Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 26, 2017

2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards shortlists

Thanks to Tony at Messenger’s Booker, here are the shortlists for the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.  Congratulations to all the authors, editors and publishers!

Christina Stead Prize for Fiction

“Vancouver” #3 in the series Wisdom Tree by Nick Earles (I read the first two in the series but lost interest after that)

“Their Brilliant Careers: The Fantastic Lives of Sixteen Extraordinary Australian Writers” by Ryan O’Neill, see my review

“The Museum of Modern Love” by Heather Rose, see my review (IMO this is the standout title for the prize).

“Where the Light Falls” by Gretchen Shirm, see my review

“After the Carnage” by Tara June Winch, see my review

“The Natural Way of Things” by Charlotte Wood, see combined reviews

UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing

“The Memory Artist” by Katherine Brabon, see my review

“Letter to Pessoa” by Michelle Cahill, see Karenlee Thompson’s guest review

“Dodge Rose” by Jack Cox, see my review and Alys Moody’s at the Sydney Review of Books

“Our Magic Hour” by Jennifer Down, see Elly Verranti’s review at SMH

“Portable Curiosities” by Julie Koh, see collected reviews at Koh’s website

“The Bonobo’s Dream” by Rose Mulready, see my review and Daniel’s review at All the Novellas

Douglas Stewart Prize for Non-Fiction

“Everywhere I Look” by Helen Garner, see Sue’s review at Whispering Gums

“Talking To My Country” by Stan Grant, see my thoughts here (it’s not really a review)

“The Art of Time Travel: Historians and Their Craft” by Tom Griffiths, see my review and Jim Davidson’s review at the SMH

“Avalanche” by Julia Leigh, see Lara Feigel’s review at The Guardian

“Our Man Elsewhere: In Search of Alan Moorehead” by Thornton McCamish, see Richard Trembath’s review at The Conversation

“Prince of Darkness:The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire” by Shane White, see Elizabeth Elliot’s review at the American Historical Association

Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry

“Ghostspeaking” by Peter Boyle

“Burnt Umber” by Paul Hetherington

“Breaking the Days” by Jill Jones

“Fragments” by Antigone Kefala

“Firebreaks:Poems” by John Kinsella

“Comfort Food” by Ellen Van Neerven

Ethel Turner Prize for Young People’s Literature

“Elegy” by Jane Abbott

“The Ghost by the Billabong” by Jackie French

“The Sidekicks” by Will Kostakis

“One Thousand Hills” by James Roy and Noël Zihabamwe

“The Boundless Sublime” by Lili Wilkinson

“One Would Think the Deep” by Claire Zorn

Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children’s Literature

“Magrit” by Lee Battersby, illustrated by Amy Daoud

“Something Wonderful” by Raewyn Caisley and Karen Blair

“Desert Lake” by Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli

“Iris and the Tiger” by Leanne Hall

“Figgy and the President” by Tasmin Janu

“Welcome to Country” by Aunty Joy Murphy and Lisa Kennedy

Nick Enright Prize for Playwriting

“The Hanging” by Angela BEtzien

“You and Me and the Space Between” by Finegan Fruckmeyer

“The Drover’s Wife” by Leah Purcell

“Ladies Day” by Alana Valentine

Betty Roland Prize for Scriptwriting

“The Code, Series 2 Episode 4” by Shelley Birse

“Sucker” by Lawrence Leung and Ben Chessell

“Down Under” by Abe Forsythe

“The Kettering Incident Episode 1” by Victoria Madden

“Afghanistan: Inside Australia’s War” by Victoria Midwinter Pitt

“Cleverman, Episode 5 ‘Terra Nullius’” by Michael Miller

Multicultural Award NSW

“The Hate Race” by Maxine Beneba Clarke, see Sue’s review at Whispering Gums

“Offshore: Behind the Wire on Manus and Nauru” by Madeline Gleeson, see Fiona Capp’s review at the SMH

“Not Quite Australian; How Temporary Migration is Changing the Nation” by Peter Mares, see Morag Fraser’s review at the SMH

“Of Ashes and Rivers that Run to the Sea” by Marie Munkara, see my review

“Promising Azra” by Helen Thurloe, see Natalie Salvo’s review at Natalie Salvo’s Portfolio

“The Fighter: A True Story” by Arnold Zable, I couldn’t find a review of this except at the paywalled Australian.

NSW Premier’s Translation Prize

J.M.Q. Davies, translator of (amongst others) Slaves in their Chains by Konstantínos Theotókis, (on order from Fishpond)

Penny Hueston, translator of (amongst others) Little Jewel by Patrick Modiano

Jennifer Lindsay, translator of Indonesian non-fiction and especially Tempo, see this article

Royall Tyler, see this article at Wikipedia for a list of works translated

Multicultural NSW Early Career Translator Prize

Jan Owen

Christopher Williams

Indigenous Writer’s Prize – Biennial prize next awarded in 2018


  1. You choice for the fiction winner Lisa? Given you’ve read them all except one.

    I’m going to attempt to get to two of the poetry titles “Fragments” and “Breaking The Days”, simply to get to some of the list & to ensure female poets get coverage. If neither win, I’ll probably get to the winner too.


  2. I don’t think it’s been a great year for OzLit and the shortlist reflects that but The Museum of Modern Love would be my choice.
    You are amazing if you manage to get reviews of the poets done, given this is your busiest time of the year!


  3. Interesting list re fiction, given the Stella Prize list? What about the Maguire you liked last year. Is it not eligible? Though I would have though if Wood were eligible it would be? Anyhow, I must read the Rose. I think my reading group will schedule it in the second half of this year.

    Thanks for the links.


    • Good point: I couldn’t find the eligibility criteria for this year, but I found the one for 2016 and I suppose it would apply again in 2017:
      “All works must have been first published, performed, screened or broadcast and made publicly available between 1 October 2014 and 30 September 2015”. If I’m right, it means a publication date between Oct 2015 and Sep 2016.
      (I wasn’t very enthusiastic about the Stella list: too much misery and gloom for my taste though it seems to be a feature of publishing at the moment. I am tired of grief, and even more tired of anger.)


      • Hmm, are you showing your age Lisa? My experience is that the older people get the less they like “misery”. I’m trying to fight that, because I fear it will cut me off from some of the best writing, but I am starting to understand it. The thing is that most people think that the best literature comes out of anger, that it can’t come out of pleasure and happiness? I’d love to hear your opinion.

        Thinking more, you can have a serious point but write satire, which can make the intellect work without depressing the emotions. (Oh dear, am I burbling on here?)


        • *chuckle* You might think so, but Kate at BAMFAB seems to think there’s been a surfeit of grief and misery and complaining in OzLit too and she’s younger than I am!
          I am (usually, always allowing for exceptions) interested in the literature of ideas, not emotions. I want my brain engaged, not my hankie…


          • Yes I am too, and many grief books can be about ideas too I think , or their writing can be so fresh that they engage the brain, but I haven’t read enough of them I guess to feel overwhelmed. Perhaps reading fewer books has its advantages! Because I haven’t felt that way (so far).


            • I am thinking more about books I haven’t read because I don’t like the sound of them. I get lots of publicity emails from publishers, I get the Readings catalogue, and I look them and think, oh no, not more from Complaints & Misery 101, I just do not want to read another one of those. But one of the writers centres is currently calling for submissions for its ‘grief’ edition, so making people feel sorry for you is clearly something being promoted as publishable in OzLit circles.
              It’s not that I think Australia is happy-happy land, of course not. But if you take a book like Nicholas Jose’s The Custodians, which I’ve just read, he does engage the emotions, and yes, he’s angry and disappointed about things, but that anger and disappointment doesn’t swamp the book which is about other things as well.


              • Ah, that explains it a bit. I don’t really look at all those publicity emails, except from the smaller independent publishers and I haven’t really seen a surfeit of those sorts of books from them. The last one I read that I think was about grief front and centre was Anna Spargo-Ryan’s Paper House, which I read maybe a year ago, but while the grief was very real, the book was intelligently written and as you say, the emotion didn’t overwhelm me though she conveyed the character’s grief really well.

                I have a Nicholas Jose on my TBR but haven’t read it. He’s another writer who doesn’t seem to get a lot of exposure, isn’t he?


                • Ooh, which one have you got? I’ve got Original Face which looks fascinating… I think he’s a most interesting writer. have you read Boorooloola?


                • I have Paper nautilus, And no I haven’t read that, haven’t read anything of his, which is partly the reason for my comment!


  4. The Shirm sounds good, but it’s expensive here at the moment.


    • Perhaps it will come down in price…


      • I’m hoping it picks up a US publisher


        • I just checked: it’s published by Allen & Unwin who have a branch in the UK so it ought really to be priced at the same rate as other UK books.


  5. Gosh, this is the first time in YEARS that I’ve only read two books from all categories together… So I really can’t comment


    • Well don’t feel bad, Annette, I had to do a hasty search at my local library to reserve some of the nominations.
      And where did Prince of Darkness spring from? Some of these titles are ones that I’ve heard of but chose not to read (e.g. the YA, and the short stories) but I haven’t heard a word about this book about Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire….


  6. FYI – You can vote online for the People’s choice award for fiction too & go in the draw to win all 6 books😊


  7. […] Aurealis Awards, and it is also shortlisted for the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing in the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.  It’s not easy to discuss without a […]


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