon publish Something for the Pain: A Memoir of the Turf (Shannon Burns is reviewing it for us).

For admirers of Gerald Murnane’s oeuvre, ABR is presenting a related event in Adelaide on Monday, 3 August. Shannon Burns will be in discussion with Patrick Allington. This is a free public event, but reservations are This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The event will commence at 5.30 pm at the South Australian Writers’ Centre, 187 Rundle Street.

Now our thoughts turn to the next ABR Patrons’ Fellowship, applications for which close on 1 September. This particular Fellowship is for a substantial non-fiction article with an indigenous focus. All published Australian writers are eligible to apply. Please visit our website for guidelines and for more information about ABR’s Fellowship program.

As ever, we thank our many Patrons who make possible this program – and so much more.

Porter Prize

Dear to the hearts of many poets and poetry lovers, the Peter Porter Poetry Prize honours the life and work of the inimitable Australian poet Peter Porter (1929–2010). It has also generated many thousands of new poems since the Prize was first offered in 2005, and has dispersed tens of thousands of dollars to poets (winners and those shortlisted). Here we thank Morag Fraser AM (past Chair of ABR and a close friend and colleague of Peter’s) for her magnificent support.

We now welcome entries for the twelfth Porter Prize. The total prize money is $7,500, of which the winner receives $5,000. For the first time the overall winner will also receive an impression of Arthur Boyd’s print The lady and the unicorn (1975), created for the book of the same name, which the artist produced with Peter Porter (one of four celebrated collaborations of theirs in the 1970s and 1980s). This print is kindly donated by Ivan Durrant in honour of Georges Mora.

The poet–judges are Lisa Gorton (Poetry Editor of ABR), Luke Davies (a past winner of the Prime Minister’s Award for poetry), and Kate Middleton, who was shortlisted for the 2015 Porter Prize.

Like the Calibre and Jolley Prizes, the Porter is now open to anyone writing in English, irrespective of where they live. We are delighted that ninety per cent of competition entrants are now availing themselves of our online entry system (faster, cheaper, more efficient). We encourage poets to enter online. You have until 1 December to do so.

Jolley galore

Hats off to our three intrepid judges of this year’s ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize: Amy Baillieu, Sarah Holland-Batt, and Paddy O’Reilly. With the kind of dispatch and control that are features of the short form itself, they have reduced the overall field of more than 1,200 entries to a longlist of thirty-two stories. Next month the three shortlisted stories will be published in our Fiction issue. The authors will be named, but not so the winner until the Jolley Prize ceremony on Friday, 4 September, when the authors will introduce and read from their stories. ABR will have a strong presence at this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival; this is one of three ABR-related events on the program. It coincides with our first cultural tour, in partnership with Academy Travel (visit Academy Travel's website for full details).

Walking to Boyd

Melburnians will soon have a chance to hear 2015 Calibre Prize winner Sophie Cunningham in conversation with British satirist and novelist Will Self, author of Great Apes and Umbrella. Sophie Cunningham’s Calibre-winning essay (‘Staying with the Trouble’, ABR, May 2015) is a meditation on New York City, Alzheimer’s, climate change – and the subtle pleasures of pedestrianism.

The Politics and Pleasures of Walking’ is part of the Melbourne Writers Festival program. It will take place at Boyd (Assembly Hall) on Saturday, 29 August (2 pm). Tickets are on sale now. Be quick though: this event is likely to sell out quickly.

Kibble Awards

Congratulations to Joan London and Ellen van Neerven, the dual winners of the 2015 Kibble Awards. Joan London won the $30,000 Kibble Literary Award for established authors for her book The Golden Age, while Ellen van Neerven (our inaugural ‘Future Tense’ Q&A guest in the June–July issue) won the $5,000 Dobbie Literary Award for a first-time published author, for Heat and Light.

Miles high

This year the Miles Franklin Literary Award went to award-winning children’s fiction author Sofie Laguna for her second novel for adults, The Eye of the Sheep. She took out the $60,000 prize from a shortlist that included Sonya Hartnett, Joan London, Christine Piper, and Craig Sherborne. This month Sofie Laguna is our Open Page subject.

Published in August 2015, no. 373

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