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News from the Editor's Desk - January-February 2019

January-February 2019, no. 408

News from the Editor's Desk - January-February 2019

January-February 2019, no. 408

News from the Editors Desk

The ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize is open

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The ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize, one of the world’s premier awards for an original short story, is now open. The Jolley Prize is worth a total of $12,500. This year the winner will receive $5,000, the runner-up, $3,000, the third-placed author, $2,000. Three commended stories will share the remaining $2,500. The judges on this occasion are Maxine Beneba Clarke, John Kinsella, and Beejay Silcox.

The three shortlisted stories will appear in our August 2019 issue, followed by the commended stories. The overall winner will be announced at a ceremony in August. As with our other literary prizes, the Jolley Prize is open to writers anywhere in the world (stories must be in English).

Terms and Conditions are available on our website; and we have also updated our Frequently Asked Questions. Writers have until April 15 to enter.

The Jolley Prize is fully funded by ABR Patron Ian Dickson. We thank him warmly.

Palace Letters

Margaret and Gough Whitlam at The Lodge, 1973 (photograph via National Archives of Australia/Wikimedia Commons)Margaret and Gough Whitlam at The Lodge, 1973 (photograph via National Archives of Australia/Wikimedia Commons)

Bravo again to Jenny Hocking and her colleagues for ‘maintaining their rage’ about Queen Elizabeth’s indefinite embargo on the release of the so-called ‘Palace letters’ – the correspondence between Queen Elizabeth and Governor-General John Kerr pertaining to Kerr’s dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975.

Jenny Hocking – emeritus professor at Monash University and Gough Whitlam’s biographer – initiated the case in the Federal Court of Australia two years ago. The recent appeal hearing before the Federal Court is the latest chapter in this sorry tale. (A ruling is expected in early 2019.) Hocking’s successive articles in The Guardian are essential reading for Australian citizens, republican or not.

Writing in The Guardian on December 16, Professor Hocking stated: ‘Far from the Palace remaining aloof, Kerr’s papers reveal that the Palace was already involved in Kerr’s deliberations leading to Whitlam’s dismissal.’ Previously, she had written: ‘These letters are a critical part of the history of the dismissal … which all Australians have a right to know. It is utterly inappropriate for any independent nation that such historical documents can remain secret from us at the behest of the Queen.’

Hocking also deplored the ‘gatekeeping’ role of the National Archives of Australia, which has spent approximately half a million dollars on the ‘Palace letters’ case. The NAA, she opined, ‘was not designed to protect and maintain hidden histories’.

Australian monarchists fawn over the endless princes and princesses, and the nation spends a fortune entertaining them, but others know that sections of the British Establishment treat Australians with contempt – none more so, in this context, than the Queen of Australia (ironically so designated by the Whitlam government, two years before its removal).

Judith Rodriguez (1936–2018)

The literary community was saddened by the recent death of Judith Rodriguez, aged eighty-two. Her contribution was extensive, primarily as a poet, of course, but also as a teacher, activist, publisher, and print-marker. She had a long association with PEN International. She taught at La Trobe University from 1969 to 1985 and at Deakin from 1998 to 2003.

The PEN International Women Writers’ Committee put it well: ‘Judith was a fierce campaigner for social justice, a lover of the written word, an inspiring poet, and a true internationalist who has lived a life of commitment and service both within and beyond many borders.’

David Malouf, a lifelong friend, launched Judith’s fifteenth collection, The Feather Boy and Other Poems (Puncher & Wattmann), a week before her death on November 22. Our review will follow.

Judith was a frequent contributor to this magazine, commencing in July 1978 (our second issue). She last wrote for us in 2010.

Harriet McKnight (19882018)

ABR was saddened to learn of the death of the talented writer and editor Harriet McKnight. McKnight’s powerful short story ‘Crest’ was shortlisted for the 2015 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. She was also shortlisted for the 2014 Overland VU Short Story Prize and the 2016 Overland Neilma Sidney Short Story Prize. She was an editor at The Canary Press for several years before moving to Darwin. McKnight’s début novel, Rain Birds (Black Inc.), was reviewed in our October 2017 issue by Gretchen Shirm, who noted that McKnight wrote ‘beautifully about people’.

The Calibre Essay Prize is closing!

Entries in the Calibre Essay Prize close on 14 January 2019. The total prize money is $7,500, and the judges are J.M. Coetzee, Anna Funder, and Peter Rose.

Gerald Murnane wins with Border Districts

Gerald Murnane (photograph by Ian Hill)Gerald Murnane (photograph by Ian Hill)

‘Poets are tough and can profit from the most dreadful experiences,’ W.H. Auden once wrote in an essay on Shakespeare. None, it seems, is more dreadful than rejection. Poets can brood over a rejection slip for decades. Gerald Murnane, for instance, recalls: ‘I wrote only poetry in my mid-twenties. I had three poems published in obscure places, but the dozen and more that I sent to mainstream publications were all rejected.’

Murnane, who has apparently finished writing all the fiction he had been ‘driven to write’, has now returned to poetry. The result is Green Shadows and Other Poems, which he started in 2014. In the same Author’s Note, Murnane writes: ‘Even after more than sixty years spent writing, I still find the process itself mysterious and awesome, and nothing has so mystified and awed me as the sudden coming into being of these fully-formed poems in the very last years of my career.’

Murnane has a small but influential readership. Last month, his novel Border Districts won the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for fiction, earning the author $80,000.

Giramondo is the publisher of Green Shadows and Border Districts.

Film tickets

At Eternity's GateAt Eternity's GateThis month, thanks to Palace Films, ten new or renewing ABR subscribers will win a double pass to Paolo Sorrentino’s Loro, a film about Silvio Berlusconi. Thanks to Transmission Films, another ten will win a double pass to At Eternity’s Gate, starring Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh.

To be in the running please email Grace Chang at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Summer issue

While you enjoy the January–February double issue, look out for our mid-summer online issue, which will contain a dozen reviews. Meanwhile, good wishes for 2019 from everyone at ABR.

From the New Issue

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